Preacher: The Rev. Kate Wesch
We are in the midst of a really fun stage with words at my house right now. My daughter has always loved words. When asked to describe her a couple of weeks ago in a school admissions interview, my husband said, “Avery loves to talk. In fact, she does so much of it, she actually talks on the inhale.” It’s true. She enjoys books, singing, making up stories, and is on the cusp of figuring out how to read and write. It’s really fun to watch her in this stage of her creative journey.
Our son, Myles, at 14 months old, understands a lot, communicates quite well with actions and gestures, doing things like smacking his lips and climbing into his high chair when he’s hungry. It’s obvious. He’s communicating. But words are coming more slowly, until the last week at least. Now, all of a sudden, he can say things like: “naptime,” “sock,” “truck,” and “banana” in addition to his tried and true “mama,” “dada,” and all around favorite word “uh-oh!”
How do we, as humans, use words? How do we learn words? We use them to communicate. We use them to express ourselves. We use words to try and explain to other people how we experience the world. The spoken word comes easily to most and yet, I imagine all of us know someone who is non-verbal, autistic, or mute for whatever reason and they must find other ways in which to communicate in a highly verbal world. We use words to impart information.
We use words creatively, as art, riddles, and puns. We put words to music and rhythm.
Google tells me there are roughly 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. However, about 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers each. That’s a lot of sounds and words to be written and spoken.
The other day I had lunch with someone for the first time. We were acquaintances and knew a little bit about one another. In fact, I work closely with this woman’s brother. Our lunch lasted quite a while, at least an hour and a half. Afterwards, she came back by the church offices with me. She was ahead of me and I came walking into the main office about five minutes after her. In those FIVE minutes, this lovely woman and her brother, who I will not name, (Doyt) somehow, had managed to telepathically or verbally communicate about 85% of our entire lunchtime conversation to one another. It was incredible. How did they do that?
In a very short period of time, they exchanged a TON of information using very few words. They have a deep history of relationship. They communicate frequently, and they understand one another. Somehow, communication happens effortlessly between these two and the exchange of information and ideas can occur with fewer words than it might take between two people who are strangers or acquaintances. I find that fascinating.
Often, we use words lightly, but they are powerful. We all know that old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s simply wrong. Words do hurt.
A man in his 70s told me a story the other day of something his mother told him when he was a boy. It was hurtful and it was wrong and she shouldn’t have said it. And he remembers it to this day. Her hurtful words have stayed with him for a lifetime. It doesn’t matter what she said to him, fill in the blank yourself. What has someone said to you that was hurtful? What words have pierced your soul?
Words have tremendous power and in the kingdom of God they stick and they stay. The internet is a good metaphor. Whatever we write or blog or post on the internet becomes a live entity that stays there forever. Our words usually fade away like the dawn because they are unremarkable, but you never know when that one thing will stick in someone’s mind forever because it is inspirational, or hurtful, or helpful.
So what about God’s Word? Remember this? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The Word—the Logos. “Logos” is a Greek word that comes from “logo” and in its simplest form it means: to lay, pick out, gather, or pick up. But, it also means to put words together—in other words, to speak. That’s what we do when we speak, we put words together. That’s what we watch young children learning to do. Logos as an idea can mean a collection of things in the mind and the collection of words by which they are expressed. Logos is the outward form by which the inward thoughts are expressed. Logos can also actually be the inward thought itself. Are you with me? This may be confusing, but let me explain.
In the beginning of all time was this vast collection of things in the mind of God and the manner by which God expressed these things was through the Logos, through the Word, through Jesus.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. God created all that is the light shining in the darkness. Jesus is the Logos, the outward expression of the inward thoughts of God.
But today, we are still celebrating Christmas. It is the Second Sunday of Christmas, the eleventh day of Christmas, and the Prologue of John’s Gospel is another version of the Christmas story. God’s Word, the Logos, made manifest to the world in the person of Jesus is all about the incarnation and this is the true mystery of Christmas. The incarnation of God in flesh in the infant Jesus. That is what we celebrated last week with stockings, presents, family gatherings, and prayer. The divinity of God exploded right in the middle of our very human lives. That is incarnation, in-carne, in flesh, the divine dwelling inside a human body.
C.S. Lewis writes of it as the central miracle of Christianity. He says every other miracle prepares for this, exhibits this, or results from this. This Christmas miracle is the thing that holds it all together, the glue of Christianity. This story of the incarnation is given to us in the gospels, four different accounts written down eventually after years of being passed down in the oral tradition of the time.
Stories, languages, history are all a complex web of words woven together throughout time and space in a way in which our souls are knit together to tell a greater story, a story about Jesus. And in this story, we have a part to play. We have lines to say. So how does your scene go? How is your communication with God? Is it a monologue? A witty repartee? A light back and forth or a halting scene with awkward pauses? Do your conversations with God feel like talking to your best friend who KNOWS you, understands you, and often finishes your sentences? Is it like that brother and sister I talked about earlier, the ones who barely needed to speak in order to exchange a vast amount of information? Or do you sometimes feel like when you’re talking to God you aren’t even speaking the same language? Like you are a screaming red faced toddler because no one understands you and God just doesn’t get it.
Thinking about God Incarnate, God in flesh as the person Jesus is a gloriously powerful thing.
Thinking about God as The Word is so simple, so basic, and yet so utterly complex, it gives us all sorts of room for contemplation and metaphor. If you remember anything from this sermon, I want it to be this. God is the Word, the Logos and how we communicate with God and about God is critically important. Also, the Logos is more than just a Word, it is: this vast collection of things in the mind of God and the manner by which God expressed these things was through the Logos, through the Word, through Jesus. So, when we think about Jesus, we are catching a glimpse of the inner workings of the mind of God. The Logos, the outward expression of the inward thoughts of God.