Sunday, 2 June 2013

More than a Dove

I have just finished reading Kirsteen Kim's "The Holy Spirit in the World" (SPCK/Orbis, 2007) in which she offers a fascinating exploration of the engagement of the Holy Spirit in the world and how that enables mission.  As the book comes to its conclusion, she turns to the image of the dove, so often used to portray the Holy Spirit, but suggests that we need something more.

"The dove is very white and sometimes comes close to looking like the fat turkey of consumerism, or else it resembles the eagle of empire.  In the scriptures, the peace that comes in Jesus Christ is not a blanket of snow that covers over everything and makes the world colourless, nor is it the kind of absence of activity that makes the waters still.  It is represented by the colourful community of believers striving to live together in the Spirit of Christ, and experiencing reconciliation as the result of deep prayer life, strenuous activity, fearless witness, agonizing suffering, sacrificial sharing and living together .....  The dove seems hardly compatible with the raw power and vibrant colour of the Spirit, who brooded over the creation, inspired the prophets, propelled the infant church into mission, transformed lives and freed people from all kinds of bondage."  (p. 180).

Stirring stuff!  She goes on to talk about the fire-bird "in all its brilliant and varied hues" and draws a link with the rainbow.  My own preferred image of the Holy Spirit is that of the wild goose.  I certainly think we need to see the Spirit as a turbulent disturber, but I can also happily accept Kirsteen Kim's picture of vibrant colour.  Mission takes us all sorts of places.  Are we ready to go?

I like also the suggestion that the model of liberation, that has been around for a while, has been replaced by a model of reconciliation.  "Agents of reconciliation need to be as innocent as doves but also as wise as serpents" (p. 181, and cf. Matt. 10:16-20).

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