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bird feederI am a fan of the work and the writings of Wendell Berry. Here, I would like to share #7 from his “Window Poems”.

Outside the window
in a roofed wooden tray
he fills with seed for the birds.
They make a sort of dance
as they descend and light
and fly off at a slant
across the strictly divided
black sash. At first
they came fearfully, worried
by the man’s movements
inside the room. They watched
his eyes, and flew
when he looked. Now they expect
no harm from him
and forget he’s there.
They come into his vision,
unafraid. He keeps
a certain distance and quietness
in tribute to them.
That they ignore him
he takes in tribute to himself.
But they stay cautious
of each other, half afraid, unwilling
to be too close. They snatch
what they can carry and fly
into the trees. They flirt out
with tail or beak and waste
more sometimes than they eat.
And the man, knowing
the price of seed, wishes
they would take more care.
But they understand only
what is free, and he
can give only as they
will take. Thus they have
enlightened him. He buys
the seed, to make it free.

“Thus they have enlightened him. He buys the seed, to make it free.” The man provides seed for the birds and the birds enlighten him, they bring him to the awareness of a new commerce. “He buys the seed, to make it free.”

In the first reading, the prophet Amos proclaims that God’s anger is stirred up because the merchants are given the life of the Sabbath and all they can do is eagerly anticipate its end so they can get back to cheating the people! Not only that, they use what is supposed to be the sacred rest of the Sabbath to plan and devise new ways to cheat and take advantage of the poor! Theirs is a sad commerce that will end in ruin because God has noticed and God will not abide this. The life of the Sabbath freely given by God, they squander away and warp in dishonest pursuits.

In the parable of the dishonest steward our Lord does not applaud the steward’s dishonesty but he notes the ingenuity, the focus and the drive of the man and he uses this to make a point. If we can be so focused, so driven and so ingenuous when it comes to this world and its commerce then why can we not be the same about the commerce of the Kingdom of God?

There is a commerce to the Kingdom of God. It is true wealth and the journey of faith is a journey of coming to recognize and value this true wealth over the dishonest wealth of our world.

Grace is free, mercy is given, life is found in Jesus Christ! Can we recognize that? Can we value it? Can we put this wealth before everything else and be just as focused, ingenuous and driven as the dishonest steward was in seeking out this true wealth and attaining it? Can we learn to set our lives and live our lives by the measure of the Kingdom of God and not by the sad commerce of this world.

The man buys the seed and, in so doing, he is enlightened by the birds. He is brought into a new awareness and into a different commerce. “He buys the seed, to make it free.”

There is a commerce to the Kingdom of God and it is different than that of the world and we are invited into it. True wealth is found here. The choice to enter (or not) into this commerce of the Kingdom of God is and ever will be ours to make.

“You cannot serve both God and mammon.”