This weekend I happened upon this “wild goose” image for Pentecost and thought: this is weird – and yet somehow perfect. Typically we know the Holy Spirit as descending dove. And yet, when we follow the leading of the Spirit, we have no idea where we will go, who we will meet, where we will land. And yet, because God is in it and beckons to us, we find ourselves following!
A few years ago my small covenant group of clergywomen had an idea: let’s go somewhere, let’s listen for God’s voice, let’s be still and meditate. We wanted to travel, we wanted a spiritual journey. We gathered and ideas began to form, books and authors and teachers and leaders all surfaced on our white board. We wrote a grant and were awarded the funds. Then we went to reserve our place at the monastery; a banner on the website’s page says “We will be closed for remodeling during most of 2018. Please call before planning your visit.” I called. And, during our month of choice, this monastery, that’s been open for centuries, was closed. We cried a little, we stepped back, and we let it sit for a bit.
And the Holy Spirit intervened. We found St Cuthbert’s Way, a walking path across Scotland into England. It was not exactly what we had planned. It was not sitting still at all! And yet, it was a pilgrimage and it would conclude on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We would travel, on foot, across these countries for miles and miles, taking in the countryside, the history, and St. Cuthbert’s story along the way. We walked, laughed, cried, prayed, felt lost and found on this journey. And when we arrived on Lindisfarne we were treated to beautiful ruins of old churches and chapels, a chapel still in use with daily worship, small inns, restaurants and businesses. We were particularly captivated by the Lindisfarne Gospels. This is an Anglo-Saxon copy of the four gospels along with amazingly beautiful artwork which illuminates the pages of script. These are preserved in a museum. And – there is artwork which continues, based on this ancient style, today through the Lindisfarne Scriptorium. The wild goose artwork comes from the Lindisfarne Scriptorium Facebook page.
My trip was not a wild goose chase; we usually associate a wild goose chase to be “good for nothing.” In essence, you travel and work and search and end up without the desired result, goods or achievement. I had no idea what to expect on a pilgrimage; it turned out to be an experience I will never forget (and hope to do again!). It was physically, mentally and spiritually challenging and rewarding.
This Holy Spirit/Wild Goose illustration is alluding to the way we travel with the Spirit. We find ourselves beckoned, so we follow. Then we find wonderful diversions along the way. We find scary diversions as well, causing fear and bewilderment. Sometimes we believe we must surely be lost. At other times we are taking the scenic (x100) route! And yet, quite often, all these stops, the parts we see and experience along the way, are very much a part of the end result. It’s a wild goose chase which lands us in the place right where we may serve and where we know God has called us . . . which is yet another stop on the journey.
Happy Pentecost and the season ahead, whatever it may bring!
Spirit of our Living God,
May Your fire revive us,
Spirit of our Loving God,
May Your blessing embrace us,
Spirit of our Gentle God,
May Your mercy enfold us,
Spirit of our mighty God,
May Your wisdom inspire us.
Image (C) Mary Fleeson 2019 Lindisfarne Scriptorium
In modern Celtic tradition the Holy Spirit is represented as a bird, but not the peaceful and serene dove landing on Jesus at his baptism.
The Wild Goose tells a different side of the Holy Spirit. To begin with, wild geese aren’t controllable, you can’t restrain a wild goose and bend it to your will. They’re raucous and loud, unlike the sweet and calming cooing of a dove, a goose’s call is strong, challenging, strident and unnerving – and just a bit scary.
In much the same way the Spirit of God can be demanding and unsettling and at times even a little scary.(From Jeremy Greaves and the Lindsifarne Scriptorium Facebook page, May 23, 2021)
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