The other day I was walking the loop trail in Char-Mar Ridge Park and saw a flock of robins. There were about 60 of them on the ground and in the trees. I couldn’t remember ever seeing so many robins at one time. Later Tom and I googled the behavior of robins.
Robins are somewhat migratory. In the summer you can find robins all the way to the Arctic Circle. But, once the weather starts getting cold, these robins will migrate south. Robins that summer further south, however, might not migrate at all. If they remain in an area where they can find berries, nuts, and seeds, they will spend the winter in the same place they spent the summer. Food availability, not temperature, determines their migratory behavior.
Male robins are territorial in the spring when they are trying to attract a mate. At that time you will see their prettiest colors and hear them singing to make their presence known. In the winter, however, the colors fade and the robins join together in mostly silent flocks. We don’t notice the presence of robins in winter because they are so quiet compared to the spring.
A winter flock of robins takes care of each other. The larger group helps them find food. If one robin stumbles on a source of seeds, they alert the flock and everyone can enjoy. Because finding the food takes more attention and energy in the winter, being part of a flock also helps defend against predators.
As I watched the flock of robins, I thought about how we, as Christians, should also be part of a flock. Being part of a group that cares for each other and helps each other is important. We should also be taking care of all of our kind – all people – in helping each other find the necessities and defend against predators. The flock is not safe unless all its members are safe.
Ezekiel, Chapter 34, has a lot to say about living in and watching over a flock. The chapter talks about sheep instead of robins, but it is still a good analogy for us to remember.
Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. . . . 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
Whether we identify with a flock of robins or a flock of sheep, it is important that we take care of each other. We must strengthen the weak and search for the lost. Only by living as a flock of Christians, extending God’s grace and love to everyone, can we hope to make a difference in the world.