God’s Grammar (By Lynne McCarthy)
The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.
How often have we heard and spoken this call-and-response in church services, perhaps at the end of our small group prayers, when praying with the Book of Common Prayer or the Book of Alternative Services?
[An aside: Can you stand a little English grammar? (Is that a groan? Eye-rolling? Bear with me, please!)]
The subjunctive – big word, this. Its function has faded as we reinvent (or ignore) grammar, but we use it without even being aware. It implies, this big subjunctive thing locked in the little word BE, our deepest longings and desires and imaginations. Weirdly, it can also express doubt. How did this sliver of doubt sneak into -- a prayer? Check out the Psalms; look at a few characters in the Gospels!
Depending on our mood (and the subjunctive is a “mood”!) we express doubt, desire, need. In our context, a mutuality lives in this blessing. The one who invokes is in the same place as the ones who reply.
It also implies something desired, demanded, necessary. Isn’t that what the Lord is about? He’s necessary when we are frightened, lonely, weak and yes, doubting; He’s desired as we come to know Him more deeply through prayer, the Word, the witness of others, from those further along in the faith than we. He allows us to ‘demand’, to keep knocking in our need. He fulfils the hidden, unexpressed longings of our hearts. He is beyond our imaginations; don’t we know “His power… can do more than we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20)?
Maybe the subjunctive offers a majesty, a serious awareness, an immensity -- more than our simple everyday grammar allows.
We respond to the blessing from the gamut of emotions He gave us. He hears and assures us that, yes, He is truly and absolutely with us, in Spirit (His), in spirit (ours). His being -- with us! -- is utterly hugely true.
In responding, we in turn bless the one who blessed us: May our wonderful God always be with you, as deeply and truly as you’ve called Him to be in ours.
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