Saint Bum Bum
Jeremiah 23:24 “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.
The other day the boys and I watched “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” as part of our daily devotional time. The film from 1972 outlines the life of St Francis of Assisi, who was born the son of a wealthy silk merchant but later renounced his great wealth to pursue a life dedicated to poverty in pursuing Jesus. In one dramatic scene, Francesco takes his expensive clothes off and gives them to a beggar in front of a crowd gathered in the town square. At this point my son Nate’s eyes widened…
“Apa! He is taking off his clothes!!!”
“Yes he is Nate Nate.”
“I can see his bum bum!” [Then with a giggle…] “He is not Saint Francis. He is Saint Bum Bum!”
(This might seem sacrilegious, but Nate is 5 so we cut him some slack.)
From now on I’m afraid that at the mention of his name, my mind will always revert to St Francis’ exhibitionist tendencies. But really the character trait that I find most exemplary from his life is the ability to see God in everyone and everything. St Francis experienced such intimacy with Jesus, that he loved everyone around him, rich or poor, near or far, as a literal extension of his own body. He loved his neighbor as himself. He did unto others as he would have them do unto him.
As I draw nearer to God, I find myself drawing lines between myself and others less, and seeing them as an extension of myself. I also see God in them. But St Francis took this to another level, not only seeing other people, but all of God’s creation as an extension of himself. He referred to the sun as Brother Sun, and to the moon as Sister Moon. When villagers ran terrified from a wolf who ate their young, he fed and spoke to the wolf who then reportedly stopped attacking the townspeople. On one journey with his disciples through the Spoleto Valley, St Francis saw a large flock of birds had gathered in some trees. He asked his troop to pause while he “went to preach to the birds for a little while.” The sermon was recorded by some of his followers.
"My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky," Francis said, "you are bound to heaven, to God, your Creator. In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise him. He has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. You neither sow, nor reap, yet God provides for you the most delicious food, rivers, and lakes to quench your thirst, mountains, and valleys for your home, tall trees to build your nests, and the most beautiful clothing: a change of feathers with every season. You and your kind were preserved in Noah's Ark. Clearly, our Creator loves you dearly, since he gives you gifts so abundantly. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God."
The monks recorded that these birds listened intently.
"While Francis said these words, all those birds began to open their beaks, and stretch out their necks, and spread their wings, and bend their heads reverently toward the earth, and with acts and songs, they showed that the holy father [Francis] gave them great pleasure."
Wow. My man preached to birds.
Lord, I often struggle to love people properly. What I would give to be so filled with the spirit that I could love all of your creation… to feel the communion and connectedness to you and your universe that you’ve designed us for. I love you. I invite you into every part of my life today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.