There are many wonderful references to birds in the bible. Let us look  at some of the symbols of doves. I may have mentioned that earlier in the spring we had a dove by the front door in our hanging plant. Dad sat on the precious eggs by day, and Mom did the night shift. We loved watching the progress of the two little ones. They are all off having their own dove adventures now. Noah sent a dove out from the arc. The firsts time the dove is sent out it found no place to land and returned to the arc. After 7 days the dove set out again re-turning with an olive leaf in it’s beak. After it set out again, it then went to find more adventures as our doves did.

     The olive branch is used to signify many things, like forgiveness, a second chance, a symbol of peace. I use olive oil in baptism to mark the sign of the cross on the baby’s forehead to show that the child belongs to God. Noah and his family follow God’s instructions and God responds by establishing a covenant. “I am establishing my covenant with you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the arc. I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

     The symbol of the dove in the bible is used to show peace, love, the Holy Spirit, and hope. Doves are found to illustrate many themes in the bible, some of them are showing the meekness 
of Christ, the sign of spring, a show of purity, the moaning of mourners, and are also compared to Saints. A promise was made that flood waters would not destroy the earth. At different times we might feel as though we are drowning in problems, poor health, or debt. The psalmist cries
out to the Lord to be heard, looking for God under persecution. “If only I had wings like a dove to fly away from all that troubles me.”

The dove also makes an appearance at the baptism of Jesus. While for Matthew’s purpose’s we don’t hear about the childhood or teen years of Jesus, but there is special emphasis on the baptism of Jesus. The witness of John tells us that Jesus is “the coming one.” The one who is more than a prophet. John tells us that there will be both blessing and judgement. God’s own testimony is given in Matt.3:17: “this is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” Jesus was bapatised not because he had sins to confess, but to fulfill all righteousness. His baptism and temptation that followed were to equip Jesus for his ministry. The descent of the Holy Spirit like a dove, is a symbol that his whole ministry will be an expression of the powers of the spirit.

     The psalmist in Psalm 55 calls out for refuge from persecution. In the message version it begins with: “open your ears, God to my prayer, don’t pretend you don’t hear my knocking. Come close, and whisper your answer, I really need you.” “Get me out of here on dove’s wings, I want some peace and quiet. I want a walk in the country, I want a cabin in the woods. I’m desperate for a change from rage and stormy weather. At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs, God hears, God rescues...”

     My family teases and imitates my own deep sighs. I’ve found you can express many different emotions with a sigh. Usually mine are to express the thought: “I can’t believe you just did that, or said that, or believe that. Many times my prayers offered to God arrive in the form of a long, deep sigh. God knows my sighs, every one of them, and knows your voice even when you haven’t the strength to make it audible.

     Father Henri Nouwen once asked”why should I spend an hour in prayer when I do nothing but think about all the other things I should be doing, or something I am angry about? The answer is: because God is greater than my mind and my heart, and what is really happening in the house of prayer is not measurable in terms of human success and failure. The first thing is to just be faithful, to love God with my whole hearts, mind, and soul. Amazingly, father says that what he found sitting in prayer for one hour every morning, week after week, year after year, is that it profoundly transformed his life. The God who sent his only son did not leave him sitting in the dark too long. He realized that a small, gentle voice had been speaking to him far beyond his noisy place. So be confident, and trust in the Lord.

     As we pray, we might not be aware any deeply religious insights or feelings, but we can get to a place or peace that is beyond thoughts and emotions. Dom John Chapman said: “the only way to pray is to pray, and the way to pray well is to pray much.” We might not think anything is happening, but when we step back we realize that something was happening all along, that we were not really sitting alone. I often get distracted, and I wonder if this is the same experience the apostles had, when Jesus was with them, they could not fully appreciated the magnitude of what was happening nor its true meaning. They only really began to understand after the resurrection.

     The movement of the holy spirit is hidden, seemingly absent, like when Jesus spoke these words on the cross, My God, my God, why have you deserted me? Father Nouwen tells us that in that moment of complete emptiness all was fulfilled. Light came into the darkness. Where God’s absence is expressed, God’s presence is most revealed.. the spirit comes, in the form of a dove and it is into this mystery that we go when we pray. As we go into the start of each new week, may you find the sound of the morning dove at your window.     Amen.