Don’t you love it when nature takes you by surprise? There I was this morning, walking a well-trodden route of ours, when a chatter of sparrows burst out from a nearby bush and into the air, disturbed no doubt by the dogs. There, in the middle of this group, was a lunar-white sparrow, quietly glowing amongst its flock. They landed in a huddle, giving me just long enough to take a mental snapshot, savour a brief moment, then they were off. Of course, I stood and looked to see exactly where they had gone, but they’d dived behind a high fence and showed no signs of emerging.
A fleeting glimpse of something special, as so many of our nature encounters are.
I have now looked into ‘white sparrows’ and understand they are incredibly rare – from ‘one in a million’ perhaps, if it were a true albino sparrow to ‘still a great find’ if leucistic.
The bird’s striking plumage makes it vulnerable to attack, and if it’s an albino its survival chances aren’t great; ‘Most albino birds do not live long enough to reach sexual maturity and reproduce. The majority of albino birds are thought to die soon after they fledge.’
We’re unlikely to know which it is, and really it doesn’t matter. I enjoyed the fact that it was at home in its knot of friends and kin, living as they do, not separated from them. Were the others deliberately surrounding this one bird, aware of its vulnerability and attempting to shield it? Again, I can’t be sure, though I hope to witness it again and have the chance to watch their behaviour further. The most striking analogy that occurred to me as I wandered on down the lane was this: when Christ walked the earth he didn’t separate himself from people, live as a detached onlooker to observe our ways and say he’d witnessed our world close at hand. His approach was much better than that; while he was unique in his purity, he chose to live as one of us, integrating fully and yet maintaining his sinless record. Of course, his otherness made him a target too – he stood out, while not intending to, but this was inevitable, as it is with the white sparrow and his conspicuousness. I often talk to him as I go, and right now the Ukraine situation preoccupies me. And while I can’t wait for the suffering in Ukraine to end and pray daily that it will, I know we have a saviour who understands. He’s fully integrated, he’s ‘mighty to save’, and while we wait and pray for peace I believe he’s performing countless miracles and reaching out to those in that troubled place. I admit that I don’t have all the answers, but I believe we have one who stands out more brilliantly than a white sparrow amongst the brown, and we can take to him all our frustrations, worries and cares. The cross and the empty grave tell me so.
And the little white sparrow reminds me, too.
 Contemporary worship song by Ben Fielding and Reuben Morgan. See Zephaniah 3:17.