Birdwatching … and the Reformation

Pastor Claude Marshall hopes to see one of these one day in the wild, the American Painted Bunting

This past Sunday, one of our church’s pastors, Claude Marshall, participated in a 4-minute video, to talk about his love for bird watching, in an effort to explain how birds sing praises to God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his disciples to:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

Pastor Claude cited the 17th century English Puritan pastor, Thomas Watson, who wrote about how birds sing hymns to God:

“The curious workmanship of heaven sets forth the glory of its Maker; the firmament is beautiful and penciled out in blue and azure colors, where the power and wisdom of God may be clearly seen. ‘The heavens declare his glory (Psalm 19:1)’: We may see the glory of God blazing in the sun and twinkling in the stars. Look into the air, the birds, with their chirping music, sings hymns of praise to God.” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965, p. 10)

I have been teaching an adult Bible class this fall, on the Protestant Reformation, remembering the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to a church door. I would like to briefly mention some of Thomas Watson’s biography.

Living a century later than Germany’s Martin Luther, and born in 1620, Thomas Watson became associated with the Puritan movement, that originated in the latter part of the 16th century, in England. The Puritans were not happy with Queen Elizabeth’s efforts to find a middle-way between Roman Catholicism and more activist Reformation theology. Puritans, like Watson, wanted the Church of England to move even further away from the influence of Roman Catholicism, to a more “purified” vision of faith.

The Puritans had their opportunity to reshape worship in England in the early to mid 17th century, when King Charles I was removed from power, during the English Civil War. But Thomas Watson spoke out against the new government, that was determined to have King Charles I executed.  For his defense of the king and efforts to restore the monarchy, Thomas Watson was imprisoned. Though released a few months later, Watson eventually lost his pastorate, ironically after the monarchy was restored in 1660 under Charles I’s son, Charles II. Watson had refused to conform to efforts by the restored monarchy to undo the changes to the Church of England, that were partially implemented by the Puritans, after Charles I’s execution.  After a few years of private ministry, Watson was able to re-obtain a preaching license, and continue his public pastoral ministry, as Puritans were finally granted some toleration, under the monarchial government. Watson eventually died in 1686.

Read more about Thomas Watson at the Banner of Truth Trust. Here is the Claude Marshall video.

 

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

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