Just before Easter this year, I attended a conference on the spiritual wisdom of the ancient Celtic church. I didn’t really know exactly what to expect out of the experience, but I learned something there which for me was a new insight.

I learned that the ancient Celts had an unusual symbol that for them represented the spirit of God. It was not the dove, or a flame, or an image of a sail on a ship being filled by a gust of wind, or anything like that. For the ancient Celts, the symbol for God’s spirit was the wild goose.

They said, “Think about a wild goose. When a wild goose is on the ground, it is as awkward and clumsy as any creature there is.” Geese walk with that ungainly, inelegant gait — the goose step. And when you hear them call, their voice is, to put it gently, less than beautiful. No poet ever writes “O sing to me your beautiful song O Goose!” HONK, HONK, HONK.

Geese, the Celts noticed, are utterly ordinary, ungainly creatures. And yet, when they take wing, all their awkwardness leaves them and they are filled with grace and they soar in wonderful formation, each helping provide a slipstream to lift another in the flock along on the flight path. The Celts said, “That’s our symbol for God’s living spirit … the spirit of the divine at work in life. The spirit of God is that which makes the ordinary shed its awkwardness and soar.” 

When I heard that, I instantly liked it, partly because it’s so understandable, and partly because, coming just before Easter, it sounded to me like a perfect illustration of what the joy of Easter is really all about. When all is said and done, what makes Easter important is not the call to believe in an abstract doctrine of the resurrection … but to live in the assurance that the spirit of God is still at work, even in our most awkward, ungainly, frail moments, to give us the chance to leave the weights of the past in the past, and to rise above them, take wing, and soar.

I hope you had a meaningful and joyous Easter this year, whatever form it may have taken for you. And I just wanted to remind you that it’s not too late to hear the best of Easter’s good news, proclaimed for centuries now in the wisdom of the church. Easter is not just the season to remember back to the time when Christ escaped the bonds that held him down — it’s about your resurrection, too.

The Rev. Vaughn Hoffman is senior minister, Wesley United Methodist Church, Bloomington. He may be reached at vhoffman@wesley-umc.com.

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