Do you remember the vignettes that aired on CBC back in the 60’s through to the 80’s “Hinterland Who’s who”? They were short public service announcements (PSA) that highlighted various Canadian creatures like the loon, beaver and grizzly bear. For generations of young Canadians they sparked an interest in ecology and educated them about our diverse wildlife.
In honour of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit I would like to continue this proud Canadian tradition by proposing a “Spiritual Hinterland Who’s Who.” The most common symbol of the Spirit is the gentle dove but there is another bird associated with the third person of the Trinity. So as that haunting flute music cues the beginning of our PSA I would like to introduce you to the wild goose.
Wild Geese, are well, you know, wild and untamed. They are a migratory bird from the islands off the coast of Scotland, like Iona. Unlike the more common symbol of the dove, geese are far from gentle. They make a lot of noise, and they have a nasty habit of biting those that get too close or try to capture them. When Christian missionaries like Columba (whose name means “dove”) came to the area they decided that the wild goose was a more appropriate symbol for the Holy Spirit.
In doing so they were making a huge statement with how they viewed God in the person of the Holy Spirit. To them the spirit was untamed, even wild and moved where it saw fit. The Holy Spirit cannot be contained or controlled or reduced to a formula or recipe. They knew better than we do that when it comes to God, expect the unexpected.
What does it say about the Church that this uncontrollable, wild force is what gave birth to us? As Anglicans, wild and uncontrollable are not words we would use to describe ourselves or God for that matter. We prefer neat and orderly, tried and true over noisy and messy. It’s ironic that most Christians will celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in beautiful buildings, through orderly worship, presided over by a hierarchical leadership. How foolish for us to think we can contain the uncontainable bird, to harness the wind and control the fire. The wild goose flies where it will. The sprit shows up in unexpected places. Where is God moving next? Will we follow along or get nipped by the Spirit when we try to stand in its way?
For a more complete story on the noble wild goose why not consult the book of Acts and get out into your neighbourhoods for sightings and migrations.