Here at St. Paul’s we use a full text bulletin. For the uninitiated, this means that each week we have a bulletin that conveys the full text of the Book of Common Prayer service without the clumsy page turning, hunting, and pecking.
In the three years we’ve been tweaking this bulletin, I’ve found that the folks who complied the BCP love punctuation and love to use it sporadically, and, as far as I can tell, without regard for the actual rules of grammar.
Most of the time it isn’t really an issue. Sometimes it means a prayer read in unison sounds funny. Sometimes it means nothing. And sometimes, it is really important.
This weekend I had the joy of attending the ordination of Susan Sowers over at St. Christopher’s Church in Pensacola. I love ordinations. They are filled with pomp and circumstance. They remind me of my own ordination to the priesthood on Jan 24, 2008. The renew in me the call that I began pursuing those many years ago.
At every ordination, however, I take issue with one answer given by the ordinand. “I am willing and ready to do so; and I solemnly declare that I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”
I take issue with the case of the word “Word.” And I take issue with extra fervor as I prepare to preach on John’s great prologue for the First Sunday after Christmas.
In my understanding, the Word of God, is the second person of the Trinity; God the Son; Jesus; the Messiah. Co-eternal with the Father and Holy Spirit. Of one being. The one through whom all things were made.
The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are not co-eternal with God. They are not of one being with the Father. Creation did not come into being through them. They are, in my way of thinking, the word of God. The Catechism seems to affirm this, while still using a capital-W when, on page 853 of the 1979 BCP it states:
Q. Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the [w]ord of God?
A. We call them the [w]ord of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.
It is, as I see it, the same nuance as saying, “Jesus is the Truth while the Bible speaks truth.” Jesus is the Word of God, while the Bible speaks the word of God.
Maybe I’m making too much of this, but I think that the confusion of case has lead to a gross misunderstanding of Scripture, especially in the Western, Northern church, post-enlightenment.
As I read the word from John declaring the incarnation of Word, I’m struck by the power that both give, but know that it is only the Word that gives life, light, and salvation.