Historical setting: 584 C.E. Ligugè
With a fine, strong hair for a brush I’m now at an artist’s bench to fill a circle of art on the page of John 1:32. My subject will be a dove landing on the wettened head of my friend and teacher, Jesus. The dove finds respite from the swirling winds of distant edges of sky onto the raging and roiling river Jordan not far from my own birthplace in Bethany. John, who lives among the smallest of nature’s critters — those of the locust and honeybees — sees God through the metaphors of nature. A dove, resting on the head of Jesus is surely a sign for John that the Holy Spirit of God finds a home with this man, Jesus.
In my drawing I see no need for tri-sections of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. My little sister Mary was there by the river that day. She was in her teen years then, a bit of a rebel, always looking for the new ways of thinking maybe just to roust our father’s old Pharisee ways, or maybe she was called by the Spirit toward something new. Who am I to know her motives? So she followed this wraggle-taggle wanderer in a hair shirt, shouting, I mean shouting! She and many others were drawn to the voice in the wilderness shouting repentance – the turning from the old ways to the new. At first she thought he was speaking of a personal sin, the dishonor of her father she felt in her rebellion, then with the crowds there she realized this was the whole world changing not just a few of the Jews. The voice of the prophet would not let go of humankind any more than God could. John was setting the world on a whole new axis but he hadn’t yet observed this reversal; he was waiting. He knew change was eminent. He called for repentance, and when the dove landed on the head of Jesus he recognized God’s Spirit anew – manna from heaven for the hungry minds – escaping the enslavement of Roman imperial orders and free from the punitive fears of power politics, set into the loving nature of God’s grace.
Dear God, Thank you for windows on grace. May my little circle with a dove finding safe refuge from the waters become a new porthole to see out into your forever love. Amen.