The cursor keeps flickering and I’m not sure what to write. I write words. You read them. What happens between us? To a degree very little unless you contact me about what you’ve read (or I see you reading the front page of the bulletin). However my words have begun a conver-sation, maybe opened a world in your imagination, and you decide how much you engage – ‘talk back’ so to speak (mainly in your head) – or enter into the world I have created. I have always found it fascinating that with one word – often an adjective – we make another world. (Think of a sunset at a beach. Picture it. Now when I tell you that the sunset are hues of green, wherever you are is no longer here.) The author and playwright – we ourselves when we tell stories – can create worlds in our imaginations and this is the closest we become to becoming God. For Chris-tians, our God is the one who speaks and it is so – the one who becomes flesh and lives and dies and lives again and now comes to his people in wet words drip-ping with water and also with (and ‘in’ and ‘under’ – remember Confirmation?) bread and wine. Our words do not create as God creates but they are not impotent.
Advertisers knows this. Politicians, spin doctors and anyone who wants to influence us know this. Poets and other creative writers know this. We know this when we want to get a message across. (What is the old adage that the only people who will tell you the truth – that is accurately and honestly – are people who love you or people who are very angry with you?) And we know this ourselves – especial-ly from the ‘receiving end’ where someone’s words can elate us or crush us – and all they’ve done is speak to us.
In our word connected world with social media, we are learning again the power of words. We are becoming conscious of silos – where people only hear what they want to hear. We are having to navigate living together and free speech, humour, and whether, when, and how we can say things others don’t like. (Who determines what is offensive anymore?)
One of the big erosions – failings – it seems to me is that people are no longer held accounta-ble for their words. When we devalue words, we devalue ourselves, and our common life to-gether. I read fairly constantly that there is a rise in insecurity, mental illness, depressive states, and a search for meaning maybe more so among the young but throughout society. I suspect that what people are seeking are words that are true; words that can shape our expe-rience of this world; words that can give our inner selves an identity and purpose.
And that brings me to the person of Jesus of Nazareth whose words both comfort and chal-lenge. He is worth hearing, in my view, not just as a teacher like Plato but because he is more than a teacher because his words are living and can address us personally. That’s what can happen when we hear God’s Word preached, read, sung, and in the intimacy of water, bread and wine. Jesus’ words are gifts to us where he gives himself and declares us precious to him which is why he died and was raised again to new life. He speaks to us so that we might live in this world hearing all the words of our country and our generation and working out how best to understand them through him. Jesus is accountable for his words – that is why we listen to him most of all. GS