There seem to be two distinct styles for lecterns, either a ‘simple’ plain book holder or one in the shape of a bird. Both styles are usually made from either wood or gilt metal (brass).
The bird is an eagle – often holding the world in its talons. The intention being that the eagle is known as the most powerful bird, which can fly the highest and longest without pausing and so can take the Word of God – the Bible that it holds – to all the places in the world.
There are 44 mentions of eagles in the Bible, but just two to include here:
In Exodus after the Israelites have left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea they camp in the wilderness, where they are not surprisingly worried about what will happen next. Shall we say ‘there’s a bit of grumbling and groaning’ going on?
So God calls to Moses with words to encourage them, ‘The Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.’’ (Ex 19: 3- 5)
And the second is one to uplift us all when we need support. Isaiah in chapter 40 is trying to describe how awesome and powerful God is and concludes that even our youth will grow weary in comparison. However,
‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’
(Isaiah 40: 30 – 31)
So perhaps as we hear the words of the Bible passage read to us from that symbolic figure we are reminded to both trust in the Lord and to gain inner strength.
The Revd Dr Jo White