To Read: Click on song title to watch a video
from ‘Mary Poppins’
Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she calls
Come, buy my bags full of crumbs
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
“Feed the birds, ” that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares
Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
From the Scriptures:
Jesus said, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
If the Chancellor of the Exchequer has his way it will soon be impossible to feed the birds outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London for ‘tuppence a bag’.
This is not because feeding pigeons, which have become akin to vermin in many cities, is no longer universally encouraged. Due to the change in our use of cash Britons may literally find themselves without two pennies to rub together as 1p and 2p coins may be withdrawn from use. What on earth will soft-spoken caring old ladies on the steps of St Paul’s do with their spare time?
Mary Poppins sings not so much about the merits of feeding birds over against putting Tuppence in the Bank as trying to teach the Banks family that squirrelling away money is not the ‘be all and end all’ of life. The Nanny’s lessons are complete when they learn that tuppence well spent can bring joy, love and laughter…
The most important lesson for Michael & Jane and George & Winifred is to learn to think beyond themselves, their own issues, and their own preferences.
There is so much desire to ‘fight our own corner’ in the world that a spirit of perceived inward looking and self-interest has found its way into the life of most churches. When people from other Christian denominations discover that I am a member of General Synod I am often asked, ‘When will the Church of England stop talking about sex and get on with the business of preaching the Gospel?’
This is not true as General Synod, and even the apparently ‘Sex mad’ Andrew Dotchin talk about much else that is good and godly.[i] I do know, however, that I have to constantly remind myself that my ‘tuppence worth’ can be used, and indeed should be used, in more areas than those which make my heart beat faster. Our Lord reminds us that we should expect no extra reward if we only love those who love us or speak for those who are close to us (Matthew 5.43f).
I suspect that everyone who has the wherewithal to read these words starts each day with more than just tuppence, either in physical or social capital, with which to transform our world for good. Our call to ‘Feed the Birds’ is not limited to caring for the pigeons of St Paul’s or investing in Banks (not all of them are evil, have a look at The Churches Mutual Credit Union[ii]) or even kite flying.
We are given more than we need, even if it may only feel as small as ‘tuppence’, so that we can be God’s agents for good in the whole of the world and not only beautify our own corner of the vineyard. Let’s learn to be as widespread, and perhaps even as reckless, in our own generosity as God is towards us.
O God, whose nature it is to be generous:
we confess to you our share of the guilt
for a world of hungry families and homeless peoples;
forgive us for our self-centred living and spending;
forgive those who blame you for their failures.
Grant that this week
some who have given nothing may start to give;
those who have given something may give more;
that both our Church and our nation may give due place
to the cries of those
who have nothing to eat
and nowhere to live;
for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Christopher Idle, England
1) Feed some birds today.
2) Have a look at your own giving of time, treasure, and talents and ask yourself if this needs to be adjusted.
Encore: Click on song title to watch a video
In the year when the people of Britain celebrate 100 years of the franchise of women, today’s encore has to be Sister Suffragette.
Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018