How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young, by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God.
Happy are they who dwell in your house! They will always be praising you. － Psalm 84:1-4
Photo by Carlos Quintero
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge
Quite often whenever we read about plants or animals in the Bible, we automatically assume that the species being referenced are creatures we are not familiar with. This makes quite a lot of sense, because we in Central Pennsylvania are over 5,800 miles away from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Atlantic Ocean and a couple of seas sit between us and the Holy Land, so why should we expect to see common creatures we see everyday?
In Psalm 84, the psalmist declares that “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young” in the Temple of the Lord. These two birds, the sparrow and the swallow, are actually two creatures you have likely encountered! In all likelihood, the two species that are being discussed here are the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica). I am certain that you have seen house sparrows as they are almost always nearby. And at St Paul, we often have barn swallows building their mud constructed nests under the eaves of our building. A couple of years ago, we even had a barn swallow nest above our front entrance!
These creatures, though marked with their own kind of beauty, are common. So common, that they are sometimes considered to be pests. It might have been a headache for the priests to constantly clean up the droppings of these birds, especially where they considered the holiest place on earth. But here the Psalmist revels in the beauty of its grace: God allows the Temple to have these birds reside in it.
In our faith, we see Jesus as the new and perfected Temple, and not the residing place of God, the physical body of God. As the Temple pointed towards God abiding with God’s people with no barriers separating the people from God, we can recognize that the grace shown to the common (and sometimes annoying) creatures continues. In Jesus, there is still space set aside for all of Creation. How wonderful that Jesus has chosen to bring us into this beautiful existence!
May God continue to be with you,
Yours in Christ, Pastor Paul+