Why Would the Celtic Christians call the Holy Spirit the "Wild Goose"?

Throughout history there have been groups of Christians who have discovered the beauty of a life lived on God’s terms. The Celtic Christians of the early middle ages was one such group.

They understood from Scripture and from their own life experience that God 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 language. In fact, the Celtic phrase for the Holy Spirit translates to “wild goose” because they viewed God was not someone who could be tamed or domesticated by man.

This unfortunately is an idea that seems to be distant in today’s Christianity. Too often we are wrapped up with the idea of God as Yahweh (personal and close) that we lose sight of God as Elohim (creator and almighty).

In Scripture we see those two distinct names for God in Hebrew. In fact, in your modern English Bible, anytime you see the word “Lord” it was usually either the Hebrew word Elohim or Yahweh.

Yahweh was a form of the Hebrew word “to be” and is where we get the phrase “I am that I am”. It is used in Scripture when God drew close and was personally involved in someone’s life. This concept is very easily understood today since our emphasis is on our personal relationship with God and how he makes us feel. But when we lose sight of God as Elohim, we are missing a key piece of His character.

It is something I’ve grown to understand deeper through my time in the wilderness. Shortly after college I spent a summer as a wilderness trip leader in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Every year since, I have made it a goal to go on at least a one week trip in the backcountry away from civilization. And while you think it may be because I am chasing adventure, it actually was because I needed to be reminded who God is and where I fit in His story.

You see, in the wilderness you learn very quickly you are not in control. Whether it is paddling into a stiff headwind, being stuck on a mountain pass in a storm, or simply enjoying the night sky in all its glory, you realize just how small you are and how big this world and this universe are - as well as the Creator behind it all. In such vastness you quickly are reminded of who is God and that you are not. And that is a very good thing, because I have seen my conversations with God change from “meet my needs” to “what are you doing and how can I join you”.

And that is the shift that also underpins the Celtic term of “wild goose” for the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit moves in us and among us for a purpose that both includes our personal needs and is beyond our personal needs. And so many times, this is why we miss the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We are either focused on the personal experience or see Him as someone more distant.

That is why, for this year’s men’s retreat we will be approaching the topic of living life with the Holy Spirit from multiple angles which include understanding self, spiritual disciplines, walking with others, and what Scripture says about the working of the Holy Spirit. We look forward to seeing how the men who attend grow closer to both God and one another.

If you are interested in registering for this year’s men’s retreat, visit www.mercyhill.org/mensretreat. The cost is $25 for both Friday night and Saturday morning. If you can only make one day, we have reduced rates available as well.

We look forward to having you join us May 20th and 21st.