A Diet of Jackdaws and Ravens

Western Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula) ©WikiC

Western Jackdaw (Coloeus monedula) ©WikiC

A Diet of Jackdaws and Ravens

by James J. S. Johnson

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. … The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.  (Psalm 46:1 & 46:11)

Looking at ravens, recently, I was reminded of the 46th Psalm and a hymn that majestically paraphrases its doxological theology.  Also I was reminded of the Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), which is cousin to the Raven (Corvus corax), both of which corvids range in Germany.

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Ray

But how are these – Psalm 46, a hymn, ravens, and jackdaws — connected?

Let’s begin with a famous hymn that paraphrases, in lyrical dignity, from the content of the 46th Psalm. Surely you recognize these lyrics:

Luther's Ein Feste Burg

Luther’s Ein Feste Burg

Of course, the lyrics are penned by a Saxon theologian of the AD1500s, in German, so maybe an English translation (of that hymn’s lyrics) would be more helpful.  This German hymn (“Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott”) was translated into English, as early as AD1539, by Bible translator Miles Coverdale, with the title “Oure God is a defence and towre” [notice obsolete spellings of “our”, “defense”, and “tower”].  The hymn’s composition (AD1529), as well as its original melody and meter, comes to us thanks to Dr. Martin Luther, the great Reformer.

But the most familiar English translation of this heroic hymn, by Frederick Hedge (AD1853), is “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing”, which begins:

  1. A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
    our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
    For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
    his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
    on earth is not his equal.
  2. Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
    were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
    Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
    Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
    and he must win the battle.
  3. And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
    we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
    The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
    his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
    one little word shall fell him.
  4. That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
    the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.
    Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
    the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
    his kingdom is forever.

Of course, Lutheran choirs and organists know this hymn well!

Yet how does this hymn, and its music-loving author (Dr. Martin Luther), relate to a “diet of jackdaws and ravens”?

In the year AD1530 an ecclesiastical confrontation was scheduled to occur at Augsburg (a city in Bavaria, Germany), but Dr. Luther was persuaded to stay behind – mostly for his personal safety’s sake – in Coburg (a town of Bavaria, near Augsburg) because Luther was declared an “outlaw” at the Diet of Worms, so he was an unprotected target).  So Luther staid there, writing to his friend Philip Melanchthon (and others), as Luther waited for the next important event to occur in Germany’s (and Europe’s) Reformation.  But Luther was not one who would contently wait while others battled – and the controversy would have reminded Luther of prior confrontations that he had personally experienced, in defense and promotion of Luther’s Bible-based faith.

Martin Luther by Cranach restoration ©WikiC

Martin Luther by Cranach restoration ©WikiC

While in Coburg, therefore, Luther’s imagination could picture the clutter and cawing of agenda-driven clergymen (and bustling government officials) who were gathering, in Augsburg, to cluck about theological controversies, at what would be a hotly contested “diet” (conference of representative delegates).  Luther could easily imagine the conspiring conversations of the corrupt clergymen who would soon be attending and arguing at the Augsburg “diet”, seeking to ensnare Melanchthon and Luther’s other Protestant allies.

In Barnas Seares’ biography of Dr. Luther, titled THE LIFE OF LUTHER, WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO ITS EARLIER PERIODS AND THE OPENING SCENES OF THE REFORMATION (American Sunday-School Press, 1850; 2010 reprint by Attic Books), he describes how Luther’s birdwatching provoked memories of prior confrontational conferences:

A mind like Luther’s could not remain inactive, and, for want of other employment, he suffered his fancy to picture to itself a diet of birds, as he saw them congregate before his window, much as he saw persecuting bishops in the huntsmen and hounds while engaged in the chase at Wartburg [where Luther was sequestered, hidden from his persecutors, during the time Luther translated the Bible in German].  The reader will easily recognize the satire.  The sportive letter [written by Luther] was addressed to his table companions at Wittenberg, and reads thus:

Common Ravens Feeding ©WikiC

Common Ravens Feeding ©WikiC

‘Grace and peace in Christ, dear friends.  … [Luther then explains that he and two other men] do not go to the Augsburg diet, though we are attending another one in this place.  There is, directly before my window, a grove where the jackdaws and ravens have appointed a diet; and there is such a coming and going, and such a hubbub, day and night, that you would think them all tipsy.  Old and young keep up such a cackling, that I wonder how their breath holds out so long.  I should like to know if there are any of these nobles and knights with you, for it seemeth to me that all in the world are gathered together here.  I have not yet seen their emperor, but the nobles and great ones are all the time moving and frisking before us; not gayly attired, but of one uniform colour, all black and all gray-eyed.  They all sing the same song, though with the pleasing diversity of young and old, great and small.  They pay no regard to the great palace and hall, for their hall hath the high blue heavens for its ceiling, the ground for its floor, the beautiful green branches for its paneling, and the ends of the world for its walls.  They don’t trouble themselves about horses and wagons, for they have winged wheels wherewith to escape from fire-arms.  They are great and mighty lords; but what decisions they come [to] I know not.  But, so far as I can learn through an interpreter, they meditate a mighty crusade against wheat, barley, oats, malt, and all kinds of corn and grain, and there is here many a hero, who will perform great deeds. … I consider all these nothing but the sophists and papists, with their preachers and secretaries, and must have them all before me thus at once, that I may hear their lovely voices and their preaching, and see how useful a class they are, to devour all that the earth bringeth forth, and cackle for it a while.’” [Quoting Luther, as quoted within Sears, at pages 449-451, with emphasis added.]

