The place of the dove

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Our Lenten question box

At Rainbow our young congregants are encouraged to pay close attention to what they are hearing, seeing, and sensing. The children’s attention and observations are evident in the questions that keep appearing in our Lenten question box. Click here to read their growing list of questions: Questions for Lent

Knowing that children (and adults I hope!) are listening intently and asking questions makes me want to give extra care to my responses.

So let’s look again at this question about the dove (see above). Doves are often thought to be peaceful, meek, mild, innocent, and harmless creatures. So what does it mean to adopt this docile creature as our Mennonite mascot?

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It’s a nice-enough image. It’s simple, it has energy, it feels organic, and somehow less stately, dramatic, and institutional-looking than some of these other denominational images.

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That being said, some days I wish our Mennonite dove/church had a little more dramatic  flare. After all, Jesus not only commissioned his disciples to be innocent as doves, but “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16).

I often think of this passage from Matthew as I stand behind our new pulpit, which not only has a dove on the front of it, but the whole pulpit is shaped like a dove in flight. Here it is in the mid-afternoon, getting its daily sun bath.

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It’s not evident in this picture, but the seven leaves (seven being a symbolic number meaning fulfillment) are made of Lignum Vitae, which in Latin means tree of life. This rare and beautiful wood is known to be some of the heaviest and hardest wood in the world, having mild-perfume-like fragrance and many medicinal uses. This is so fitting given the reference in Revelation 22:1-2: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

And so getting back to the question at hand: Why do Mennonites use the dove symbol? I hope that our Mennonite dove symbol is not so much a badge of honor, as if we are the innocent doves in the world, as much as a reminder of the “things that make for peace” (Luke 19:41). I hope that we are among those poised to take flight, working  with wisdom, strength, and perhaps even some flare for the healing of the nations.

 

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