The Power of Words
My husband and I were talking a couple of evenings ago over coffee about how words can be used within the church as a whole. If we don’t like a particular style of music that is used in the service, we call it ‘ungodly’ or say ‘it’s not anointed’. If there is an old way or method of doing something or simply a particular object people like to use in a service, they are being ‘religious’ or ‘old fuddy-duddies’ or ‘irrelevant’. (Does anyone seriously use ‘old fuddy-duddies’ anymore? If so, they’re old fuddy-duddies to be sure. You have been warned.) And it makes me sad. Not because there is not any truth to the above statements. As people, we can (and do!) get pretty attached to how we do things to the point we forget all about the God we once were doing all these things for. Shoot, we can even (as my husband so aptly put it) be religious about not being religious. No, what saddens me is the loss of certain words from the contemporary Christian vernacular. Words that, for me, are not weathered tombstones because in them I hear a rich history and sparks of life. For instance, mention the words ‘hymn’ to me and I can hear a group of voices swelling together with a slightly out-of-tune upright piano as they sing Hymn #108 from slightly musty hymnals. When those old songs are sung from the heart to the God they’re written about, it is powerful.
Nor does ‘liturgy’ speak to me of old, empty rituals spoken in a lifeless monotone. I hear in that word a rhythm. Whether it’s in the benediction and the doxology, the recitation or repetition of a prayer, an ‘Order of Service’ (however closely it is adhered to) makes me think of how such services have been entered into by countless people before me. For me this increases my sense of community within not just ‘my’ church, but the Church as it is composed of people beyond the walls of the building I worship in. I’m reminded of how I’m part of a much bigger ‘whole’.
Not that I want to go back to the ‘clock in/clock out’ services of my youth (as well-intentioned as the people were and are). I am so thankful to be a part of the church I have called home for close to twenty years. My pastors are wonderful people, and as a congregation we are all imperfectly perfect. And we all have things to learn about and grow in and do. I just don’t want us to permanently delete words that for many can still be a doorway through which to enter into community with one another and into communion with God.
*Photo Credit: silent shot (Creative Commons)