Holy Adjectives! Pentecosty Musings
The Spirit is a tough one for many of us (northern European) Protestants to wrap our minds around..or to be wrapped around by, frankly (pardon the dangling prepositions).
It’s too nebulous (which comes from the same word nebulosus [as does nebula and nebulizer] which means cloudy, veiled, foggy, vapory).
But my seminary mentor Walt Bouman brought it down to a grammatical matter, and that way spoke my language.
So to speak.
God gave us adjectives for a reason. So consider them in relation to Spirit.
Lots of kinds of spirits. The word ‘spirit’ means ‘breath’ or ‘invigorator of life’ (those of you who thought immediately of the beveragey sort of spirits, take that where you will).
So given that there are lots of spirits, the adjective before the word must make a difference: Christmas…school…team….teen (I hate that song)…mob…community, and so forth.
There are adjectives that may be placed after the word too, to clarify its meaning, as in “Spirit of St. Louis,” or “Spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King.”
And each of these adjectives hone the meaning of the word to such a degree that it would be comical were we to hang ornaments on our Christmas trees with teen spirit (God forbid), or market our hometowns with Christmas spirit, or go to a pep rally with mob spirit (wait, that one sometimes works…).
You see? The word ‘spirit’ left all lonely and all loses its identity, and is, in point of fact, nebulous.
Let’s see what happens when you stick the word “holy” in front of it.
In Hebrew, the word which we translate ‘holy’ is qds (I’d like to buy a vowel), which means “set apart.” Our English word comes from the Germanic heilig which means (get this, those of you who know my love of the notion of soteria, i.e., salvation) healing and happiness.
With that little nugget, Galatians 5:22-23 becomes a bit richer:
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
So those who are claimed by the Holy Spirit are set apart for offering forth health, happiness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (note to self: 10/11 ain’t bad).
Wait a minute: So tomorrow the Church celebrates Pentecost. The Holy Spirit (breath, remember…alive, not dead [though deadened, on occasion….] has been breathed into the followers of Jesus.
That must mean that the followers of Jesus are now officially set apart to offer fruits of health!
It’s a) not about me, but about community; b) about injecting joy and kindness and wholeness; c) not so nebulous after all!
So in one post, I got to make a theological point and a grammatical one, not to mention blending a bit of etymology in there too.