I love words.
I am not as clever as my son’s long ago junior high friend who has twice been national Scrabble champion. JK Rowling was so ingenious and inventive with the character names in the Harry Potter series. Professors Umbridge and Severus Snape come to mind. My friend Bob is ready with a pun for any topic a person might say within earshot. Poet friend Roy makes magic with meaning, rhythm, and allusion.
Words are tools. Carefully used, words say exactly what is meant to be conveyed. In this context, the language of worship comes to mind and I have been concentrating on a phrase we say once each month.
We have communion on the first Sunday of the month and, as in many churches, there is a set liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer. On March 2, 2014 the pastor said, “Great is the mystery of faith.” We answered, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” [Note: We have said this for at least a decade and my English major mind notices, “has died”-past, “is risen”-present, “will come again”-future.] On June 1, 2014 the bulletin indicated we should say, “has risen” – not “is risen” but “has risen”!
I missed this change for over a year and a half, mainly because I no longer use the script.
What happened? Did this phrase auto-correct, or did a vigilant church secretary erroneously do this?
Does it matter? IT DOES TO ME! It SO matters.
Let’s think about the difference between Christ has risen and Christ is risen. The past tense posits an historical event. I think most of us poke historical events into an appropriate mental pigeonhole and move on. The present tense makes the case that Jesus is not to be put aside so easily. The risen Jesus is present and must be taken into account moment by moment.
As I lobby to get the liturgy changed back, my fantasy is that our pastor will point out this mutation and preach an inspirational sermon about the power of words and the immediate presence of God in the risen Christ. What I think will really happen is that staff will continue to say, “It’s always been that way,” and not budge; or it will be quietly changed in the worship bulletin and we go on.
As you might guess, I will continue to verbalize, “is risen” during the liturgy. It doesn’t register like trespasses, when the rest are saying debts! Know that because I ponder it every time, it is a positive exercise that gives growth to my faith.
What words matter to your life of faith?