Words we use in Church and what they mean

Advent – from the Latin word ‘coming’, referring to Jesus’ coming to earth and to his second coming i.e. his return

Alleluia – from the Hebrew word meaning ‘Praise God’

Amen – from a Greek word, meaning ‘I agree’ or ‘So be it’ i.e. a way [people can echo someone’s prayers and make them their own.

Angel – ‘Messenger’ (Greek) i.e. go-betweens between God and people. Angels are assumed to have wings from their description in the Bible but sometimes their presence is confused with God’s presence and sometimes they appear as human strangers

Apostle – ‘sent out’ (Greek) i.e. those the Spirit sent out to serve Christ, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.

Ascension – ‘going up’ (Latin) i.e. Jesus appearing to go up into heaven when he left the disciples in Luke 24/Acts 1

Atonement – the dealing with sin by a sacrifice, so the guilty party becomes ‘at one with’ God again. Christ’s death on the cross cancels all sin but we have to accept forgiveness from him for ourselves

Bible – ‘library’ or ‘books’ (Greek).The Bible is a collection of books written at different times, and to be read in different ways

Blessed – favoured or ‘touched’ by God e.g. by an answered prayer or by an awareness of having received from him

Catholic – from the Greek, meaning ‘throughout the world’.

Cherubim and Seraphim – Old Testament angels. The latter means ‘burning ones’ in Hebrew.

Christ – ‘anointed one’ (Greek) or Messiah(Hebrew), referring to God’s special agent (Jesus), but referring as a word to all prophets, priests and kings in the Old Testament. They were all regarded as God’s agents and all commissioned by being anointed with the Holy Spirit (a symbol of the Holy Spirit)

Christen – ‘anoint with oil’ – once part of the Baptism ceremony i.e. a commissioning for service as God’s agent. Nothing to do with ‘making Christian’.

Collect – ‘summary’ (Latin) i.e. a brief prayer on a theme. There is a special prayer for each week and special occasions

Communion – ‘sharing’ (Latin). Referring to the solidarity we all have as members of the Christian family.

Confirmation – ‘strengthening’ (Latin) i.e. for service in the Church. The strengthening is by the Holy Spirit, called on by the bishop as he prays for each candidate with hands laid on their head (a symbol of commissioning)

Conversion – Latin for ‘turn’ i.e. turn from one’s old life to love and serve Christ in a new life.

Creed – from the Latin ‘believe’ i.e. what we all believe as Christians. The Creeds were mainly finalised in the fourth century early on, mainly to define the faith against false beliefs

Epiphany – ‘showing’ (Greek) I.e. of Christ to the (non-Jewish) world, as represented by the Wise Men. January 6th

Epistle – ‘letter’ (Latin)

Eucharist – word depicting a Communion service. Greek word meaning ‘I give thanks’ i.e. for Jesus giving us hi life in breads and wine (his body and blood)

Evangelism – from the Greek ‘good news’ i.e. sharing the good news of Jesus’ coming to give us new life

Faith – ‘trust’ and ‘reliance’ upon Jesus. Not an attitude of mind but a way of life.

Fellowship – from the Greek ‘koinonia’ i.e. a sharing of all things together

Grace – from the Latin word ‘favour’, refering to God’s giving us life and many other good things, although we don’t deserve them.

Hell – the rubbish dump outside Jerusalem i.e. a picture of exclusion rather than torment.

Holy – Greek word meaning ‘different’ because belonging to God

Hope – from a Greek word which should be translated ‘expectation’. The Christian hope is what we wait for in heaven.

Hosanna – Hebrew for ‘Save now’.

Hymn – Greek word for a song sung to God.

Incarnation – Latin for ‘ becoming flesh’, refering to Jesus becoming one of us at Christmas.

Inspiration – used of the Bible – God has ‘breathed’ his Spirit into the Bible. It has his power in it

Intercession – from the Latin ‘go between’ i.e. acting as a go-between between the people we’re praying for and God

Jahweh/Yahweh – Old Testament Hebrew word for God and from the ‘continuous’ verb to ‘be’ i.e. ‘I am always’, ‘have been always’, ‘will be always’.

