BBC Radio 2 - Pause for Thought - The Reed Warbler


The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu delivered his BBC Radio 2 Pause for Thought about a tiny bird called the Reed Warbler and Jesus being the Archbishop's best guide. His pause follows in full... 

My Pilgrimage of Prayer, Witness and Blessing brought me last Friday to St Cuthbert’s Church in Wilton to Redcar and The Gare - tracing the footsteps of Paulinus and Cuthbert. Walking in woodlands, marshlands and farmlands that were wet, soggy and tricky to traverse.

We made it because we had a wonderful guide, David Gray. Without him it would have been mission impossible.

We are all on a journey and a good guide is crucial. Which reminds me of a fascinating Acceptance Speech that I heard from John Wilson of the RSPB last month, after I presented him with an Honorary Fellowship at the University of Cumbria.  He told the audience the story of the navigational skills of a tiny bird he has studied, the Reed Warbler. When only 2-3 months old it knows instinctively that it must migrate to Africa to survive. Its parents have already left, so no guidance there. Yet it knows to find food for the journey by feeding avidly and storing fuel in the form of fat. Then one evening at dusk in August or early September it sets off for Africa on the first leg of its almost 3000 miles journey to West Africa in nightly hops, via the south coast and SW France - feeding up and re-fuelling as it makes its journey. It’s major obstacle is the Sahara desert. It takes 4-6 weeks to travel to its winter quarters. Then, amazingly early next Spring it makes the return journey not just to any reedbed in Europe but to the exact place where it was born, navigating with pin point accuracy; and remember it’s still not a year old.

How do they do it? The most plausible theory is navigating by the stars or using the earth’s magnetic field. But that doesn’t explain how a three month old bird knows which route to take”.

And you know what, Jesus said I am the Way, I am the Truth, I am the Life. He doesn’t mean “I am the map - read me, I am the truth – speculate about me, I am the life, study me”. He is saying to us, “I am the Way - walk me, I am the Truth - know me, I am the Life - live me”. He is my best guide on my journey of life. 


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