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A SONG FOR SPARROWS, SWALLOWS, AND PRODIGALS

A SONG FOR SPARROWS, SWALLOWS, AND PRODIGALS

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints
for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

Psalm 84:1-4

“There’s no place like home!  There’s no place like home!”, Dorothy sings, and with three clicks of her heels she is back home in Kansas from the Land of Oz.   

We all know Dorothy’s joy; we all know there is no place like home.  We delight in traveling and exploring the wide, wonderful world, but look forward to going back home.  “Home is where the heart is,” we like to say.  Home represents safety, warmth, and acceptance by the people we love and who love us.  “Home is,” Robert Frost reminded, “the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”  Even the Prodigal came to his senses and realized how much he missed home. 

The late Bartlett Giametti, former President of Yale and also fromer Commissioner of Baseball, was asked to explain baseball’s popularity.   “Baseball is about going home,” Giammatti explained, “and we all want to get home”.   Giametti said that it had to do with the ancient Greek idea of nostos, “longing for home”.   

Today’s Scripture is about the joy of finding one’s home.  The text is one of the pilgrim songs (Psalms 120 – 134) that people sang as they journeyed to the house of God in Jerusalem.  In this psalm the psalmist sings joyfully about coming home to God.  He revels in being in God’s house.   It is coming home!       

But on this particular day the psalmist is struck by something he sees in the holy house of God.  There, right by the altar he sees that “even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself.”  He marvels that nestled by the holy altar is a sparrow’s nest made of grass, twigs, and straw.  He rejoices to also see by the altar a swallow’s nest made of mud and saliva.   The psalmist sings that in the house of God even the sparrow “finds a home” and the swallow “a nest for herself”.  

From seeing the sparrow and swallow in God’s house the psalmist draws a spiritual lesson.  He sees in the lowly sparrow and swallow that God welcomes home every sinner and prodigal.  For the psalmist and ancient Hebrews the sparrow symbolized the no-good, worthless person.   And the swallow, always going and coming, represented the shiftless, wandering soul.  But on this day the psalmist sees God’s important lesson!  In God’s house even the sparrow and swallow have a home!  It’s a place they are always welcome.  It’s the place where they, and we, most belong!

Count me among the sparrows and swallows as I sing, “My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD.”  Dorothy was right!  There is no place like home!

Grace and peace,
Tim

 

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