In her book Birdology, naturalist Sy Montgomery describes the beauty and intricacy of an ordinary hummingbird.
Hummingbirds are the lightest birds in the sky. Of their roughly 240 species … the largest, an Andean "giant," is only eight inches long; the smallest, the bee hummingbird of Cuba, is just over two inches long and weighs a single gram.
Delicacy is the trade-off that hummingbirds have made for their unrivaled powers of flight. Alone among birds, they can hover, fly backward, even fly upside down. For such small birds, their speed is astonishing: in his courtship display to impress a female, a male Allen's hummingbird, for instance, can dive out of the sky at sixty-one miles per hour … (Diving at 385 body-lengths per second, this hummer beats the peregrine falcoln's dives … and even bests the space shuttle as it screams down through the atmosphere at 207 body lengths per second.)
Hummingbirds' wings beat at a rate that makes them a blur to human eyes, more than sixty times a second …. They are little more than bubbles fringed with iridescent feathers—air wrapped in light …. In most birds, 15 to 25 percent of the body is given over to flying muscles. In a hummingbird's body, flight muscles account for 35 percent. An enormous heart constitutes up to 2.5 percent of its body weight—the largest per body weight of all vertebrates …. A person as active as a hummingbird would need 155,000 calories a day …. Each [hummingbird] is just a speck … yet each is an infinite mystery.
Montgomery doesn't discuss her stance towards faith, but she often expresses her awe and wonder in the presence of God's beauty and creativity. At one point Montgomery quotes a woman who works with baby hummingbirds who says, "You know that kind of awestruck feeling you get when you look at a great work of art? That sense of wonder, that sense of connection to something great and mysterious? It's the same feeling looking at a … hummingbird."
This Sunday begins a new series on the book of Genesis. (Yup, I’m going Old Testament.) And the best place to start is at the beginning—the very beginning—with Genesis 1.
It’s a passage that’s seen its share of controversy over the last century or two. I’ll talk a little bit about that controversy. But I don’t want the real message to be obscured over the current debate over creation. The real point is “that sense of wonder” that Montgomery is talking about and the fact that, from the Bible’s point of view, it is an expected response to God’s power and goodness.