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Of Ravens, Crows, and Pastoral Concern

In the process of laying out the August issue of the Lutheran Spokesman, including the article which mentions the selfish behavior of ravens, we came upon a quote in which the Reformer Dr. Martin Luther uses the ravens’ cousins, the crows, to make a spiritual point.

Recall the times of Luther (b.1483-d.1546). In preparation for the Lutheran Reformation, Luther was moved to post his 95 Theses on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, for debate within the Roman Church (October 31, 1517) and then to make his staunch stand before Emperor and papal delegates at the Diet of Worms (1521) out of pastoral concern.

You see, Luther felt compassion for the sheep of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who were being deprived of the gospel of full and complete forgiveness of sins through the Savior—and, in effect, being left to feed their hungry souls on their own supposed good works and/or the legends and merits of the saints.

The quote below—from What Luther Says, (introduction by E. Plass), Vol. I, par. 834, p. 283—shows that Luther was not inclined to mince words wherever and whenever he uncovered and discovered the idea that the church (of all things!) was responsible for “playing crow”! The solution? As the Reformer shows, Christ Himself miraculously sees to the feeding of His own!

Plass’ Introduction: “…He who provides for the fowl of the air will not neglect His children. So Luther…once remarked when the habits of crows were being discussed at his table (from notations of August 18-December 26, 1531).”

(Dr. Luther) “Crows are said to be very heartless in that they desert their young after they have hatched them and fly away. Thereafter God miraculously feeds them (Ps. 147:9). By these crows the false and faithless teachers and pastors of the church are pictured. For the sake of the belly or danger, they desert their young ones, that is, the Christians entrusted to their care. Thereafter Christ Himself miraculously feeds them in the midst of the wolves. So it happened under the papacy, where, beyond all the comprehension of human reason, God miraculously preserved His own so that they were not seduced by human traditions.”

Compare the article in this issue titled “Of Ravens, Lilies, and God’s Providence” by Pastor Fuerstenau. He shows that as lessons could be learned from “birds of the air” when Jesus walked on the Earth (see Matthew 6:26f), and in Luther’s day, so it remains true today.

Consider how the birds above
Feed day by day with care-free ease—
Does God not keep them in His love?
Are we not worth much more than these?
Seek first God’s Kingdom and His grace
His holy Name in all you do:
Christ first and last in ev’ry place;
All else will then be given you.
(WS 2000, #789:1&5)