The flood plain around Kidlington has not only protected homes from excess water but provided welcome habitat for so many birds. In lockdown one we learned to listen more carefully to birdsong and all through this year I have found birds have lifted my heart to the heavens. The red kites and the buzzards, the long-tailed tits and the garden birds were all wonderful to see. But best of all are the geese and when I hear the mellow honking that announces a skein flying overhead and then hear the wing beats in the evening air they stop me in my tracks and I remember the wild and free action of the Holy Spirit in our world.
In the Roman tradition, geese were seen as a symbol of providence and vigilance. There exists a legend that when the Gauls had invaded the Eternal City, they reached the Capitoline Hill and tried to seize it at night. As they approached a temple dedicated to Juno, a sacred flock of geese were awakened and alerted the Roman guards. The Roman army turned back the invaders and the geese went down in history as saving Rome.
The ancient Celtic people saw the Holy Spirit not as a hovering white dove but as a “wild goose.” They saw how the Holy Spirit has a tendency to disrupt and surprise. The Holy Spirit moves in our lives in an unexpected fashion, similar to the actions of a wild goose.
The Wild Goose is the symbol for the Religious Community based on the island of Iona. Their liturgies and spirituality in the Celtic style inspire people all across the world and we celebrate a weekly communion service on a Tuesday night (online at the moment, and in St John’s Lady Chapel in previous times) using their material. The Iona community maintains a passionate concern for social justice and peace and sees itself as being “a continual experiment that must be both radical and in service to the church, calling forth innovation and creativity to be part of the renewal and revitalization necessary in the church.”
Post Covid, we may need to remember these words as we discern together what sort of church we should be.
For now, if you are walking in the early morning or at sundown, look up and look out for wild geese flying overhead. And remember, next time you set out on a “wild goose chase,” it might not be you who are chasing the goose, but the “goose” who is chasing you!
Spirit of energy and change,
Help us not to get too comfortable
in our churches,
but keep us alert to your promptings
and the freedom
to which you call us.