It was in early summer several years ago that I was opening the Church in the morning when I saw what appeared to be a few leaves in the Church porch. As I bent down to pick them up I realised that it was the body of a baby swallow that had fallen from its nest high in the porch. It didn’t stir as I picked it up and first I thought that it was dead, then, as I looked at the limp body, the eyes opened and it regarded me with an unblinking stare. I was all but riveted to the spot as this tiny piece of creation, about half the size of my little finger, held me in its gaze.
I had recently been investigating the latest wonders of miniaturisation in the fields of engineering and science. I had marvelled at the ability of one ‘wire’ to carry thousands of separate communication channels, wondered at the sophistication of the latest Formula 1 cars and been intrigued by the computer that, modelled on the construction of the human brain, ‘dreamt’ when switched off. Here though, I was actually face to face with an example of miniaturisation on a scale well beyond the reach of any scientist or engineer.
This tiny being had the ability to grow, reproduce, fly, eat on the wing, sleep on the wing, navigate over the continent and the strait of Gibraltar to Africa, and then find it’s way back thousands of miles to the Church porch again, as generations of its family had previously, all with a brain, a control system as small as a shrivelled pea.
As it warmed up in my hand it settled down comfortably, yet never took its eyes off me. I went round to the shed in the rectory garden and found a ladder; meanwhile this atom of life regarded my every move. Placing the ladder up high and climbing it, I held the tiny being close to the nest when, for a moment, like the hand of a small child it held on trustingly and then was gone, back into the nest.
After putting the ladder away I went back and watched from a distance as the returning parents fed their offspring and I remembered the articles I had been reading about mankind’s results at miniaturisation, these now appeared feeble and I felt like putting a sign up below the nest saying… “God rules, OK!”
Lord Jesus, without you we are helpless, lift us up, and make us complete… Amen.