Photo and Commentary ©2018 by Robert Howson
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

One can learn a lot simply from a name. Take the American Redstart for instance. The name “redstart” is derived from the Old German “stert” which is a reference to tail. This in turn refers to the bird’s habit of fanning its tail and flashing its orange or yellow patches to startle prey out of hiding. This colorful wood warbler has been called the “butterfly of the bird world” which undoubtedly calls to mind its brilliant plumage and habit of being constantly on the move. One of its names in Spanish is “mariposa” which is another allusion to butterfly. Its name in French is Paruline flamboyante, and one doesn’t need an English/French dictionary to understand what they had in mind in giving it this moniker.

Some of its most descriptive titles come from its nicknames. In the tropics it is sometimes called the “latrine bird” from its predisposition to hang around outhouses and garbage dumps while looking for flies. On a more positive note, it is also known as the “Christmas bird” since it tends to arrive in that region around that time of year. But my favorite name comes from the West Indies where its Spanish name is “candelita” or “little torch”.

And it could be a delightful title for Christians as well, for it certainly seems to fit what Paul had in mind for us: “Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6 The Message)