Words are still important

I sit here a grammatical, linguistic, literary, and oratorical snob. And God loves me for it.

From the front of a church bulletin (sadly, it was LCMS) I’ve recently read:

We have gathered together to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is our desire in worship to minister to the heart of God. As we do this, expect to meet with God and for him to minister to our hearts with power.

I mean this sincerely: is there anyone out there who can explain to me exactly how one ministers to the heart of God? I don’t find that language in Scripture anywhere. This smacks of one of my gripes with American Evangelical Christianity and the inroads it has made into the Lutheran Church. It’s the pick words that carry theological freight and string them together game. We can all play. Flip through the theological word book, slap your hand down on the page, and pick the word closest to your index finger. Do this two to four times, arrange the results in the most inspiring ways, and do what you can to put it into regular use in a congregation near you.

I’m sure you’ve seen these empty little phrases and kitschy little word plays. I’ve given you one here. Feel free to fill the comment thread with others you’ve seen. Maybe together we can compile a “Chicken Soup for the Evangelical Soul” book and make a pile of money.

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13 Responses to Words are still important

  1. Anonymous says:

    Small-group breakout workshop on foundational transformative essentials to equip faith-based worship leaders with positive Christ-centered tools of the spirit for our mission-purposed daily walk.

    Mort

  2. Anonymous says:

    I go to Willowcreek today. I’ll let you know.

    My favorite is still John 3:16, from a confirmation student.
    For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life in Heaven.

    She was crushed when I told her about the resurrection of the dead.

  3. Lutheran Mama says:

    I’m sorry; maybe I’m dense, but that last comment about John 3:16 didn’t make much sense to me. What’s wrong with quoting John 3:16, and why was the student crushed when told about the resurrection of the dead?

  4. OSC says:

    I’m sure it had something to do with the bit about “in heaven,” a little phrase that doesn’t appear in the text, and as it happens, doesn’t really fit with our theology, given that we confess the resurrection of the dead and bodily life eternal.

  5. Lutheran Mama says:

    ::blush::

    Next time I read before I comment.

  6. OSC says:

    Yes, lutheran mama, but (and not to pour salt on a cyber wound) you help to illustrate another important couple of points: familiarity may breed error, and charity may breed a kind of Gestalt hearing/reading of theology. The first is easy. The second is a little more covert. I’m both thankful and appalled by the “filling in the blanks” that the laity are forced to do given some preaching/teaching. They hear heresy of some degree and fill in the blanks or mentally massage it, often times subconsciously, so that what they take home is an actual Christian message.

    Just a couple thoughts. Thanks for the comments.

  7. Lutheran Mama says:

    It’s not the first time I shot my mouth–er, fingers–off without reading the entire comment I decided to pick at. Good that I finally got caught.

    How many times have we all seen the classic, cartoonish “dies & floats up to heaven to receive wings, halo, & harp and live blissfully ever after” imagery? How many people think we turn into angels when we die?

    My dad is a recent convert from the PCUSA to Roman Catholicism and subsequently has the RC Catechism fresh in his mind. In discussing a theological issue with another professed Catholic, he reached a point at which this person refused to believe a teaching of the Catechism in favor of a contradictory belief she’d picked up from her mother & grandmother.

    How can we combat such misguided faith in prevalent yet groundless heresy?

  8. OSC says:

    Slowly. And consistently. And gently. And patiently–but tenaciously. Popular piety is tough. You don’t want heresy to live on, but you don’t want to crush the weaker brother or sister while on the quest to kill it. My advice is pretty basic: study and have the conversations. This is a HUGE issue, though.

  9. Anoki Ha Ish says:

    Try also Scripturally. Today in Confirmation, we addressed two issues – One, is God everywhere? I asked them to tell me where they read that in Scripture, and what difference it makes. We’re working on it. The other one was – does Jesus love everyone? Same thing. I’m sitting a room with 17 kids who have been in Lutheran School since their late diapers.

    On the up side, I mentioned a little bit about denying yourself, but no where near enough in preaching yesterday, and one kid asked me what the heck denying himself meant. That was fun.

  10. Anoki Ha Ish says:

    Oh, as for Willow, they actually did a good job there of not being too theologically trite. I was kind of surprised. Of course I did skip the “Worship Experience with Charlie Hall” just because of its name. I thought it would just cross too many lines…

  11. OSC says:

    Indeed: Scripturally. Certainly you were supposed to fill in the blanks and understand that I intended that one. I’ll trust you to read that in fun without my using one of those blasted emoticons.

    What brought you to WC? I’ve been to Saddleback. We could compare notes.

  12. Sean says:

    If you’re a grammar snob, how do you feel about the “updated” language for things like “lift up your hearts”, “we lift them to the lord” (the pastor asked us to lift them up… how come post-vatican II we don’t do what he says anymore?) and “glory to you O Lord” (which isn’t even english)? and also with you’s aside, why did we listen to vatican II? it’s just pseudo-liturgical speak. We know what people used to say… but that sounds too old, so we’ll change it so it doesn’t mean anything but still sounds similar. ???

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