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Replacing the Dove?

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. ~ Acts 2:4

The peaceful vision of a gentle dove descending as Jesus arose from the waters of his baptism symbolizing the Holy Spirit is replaced at Pentecost by far from gentle winds and less than peaceful fire. No bird is mentioned in this story, but I’d like to suggest one, mimus polyglottus, the Northern Mockingbird. If you have spent any time in the company of a Mockingbird in the spring, you no doubt were serenaded...incessantly. Like a toddler insisting on attention, they repeat, and repeat, and repeat. Not only do they seem to never stop for a breath, they repeat everything they sing three times. In fact, that triple repetition is key to identifying them by ear, separating them from the other mimic thrushes. The family gets their name because they will imitate what they hear, none more than Mockingbirds, who are true polyglots. Being long-distant migrants, they will bring with them the exotic songs of tropical birds in addition to the local residents. But they don’t stop there, they will sing the language of machinery and electronics given the opportunity. That car alarm you hear repeated three times ad nauseam at 4 AM might just be a Mockingbird hoping that a potential mate is also an insomniac.

At Pentecost, the disciples thought they were securely hidden away, but the wind and fire found them. That sort of persistence feels more like Mockingbird than dove. Being sent out into the world to proclaim a message that you only recently heard and may not fully understand (like in a language you don’t even know!) sounds like a description of a Mockingbird’s core behavior. So perhaps that should be our model. Take the message you hear from Spirit and make it your own, even if you have to fake it ‘til you make it. Once you have had a genuine encounter with the divine, telling others about it is a great way to find the meaning and in the sharing the blessing is shared. Or you could hunker down and risk wind and fire, or maybe just a noisy bird.

Prayer: Relentless Spirit, we hear you, we hear you, we hear you. Amen.


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