When many of us think of the Holy Spirit, the first thing that comes to mind is a dove. Images of doves are sewn into red Pentecost banners, depicted in stained-glass windows, and worn on necklaces. Although a dove may have descended on Jesus at his baptism, I like to think that a different bird can also help us understand the Holy Spirit: a goose.
In Celtic spirituality, the Holy Spirit came to be symbolized by a wild goose. A wild goose is not a quiet, demure creature. A wild goose is untamed and uncontrollable. It is loud and fierce, perfectly free.
Like a wild goose, the Holy Spirit is hard to capture, difficult to nail down with an easy definition or quick answers. One can’t domesticate the Holy Spirit. There is freedom, surprise, and unexpectedness to this Holy Wild Goose. As congregations sometimes say during worship, the Holy Spirit is “the power of God at work inside us.” God’s Spirit is not safe, tame, or predictable. But God’s Spirit is good and never stops bringing life to this world.
This message is excerpted from the Bible study “The gift of the spirit: A divine wild goose chase” by Sara Olson-Smith in the September/October 2021 Gather magazine. Today is Pentecost Sunday.
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