A Flock of Robins



I’d like to share some more of the endless mercies I’ve been experiencing from God in these past few months.  Here are a couple that came early on.

The day after Priscilla went home to heaven, I met with the funeral director who was handling her arrangements.  I felt I should order certified copies of her death certificate right away, and the funeral home needed the money for those up front, so I paid them.  When I got home, I found a check in the mail that a friend had sent before Priscilla died.  It covered the cost of the certificates, with a little left over.

The next day, as I explained in an earlier post, I started working, as energy permitted, on a Powerpoint tribute to Priscilla’s life, to be shown at her memorial service.  I wanted to include selections from a video that had been shot several years earlier of Priscilla hosting a Christmas open house at the parsonage of our Massachusetts church.  When I viewed the aging VHS tape, it had a number of blank spots.  I took it to a local media company to get it converted to digital format, hoping they could also restore the lost material.  They were able to do this.  When I got home, I found another check, the gift of a different friend, which had also been sent before Priscilla died.  It covered the work of the media company, with a little left over.

So what was this “little left over” for?  I found out the next day, when I got the bill for the “ambu-cab” that had taken Priscilla to the hospice.  The money remaining from the two checks was just enough to cover it.  Even after her passing, Priscilla’s heavenly Father was still providing for her needs in specific detail.

I also told in that earlier post about the many beautiful tributes Priscilla received at her memorial service and at the evening reception that followed.  She received one more tribute that same day from another group of her friends.

Two days earlier, I noticed an unfamiliar bird in the apple tree in our backyard.  “I’ve never seen a bird like that before,” I said.  Priscilla’s sister Esther had come back (with her daughter Ashley) a few days before the service to help out.  She looked out at the bird and said, “Looks like a robin to me.”  I got out my binoculars and confirmed that it was a robin.  It just looked different because it was puffing up its feathers against the January cold, and the lighter ones were showing from beneath.

“Hey, there’s another one!” I said, seeing it light on a nearby branch.  “And another!  And another!”  They kept arriving.  I tried to count them, but I lost track after 50.  There had to have been at least a hundred.

I’d never seen a flock of robins before, so I went online to investigate.  It turns out that robins lead a “double life.”  In the warm weather, they’re solitary and territorial, eating worms on the ground.  In the cold weather, they become communal, traveling in flocks and eating fruit and berries.  When you see flocks of 50–100, a helpful website explained, they’re not necessarily all traveling together.  Rather, a number of smaller groups may have gathered in the same spot because “that’s where the action is,” for example, a supply of unfrozen water, or berries or fruit.  That made sense, but we had none of those things in our backyard.  So what made this “where the action was”?

The connection became clear two days later.  On the morning of Priscilla’s memorial service, when some family members went over to help set up, they discovered the one hundred robins sitting in the branches of the trees and bushes surrounding the church.

Now there were berries over on that property.  So an interpreter of this event needs to decide whether they think it was just a coincidence that the robins went there on that very morning, or, if God were going to send a delegation of Priscilla’s “little friends” to join in paying tribute to her life, whether God wouldn’t also have provided refreshments for them, as the church did for the human guests at the service.

Photograph by Colin Varndell, Netherbury, Dorset, England

Author: endlessmercies

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is a writer and biblical scholar who is also an ordained minister and served local churches as a pastor for nearly twenty years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the Scriptures that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He has an A.B. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School. Dr. Smith answers questions about the Bible, particularly those that arise from the use of his study guides, at goodquestionblog.com.

One thought on “A Flock of Robins”

  1. Good morning!

    What a beautiful photo!!

    Chris, In your telling of this whole story of God’s mercies, in the detail of a “call and response” American “contemporary” spiritual, each iteration adds joy!! And as your photos of the now blooming garden offer glimpses of her love and care, I feel the chorus rising.

    These postludes are beautiful. Thank you!


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