The Holy Spirit as a Wild Goose


Ancient Celtic Christians used the Wild Goose as an image for the Spirit of God. As a Christ follower of Scotch Irish descent, I can imagine my ancestors arguing that the traditional image of the Holy Spirit, the dove was well, too tame. Doves are pretty and often depicted as clean and white. But wild geese are, well, wild.  They get down in the water and mud in their untamed, unpredictable and unleashed noisy way. One cannot miss the presence of a wild goose. The Spirit of God is not caged as the institutional church has most often perceived her to be, but is unleashed, honking and chasing us all to notice God in the wind, water and mud of life.

As a mainline church pastor, the Wild Goose of God has been circling around my comfort zone and nudging my thinking about the future of faith in the post-Christian context we live in. My Lutheran theology of the cross and experiencing God where we least expect, moved my exploring continuing education and retreat options from those offered by the religious establishment, to something a little more, well, wild. As I searched and prayed, I found the Spirit of God sending me to the Wild Goose Festival. For that, I am thankful.

It was in the wild and beautiful mountains of North Carolina last week that this Christ follower was affirmed, challenged, and energized for my work as a parish pastor through four days of music, justice, spirituality and art. The festival flew on the wind and wings of the metaphor for the unpredictable Spirit of God as we engaged in the theme of ReMembering the Body. The incarnational images of God were abundant…

  • ReMembered in the creation and mud (remember you are dust and to dust you shall return),
  • ReMembered in the rain and roaring French Broad River (the water of baptism and life), and
  • ReMembered in the bodies of more than 2,000 gathered in community (the body of Christ).

There were abundant opportunities to re-imagine and re-kindle hope in our ability to create community across and through dangerous conversation, differences, and doubts. But throughout the experience, the Wild Goose honked hope and nudged new ways of thinking about faith and life together through the communal experience that I’m still processing. Through fellow festival goers and the featured famous, I was able to engage and recharge the core of my pastoral competencies of Loving, Listening, Learning, and Leading.

I give thanks to the wild wisdom and whispers of the Spirit of God that flew through the dozens of presenters and performers. Some that were most helpful for me were…

  • Elders like religion and society historian, scholar and activist Vincent Harding and the “Mother Superior” of the Emergent Church Movement Phyllis Tickle,
  • Outstanding thinkers/writers/speakers from the famous like Philip Yancey and Brian McLaren, to my new favorites Mark and Lisa Scandrette whose book Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most is on top of my book pile,
  • Thoughtful teachers like Rev. Paul Fromberg, pastor of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Director of Justice Issues for the SW California Synod of the ELCA, and Fred Bahnson, author of Soil and Sacrament: Food, Faith, and Growing Heaven on Earth,
  • Amazing musicians across the spectrum from Speech of Arrested Development fame, the incomparable Indigo Girls, to Run River North (who I hope tour the east coast soon), and
  • Passionate preachers like Emergent Church voice and Lutheran Pastrix the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, and North Carolina NAACP President, Disciples of Christ Pastor and Convener of Moral Mondays, the  Rev. William J. Barber.

I also give thanks to the many visual artists and On Being host Krista Tippett, whose artistic expressions and interviews wove together the theme ReMembering the Body together throughout the festival. Above all, I give thanks to God and look forward to where the Wild Goose may fly in the coming year.


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