A talking animal prequel to Donkey Tales, to commemorate the baptism of Jesus. Based on Luke 3:15-17,21-22, as told by a winged reporter at the scene.
Expectations and Eccentricities
The day started out normally enough. I woke up, kissed my wife and kids goodbye, and flew out of our family nest in search of some food. We doves like seeds and an occasional bit of fruit. A diet like this, with no meat, is how I keep this remarkable birdy physique.
Just as I left for the morning commute, lo and beyond, what did I see, but a multitude of people gathered by the river! Humans fascinate me, they always seem to be up to something, always organizing, always doing. Besides, humans are expert gatherers, with access to the best seeds and fruits this particular dove has ever tasted. With a little luck perhaps I could pilfer some without much effort. Then I could get back to the family nest early and play with the kids.
As I flew in for a better view it became clear that this was no normal gathering. The people there that day were talking excitedly, filled with expectation of what could be. They surrounded one man, in particular, who looked like no other I’ve seen.
He wore a robe made of camel hair, how scratchy! Camel coats just aren’t in style for humans these days, and for good reason. This feathery coat I wear is much more comfortable. My wife just preened it up for me this morning.
And his beard, my goodness. It didn’t look like anyone had ever given it a trim. It was totally unkempt. Maybe he’d been living in the wilderness. My wife would never let me leave the nest looking like that.
Even weirder was what was in John’s lunch sack. There was no bread, no wine, no fish. Worst of all there were no seeds, no fruit. Instead he munched on locusts. In a pinch we birds might try that, tho it isn’t exactly enticing. Next to that was some honeycomb. From the looks of it he’d plucked right off a tree. I’m not pilfering my lunch from this guy, that’s for sure. Yuck!
But the people there seemed drawn to this character, they called him John. Perhaps they were attracted to his eccentric ways. Some in the crowd murmured to themselves that John could be the Messiah. He could be there to usher in God’s kingdom on earth. But John was shaking his head, and waving his hands no, he wanted nothing to do with that title.
A New Baptism
John explained to the crowd that he baptized with water, but someone much more powerful was coming. Someone that could baptize with fire. And that someone that could baptize with the Holy Spirit. Now I don’t know much about fire – we birds try to avoid it.
But I can tell you plenty about the Holy Spirit.
Some humans already know this, you might – the Holy Spirit can be experienced by another primal element: wind. Sometimes it’s a gentle breeze, cooling you down when you need it most. Other times it’s a gust of wind, getting your attention when danger is near.
Often, at least for we birds, the Holy Spirit is in the wind currents. She helps us get from one place to the next. She lightens our load. That’s provided we choose to travel with that holy flighted path. Flying against those airy currents is always harder, always so tiring.
Heck, I rode the wind waves this morning, it’s how I found this gathering of people. Perhaps that was just the Holy Spirit doing her thing, once again, guiding me to this very spot.
Anyhow, back to John.
John then said that he wouldn’t even be worthy to untie the sandals of this new Messiah that was coming. Imagine, John has people lining up to be baptized, they practically worship him. And John isn’t worthy to touch what this new guy wears on his feet?
That’s setting up some really, really high expectations.
Baptism for All
John then baptized, by water, all gathered that day. And I mean all, every single person there hopped into the river. There was no sense of who is and isn’t worthy to be baptized. All were invited to be immersed in God’s cleansing waters. Tears of joy were shed, faces lit up with smiles, conversations warmed.
Forgiveness, among the people, was in the air.
It was a holy scene. And it was beautiful.
Something magical then happened, a moment I’ll never forget.
The heavens opened up, and I felt a rush of air from above, guiding me downward to earth. I noticed the other birds in the air didn’t seem to be affected, that’s kind of odd. And then it hit me: this air current I found myself drawn to follow was divine! The Holy Spirit was guiding me, to God knows where.
I have to admit, when the Spirit whispered she needed me, for a very big job, I began to doubt. I mean really, we doves aren’t that impressive, we’re only 15 inches or so long. That’s about the size of a bowling pin. Look how easily they get knocked around.
