The cooing of the dove

(EDITOR’S NOTE: As a feature to the Brady Standard-Herald, inspirational messages like the following, written by Ernie Williams, interim minister for First Christian Church in Brady, will appear periodically in our society section. Rev. Williams will provide non-denominational columns for people of all faiths to enjoy.) There is a delightful sound awaiting the person who awakes at daybreak (4:30-5 a.m.) during the summer in Jerusalem. It is the call of the mourning dove. Since Jerusalem is now a modern city full of early risers and noisy machines, it is incredible that one should hear the mourning call of this gentle bird. But, then, it is a unique city, indeed a city where spiritual voices are still to be heard if one knows how and for what to listen. There is something fetching about the dove and its murmuring call. In it there is something that compels the soul to listen. In its mourning call, I believe, is the voice of God. This teaching is as old as Israel itself. Since the days of Noah the sages of the nation believed and taught that the turtledove was a representation of the Holy Spirit of redemption. In the dove’s beak was delivered to Noah the olive sprig, which signaled the end of the flood, the redeeming of man and the created order. In Jonah, whose very name in the Greek original means dove, God announced redemption to the gentiles (nations). Indeed, it was Jesus who took the sign of Jonah as the cipher for His own inclusive ministry to all humankind. The dove continues to represent very special things to Christian believers. It still represents the epitome of gentleness. Its powers of flight can take it where it wills. Its call is distinctive and soft. And it is faithful to its mate for a lifetime. Just as the Spirit of God ‘hovered’ over the waters in creation, so the dove of the Spirit hovered over the waters of the Jordan as Jesus walked forth to create a new humanity. In the Talmud, a sacred book of teachings of the Jews, is an ancient rabbinic testimony: ‘I heard a divine voice cooing like a dove.’ That, too, is my testimony. In the call of the dove, I have heard the voice of God at my window in Jerusalem, and coming softly from the citrus grove next to our archaeological excavations at Tell el-Hesi, as I lay in my tent early in the morning. Soft and fleeting it was. I believe only those who listen closely hear it and then, only momentarily. Only John heard it at the Jordan and then, only a sentence. Like the constant cooing of the doves, which goes on for hours, I would suggest that the voice of God is present and constant. But, we only hear it when we are quiet, listening and reflective. For, that voice comes not as a shout, but as a coo. How easy to shout pridefully, we have heard the loud voice of God in the Spirit, when, in fact, He speaks only in a whisper to the humble listener and not to the boastful talker. He comes not as a screaming eagle, but as a cooing dove. And, oftentimes, God comes to us not with any particular message but with a simple reminder that He is present, like a dove calling from the trees or at a window. But, what a reminder, really’that His Son is the Lord of each day and the one who promised never to leave or forsake us.

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