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Life Speaks to Us - Pelicans

PELICANS…are fascinating birds in many ways. At an earlier time I wrote about them but that was before our recent Holy Land tour led by Dr. Jim Denison. We were in a place that could have been the Upper Room where Jesus and His Apostles shared the Last Supper before His crucifixion. There He served them bread and called it His body; and wine He said was a symbol of His blood. These are glorious reminders for us who call Him Savior and Lord.   Every communion service, formal or otherwise, humbly draws us to His sacrifice. The cross was the cruelest Roman method of execution they could devise. And blood was shed due to the nails driven into the body to hold it on the timbers; plus the leg bones were broken to complete the death by suffocation.

What does this have to do with pelicans you ask? Ancient tradition dating from before Christianity records tells us that a mother pelican during times of famine would sacrifice herself for her young.   She would wound herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, while in turn losing her life.

As he was teaching about the events of the Upper Room, Dr. Denison pointed out the sculptured art displaying the pelicans around the top of the concrete columns in the room. It is easy to see why early Christians adapted it to symbolize the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is our Redeemer who gave His life for our redemption and the atonement He made through His passion and death. We were dead in sin and have new life through the blood of Christ. Moreover, Jesus continues to feed us with His body and blood in the Eucharist (Holy Communion).

Then, while recently watching these unique creatures soaring overhead during our vacation, I was once again reminded of the Upper Room experience. Really gives you new respect for one of God’s creatures. But that is not the message for me. Her blood, His blood! Life is in the blood. It runs throughout our bodies, producing and delivering every need for bodily existence. You can lose many body parts and still live, but not the blood. Pagans, Jews and Christians alike have used the blood of animals as a means of pacifying the gods, redemption and atonement. But only Christ’s saves! “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb 10:4).

Just as Christianity today adopted the cross as its symbol, the early church used the pelican. Both remind us of the price that was paid at Golgotha. A loving and innocent being gave their life for another. While the mother pelican’s sacrifice was to provide physical life to her young, Christ Jesus provides eternal life, but also an abundant life. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10b). But He also stated that; “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn 11:25). Unlike the pelican who dies for her family, Christ died for all humanity.

What about this abundant life you ask? I know I am saved and will live with God forever, but what about the here and now? Life is hard; bills to pay, mortgage is due, I’m jobless, maybe homeless, feeling somewhat forsaken. And so much more! Where does the ‘abundance’ kick in? Good question! First, maybe we have been seeking the benefits and not the Provider. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you”(Mt 6:33). See, ‘these things’ are the abundance along with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3b). But when we strive for only the ‘things or blessings’ we miss the Man who, by grace of the cross is our all in all. God said many times, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deut 31:6)And “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20b).

As God said to Joshua, He also says to us. “Only be strong and courageous, that you may observe to do all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or from the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law (Scripture/Bible) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Josh 1:6-8).

He is whom we seek; He is our provision-in want or plenty! The young pelicans look solely to their mother for life and its provisions. What about you and me? Where are we looking today?


Copyright 2012



Scripture taken from New King James Version

Some info on the pelican taken from Rev. William Saunders ‘The Symbolism of the Pelican’; Arlington Catholic Herald

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