Jesus – Greek version of Joshua (Hebrew’, meaning ‘salvation’

Justification – a legal picture of our being ‘declared not guilty’ by God for our sins since Jesus has taken the penalty for them

Kingdom – i.e. God’s rule. It came with Jesus but is yet to be established. The rule is established as we and others surrender more of our lives to him.

Lent – from an old English word for ‘spring’; forty days before Easter, when we remember Jesus’ struggles in the wilderness; a time for us to draw closer to God through self-discipline

Liturgy – fromt eh Latin ‘work done by the people’ i.e. in the service of God. Now it’s what we do as directed by the service book

Lord – from the Greek word fro God ‘kyrios’. It is used of Father and Jesus in each testament

Minister – from the Latin ‘servant’. All Christians are therefore ministers.

Miracle – The Greek word in the first three gospels means ‘acts of power’ and in John the word is ‘sign’ i.e. it was what the acts of Jesus said about him which was the important thing.

Mission – from the Latin ‘send’ i.e. refers to all that God sends u sout to do for him.

Orthodox – from the Greek for ‘correct teaching’ i.e. Christian truth.

Parable – Greek word meaning ‘comparison’ or ‘example’.

Pastor – Latin word for ‘shepherd’, depicting a leader’s role in caring.

Pentecost – ‘50th day’ (Greek); the Spirit came 50 days after Easter; a Jewish feast 50 days after Passover.

Priest – a corruption of the Greek word for ‘elder’ in the early church (i.e. a leader). Christ is the only priest in the New Testament, but Peter reminds us that we are all to be like him i.e. bringing people to God and vice versa.

Prophecy – ‘speaking out’ what God has to say about present and future.

Redemption – from the Latin ‘buy back’, referring to slaves buying back their freedom or having some rich relation to buy it back for them. Jesus has bought back our freedom when we were ‘slaves to sin’.

Religion – from the Latin ‘bind’ i.e. with overtones of ‘duty’. Christianity is arguable not a religion since it is founded upon a relationship with God through Jesus, rather than on what we are obliged to do to try and win his mercy.

Repent – to ‘turn away from ‘ sin, as well as to feel sorry for what we have said or done (or omitted to say and do)

Resurrection – Latin for ‘rise again’ i.e. to new life. Jesus did that at Easter and we will follow

Righteousness – a state of being without blame before God (legal term)

Sacrament – an outward sign of God’s working or promise to work. So water represents cleaning from sin and new life, and bread and wine represent feeding on Christ’s life. None of these are automatic vehicles of God’s power; that depends on our receptivity in faith.

Saint – from the Latin ‘holy’ i.e. truly referring to all Christians

Salvation – Latin for ‘rescue’, referring to Jesus’ rescue of us from death by dying for us.

Sanctification – the process of being ‘made holy’ (Latin), something never completed in this life, which is done through our allowing God’s Spirit to work in us.

Sin – all that displease God and shuts us off from him. All sin represents a kind of declaration of independence from God’s will for us; it applies to what we omit to do or say as well as what we do, say or think.

Stewardship – our handling of money, possessions, time and talents, as given by God to us to look after and use.

Synoptics – from the Latin ‘seeing together’, as applied to the first three gospels, which can be readily compared.

Testament – from the Latin ‘covenant’, refering to the terms that God made for Man to come into relationship with him. In the Old Testament there were covenants with Abraham and Moses on behalf of Israel, and later with David. In the New Testament there was a new covenant with Jesus, providing the basis for our relationship with God. It is no longer a covenant where we have to obey all God’s commands, which the Old Testament showed we were unable to do. Testament and covenant are the same word.

Tongues – utterances in known or unknown languages through the Holy Spirit, as in Acts 2

Trespass – to ‘pass beyond’ the bounds of God’s will for us in respect of a particular action.

Trinity – from the Latin ‘threeness’ i.e. of God; one God in three persons, just as H2O is water, ice and steam.

Witness – to give evidence for the reality of Christian truth by word and life.

Worship – to give God his ‘worth’ in services, at work and in our homes.