Other Birds Our Teachers? Over to You!

My plan has been to post at most one blog per week but responses to yesterday’s piece have made me think I should follow it up today with something for you to think about and possibly to respond with.

Some have written with memories of John Stott or anecdotes about him and his enjoyment of bird-watching. They led me to recall how, as an eighteen- or nineteen-year-old, I had sneaked into a meeting organised by the Christian Union in Trinity College Dublin to hear him speaking. (I wasn’t a student and probably shouldn’t have been there.) I still remember the hush in that hall as he spoke of the absolute holiness of God and our own sinfulness.

Two friends have written to suggest biblical themes with which the characteristic behaviour of other birds could be linked. This in response to my cheeky suggestion that a chapter on ‘The Flight Formation of the Wild Geese: Interdependence’ could be added to Stott’s lovely book.

Matt Kaegi wrote from Winterthur in Switzerland to talk about the playful behaviour of crows, those fun-loving birds that have been observed to do such amazing things. Their playfulness is linked with creativity in the making of tools. Just google ‘crows playfulness’ and you’ll find lots of articles about this. See, for example, Harvard Magazine’sCrows know how to have fun’ and the BBC website’s ‘Crows could be the smartest animal other than primates’.

Proverbs talks about the playfulness of wisdom at creation. “When he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in humankind. (Proverbs 8:29-31)

Translations use ‘rejoicing’ because it sounds more pious but, in his book Wise Teaching, Charles Melchert writes: “Yet everywhere else in the Hebrew Bible, this term is translated ‘play’ … children playing with toys and games … people playing musical instruments and dancing … even of the love-play between Isaac and Rebekah.” (p. 189) Others have translated ‘rejoicing’ as ‘frolicking’ and ‘jesting’.

Christ who is Wisdom is therefore the Lord of the Dance! And our playfulness is linked with imagination and creativity!

David Smith wrote from Grand Rapids in Michigan to say he had recently read an Audobon.org article entitled ‘In homing pigeon flocks, bad bosses quickly get demoted’ and suggested this behaviour could be linked with the biblical theme of humility. The article reports research that showed how flocks of homing pigeons keep leaders with bad information from throwing them off course.

How often do leaders of human organisations, churches, schools lack the humility to step down or be redirected by others when they get it wrong?  All too often, I think.

Now it is over to you! Do you know of another bird whose characteristic behaviour can be linked with a biblical theme? If so, please share it.  More about how to do so in a moment but first let’s see what we have so far. Here is the list of chapter titles in John Stott’s book:

  1. The Feeding of Ravens: Faith
  2. The Migration of Storks: Repentance
  3. The Head of Owls: Facing Both Ways
  4. The Value of Sparrows: Self-esteem
  5. The Drinking of Pigeons: Gratitude
  6. The Metabolism of Hummingbirds: Work
  7. The Soaring of Eagles: Freedom
  8. The Territory of Robins: Space
  9. The Wings of a Hen: Shelter
  10. The Song of Larks: Joy
  11. The Breeding Cycle of All Birds: Love

To these we can add:

  1. The Flight Formation of Wild Geese: Interdependence
  2. The Playfulness of Crows: Creativity
  3. The Leadership of Homing Pigeons: Humility

So over to you! Please share any suggestions you have for chapter titles to add to the list. Alternatively, you may have memories or anecdotes about John Stott to share.

I suggest you do so by writing a comment on my Facebook link to this blog and you can find it by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can email me (address under ‘Contact Me’ on my website) and, with your permission, I can add what you share to the comments on my Facebook link.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Creator and Wise God, help us to learn from what you have made how to live in peace with ourselves and others, the physical world and, above all, with you. Amen.

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