I remember going down the park with my grandfather to feed the ducks and geese when we were visiting them outside of Philadelphia. It was always a joy to make the seemingly long treck, half a loaf of bread in hand to give to birds we’d find there. It was a serene lake setting but those geese could make quite a ruckus when this young boy showed up with bread for them. It was a treat for both them and me. Nevertheless, because of the numerous warnings I’d gotten from my grandfather, I was careful to keep my distance from those larger birds. They were just as unpredictable as the others but they were strong and powerful as well. Every so often, however, I’d get too close for their comfort and they would chase me away and I’d scream and giggle, dropping pieces of bread as I ran.
As I think back on this scene I find it so thoroughly fitting that the Celtic Christians had a name for the the Holy Spirit — an Geadh-Glas, or “The Wild Goose.” It’s a great image. Untamed. Unpredictable. Potentially dangerous. The Holy Spirit is all of those things. And just this this week many Christians will remember the coming of the Holy Spirit from the Book of Acts, with an account that is every bit as wild as the Wild Goose metaphor points to. There might be honking and flapping but there will be tongues of fire, a rush of a mighty wind, and the proclamation of God’s word in other languages.
One of our problems, however, is that we spend much of our time trying to “tame” this Wild Goose of a Spirit. We focus our energies on the Father and the Son in the Trinity, relegating the Spirit to a unnecessary “third wheel.” We rob the Spirit of its power by trying to force it to act through our accepted, reserved, ways and means. And we cage the Spirit in the Church, failing to recognize the ways in which our God, through the Spirit, is active in this world of ours–outside of church walls. We don’t have ownership of this Spirit of ours. Our Wild Goose is out there in this world of ours, causing a ruckus. And part of our job, missionally, is to see where the Spirit is already active and moving and try to participate alongside of it.
While our modern sensibilities may bristle at the notion of the Holy Spirit being seen in honking, noisy, flapping, bird, perhaps those Celtic Christians were on to something.
For it reminds us that our Spirit cannot and will not be tamed.
For if it were tamed, it would no longer be wild