Whirlwind, doves and tomcats

Psalms 146, 147 (Morning)

Psalms 111, 112, 113 (Evening)

Job 38:1-11, 42:1-5

Revelation 19:4-16

John 1:29-34

Today’s readings, particularly in the interplay between our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Gospel, might best be classified as examples of what happens when God launches an “air assault.” God speaks to Job straight from the eye of a whirlwind, and through John the Baptist’s testimony that the Spirit descended from Heaven upon Jesus like a dove.

Now, at first glance, one might think hearing God thundering from the whirlwind is a lot scarier than the spirit of God descending like a dove–but don’t bet on it.

In northeast Missouri, the dove we’re most acquainted with is the mourning dove, and they are some of the fanciest, most elusive fliers going. Doves are seed eaters, and frankly, they look for easy pickings. Their little legs are not all that efficient at scratching, so they tend to prefer eating in open fields, where they know they are an open target for predators. They are incredibly patient when it comes to seeking a meal, often loafing and lounging in trees or on power lines until they are absolutely sure the coast is clear. But when they think they can eat safely, watch out! They will come in by the flockload, zipping through lanes of trees so narrow that one would think they’d be hitting branches on the way in. They zip, zig-zag, and zoom in with unmatched skill and speed, and eat like there’s no tomorrow as fast as they can, then zip out in the same crazy convoluted way they came. They can dive bomb so fast and purposefully, that if you listen carefully, their wings make a whistling noise as they put on the brakes and hover in for the last few feet.

Likewise, if you’ve ever seen a pair of mourning doves defend their nest, you’ll give up every notion you ever had that they are peaceful. I’ve seen a mated pair of doves send more than one tom cat under the porch, whooshing and pecking, the poor cat’s Cheshire grin replaces with a total look of “What just happened?”

Yep, given the choice, I’d take the whirlwind. At least with the whirlwind, I know what I’m up against. So did Job. It’s pretty easy to figure it’s time to shut up and listen up when God thunders, “Excuuuuuse me! Where were YOU when I was cobbling the universe together, Mr. Fault Finder?”

In contrast, one can almost hear behind the surety of John’s testimony, a little twinge of “I’m telling you, it really happened like this,” as if his audience was going to have a hard time buying it. I wonder if he did not expect the fulfilling of the prophecy to be so swift and deliberate. “I mean, I didn’t even KNOW the guy from Adam’s housecat, but I could tell who he was when I saw that!”

Our Gospel today is a reminder that no matter how confused or puzzling it seems when we are trying to discern God’s call to us, to have the assurance and trust that when God has chosen us for a task, we’ll know it when we see it–but don’t be surprised if we don’t feel a little like that old tom cat when it happens.

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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