On the Word
Ever searched for just the right word?
You know what it is,
it’s on the tip of your tongue,
you’ll think of it in a minute,
but you need it right now.
Because the right word can make all the difference,
it can communicate what you’re trying to say
to all those faces around you with quizzical looks
that can’t figure out what you’re getting at.
Words have that power,
that oh-I-get-it-now way
of creating what you want to communicate,
connecting your thought to another’s understanding.
You are finally known, if you are speaking.
Or if you’re listening,
a new world could open for you,
a relationship could expand,
a connection be created.
Communication can be difficult,
you struggle to be heard,
you can work so hard to be understood.
And it can be so worth it.
For Lutherans, the Word is central.
We talk about the Word of God in different ways.
First of all, the Word of God is a person:
Jesus Christ is God’s greatest communication,
God finally finding the right way to get across to us
the gracious love that forgives us and claims us.
The Word of God is also living and active,
convicting us of our brokenness and sin
while creating the new within us.
And the Word of God is just that—words on a page,
the particular pages of a particular book,
Through the words of scripture, we say,
“God’s Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain
Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world.”
In a word, the Word does something to you;
it is not static print on paper;
it is the way the Spirit of God
does to you what it says.
Sometimes a person will come out of worship and tell me,
“You were speaking right to me today; that was exactly what I needed to hear.”
Which is always a mystery to me,
and more often than not,
it happens when I think the sermon actually stunk today.
And maybe it did,
and maybe you walked out of the same service
still arguing inside with whatever was said,
not sure you believe it or want to.
Either way, you know you’re not in control,
and if it means anything or does anything,
it’s the Spirit that does the work.
Odd how that can happen … even in church.
If you can read scripture, or listen to it,
and not find yourself wrestling with it,
you probably didn’t get it.
The Bible can be a hard book to read,
not for the obscure parts you don’t understand,
but for the all too clear parts you do.
But stick with it, and something happens, God happens.
One of the foundational writings of the Lutheran reformation,
the Augsburg Confession,
says that you’ll know the church when you find it
because there the Word of God
is preached and the sacraments rightly administered.
That’s it, that’s the church in a nutshell:
a Word proclaimed with the power to shape you,
Because the Word isn’t something
we do or learn or memorize or follow or apply to our lives
(although it might also be all those things).
The Word is primarily something God does to us.
To read and study and listen to and come to know the scriptures
is to open oneself to an ever-active, God
and whatever God might do to you and for you and in you
an ever-creative God who with a word spoke the world into being,
who has never ceased to be an ever-creative God,
and who is not finished with you yet.