A few years ago I read the book, “Consider the Birds,” by Debbie Blue. It is a brilliant book that looks at the birds in the bible and helps to put context around references and ask questions about the connection from bird to God. I remember quite a bit of the book but there is one part that constantly comes to mind for me and this week it hit me hard as I came around the corner walking by the scene above on my way to the UBahn Station.
Blue highlights that the word for dove and pigeon are the same in the language the Bible was written in. Plus on top of that they are the same bird, doves are white but still they are the same. A few times, the Holy Spirit is represented by the dove. Modern Christians have really idealized this version of the Holy Spirit descending….bringing peace, bringing the olive branch back to Noah, and descending on Jesus as a sign of God alighting on Jesus. In one version, this majestic bird rests on Jesus shoulder at his baptism. Blue asks the question if perhaps the pigeon though is a better representation of the Holy Spirit. The pigeon is everywhere, fairly common but if you really look at it, it is a beautiful beautiful bird. It is annoying so much of the time and yet also pretty impressive. It is flexible in the world and adapts to every place.
In an interview on readthespirit.com she says this…
“What happens when we think of the Holy Spirit as a pigeon? We tend to think of pigeons as dirty; we call them “rats with wings.” I love it that the symbol of the Holy Spirit might be a hair’s breadth away from human trashiness.
Yet, think of pigeons for a moment. They are everywhere! They leave droppings on our sidewalks and our window sills. What if the Holy Spirit is like the pigeon? What if the Spirit is always underfoot to the point that we almost hate the constant presence—always leaving signs of the Spirit’s presence—everywhere!
When we think of the Spirit as something rare and pure as driven snow, then we forget that the Spirit of God is far more complex than that—fuller, messier, everywhere in life. We can get hung up on purity. But, remember, when we say God created all life, everything was teeming and multiplying and swarming. Maybe the Spirit is more creative than pure. Maybe we need to rethink what holy truly is.”
These words were in my brain as I rounded the corner and saw a pigeon convention on and around the fountain. I actually laughed in a bit of delight. Well, hello there! I hadn’t seen this scene in this particular spot. There are pigeons all over the city but they were a definite presence in front of me.
It got me to thinking about where else the spirit had been moving this week. Last Sunday I went to church and as the gospel choir started to sing, the director’s little girl ran up to cling to her mama. And in that moment, as her mama was singing a solo, she reached down to embrace her child and kept on singing and moving.
It was a holy moment for many of us in the room. Yes, it has happened before and each time it becomes an authentic and lovely space of holiness.
Yesterday after I completed my last class of B2.1 German intensive class I had built the rest of the day as a perfect Courtney day, meaning I had lunch with a friend and then two different coffee times planned with two new friends in town. A day packed full of people but in an intentional way with deep conversation…yes please. Class was great. Lunch with a friend was really wonderful. We talked really deeply about some things. I tend to really connect with this friend and then I got on the train to the neighborhood where I would meet two new friends, one after the other. The first new a friend had arranged to meet me in front of a church, an easy landmark for me.
I arrived and looked up.
And in that moment I knew the Holy Spirit that moves between us all would show up in these conversations. That intuition did not disappoint.
I came home to a warm home where we took the pups for a walk, made dinner together and enjoyed eating together. I was exhausted but in a good way at the end of the day.
Thanks to the pigeons!