Jackdaws at Herstmonceux Castle

Jackdaws at Herstmonceux Castle

Somehow the busy yacking and cawing of the jackdaws and ravens, in Coburg, reminded Dr. Luther of the conspiring ecclesiastical kleptocrats whom he observed (and contended with), those crooked racketeers famous for grabbing (but not for giving) —  just as jackdaws and ravens are famous for shamelessly raiding the crop-fields that others work long and hard to produce food from.  (See 1st Peter 5:2-3; some things don’t change much!)

Quite a “diet”, pardon the pun.

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James J. S. Johnson’s Articles

Orni-Theology

Jackdaw and Raven Corvidae Family

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Thanksgivings From The Past

Tree Swallows Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge by jeremyjonkman on Flickr From Pinterest

Tree Swallows Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge by jeremyjonkman on Flickr From Pinterest

“Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11 KJV)

While thinking about a post for this Thanksgiving, I looked back to see what had been written in the past. Wow! Had forgotten so many have been posted. From way back in 2008, the first year of the blog until last year when I got wound up and posted several. So, today, the day before Thanksgiving, it’s time to bring those back out to review. Part of Thanksgiving is remembering all our blessings from the past.

Happy Thanksgiving was written in 2008. (I actually still had some color in my hair.)  :))

Thanksgiving Turkey was in 2009. This is about turkeys.

Birds of the Bible – Thanksgiving written in 2010. It is about things I am thankful for.

Thankful For The Lord’s Birds  from an article on the Fountain in 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving Turkey was posted in 2012. It is actually a re-post of the 2009 article.

Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis) by Dario Sanches

Black-throated Mango (Anthracothorax nigricollis) by Dario Sanches

Then last year, I got carried away and produced one-a-day for six days.

Old Testament Thanksgiving – 2013  – Thanksgiving verses from the Old Testament with photos.

New Testament Thanksgiving – 2013 – Thanksgiving verses from the Old Testament with photos.

Birds in Hymns – Honor and Glory, Thanksgiving and Praise – A Thanksgiving Hymn

Thanksgiving For Young People – Thanksgiving from a younger person’s perspective.

Happy Thanksgiving Day – 2013 – Blessings from 2013.

Thankful For The Birds – Title says it all. With photos and a slideshow.

And now this year, so far we have:

Reginald, Turkey Commander by Emma Foster

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I can see I am going to be challenged to come up with something for tomorrow. But the following verse assures me, there are still many blessings to recount. Your visits to the blog are a great blessings.

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

Until Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, Lord bless!

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Who Paints The Leaves?

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Sunday Inspiration – Out To Sea

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) by Ian

Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans) by Ian

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, And declare His works with rejoicing. Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. (Psalms 107:21-24 NKJV)

Those who go out to sea are able to see many of the birds that spend most of their lives on the wing. The oceans do not always remain calm, but their Creator has created them to survive many varied conditions. How about us? As things come into our lives, they are not always comfortable to us. If we are placing our faith in the Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, we can sing the last verse of the hymn below:

O soul, sinking down ’neath sin’s merciless wave,
The strong arm of our Captain is mighty to save;
Then trust Him today, no longer delay,
Board the old ship of Zion, and shout on your way:
“Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”
Shout and sing on your way: “Jesus saves!”

 

 

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“Ship Ahoy” ~ by Dr. Richard Gregory

And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain, (2 Chronicles 13:12a KJV)

I was drifting away on life’s pitiless sea,
And the angry waves threatened my ruin to be,
When away at my side, there I dimly descried,
A stately old vessel, and loudly I cried:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!”
And loudly I cried: “Ship ahoy!”

’Twas the “old ship of Zion,” thus sailing along,
All aboard her seemed joyous, I heard their sweet song;
And the Captain’s kind ear, ever ready to hear,
Caught my wail of distress, as I cried out in fear:
“Ship ahoy! Ship ahoy!”
As I cried out in fear: “Ship ahoy!”

The good Captain commanded a boat to be low’red,
And with tender compassion He took me on board;
And I’m happy today, all my sins washed away
In the blood of my Savior, and now I can say:
“Bless the Lord! Bless the Lord!”
From my soul I can say: “Bless the Lord!”

