The Spirit is a Wild Goose!
Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Trinity on the Day of Pentecost, June 4, 2017. The gospel reading is text for the day is Acts 2:1-21 and the key verse is “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability (vs.4).”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today is the birthday of the Christian Church!. On this day, 1984 years ago, something happened that has changed the world forever. What happened marks the reason why you and I are gathered together in this place.
What happened? The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, burst forth into the world in a new and mighty way. It was according to God’s plan. It was what he promised.
Remember how disheartened the followers of Jesus were when he was put to death? They were afraid for their own lives, some doubted that he was the Son of God, some even denied that they knew him. And then the Day of Pentecost came, and after that they were so on fire, so lacking in fear, so confident that Jesus is the Son of God, that they proclaimed their belief everywhere and most even gave their lives. What happened on the Day of Pentecost that made such a difference?
It was the arrival of the gift that had been promised, the gift of the Holy Spirit. You heard today in our gospel reading what Jesus did for the apostles just days after his resurrection. He breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit”. They had a foretaste of what would happen on the Day of Pentecost for all believers.
St. Luke tells us that the disciples and up to 120 people were gathered together in a large room and they heard the roar of a mighty wind and on their heads tongues like fire appeared and they were able to speak in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them ability. And people who were gathered, probably near the temple, could hear the believers witness in languages that they understood.
Just think what q different world it would be if God had not sent the Holy Spirit and if believers had not opened their mouths and proclaimed the good news of Jesus.
Today in church here we have lots of the symbols of the Holy Spirit. Red is a bold color and reminds us of the new-found boldness of the apostles. The tongues of fire remind us of the Holy Spirit giving the ability to proclaim the good news to people everywhere. The wind reminds us that the Spirit goes where it wants and to whom it wants. Finally, the dove is a well-known symbol for the Spirit, found in the gospels when God want to speak to Jesus.
There is another symbol for the Holy Spirit that I want to tell you about. Celtic Christians chose the wild goose instead of the dove as the symbol representing the Holy Spirit. While the Roman Church imagined the Holy Spirit in the form of a peaceful, graceful dove, the Ancient Celts understood the Holy Spirit to be like a wild goose. A wild goose is one noisy, bothersome bird. When the Spirit comes in the Bible, it never seems to be sweet or safe. God’s Spirit called the prophets to speak to Israel in words that were bold and sometimes dangerous. Ezekiel saw a vision of God’s Spirit blowing through a valley of dry bones and bringing them to life. John the Baptist dressed in camel’s hair and eating wild locusts proclaimed, “I baptize you with water but he who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
In some Lutheran Churches in Europe you will see the symbol of the goose associated with Martin Luther. For we believe he was made bold to proclaim the good news of Jesus by this untamed Holy Spirit.
Just think what a different world this would be if Jesus had not made it possible for you and me to proclaim the good news of God’s love for the world. The Renaissance scholar, Erasmus, once told this story that shows how important it is for us to carry on Jesus’ ministry. In the story, Jesus returns to heaven after his time on earth. The angels gather around him to learn what all happened during his days on earth. Jesus tells them of the miracles, his teachings, his death on the cross and his resurrection.
When he finishes his story, Michael the Archangel asks Jesus, “But what happens now?” Jesus answers, “I have left behind eleven faithful disciples and a handful of men and women who have faithfully followed me. They will declare my message and express my love. These faithful people will build my church.” “But” responds Michael, “what if these people fail? What is your other plan?” And Jesus answers, “I have no other plan!”
Here’s the point: Jesus is counting on you and you and you and me. But the good news is, we are not alone. The Holy Spirit is here to inspire us, make us bold and even give us the words to say.
Today, Pentecost 2017, we again welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives.