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Blog: November 2023 - Word and Sacrament

In the church we’re used to marking occasions in special ways. The word ‘sacrament’ means ‘sacred mysteries’ and is a way of marking something that is very special and often difficult to understand. The classic definition of a ‘sacrament’ many of us learnt in Confirmation groups was ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’, especially Baptism and Holy Communion.

And yet church ministers are ordained to proclaim ‘word and sacrament’ in that order. When ministers (both Lay and Ordained) are licenced or ordained they are given a Bible. Not an object like a communion chalice (as was so in mediaeval times), but a book of words.

In November we remember All Saints on 1st November, All Souls on 2nd , Remembrance Day on 11th and Remembrance Sunday this year on 12th. And we use many words – names, phrases ‘the Homily’ - ‘we will remember them’ - and items like poppies and other things to help us to remember. However, it’s the words and names that are important to us in our memories. We remember words of songs and hymns, poems and readings, and for Christians especially Bible verses that remind us of truths that we can believe and give us hope in this life and even in the life to come after death.

And yet in the church ‘words’ are often complained about and pilloried. Jokes are made about how to occupy yourself during sermons. ‘As boring as a book of sermons’ is a very old saying! Being myself a musician and especially a choral singer, I find it’s often church musicians that complain most about long readings, sermons and other words. And yet I along with other choristers enjoy singing long hymns, anthems and other music!

Along with all major religions, Christianity has religious texts, carefully and lovingly preserved over thousands of years that are very precious to us. We believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, and ministers and church leaders are trained and instructed to teach and proclaim by Word and Sacrament all that we know of God’s love and grace and truth to encourage and challenge us in this life to examine ourselves, our thoughts, actions and words.

So as you remember familiar words and texts and hear messages, talks, sermons, addresses (whatever you like to call them) in Churches at this time of Remembrance, give thanks to God for the gifts of speech and hearing especially as these words inspire us. And remember one of the many titles of Jesus Himself is ‘the Word made flesh’. Jesus does not just come to proclaim the Word of God, but He is embodied in His flesh ‘the Living Word’.

Timothy Wilson

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