Apples of Gold

Did anyone here fight dysania[1] an hour or so ago? I hope the cause was not uhtceare[2] over any tendency you might have to perendinate,[3] or over abligurition[4] because last night’s dinner mate turned out to be a lanspresado.[5] I trust that any dysania did not arise from your being philo­­­gro­­bil­ized.[6] Perhaps you were only grufeling,[7] which, of course, is perfectly understandable.

A farrago[8] of forces frequently forestalls our feli­city and forces us to feel, at best, frobly-mobly.[9] For example, occasional­­ly shivviness[10] may assail our senses. Or grum­ble­tonians[11] may surround us, decrying our country as a kakisto­cracy[12] of snullygos­ters[13] and ultracrepi­dari­ans[14] who do naught but fud­gel,[15] twat­tle,[16] yield to every cacoethes[17] that assails them, and suborn[18] others to do the same….

Words are fun. Perhaps these paragraphs introduced you to a few new friends. But they can be more than light-hearted acquaintances. God has chosen words as his way to talk to us. We would do well, then, to study scripture closely so that we accurately assess the precise nuances of the Bible’s words, and avoid the errors that flutter batlike around its pages.

Likewise, our own speech should be clear, concise, and correct, so that we communicate only and exactly what we want. No need to try to impress our hearers with five-dollar words when ten-cent ones will do; if we try that, people often roll their eyes and walk away. But we can (and should) pursue precision and memorability. The Bible urges these: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” “Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many

proverbs. The Teacher searched to find just the right words.” “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word appropriately spoken.” “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Yahweh.”

So … forget the goobledegook of the opening paragraphs (except perhaps “fudgel.” Isn’t that a great word?). But let us nevertheless always try to speak a clear word about a clear Christ.

[1]extreme difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

[2]lying awake and worrying about the day ahead

[3]put off until the day after tomorrow

[4]spending lavish amounts of money on food

[5]someone who always conveniently shows up with no money

[6]having a hangover, but without admitting to actually drinking

[7]lying wrapped up, and in a comfortable manner

[8]a confused mixture, hodgepodge

[9]neither well nor unwell

[10]the uncomfortable feeling of wearing new underwear

[11]people who are angry or unhappy with their govern­ment

[12]government by the least qualified or worst people

[13]shrewd, unprincipled persons, especially politicians

[14]people who give opinions on subjects about which they know nothing

[15]pretend to work while actually doing nothing

[16]gossip idly about unimportant things

[17]irresistible urge to do something inadvisable

[18]to bribe or induce (someone) unlawfully or secretly to perform some misdeed or commit a crime. to induce (a person) to give false testimony

Anointing the Sick

“Is anyone among you sick? He must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). How are we to practice this verse?

Greek has two verbs translated anoint. The first, chriō, is used for the ceremonial anointing of Israel’s prophets, priests, and kings. Such anointing did not actually do anything to the recipient other than formally set him apart for service. Elijah was to anoint Elisha as prophet, Moses Aaron as priest, and Samuel Saul and David as king. The adjec­tive related to chriō is christos —the person so anointed was Yahweh’s christos or Christ. The Hebrew word­ is māšîa or Messiah. Anoint­ing was significant. As David asked when urged to kill Saul, “Who can stretch out his hand against Yahweh’s māšîaand live?”

But chriō is not what James writes. A second word, aleiphō, was used not for ceremonial anointing, but for applying unguents after a bath or before exercise. Olive oil was often rubbed in medically—the Good Samari­tan treated the wounds of the traumatized traveller by pouring in oil (to moisten) and wine (as an antiseptic). So when James says the elders should anoint with oil, what he seems to say is that they apply the best-known medical treatment of the day “in the name of the Lord.” Then they should pray. The prayer and the medical treatment are either exercised simultaneously, or the prayer follows the treatment: “They are to pray over him having anointed him [as the grammar may suggest]….”

Here then is a wonderful example of the wholistic Christian approach to health and healing. We rely on neither medicine nor divine intervention exclusively, nor do we summarily dismiss either one. Rather, we seek the best medical advice and procedures available, all the while imploring the Lord himself to intervene. A valuable pattern for many areas of life.

Enjoying Life Two Octobers Ago

Originally Published Oct. 18, 2018; Updated.

This has been an unspectacular New England autumn—most leaves either staying green or simply browning and dropping. Too warm and too dry. But today rem­nants of Hurricane Nate breeze through, the ground is wet, bright yellow leaves flit down among intermittent showers and gusts. Good day for a hike.

So, sporting shorts, shirt, socks, and shoes, I saun­ter south into the gray and gusts and gloom. My ancient Vasque Sundowners suffer scuffed leather uppers and soles re-glued several times (marine epoxy holds better than Shoe Goo), but their intact Goretex linings insure that at least my feet should stay dry.

Twenty minutes bring me to the trailhead, and soon into the woods and uphill. Stood (not sat) atop ancient fractured granite boulders five meters high and eight across. Imagine a gray blustery day. Trunks darkened with the wet to nearly black, standing in sundry slants and sizes below the generally-green canopy, occasional bright yellows icing the tops. Rain is steady but not heavy. Quiet except for the rushing, restless breeze in the branches. No one else around. Wind strengthens and turns erratic. A more intense shower blows in so I stand tight to a tilting trunk to ward off the worst. Once it eases, on up the trail to a large granite bald spot and overview. The ragged cloud ceiling hangs low, alter­nately obscuring and unveiling the taller range a mile west across the valley.

When showers again strengthen I duck back into the trees. Even were my soles not worn smooth, the leaves and wet would render treacherous several stony slopes. Winds whistle; branches above sway and sing. Suddenly a twelve-footer snaps and slams the ground just behind me and to the left. Five minutes later, Crack! Yikes! Thud! Its elder brother, three inches in diameter, crashes directly on the trail four yards ahead. “Missed me by that much!” Time to head home.

Good Good Good

The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. What does that mean? “Good” is a broad concept with various nuances. Koinē Greek had three adjectives that we often trans­late “good,” each focusing on a different aspect of goodness.

Kalos is “good” in the sense of “beautiful, pleas­ing.” “The praise team did a good job this morning”— their music was harmonious and beautiful. Eight times in Genesis 1 God sees that what he has created is kalos —“good” or “beautiful.” The Lord countered criticism levelled against one who anointed his feet by retorting, “Why do you bother the woman? She has done a good deed to Me.” Translators ­divide on whether to render kalos in this verse beautiful or good.

Chrēstos, at its root, means good for the purpose for which it was intended, useful. Were I to say, “This is a good rake,” my assessment would imply nothing about the rake’s beauty or moral­ity, only that it is well- designed and -manufactured. After his conversion, the slave Onesimus stopped being achrēstos (useless), but became euchrēstos (quite useful). Chrēstos morphs into the idea of being gentle or kind. When the Lord says, “My yoke is chrēstos,” we picture one so well-designed that it comfortably fits, and hence does not chafe. The yoke is so well-suited to its intended purpose that it is easy to bear—kind to its wearer.

Agathos is good in the sense of morally good. “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me agathos? No one is agathos except God alone.” “Returning that money you found was a good thing to do.” “Light produces fruit that consists of every sort of goodness, righteousness, and truth.”

It would not hurt if God helped us become good in all three senses—beautiful in character; useful; moral. Paul uses two of these three adjectives (in their related noun forms) to describe the fruit of the Spirit. Which two?