John baptizes Jesus

Baptism of Jesus – Jay Bonnell, 20th c.

Luke 3:21-22

During a general baptism of the people, when Jesus too had been baptized and was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove; and there came a voice from heaven, “Thou art my Son, my Beloved; on thee my favor rests.”

Dove: How is the Holy Spirit like a dove?

Thoughts on seeing the whole pictureDonna Ross

How does the Holy Spirit work?

From the gospel writers to artists through the centuries, the Holy Spirit has always been portrayed as a dove. The dove, however, is always and only a metaphor. No words, no images can ever fully convey how the Spirit works.

In the Temple, when Jesus was twelve years old, the question may have first alighted: What did God have in mind for him? That’s how the Spirit begins to work in us (stirring within us, planting questions in our minds).

In Nazareth, as Jesus grew up, the ideas may have shifted in his mind: Where was God leading him? That’s how the Spirit continues its work in us (in conversation with our traditions and communities, our new experiences and new ideas).

In the Jordan, as Jesus rose out of the waters, the immensity of God’s call must have filled his mind, and pointed him towards his future ministry. That’s how the Spirit continues its work in us (hinting at the shape of things to come).

Sometimes, in moments we will never forget, we also are fully aware of the Spirit descending, even resting on us — like a dove returning to her nest, making her home in our hearts.

That’s how the Spirit works.

From Wonder to CertaintyDave Baldwin (Luke 3:21-22)

At first, it was pure wonder. It all began
in the Temple at Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve.
The thought stirred lightly: that God might have
extraordinary hopes for him, a special plan.
Wonder simmered for a long time while he grew
in wisdom and in years in quiet little Nazareth.
Wonder opened wide when the son of Zechariah
baptized Jesus. In that moment, Jesus knew!
He was in the water praying with arms wide
to the world (in an unintended foreshadowing) when starry
shards of light filtered down from above
and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove
and a gentle voice confirmed the wonder, “You are
my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.


A dove settles lightly wherever it chooses to rest. The Holy Spirit also settles lightly upon us, calling our attention but never forcing us. At his Last Supper (see John 14:16f and John 16:12f), Jesus will use these words to describe how the Holy Spirit works: abides in us; makes a home in us; reveals Jesus to us; reminds us; teaches us; guides us; reveals the truth to us; gives us peace.

A Taste of Life Abundant

LA SunsetLife Abundant:
Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril

by Dr. Sallie McFague
Published by Fortress Press, 2001

from the preface to ‘Life Abundant’ …

In Life Abundant, Sallie McFague writes,   We North American middle-class Christians need to live differently in order to love nature, and to live differently, we need to think differently – especially about ourselves and who we are in the scheme of things.

By think differently I mean the largely unconscious worldview that is the silent partner in all our behavior and decisions.  Our world-views are formed by many factors, including our religious assumptions.

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Discussion questions for Ch 1

CONNECT:  How do you feel?

1.  C
onversions: McFague writes of four ‘conversions’ that changed her own views about God and the world.  As you look back to your own childhood, what shaped your image of God? As you reflect on your adult life, what ‘conversions’ have you experienced (spiritual or otherwise)?  How did they change your image of God?  How did they change the way you see the world?

2.  Your worldview:  What do you value, aspire to, pursue, cling to?

3.  Your credo: 
What are some of your own deeply held beliefs?

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Reading Chapter 2: Theology Matters

Every Christian is called to be a theologian, but be careful:


·         Any theology can become enmeshed– tied to nationalism, racism, sexism, commercialism, etc.


·         When a theology rejects diversity and ignores the ways culture influences ideas about God, postmodernists*  will regard that theology as empty and even dangerous.


·         When theologies defend social, political, or economic systems that oppress the poor (or  racial minorities, ethnic groups,  women, gays, etc.), liberation theologians* will view a theology’s ‘universal truths’ as partial and biased.  


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Discussion questions for Ch 2

CONNECT: How do you feel?

McFague says ‘every Christian is called to be a theologian.’ (p. 25)  She also says that theology requires us to examine our deepest faith-convictions, to see whether our core beliefs are worthy of allegiance.  Can you remember a time when you questioned your beliefs?


Think of a time when a deeply-held belief shaped the way you acted.  What did you do or say, and what happened next?  Did you think through your beliefs before you acted?  Do you wish you had?


What dangers (if any) lie in not bringing our deepest beliefs into view? 


How can we hold strong faith-convictions without idolizing them?


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Discussion questions for Ch 3

Be careful how you interpret the world. It is like that.
(Erich Heller, quoted in  
Life Abundant  p. 39, 67)

CONNECT: How do you feel?

1.  Can you think of a revelatory experience in your own life, an event or insight that changed the way you think and act?   Share your experience with someone else, or write it down in a comment.

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