The Goose and the Dove

By Ken Asel

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 9:30-41 

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”


Ray Simpson, the founder of the Community of Aiden and Hilda on Lindisfarne, reflects in Exploring Celtic Spirituality upon the revelation of the Holy Spirit to the Church:

[I]t was not intended for the Church to regard the Trinity as a formula for a one-off occasion of baptism. … God was infinite yet intimate; he was holy yet homely. He was sovereign and could not be bargained with, yet he was alongside them in their everyday needs.

Jesus is pointing out this way of the Spirit to his disciples, from casting out demons to giving a cup of water.

Using the image of a wild goose, the Celtic mothers and fathers reflected on the unpredictability of God’s Holy Spirit, who leads the Church in both spontaneity and orderliness. We see it today in this scene of new direction and possibilities in the Gospel of Mark. As they walk through Galilee, the disciples argue what Jesus could have meant when he predicted his death, even as he proclaims the Resurrection. Then the disciples proceed to argue about who is the greatest in their band of followers. It’s not that there won’t be order in the kingdom, but that God’s logic is unexpected and throws them for a loop: to be in charge, they have to be like children.

John Bell and Graham Maule of the Iona Community have written:

The Celtic monks, knowing that same restlessness and provocation which issues from the Almighty, depicted the Holy Spirit both as a dove and a wild goose. But where in our contemporary devotions are there glimpses that God, in [our time], can be expected to surprise, contradict, upset or rile us in order that the Kingdom may come? 

Jesus said, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” As we emerge from 18 months of pandemic, it may be our ancestors who remind us once more of a God who is not finished with us yet. For that possibility may we never cease giving thanks.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and have recently relocated again to the West and the Front Range. 

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Christ Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas
The Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough (Church of Ireland)


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