Title: God of the Sparrow
Author: Jaroslav J. Vajda
Illustrator: Preston McDaniels
Publisher: Morehouse Publishing (September 1, 1999)
Audience: Ages 3 and up
Summary: A creatively illustrated rendition of the popular hymn, this book acknowledges the role of God in the world as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, and challenges us to respond in gratitude and praise.
Literary elements at work in the story: Written as poetry, a noticeable feature of this hymn is its lack of punctuation and rhyme. To the singer this creates a sense of openness—a text that is not bound by the conventional patterns of poetry. Each of the six stanzas is perfectly balanced: the first two lines of each stanza offer a glimpse into the actions of God in the world and the bond God has with God’s creatures. The last two lines of each stanza ask two rhetorical questions: “How does the creature… ” The lack of a question mark gives one the sense that these questions are not so much expecting an answer as making a statement of profound wonder about the relationship between the Creator and the Creator’s creatures.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Preston McDaniels artwork is strikingly the same as his artwork for another hymn/book “Earth and All Stars,” where a young boy, clad in red pajamas and an oversized top hat, travels through space and time to “visit” each of the elements of the poem. What differs is the personalization that brings the boy into events where he is the creature being asked to respond. This is a clever way to draw in the reader as an active participant who must answer the question being asked in the text, “How does the creature respond.”
Theological Conversation Partners: Vajda was commissioned by the Methodist church “to compose a hymn text that would provide answers from the users of the hymn as to why and how God’s creatures (and children) are to serve him. The Law of God demands perfect love from every creature while the love of God and the Gospel coax a willing response to live as an expression of gratitude.”
So how do we live with an attitude of gratitude? Children are taught from an early age to say “thank you” for things they have been given. Gratitude comes easily and naturalyl for them. But living with an attitude of gratitude sometimes fades as children move into the adult arena of society’s competitive mantras: “Be all that you can be.” “Climb to the top of the ladder.” “Second place is the first loser.” Soon the focus of who we as children of God shifts from God the Creator to us, God’s creatures. The Psalmist never loses sight of God as Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life and reminds us that we are always to be in a constant state of responding with gratitude for all we have been given. Psalm 148 is a psalm of praise for God’s created order while Psalm 119 praises the law of God which was given to provide the framework for a life filled with blessings. “Let me live that I may praise you,” writes the Psalmist, “and let your ordinances help me.” (119: 175) We belong to God and are to live a life worthy of that calling. A life filled with praise and gratitude letting “the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Faith Talk Questions:
- How do you know that you are a child of God?
- How do you say thank you to God for the world, your family, your friends, everything you are?
- What does it mean to live with an attitude of gratitude? How can you show others how you are thankful to God?
The session plan accompanying this book will be posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014
This review is written by regular contributor Krista Lovell.
God of the Sparrow by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.