Cuthbert United Methodist Church
Wednesday, April 08, 2020


Some of the most common colloquial expressions you hear in everyday life come from worship tradition.  Let’s take a minute to reclaim their deep, spiritual roots of a few of the most familiar.   
GLORY is an exclamation often heard used for delight and surprise. But Glory in scripture refers to the beauty and worth of God and heaven – the root word refers to weight, gold, white heat, fire.  1 Chronicles 16: 28b  says “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.” If God is Glory, how can we give him glory? The next verse explains: “Bring an offering and come before him; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”  When we sing the “Gloria Patri,” we are lifting up and worshiping God’s essence and perfection.  One of my favorite praise songs is “Be Glorified” because in the song, we offer our lives, our homes, our church to God as our way to enlarge God’s glory.
HALLELUJAH (Hebrew) or ALLELUIA (Latin) may go back to the middle-Eastern practice of  ululation - that long, high-pitched vocal sound resembling a howl with a trill-like quality.  To that “la-la-la-la” trill was added “Yah” (short for Yahweh, God.  So, it closest (but limited) translation would be “Praise God!”  Most closely related to our response for the resurrection, when Christians say Hallelujah, they are saying, “This is so awesome we don’t have an adequate word to give it praise!”  I like how Augustine of Hippo put it: "The Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!"
AMEN is found in the oldest of Hebrew texts, and was the word used to affirm a benediction or blessing. Following that ancient practice, Christians sing Amen at the end of our Trinitarian Doxology, and say it at the end of our prayers.  Amen is more than just “Yes.”  When we say Amen at the end of a creed or Doxology, we are saying “so be it,” or “this we believe.”  And more - Amen says you would stake your life on what you’ve just affirmed.   Coming from the same Hebrew root word for “faith,” an Amen at the end of a prayer seals the petition with faith:  “According to your will, it will be done!”  Some of us may remember singing Amen at the end of every hymn.  This was a short-lived practice popular in the first half of the 20th century, but because it had no basis in tradition, it was dropped, except for Doxological use.  Amen is the last word in our Bible, in the book of Revelation.  I hope you now know that it means  more than “The End.”    Amen?
In common usage, holy is a word we use to exclaim (ex. Holy Smokes, Batman!). Otherwise, it’s mis-used as either a negative connotation, like “Holier than thou,” or a way to separate the world into “holy” and “profane.”   This is really sad, because that limits the holiness of God’s creation, and our call to holiness.  The definition of holy is “divine; perfect in goodness and righteousness.”  Since God, who is perfect, created the world and called it good, why should we argue with God?  Yes, we are imperfect, and the world is broken, because of sin.  But, as we worship, we are called to reclaim “holiness” for our lives – to boldly aspire to BE holy (Ephesians 1:4 – “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him”); and, as the song “This is my Father’s World” proclaims, we are invited to enjoy our physical existence and all of creation as part of the manifestation of God’s glory.  
Several of our Palm Sunday hymns mention “Hosanna!” as what the children shouted in praise of Jesus.  Actually, Hosanna! is a cry for help, translated from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na “Save us!” which became a common acclamation for a King bringing salvation.  Though Hosanna has pretty much fallen out of use, except in traditional liturgy, it can be a powerful personal prayer, because it both asks for help and confidently proclaims that rescue is on the way.  Here’s another empowering thought:  in our Great Thanksgiving communion prayer when we proclaim, “Blessed in he (or, The One) who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna!”  we are making an amazing claim, that the “he, who comes in the name of the Lord” is all of us, because Christ has made us a part of Him – the Body of Christ – through his self-giving love!  
It’s funny how far we are from experiencing or even wanting to live under a King, yet this word kingdom is an important key to putting ourselves in right relationship with God.  What does it mean to live in God’s kingdom or reign?  God’s reign is both future: “Thy kingdom come,” and present: “the kingdom of God is within us.”  It is also both material: “Your Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom and Your dominion endures throughout all generations,” and spiritual: “My kingdom is not of this world.”  This is such a rich word for worship, because when we use it, we are doing more than proclaiming God’s power, we are also aligning ourselves with and under that power, here and now, in all ways, and for all time.
I encourage you to “love God with your mind” by studying other worship words that may have become for you trite or robbed of their deep meaning.  The vocabulary for loving and knowing God through worship is endlessly profound and enriching