|Pen and Ink Reflections||
The clergy of the Uniting Church of Australia are obliged to agree that they will baptise new members in ‘the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. It is one of really only a handful of non-negotiables. So, why? What does this mean? And what matters about this particular attempt at describing God?...
‘Cheer, cheer, the red and the white/ honour the name by day and by night’ – yes, that is the beginning of the song of the Sydney Swans. To my mind, and I admit my bias as a long-time Swans fan, it is the best of all the AFL club songs. For I won’t name names, but, with all respect, parts of some other clubs’ songs are, well, somewhat embarrassing. However, if Swans supporters are being completely honest, even we/they probably wouldn’t claim our anthem to be the greatest song ever written. I do wonder too, after all the rain we have had, and the consequent problems, whether the line ‘shake down the thunder from the sky’ is all that appropriate to sing right now?! I guess that is the point of what, in the best sense of the word, we might call ‘tribal’ songs. They may not always be perfect. They might even be awkward at times. We may not hold straightforwardly to all the details. We might even want to change some of them – and sometimes manage to make that change: just as the original Sydney Swans line ’while our loyal sons are marching’ was changed, in March last year, to ‘while our loyal swans are marching’, reflecting the emergence of the Swans girls youth program and the Swans women’s team (happily, albeit belatedly, to play in the AFLW later this year). They may also be quite annoying to others, even, after a victory, even a little insulting and enraging perhaps to some. However, despite all their limitations, such tribal songs are part of giving expression to shared experiences of deep connection and community, and to forms of faith and hope. As such, trite though they may be in comparison, I feel that they thus give us one way into approaching the historic ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church…
This question shows my age, but do some of us remember when the Holy Spirit was typically known as ‘the Holy Ghost’? How words change. For ‘Holy Ghost’ used to be very traditional. ‘Ghost’ indeed derives from the Old English word gast. It means ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, and is the equivalent of the Latin word spiritus. Similar words are found in other Germanic influenced languages, such as geest in Dutch and geist in German (from which we also have the influential compound word Zeitgeist’, meaning spirit of the time, or generation). Today however, most people would relate the word ‘ghost’ to something that goes bump in the night, or something very insubstantial. So, in recent decades, Christians have made a shift from ‘Holy Ghost’ to ‘Holy Spirit’. In doing so, we have rediscovered much of what ‘Holy Ghost’ used to represent in centuries past, and have also encountered that mystery afresh. Yet do ghostly perspectives of the Holy Spirit still limit our own lives and understandings, and certainly many aspects of wider Christian Faith?...