Sermon ~ Sunday, May 20, 2018
“A Wild Goose Community”
As some of you may know I am a bit of a student of Celtic Christian Spirituality. One reason I am draw to it is the way historic Celtic spiritualty viewed the created order. For the Celts creation is a “second gospel.” Creation is another means alongside the Holy Scriptures through which God reveals God’s self to us.
It was thought that even the animals could proclaim the goodness of God. Franciscan scholars believe that in his early life, Saint Francis of Assisi spent time in a Celtic monastery in Northern Italy. And St. Francis viewed animals as gateways to a deeper knowledge of God.
It is thought by many that the ancient Celts used the wild goose as an image for the Holy Spirit. You see the symbol in their artwork over the centuries. (Examples in the worship folder.) They understood from Scripture and from their own life experience that God/Holy Spirit was not someone we bend to our wants and desires, but rather someone who was beyond our control. Someone who we would need to pursue rather than subdue.
This idea permeates the Celtic theological thought, God was not someone who could be tamed or domesticated by humans. Thus it was the wild goose, not the human-adapted almost domesticated version of the Canadian geese we see wandering around our beaches and parks.
There are those who would like to domesticate God, God or Jesus our buddy; but we shouldn’t lose the notion of a healthy awe of God or as the Bible likes to say, “fear of the Lord.”
The Holy Spirit cannot be domesticated for our use at our whim. Another mistake I believe we make is to think that the Holy Spirit is something that comes to us in solitary or individual experiences. That special feeling, or insight we get, or “ah hah” moment, which can be a movement of the Spirit, for sure, but the Spirit also works within communities of people as well. This we see in the story of Pentecost. 120 were gathered when the Holy Spirit “as of fire” rushed into that place, along with all those who were there and observed this wonder.
With this in mind I have a piece that speaks of the wild goose and the community, cooperation, I believe in a way that reminds us of the work of the Spirit in our midst. It was given to me many years ago by my mother who heard it at a conference she attended. It is written in poetic form and I have adapted it a bit for us this morning..
We are led to believe that the goose is weak . . .
not strong like the eagle. . .
But though the eagle may be stronger, with fight more fit for the kill,
A goose can fly farther . . . and longer . . . than any eagle will.
Oh, I’ve heard much walk and talk about eagles . . .
And it’s not my desire, nor would I conspire, to put the big birds down . . .
But . . . as implied, whether in the trees or in the sky,
Eagles, falcons and hawks are almost always alone.
And in a way that’s what separates those birds from a wild goose.
I suppose for those from Iowa and Nebraska, it’s really nothing new,
But even as a lad surrounded by hills of western Maine,
I looked forward to each fall . . .
to seeing hundreds of wild geese, narrowing into view . . .
Over Autumn enflamed maple and white pine tall.
One day, while alone I stood,
listening to the call of an owl in some far off wood,
I saw before my eye,
hundreds and hundreds of geese flying and filling the sky.
The head goose, the leader of the geese, suddenly veered of the line . . .
Leaving a vacancy, which was filled by the bird behind.
The leader then flew along the side of the formation,
which continued growing wide until he found a spot at the back.
All the while, they never missed a flap.
Well, . . . I stood there, gaping north, gaping south,
wondering what on earth this was all about!
I told my friends. And they said, “So . . .”
“So!!??!! What do you mean, ‘So . . ‘!!??
Did you ever see such a thing, Jack? What about you Paul?!!”
They said, “So . . . let’s go to the park and play some ball.”
So we did . . .
We used to play a lot of ball, . . when I was a kid. . .
Well, now I’m an adult and I suppose that’s a part of being grown.
I’m very busy and seldom have time alone . . .
Let alone, time to look at the geese high in the sky.
And if I do see some, it’s more or less luck . . .
Oh, I’ll see a goose . . . or was that a duck?
And I might catch a glimpse through the windshield when I’m stuck in traffic . .
I guess I should be thankful for the National Geographic!
For they told me what I’m telling you . . .
And if you don’t believe me you can look it up too!
What I witnessed that day as a child
Is something that has been going on in the wild . . .
Since the very first Autumn.
You see, their bodies are streamlined,
their necks like a spear, slicing and breaking the wind.
Now, from the ground it’s impossible to see,
But those wings, they’re not flapping randomly.
When the head goose grabs the wind, air is displaced,
Which rushes up to reclaim its space,
Only to see the smiling face of the bird flying behind in place,
Whose wings just happen to be in a downward position,
A very dangerous condition . . .
Which, doesn’t last long,
Because that upward rush gives them a push . . . .
And they’re right back up to where they belong.
That bird then grabs the air again, causing another upward wind,
Which lifts the wings of the bird behind . . .
And so it goes, on down the line.
So, the lead goose shields the wind,
And all the rest are carried by him,
In varying degrees of course,
From the back which is the best,
To the front which is the worst,
With very little effort, I’ve heard,
on the part of any one bird;
Because when the lead goose has had enough,
He or she simply drops back depending on another to show its stuff!
That’s how I found out how a goose can fly
From way up north . . . to way down south . . . and back again.
Still, they cannot do it alone. You see . .
It has something to do with community . . .
These days it’s a popular notion,
And people swell with emotion and pride
When they think themselves on the eagle’s side . . .
But . . . we are what we are . . .
In some ways, we cannot choose . . .
For many of us, the goose . . . might be a clue to who we are . . .
I thank God. . .
. . . I was made . . .
. . . More like a goose . . .