“So the dove was talking?” asked one child.
“No,” I replied.
“That’s weird,”said another child. “I never heard of a talking dove.”
“The dove wasn’t talking,” I said. “The dove came down from the sky and there was a voice from heaven.”
“From the dove?” asked another child.
“No,” I said.
“The dove did not talk!” said an exasperated mother.
“Huh?” All of the children were confused.
It was our family Ash Wednesday service, and I had just told them the story of Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11). I thought it was a pretty straight forward story, but apparently not. All of the adults in the room were baffled, and a bit frustrated, that the children insisted on a talking dove. The dove does not talk in this story. Because that would be silly.
Now shining lights and materializing doves and disembodied voices, that made sense to all of us learned adults. But a talking dove? What would those kids think of next? A talking donkey? Some magical superhero who loses his powers when his crazy girlfriend cuts his hair? Pillars of fire? Mysterious guide stars? Dead people coming back to life?
I am so familiar with the biblical stories that sometimes their strangeness does not phase me. The wonder of the parting red sea is lost in my theological concerns about the Egyptian soldiers who will soon be dead. The sheer lunacy of feeding 10,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish is stifled by reflections on eucharist and world hunger.
When I see the stone rolled away, the gleaming angels, the empty tomb, my heart does not race. My jaw does not drop.
But it should. It really should.
I encourage you to read one of your favorite bible stories with a child this week.