Vicar’s Reflection: Ordinary Sunday 21, 25 August 2019. Sentinels are watching us
Sentinel species are animals used to detect risks to humans by providing advance warning of danger. Usually they identify environmental hazards. Some animals can act as sentinels because they may be more susceptible or have greater exposure to a hazard than humans in the same environment. People have long observed animals for signs of impending disaster or evidence of environmental threats. Plants and other living organisms have also been used for these purposes. One example is the "canary in the coal mine" The birds, being more sensitive to toxic gases especially carbon monoxide, would become sick before the miners, who would then have a chance to escape or put on protective respirators. Isaiah, Hosea and Ezekiel the prophets understood their roles to be like a watchmen or sentinels for the people of Israel. They were to warn them of danger not from approaching armies, but of their own spiritual and moral failures. The prophets and Jesus all took special interest in how the poor, the vulnerable and excluded were treated. The Godly inspiration behind this is that those who are the most vulnerable are our sentinels. Our unkind attitudes to them warn us of our spiritual failure to obey God’s law of love, mercy and compassion. This is why we need to be especially careful about how we treat the most vulnerable amongst us: unborn children, infants, the elderly, disabled and terminally ill. They are sentinels, watching us to see if we bring the gift of God’s love and care.