Sparrows Christian Century Kathleen Battle
“Or not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So, do not be afraid: you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31
The Christian Century, Thinking Critically, Living Faithfully is a biweekly magazine with current religious topics. I started subscribing many years ago when a Scott Lee told me Barbara Brown Taylor often wrote for it. Today I especially look for a section called “The Word, Reflections on the Lectionary” where some amazing ministers of all denominations write a response to the Sunday lectionary readings. In the June 7, 2017, issue Liddy Barlow, executive minister of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, was the guest preacher writing about the sparrow text from Matthew for the Sunday of June 25th. She writes about the lawyer Kenneth Feinberg who chaired the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund giving money to the family of those who died in the terrorist attack using a formula depending on the income and earning potential of the victim. The compensations ranged from $250, 000 to $7.1 million. At the end of the experience, Feinberg struggles with this differentiation and wonders if one person is really 28 times more valuable than another as he personally listens to the stories of the victims and their families.
Barlow also writes of the Civilla Martin poem, “His Eye is On the Sparrow”, which became a gospel hymn bringing comfort to the African-American church in our past century. I will never forget hearing Kathleen Battle sing this hymn a cappella with a concert of the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. We were on the first-row center and she was there in front of us, a foot away in this striking dark red velvet dress. Her soul was singing from something deep inside of her.
This indeed is a scripture passage and a hymn about how valuable we each are to God. So often people do come for spiritual direction when they do not feel valued by God. When we talk, I so wish I could sing this song like Kathleen Battle and let them their worth.
Barlow concludes her message by telling us that Feinberg is again consulted by the president of Virginia Tech about how to distribute the fund for compensation to the families of those killed in the mass shooting there in 2007. Feinberg has been changed by his 9/11 experience and has come to believe in an equality of all life. He recommends that all victims, students and faculty receive the same compensation.
This is the story of how the God our understanding works in the world, a God who so desperately loves and values each and every one of us.