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"Words have power" – this is the first line in the ELCA’s document on language use in worship.  

In the New Testament, God in Christ is called the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).  

Christian liturgical assemblies are gatherings in and around the Word of God, Jesus the Christ. Because God in Christ is called the Word, the use of words (language) in Christian worship should be given careful attention.  

The words we choose to use say something about who we are and what is important to us. The words we use reflect our attitudes, understandings, and actions. Similarly, the words we use in worship reflect who we are as Christians, and moreover they reflect who God is to us.  

Do we actually have the words or ability to fully describe God? I wrestle with this question sometimes, but I always come out with a resounding "No." There are descriptions of God in the Bible, but we are limited with language that was created by humanity. God is so much bigger than any box we could ever try to put God in. When it comes to understanding the Divine, we are limited by our humanity.  

I want to ask our readers to consider these passages in scripture and what they say about who God is. Take some time to read these passages and sit with the descriptions of God. Ruminate on the images.

eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11- 12) baker (Matthew 13:33) hen (Matthew 23:37) wind (Acts 2:2) bread (John 6: 33-35) rock (Isaiah 17:10) light (John 8:12)

When we meet together in person again, I’d love to discuss John 1:18 and the change that occurred in 1750. If you have a Bible that was translated before 1750 lying around, you could check out John 1:18, also.  

The question I want to pose is – do these images mean God is actually a rock or is God like a rock, immoveable and strong? Do they mean God is actually a hen, or is this imagery used to help us understand more about the character of God?  

For the last part of this entry I am going to share a resource from Churchwide (our denomination’s main office), because I am a candidate for ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). I completed all of the coursework for my Master of Divinity degree at an ELCA seminary in Philadelphia, PA, and I'm currently doing my internship at an ELCA congregation. The resources our church body offers us are rich with information we can prayerfully consider as we continue to walk with God. I invite you to pay special attention to the section titled “Language Addressing God.” 

Please click the link below and continue reading. I will be back with a new blog entry about using language to reflect the character of God that is revealed to us in scripture.

How is language used in worship?

1 Comment

Stephen Palmer over 1 year ago

Words are to me the powerful tool or weapon one can wield. Their benefit or harm is far more reaching often than anything else we can do. Words have changed societies, driven people to do great deeds and been used to deny others.

When one speaks of "God" there are so many names or words that are used in that single descriptive. I would prefer to echo the words of Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks what he is to say to the Israelites what God has sent him (Moses) to them, he was was told simply "I am that I am".
And while this has many translations through Hebrew and Greek, the essentialness is that God is God, regardless of a name which we mankind may place upon the Most Holy One.

Through the centuries there has been more debate on the description of God as opposed to God's actual existence. Our inner need to name things is innate in humankind, as evidence by our need to label all the world around us, and then find some way to make everything fit into one of those labels.
God has no single label, for God IS all labels.

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