I’ve been feeding a flock of Spotted Doves for over a year now. I scatter birdseed on the concrete in the backyard. They have nests in the lilypillies growing just the other side of the fence. Progress, for me, would be if they started to trust me. They are still as timid as ever. They explode in a fluffle of feathers if they even glimpse me through the screen door looking at them.
How different the image of the kingdom in Isaiah 11: “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion feed together, with a little child to lead them”. It is a picture of the garden of Eden.
In Jungian psychology animals are symbols of instincts. Animals in dreams are our desires, our passions. I have a theory about the garden of Eden. The animals coming to Adam and Eve to be named is like little children learning to recognise and name their feelings. Then a snake appears—the greatest of all desires, the ambition to be like God. One desire consumes them. Their eyes are opened; they are conscious, like adults. They cannot have all they want; their desires are immoderate. They leave the garden of childhood and are told to work for a living.
What a place adult life is! The news has stories of shootings and greed and corruption. Governments try to counter it with more laws and paperwork, but they will never succeed. As I write there is a war going on—a certain ‘bear’ menacing a ‘cow’. We are still waiting for what Isaiah described: “the cow and the bear make friends; their young lie down together”. All other loves get eaten up when nations go to war. Families are rendered homeless, cities bombed, fields of grain burnt. The lion eats the lamb.
It starts within us. God’s holy mountain, where the instincts are at peace, is within.
Into our world comes the one John proclaimed. The gospel, Matthew 3, identifies Jesus as the one who will cut down trees with an axe. The very roots of passion—for trees that “fail to produce good fruit”—will be attacked with an axe.
The wheat will be gathered and the chaff burnt. That is another image of passion: the fire. It is people who are consumed from within by unmoderated desires. That is the chaff. That is when people become passion-fodder, consumed by a desire to make money, or to achieve, or exercise power, or to be admired. We all have a little of it.
“He will baptise with the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is relationship. The Spirit is the relationship of God the Father to God the Son and Son to Father. The spirit will set our relationships right. That is what baptism is: a new relationship with God, with each other and with our planet.
Then may lion lie down with the lamb and an infant (Adam? Eve?) touch snakes and not be harmed. They do no harm within us. Lions are still lions, but they do not gobble up the lambs. The doves do not need to be afraid.