The Thing with Feathers
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1
A rooster lives a few houses down from my house in Santa Fe. My subdivision isn’t zoned for chickens, but he was apparently “grandfeathered” in.
This rooster thinks the sunrise is his sole responsibility. Long before there’s a hint of light, he starts his morning crow. It may be dark as midnight, but he heralds the dawn.
“Hope is the thing with feathers,” wrote Emily Dickinson, “that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all.” She probably had her own neighborhood rooster.
I think the author of the Letter to the Hebrews did, too. For the early Christians, life under the Roman Empire was as dark as a moonless Santa Fe night. Still the author proclaimed: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Like our neighborhood rooster, the author affirmed God’s light, even when no one could see it.
As the rooster continues his song in the night, other birds join in, until an entire chorus of trills and warbles proclaim the blessing of a new day and new light. In the same way, the Letter to the Hebrews affirmed we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses,” people of faith who have awakened to God’s call to new life and hope. When one person (or one rooster) proclaims the light that shines in the darkness, others find the courage to do the same.
Even in the darkest of times, God’s light is coming. That’s what the ancient Christian author promised. It’s what the neighborhood rooster reminds me of every morning (whether I believe it or not).
Thank you for early morning roosters and all the other ways you awaken us to new days and new hope. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Part 1 and Mark Part 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.