~ Words, Words, Words ~
“YOU SEE WITH WHAT LARGE LETTERS I AM WRITING TO YOU, AS I WRITE WITH MY OWN HAND!”
Dear Members and Friends,
When old Polonius asks Hamlet, “What do you read, my lord?” the dispirited prince looks up from his book just long enough to respond dismissively, “Words, words, words.” By saying it three times, Hamlet lets his audience know just how little faith he puts in words. “Talk is cheap,” some say. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And yet, I’d wager there are more people in your life who have been wounded by words than by stones. Words are given short shrift in popular culture, but they’re powerful. Words can kindle hope or foment despair. They can make a heart sing or weep. Words are the vehicle for peace and war, beauty and horror, truth and falsehood. I, for one, believe that the world has been saved more than once by words. But then again, I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’m the preacher. Shakespeare (who’s pretty hard on words, for a writer) says in another play, “Words are but wind.” If that’s true, then I’m not just wasting my breath; I’m wasting my life!
And yet, such despair is not for me or—I hope—for you, even if your life and work is less caught up than mine in the realm of words. I’ve witnessed words coming to the rescue far too many times to doubt their saving power. I’ve seen the words of the 23rd Psalm slow the rapid heart rate and relax the panicked breathing of a woman on her deathbed. I’ve seen the words of the Lord’s Prayer change the atmosphere in a room from tense to trusting. Words have power. Many churches in the Reformation tradition, like ours, as well as many mosques, are sparse and plain, nearly unadorned because the poetry of the sacred text supplies all the beauty needed for worship. And it’s true that when the Spirit brushes across those ancient words, applying them to our hearts and imaginations, holding them up to our lives, making of them the very living Word of God, well, there are few things lovelier.
The Apostle Paul also devoted his life to the power of words. Near the end of the Letter to the Galatians, Paul must have been so excited by the truths that he was dictating to his secretary that he grabbed the quill from the man’s hand and started writing the words out himself. “See with what big letters I am writing to you, as I write in my own hand.” Writing in big letters was the equivalent to underlining or highlighting. And so, how can you put words to work in healing the wounds of our world? What if you wrote personal letters to the several people dearest to your heart? What if, in that letter, you put your words to the task of expressing one memory of that person that you hold dear; one hope that you have for him or her, and one fear that you have for her or him? What if, unlike so many in offices of power in our day, you chose your words carefully before sending them out into the world? What if you shared more words of encouragement, words of support, words of faith with those who need them? Of course, words alone are never enough—for when words on a page failed us, God came to us in Christ, the living Word. But for today, let us respect the immense power we hold when we use words.
In Christ’s Peace,
PS: Speaking of the power of words, we need your help! Please look up “Bower Hill Church” on Google and write a positive review about us. This will help to bolster our Internet presence.