Which Bird is Present at the Beginning of the Church?

Duncan Morrow, a political scientist remember, offered theological comment based on his analysis of the current state of play in Northern Ireland. At times his theological insight was profound, and vastly deeper than many who consider themselves active theologians in our context.

He didn’t reference this comment, though it wouldn’t surprise me to find that it is unique to him, and it certainly caught my attention and I guess I’ve exegeted it a little in the days since.

He spoke about the levels of denial that exists in Northern Ireland society. There is much about our political settlement that requires us to deny the existence of the elephant in the living room—the amount of pain we have caused one another, the inability to discuss the injustices our community caused the other for fear of letting the side down. The really painful stuff must be denied lest it shake the so-called peace we enjoy.

For there to be real reconciliation therefore we need to be brought face to face with what we are currently denying. This is the point at which new life is possible.

And what we affirm is enhanced by an acknowledgment of what we deny.

Therefore he asked whether the twin poles of Peter’s confession and Peter’s denial are the pillars of the church’s experience. That we long to exist in the place of Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, but far to often find ourselves in the place of denial.

That the Holy Spirit comes as the cockerel as well as a dove.

That the church is given birth when the cockerel crows rather than when the dove descended.

Or maybe it’s that the cockerel marks conception as the dove marks the birth.


Interesting though, isn’t it?

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