By Any Other Name

I’m wrapping up a proposal/project that is a children’s book on the means of grace. But after reading it again, I thought to myself, “Hmm. Is it more a book on Word and Sacrament?” It’s made me think, are the means of grace as sweet by any other name? Is there a difference?


Personal Taste

Part of me thinks there may be something of a colloquial difference between “Word and Sacrament” and the “means of grace.” When we encourage someone to hear the Gospel, come to church, return to the altar, the means of grace sounds explanatory. As if to say, “I want this for you and this is how you can be given it.” Word and Sacrament might sound highfalutin or reproachful. Intellectual. Churchly.

Yet, isn’t this an example of talking about exactly the same thing? We may want to soften or apply, but is “Word” really a hardening term? And, sacrament may be less familiar, sure, but aren’t they to be spoken of as godly, powerful, blessed, sustaining, liberating, and a great many more positive attributes and descriptions? I mean, they are clearly and explicitly gifts from the embodiment of divine mercy Himself, Jesus Christ! Far from any sort of stuffiness or snobbery!

As a child, I was taught this neat juxtaposition:

A sacrifice is something we do in hope to be holy.

A sacrament is something God gives and does to make us holy.

Are those definitions really explicit within those words? I don’t know. Still, it has stuck with me, giving me comfort in God’s deeds for my sake.


It occurred to me that, sadly, it’s easy to forget or overlook the sweetness, whichever name we use. And, there are other names affected similarly.

For example, there are so many weak Bible studies, that frankly point inward rather than outward to either God or the text He’s given us, that a person can get jaded and forget the sweetness that continues to reside in what most people call Bible studies. Reading Scripture with others may need discernment, but it doesn’t need scorn or ridicule. The Gospel and the power of the Word does not rely on human perfection or preference. One can still look for and taste the sweetness, even if you wish more studying were being done.

Another side may be that, when we hear someone’s lack of understanding about God’s gifts, we forget to consider the Gospel sweetness they may miss. The means of grace are not, after all, without impact on heart and soul as well as mind. Rather than annoyance or frustration, compassion may prove right for the opportunity or exchange.

Write It

Still, as much as I want to savor—and share—the sweetness of God coming to us in such receivable ways, I’m still wavering in my writing. I wrote a children’s book full of simple charm and solid imagery. But in rewriting it for the sake of clarity and teaching, I might lose some of that sweet simplicity.

There is nothing wrong with the progress of images—I’m uncharacteristically captivated with them still (whether that is good or not!). My goal setting out, however, is to teach and I’m torn about whether my piece accomplishes that.

Juliet was confident in her famous couplet:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

I wish I had such confidence. I wish I knew whether children would understand the images as praising God for His presence and actions through the means of grace/Word and Sacrament. I wish I knew whether the I’ve strung together a lesson on the means of grace, or whether it should have more education points? Sigh.

What do you think? Stick to a pretty children’s story? Trust imagery to be powerful? Or, make it as clear as can be, using beauty as servant to education? Or, sigh, the inevitable, just keep working and see how things fall! Guess that’s the plan.

Best wishes to you guys. Keep writing.

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