How do you imagine the Holy Spirit? If you are anything like me, the picture that accompanies this posting is definitely NOT it. Dove. Fire. Wind. Breath. These I am all familiar with, but sister of “The Heat Miser” from my favorite Christmas cartoon?… That’s never been part of the litany. So imagine my surprise in looking up above the exit of the overwhelmingly Baroque Jesuitenkirche in Heildelberg, Germany a couple weeks ago and seeing this fiery sprite looking down on me and waving me out the door into the world. I did not even know it was meant to represent the Holy Spirit until I read the wall placard off to the side. Made me laugh aloud. Laughter isn’t one of the traditional seven gifts of the Spirit, but maybe should be.
A few days later when visiting the Church of the Holy Spirit in Munich, Germany, I discovered that the 18th century painter Peter Jacob Horemans also thought outside the box when it came to gifts of the Spirit. He completed seven paintings of women representing the Spirit’s seven gifts, but in addition to some of the more well-considered gifts like strength and piety, he included gifts of reason and science. Thought provoking.
As many of you already know, I am part of a Templeton grant project right now that is trying to help preachers to be open to insights from outside the usual repertoire of sources that we usually turn to for ideas… and, in a particular way, to be open to insights from the sciences. I know that for myself, spending more time reading in the sciences and talking to scientists is making me think of new possible ways to explain things that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered. New metaphors I wouldn’t have played with in the past. One example would be my Pentecost preaching for this year that imagined the Holy Spirit’s explosive arrival in comparison/contrast to a mysterious meteor explosion called the Tunguska incident. Also not an image you’d find in any Holy Spirit litany! Please feel free to share the “Preaching with the Sciences” website link with any preachers who you think might be interested in this wider effort to be always open to the Spirit’s promptings in whatever surprising form she continues to make herself known in the world.