Why didn’t God choose a larger, grander bird? Like a bald eagle? Eagles are a
symbol of strength. They’re great predators. They’re so much bigger, so much more magnificent than we doves. Heck, they can pluck fish right out of the ocean, with their sharp talons. And they even feast on smaller birds. Sometimes even birds my size. Yikes!
We doves are known for our short legs, short bills and small heads, all packed onto an outsized, compact body. In the bird world these aren’t exactly leading actor qualities.
But the Holy Spirit shared with me that I’ve got some really desirable features for this particular mission.
God isn’t looking for hunting skills like those eagles have, the Spirit suggested. God likes to use those that can gather, together, and do so peacefully. As I scanned the skyline I saw other doves everywhere, finding seeds, and fruit, for themselves, for their families. They gathered these gifts, peacefully, pilfering from humans. Sorry about that, humans. You may not always approve, especially when it’s your lunch. But no one ever gets hurt. It’s not our way.
And doves are among the strongest fliers in all the world, she mentioned. That’s right! I was beginning to feel a bit better about the whole thing.
Even more the Spirit reminded me that doves can be found most everywhere on earth. We thrive in the highest of mountains, and the lowest of valleys. We excel in climates fiery hot, and icy cold. And we can get to tiny, isolated islands across the vastness of seas and oceans. We doves are all over the place. Those strong flying skills do come in handy. My confidence continued to grow.
We need your kind, the Spirit assured me, to help spread God’s love to the farthest reaches of this planet. Besides, she exclaimed, you doves are already there!
I now realized what I needed to do. This mission, from God, was to be my call. I wasn’t going to fight *that* divine flight path.
So I followed the air currents downward, curious as to where they might lead.
It was then, while on this sacred path, I saw a man in the distance.
The Man, The Voice
The man was set off from the others, away from all the excitement surrounding John. While everyone else stood, he kneeled. While everyone else talked amongst themselves, he prayed, quietly, head raised to the heavens. Most in the crowd gathered that day then lifted their heads, watching my descent to earth.
But this man, the people called him Jesus, he looked beyond me. He was focused not on me, but where I had come from.
I realized I was being drawn this man Jesus. I was there to mark a specific person, and a specific moment, clearly, for all to see. As I landed on his shoulder he seemed unsurprised. But me? I suddenly felt awash in peace. And blanketed in pure love.
The people then shifted their gaze from this particular dove to the holy man I shared space with.
I suppose that had been the plan all along.
It was then I heard a deep rumbling, a voice echoing out from the heavens. “You are my Son, the Beloved”, the voice said. This speech could have only come from the One who had created it all.
“With you,” the voice continued, “I am well pleased.”
I knew, in that moment, that this man, Jesus, was the Son of God. The looks on the human faces there suggests others were beginning to understand too.
It turned out there was plenty of food for my family that day. When Jesus and the disciples show up no one ever goes hungry. As I headed back to the family nest to share the bounty I couldn’t wait to tell this exciting story with anyone willing to listen. So many years later this tale still gives me goosebumps. Tho, in our language at least, we birds just call them, well, bumps.
Looking back I realize the importance of what took place that day. It was the launch of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. And that’s a pretty big deal. You know many of the Jesus stories that follow this one, they’re filled with all sorts of amazing surprises.
My dovey kind can be seen, either IRL (that’s in real life) or via image all over. You’ll notice doves at baptisms, and confirmations, at weddings, in prayers and blessings, and during funerals too.
What we bring with us is really something. We symbolize the peace available, through Christ, during all the stages of this life, and beyond. So when you see us doves –
Be reminded of God’s claim on your life, through the waters of your baptism. You too, are a beloved child of God.
Remember that the love and peace of God was made possible by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Recognize this. Celebrate this.
And please know, my grounded, biped friends, that, just like we doves, you too have a call. You’ve been called to share Christ’s peace, and love, the whole world round.
So catch the Spirit’s winds, as I did that day. Those winds point away from the broken violence of the world. Share the love of Christ, guided by a path of peace. And then share the love our Creator has, for each of you, with all you encounter, today, tomorrow, and forever. Amen.