(This was originally published in the March issue of ChurchActs, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of WNY)
I going to try and cause some trouble this month.
A 6-year-old inspired me.
The 6-year-old in question is Margaret , oldest daughter of my rectors. A couple of months ago Margaret decorated her father’s office door with notes that read: Church is Fun, Church is Great, We Love God, I Love Church, Church Rules.
(In the spirit of journalistic integrity I suppose I should mention that one reads “Church is about my Dad”. I expect her mom will straighten out that theological question for her)
What grabbed me was that here was a young person who was EXCITED about being in church. Even though she really doesn’t have a choice, she HAS to go. It got me thinking about how we manage to lose that by the time most of us hit our teen years. What happens? Where does all that excitement go and is there anyway to get it back?
Books have been written on this subject by folks who are supposedly a lot smarter than I am so I don’t think I’m going to set the world on fire in 800 words or less. But let me bounce an idea off you. It sounds pretty honor society at first but stay with me (at least till we get to the part where I ask you to start causing trouble at church). We begin to lose the excitement when we realize that the words we say have come disconnected from their meanings. A word without meaning is just mouth noise – BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, and BLAH. Sound familiar? We use words that have no apparent connection to what we’re doing. Example? Check out page 354 in your BCP. It’s the page right before Holy Eucharist Rite Two begins. It gives instructions on how this service is to be done. The title reads “Concerning the Celebration”. Quick somebody grab a dictionary! My dictionary defines celebration as to show happiness that something good or special has happened. How often does what you see in church look like a celebration? Even if you like church do you walk out feeling like you celebrated? My bet is that most of us don’t, even when we liked the sermon or the music or whatever. If there’s a downside to our beloved Book of Common Prayer it may be that the words become very comfortable, very routine. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even need the Prayer book open in front of me. It’s great I can say all the words of the service while my mind is thinking about important things…
Uhhhhhh, wait a minute.
Here’s where I want to cause some trouble. There are several words or phrases that I think we’ve let get away from their meanings. I want to bring them back into connection. All it means is making a little holy noise during church. Ready?
Alleluia – My Bible dictionary says it means Praise God! Whattya think? We should definitely mumble that one right? Wrong answer! This is a word that we can put a little oomph into. This is an invitation to praise God. When someone praises you is it more believable when they put some emotion into or if they just kind of mumble it?
The modern equivalent would be a “Yeah, All right, Booyah!” kind of a feeling.
Amen – Not every amen needs to thunder up into the rafters but the word means let it be so, Yes! Now some of these can be quieter but why can’t we really ram a prayer home with a good loud AMEN!
Then there’s my favorite:
Thanks Be to God – This one we should definitely sound like we’re about to doze off on. And it comes up several times. “The Word of the Lord” ZZZZZZZZZZZ My favorite is right at the end of the service “Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Come on people! Let’s pump up the volume. “Let us bless the Lord” THANKS BE TO GOD!
Take some time and look to see what other words have come disconnected from their meaning or intent. Figure out how to reconnect them and do it. Let me warn you some of the adults are going to get grumpy about it. You’re going to catch some looks and maybe some people will get in your face about it. Just tell them that you’re excited about being in church and that excitement just came busting out. If that doesn’t work blame me.
I intend to blame the six-year-old.