The church season of Pentecost, which started last month, winds its long and mysterious way through the church calendar, and our psyches, throughout the summer and all the way to late November. It is the longest church season, and is also called "ordinary time"—a phrase I always loved for its openness, seeming lack of pressure, its aura of unfolding.
Pentecost Sunday is the day in church services that focuses on the Holy Spirit, and how through it, the very presence of God came into the church and gave the church life. Images and metaphors abound: wind, fire, people speaking in tongues. It is easy to let this one day pass, somewhat inscrutable, and ease into summer.
And yet. I am remembering the sermon my husband Robert gave on Pentecost Sunday that mentioned how in Celtic tradition, people associated the Holy Spirit not with a gentle dove, but with a wild goose: a honking, ungainly, and quite uncontrollable bird.
John's Gospel has Jesus speaking of the helper God will send us: "The Spirit of truth." I think this aspect of the Holy Spirit—exposure to truth—is its own wild goose. As the Rev. Martin Smith has pointed out:
"The Greek word for truth literally means 'unhiddenness.' Truth is not a thing, it is rather an event. Truth happens to us when the coverings of illusion are stripped away and what is real emerges into the open. "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth." John 16:13.
When I think of the times truth has rushed like wind into my life... it has not been particularly gentle or dove-like. Wild goose is more like it: Lots of consternation, pain even, and my own flapping of wings in protest. But later I experience the mysterious space and peace that come, eventually, from "unhiddenness." The release of energy formerly spent evading the truth.
Ordinary time. Summer time. And yet also Pentecost time... time our tradition tells us is a time to be open to new winds, deep truths, even a radical tilt or two, or a summons to new service. Has a wild goose paid you a visit lately? What truth in your life needs to come out into the light of a summer's day?