Like a Dove
Jane Shelton, CRE; January 9, 2022
Baptism of the Lord
Imagine standing along the river Jordan among the crowd of people who have been listening to John the Baptist, listening to this strange man who lived in the wilderness, who ate locust and honey, but yet wondered….is this man the Messiah?
Yes, the people wondered if John was the Messiah. He told them no, one would come that was greater than he, one empowered by the Holy Spirit.
As John baptizes Jesus, it’s not that Jesus was in need of forgiveness of sin, rather as the heavens open and the dove descends upon Jesus, he is anointed by the Holy Spirit. It is in this moment that Jesus’ ministry begins.
Thinking about this symbol of the dove descending got me to thinking about exactly what type of bird the dove is. Whatever you came to hear today about the baptism of our Lord, it probably wasn’t anything that had to do with the dove, right?! But I was just so curious…why wasn’t it the eagle that soars so beautifully and is so majestic, or the hawk with it’s stealth abilities and strength, or even the wise owl…why did the Holy Spirit come like a dove? So I did a little research.
First, doves are known for their precise flight patterns, so there is no doubt that the dove that descended from heaven was guided directly and accurately to the one with whom God was well-pleased, his beloved son, Jesus.
During their flight, the dove can reach speeds up to 55 mph and create a whirring sound with their wings. A perfect example of the Holy Spirit on fire.
Doves are used as messengers and associated with love and peace, the same messages that Jesus delivered to those he encountered.
Doves are capable of living all over the world, with the exception of Antarctica. They are hardy birds, and a perfect example of why the dove was chosen as the symbol of the Holy Spirit because there are no boundaries for the Holy Spirit which can reach all areas of the world, including Antarctica.
So just a few fun facts to help us understand more about the Holy Spirit. It’s sent by God, it accurate, it can come with great speed bringing messages of love and peace, and it has no boundaries as to where it can spread.
Now, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is marked by his baptism, and he was baptized with ten of the rulers of the land…..no, no, no….that’s not right….he was baptized with the chosen few….no, that’s not right either…..Jesus, we are told, was baptized with “all the people.”
The dove was never expected to be in one place in our world and neither was Jesus. He was always with all the people…not a special few. The message he delivered for peace and love is also for all people.
Jesus puts himself in the midst of all the broken and sin-ridden people along the Jordan, not in another special place or an isolated place along the Jordan River.
His message was one of hope and at his baptism, he identifies the very people in need of hope, in need of forgiveness, of love, of healing and peace.
We have to ask ourselves today, are we identifying with the people who are in need around us? Are we meeting them in their need where they are the way Jesus did?
Are we examining our own actions in our churches today? Have we become so focused on membership numbers and how to maintain our buildings that we’ve forgotten about the needs of those outside the church? Where is the Holy Spirit whirring around us? Being responsible for our church building and grounds is definitely important, and something we can do, AND we can also take care of those around us.
Attitude is a powerful thing. I’m sure Jesus didn’t walk to the river with the attitude, “Gosh…here are all those broken people again….maybe if I don’t look at them or if I don’t talk to them, they will not ask me anything.”
Are our pews no longer filled because we didn’t see the need to come to church because we missed the need of the person that was seated next to us? Are they empty because people came longing to be involved in something, but found nothing going on to be involved in, so they moved on.
Jesus put himself out there among the people. He listened to their needs. He fed them when they were hungry and clothed them when they were naked. And most importantly, he loved them when they didn’t think they were worthy to be loved.
In this week’s Presbyterian Outlook, Teri Ott refers to a book written by Christian Wiman called, “My Bright Abyss, in which he writes, ‘In any true love – a mother’s for her child, a husband’s for his wife, a friend’s for a friend – there is an excess energy that always wants to be in motion. Moreover, it seems to move not simply from one person to another but through them, toward something else. This is why we can be so baffled and overwhelmed by such love: it wants to be more than it is; it cries out inside of us to make it more than it is. And what it is crying out for, finally, is its essence and origin: God.”
After Jesus is baptized, he prays……. I can think of 100 things he could have been praying, but that is not known. What is known is that he found his strength in his Heavenly Father, and God knew Jesus needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for what was to come.
What a blessed connection of the Trinity. A connection that still empowers us and works through us today. A love in motion.
Are we praying to God to make a difference in a life, and waiting for the Holy Spirit to empower us to act? Are we asking ourselves, how do we make a difference? Where do we start? Do you have ideas that have already been planted by God, but are afraid to voice them?
Just imagine if we sat down to brainstorm about someone we know that needs help, and how do we as a church body help that person? If each of us had one person that we know with a need, and we share that with our church family, think about the lives that might be changed in 2022 right here in our community!
Think about how others might be so inspired by your actions, that they want to know about where you go to church so they can become involved and help someone.
So how do we become like Jesus? I dare say that all of you have the Holy Spirit whirring around inside you, waiting to burst forth into action. Maybe you’re just not quite sure how to set it in motion.
Where are the hungry so we can feed them?
Where are the naked so we can clothe them?
Where are the lost so we can love them?
As Jesus prayed to God for a spiritual connection after his baptism, he shows us an intensely spiritual posture which remained throughout his ministry.
Be among the people so you know their needs, pray for guidance and strength, allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to action in love and peace.
Jesus knew his strength to help others came from his Father in Heaven, and the Heavenly Father knew he needed the Holy Spirit. So do we.
God sent Jesus, the Messiah, to bring his message of love to all people. You are my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. We also are God’s beloved with whom he is well pleased.
Who around us is waiting for that same affirmation today? To know that they are loved and accepted by God. My prayer to God is that he sends the whirring dove with speed and accuracy to empower us with the tools of action to find these people.