Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Not just words. . .
It is the common complaint of politicians lies and those running for office that they are all talk and no action. Of course, we are seldom happy when they do what they say, either. If you walked down the halls of a local middle or high school, you might learn a few choice new words and be shocked at how our kids talk. Of course, if you asked them about it, they would shrug their shoulders and say they are just words – they don’t really mean anything. Just words.
Just words, alright. Truth stretched to the breaking point, promises made to be broken, vulgarity that substitutes for wisdom... but don’t get excited or upset, they are just words. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Right? Well, maybe until you meet the Word made flesh. He is the Word that spoke creation into existence and His words have the authority to do what they say.
Once again we find Jesus in the synagogue on the Lord’s Day and once again His teaching stands in stark contrast with the teachers and rabbis who went before Him. Even demons recognize that Jesus is not just words. “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” And with a word Jesus silenced the demon and cast him out.
Did you catch how the bystanders responded? “What is this Word?” What is this Word indeed! Jesus speaks with authority and His words have power. Our Lord cannot lie, cannot play with the truth, and cannot stretch the truth. He speaks and His word IS truth. More than mere truth for the sake of truth, His words do what they say. They are performative, efficacious, and deliver what they promise. Scripture is not a word about but a Word that does what it says. That is His authority.
And this power is not something apart from the words but inherent in that word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Word embodied. Scratch any word of Scripture and the blood of Christ will flow. The words of Scripture cradle Jesus and deliver Him to us so that through this word we meet Him, know Him, and believe in Him. Through these words, our Lord acts.
Jesus is the promise of Eden once given to Adam and Eve now embodied in the Virgin by the Holy Spirit. That is what Christmas was about and what Epiphany manifests. Our Lord insists that the test of His claims lies in His Word. If He keeps this Word, it proves that He is who He claims to be. Faith is not an opinion but the conviction that Jesus has fulfilled His promise, delivered on His promise, and done what He said.
Worship is the arena of the Word, heard in the ear, touched in baptismal water, and eaten and drunk in the Holy Eucharist. His Word is His promise and His promise does what His Word says. Never before in the history of the world has there been someone who embodies the promise, grace, and mercy of God. But this is what Jesus does for us and for our salvation.
What kind of Word is this? That is the central crux of the faith! Our Lord cannot talk without something happening – the sick are healed, the dead are raised, the demon cast out, the broken made whole, the sinner forgiven and redeemed, and the dead made alive. God Word is not just words. Scratch the Word of God and you meet Jesus, you touch His blood, and encounter the surprise of grace bigger than every sin and even death.
Worship is our encounter with the living Word of God that does what it says and delivers to us what it signs. The Word read in Scripture, preached from the pulpit, and visible in the Sacraments. This is where and how God works. And God is right now among us through His Word and by His Spirit healing the sick with sin, raising those dead in trespasses, and bestowing upon the mortal the gift of everlasting life.
He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies His Church and you and I as members of that Church by His Spirit working through His Word (sacramental Word, preached Word, and written Word). We are above all things people of this Word. It does not surprise us but it does act for us and for our salvation. How we use it and what we say matters because the Word of God is also in our mouths and on our minds. That is true no less for you than it is for the one who preaches from this pulpit. For the Word of God does not gain its power from its speaker but from the Spirit who works through that word in your mouth just as in mine, within the home, in the neighborhood, on the job, and everywhere you go.
Just words? Nope, not just words but the Living Word, the voice of Christ to us, for us, and through us. The Word of the Lord will not return to Him empty but will accomplish the purpose for which He sends it. Lord, make it so in me and through me. Amen.