O soul, sinking down ’neath sin’s merciless wave,
The strong arm of our Captain is mighty to save;
Then trust Him today, no longer delay,
Board the old ship of Zion, and shout on your way:
“Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”
Shout and sing on your way: “Jesus saves!”

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More Sunday Inspirations

Gospel Message

Sharing The Gospel

Gideon

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Birds in Hymns – Be Strong in the Lord

Bald Eagle flying by Dave's BirdingPix

Bald Eagle flying by Dave’s BirdingPix

Text: Be Strong in the Lord
Author: Linda Lee Johnson
Tune: FETTKE
Composer: Tom Fettke

Be strong in the Lord

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty Defender is always the same.
Mount up with wings, as the eagle ascending;
Vict’ry is sure when you call on His name.

Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And rejoice for the vict’ry is yours.

So put on the armour the Lord has provided;
And place your defense in His unfailing care.
Trust Him, for He will be with you in battle,
Lighting your path to avoid every snare.

Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And rejoice for the vict’ry is yours.

Be strong in the Lord, and be of good courage;
Your mighty commander will vanquish the foe.
Fear not the battle, for the victory is always His;
He will protect you wherever you go.

Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And be of good courage, for He is your guide.
Be strong, be strong, be strong in the Lord;
And rejoice for the vict’ry is yours.

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More Birds in Hymns

Good News Tracts

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Smiling Penguins

Chinstrap Penguin direct look

Chinstrap Penguin direct look

When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them. (Job 29:24 NIV)

I know Our Lord has such kind and loving attributes. Also, I believe He has a sense of humor. Having just written about the “peach fuzz” penguin, I came across this Penguin family member. The Chinstraps.

 Chinstrap Penguins (Orne Island)

Chinstrap Penguins (Orne Island)

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalms 32:11 NASB)

Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) by Bob-Nan

Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) by Bob-Nan

Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. (Proverbs 31:25 NASB – virtuous woman)

Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) ©WikiC

Chinstrap Penguin (Pygoscelis antarcticus) ©WikiC

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

 

Smile And Sing

When the heart is heavy and the days are long,
Let each passing moment echo with a song.
Fill some life with courage, comfort now the sad—
Many lives are lonely, you can make them glad.

Refrain

Smile and sing, some happy, happy song,
Days of sadness will not tarry long;
Smile and sing, ’twill drive the clouds away—
Smile and sing thro’ every passing day.

Someone needs the comfort that a song can bring,
If thy heart is happy let it gaily sing.
Someone’s pathway brighten, lift some load of care—
Seek some heart to brighten, and its burden share.

Refrain

Smile and sing, some happy, happy song,
Days of sadness will not tarry long;
Smile and sing, ’twill drive the clouds away—
Smile and sing thro’ every passing day.

Many are in sorrow and the clouds hang low,
You can cheer and comfort as you onward go.
Win some soul for Jesus, from the path of shame
Giving all the glory to His precious Name.

Refrain

Smile and sing, some happy, happy song,
Days of sadness will not tarry long;
Smile and sing, ’twill drive the clouds away—
Smile and sing thro’ every passing day.

(Words & Music: Grant C. Tull­ar, 1899)

See:

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Birds in Hymns – Honor and Glory, Thanksgiving and Praise,

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) by Margaret Sloan

Keel-billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) by Margaret Sloan

For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God. (Nehemiah 12:46 KJV)

Words from the La­tin Gradual, 12th Cen­tu­ry (Ju­bi­le­mus om­nes una); trans­lat­ed from La­tin to Eng­lish by Ed­ward A. Day­man in the Hymn­a­ry, 1872.

Music: Na­maan, M. Cos­ta (Mi­chael Cos­ta [1808-1884]?), ar­ranged by Will­iam H. Call­cott

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Honor and Glory, Thanksgiving and Praise

Honor and glory, thanksgiving and praise,
Maker of all things, to Thee we upraise;
God the Almighty, the Father, the Lord;
God by the angels obeyed and adored.

Thou art the Father of Heaven and earth;
Worlds uncreated to Thee owe their birth;
All the creation, Thy voice when it heard,
Started to life and to light at Thy Word.

Onward the sun and the moon and their march
Span with the rainbow the firmament’s arch;
Stars yet unknown, and whose light is to come,
Find in creation their place and a home.

Earth with the mountain, the river, the plain,
Sky with the dew-drop, the wind, and the rain,
Beast of the forest, wild bird of the air,
All are Thy creatures, and all are Thy care.

Ocean the restless, and waters that swell,
Lightnings that flash over flood, over fell,
Own Thee the Master Almighty, and call
Thee the Creator, the Father, of all.

Yea, Thou art Father of all, and Thy love
Pity for man that is fallen doth move;
Guide us in life, and protect to the last;
And, at Thine Advent, Lord, pardon the past.

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