This past summer I had the unique joy and privilege to be part of a pilgrimage following in the footsteps of the great Celtic and Anglo-Saxon saints who brought Christianity to Scotland and the north of England. We began on the Isle of Iona, that center of Christian spirituality and learning since Columba landed in 563 CE. Iona, a stunningly beautiful wild and windswept land, has long been called a “thin place”—where heaven and earth seem separated by only the thinnest of veils, where as Eric Weiner puts it, “the distance between heaven and earth collapses”.
One of the aspects of Celtic Christianity that I have always loved is that the Celts saw God in all of life. God was not confined to a set of Sacred texts but was alive and loose in the world. Everything that has life was seen as an expression of God’s own life. Further, to be made in the image of God meant to be created out of blessing and love—at the deepest place of our being we are of God. Created to be in relationship with each other and with all of life and to watch and listen for God’s movement within ourselves and within the world. All of which sounds quite lovely, and it is, and yet it is also unsettling—many people are surprised at how disquieted they feel in thin places. We expect that sense of nearness to God to bring pure peace and calm, and yet, in addition to that we often feel thrown off balance, disrupted.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit is not the dove, that gentle cooing bird, but rather the wild goose; a rather noisy, disruptive presence that flies overhead, maybe hangs around for a bit, then flies off again. It shows up when it wants to and then disappears again, it cannot be contained. It flies right into our calm, ordered, settled lives and noisily demands attention, beckoning us to come to our windows, look up and see what is going on, and wonder where the goose is heading. And so it is in the life of faith, it is something of a wild goose chase—a life in which we are called to listen and follow where this wild, noisy, disruptive God who loves us to the core of our being takes us.
I am thrilled to be in this wild goose chase with you at St. Peter’s. This community is bursting with the life of the Spirit: our pews are full of people from all generations worshiping God together; we are constantly looking for new ways to get out of our walls and connect with the world; we welcome all as Christ; we serve the world in our food cupboard, in our Guatemala partnership, and in Camp Get Along; we advocate for justice through our ministry with POWER; we take care of each other. This fall we will look together at the Way Forward, our guide for the next few years that came out of how we live together in community and conversations with you over the last year. The Way Forward gives us an idea where we are heading but, as we know, life with the Holy Spirit is prone to detours and disruptions, and so it is a Way Forward, not an absolute blueprint. It is my expectation (my hope!) that we will get knocked off course a bit as the wild goose flies overhead and points toward new and unexpected places. I look forward to the journey with you.
1 thought on “A Wild Goose Chase”
This wonderful piece took me back to Iona, and to my every day walk by the Schuylkil where the geese are omnipresent! May the Holy Spirit be with you in the this exciting new journey.
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