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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Thanks be to God!

A conversation so brief we might miss its meaning

It’s such a brief conversation that we sometimes don’t even hear ourselves engaged in it. The reader says, “The word of the Lord” or “Holy wisdom, holy word.” And we reply, “Thanks be to God.” Sometimes it feels like “Good to see you” or “Have a nice day.” The danger of this ritual language is that it’s so brief we might miss its meaning. The delight of this ritual language is that it packs a punch: It captures rich and expansive truths in simple syllables. Turn the phrase over and you discover a map for navigating faith.

Of course, it’s not simply the words. It never is in worship. It’s also who says them, when and why. “The word of the Lord!” the reader says to conclude the reading. Sure, she is referring to what she has just proclaimed—Scripture laid out for us in the lectionary. But when she (or he)—a baptized, anointed Christian—looks us in the eyes and says this, she is saying much more.

She is saying her name. She is the word of the Lord, the living, breathing utterance of God here and now, the lump of clay into which, with a word, God breathed life in the garden. Taking the word of God in with her eyes and breathing it out with her voice, she is the living proclamation of salvation, charged by Christ to go into the world to spread good news.


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