March 8, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew and then to the Greek [read ‘to the rest of the world].” (Romans 1.16)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFLECTION:
In my days of being a classroom instructor in the area of Speech and Business Communications, I emphasized that we speak verbally and non-verbally. Those who say “actions speak louder than words” are not intending to say “actions speak better than words” only louder. Louder does not mean “more clearly,” merely with more force. That is why we are urged as mighty ones of God to “speak the truth in love.” It is from that circle of God’s love which surrounds us and embraces us that we are to “love one another” in our words and with our actions. There needs to be a harmony lest their be a hypocrisy. But, today, I was pressed upon in my reading of the priority of speaking before acting. From my theater experience, as a thespian and a teacher, it was evident that we had to absorb the word before we could act upon it. We had to listen to the word on the page and in our mind’s eye to gain the author’s perspective of the story’s intent as it was revealed in the characters of the story. That was work that could not be limited to a “silent reading.” We, the cast and crew, would sit and read together the script before us. At times, different people would read the same part and thus provide a “fresh hearing,” or look, to what was on the page before it was on the stage. Once we begin to have a feel for the characters (and not playing the characters as if they were one of us but we were one of the characters), then we would begin to reveal them on stage with engagement of the set-in-the-making as well as the cast as they grew into character. In all of that, speaking came before acting so that we could hear and listen more succinctly. Such is the portrayal of “the whole world is a stage and we are players on it,” so said Shakespeare. Paul declared, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the preaching of the Word of God.” (Romans 10.17) It is with your attention now drawn to the “speaking element” of our witness, not to the exclusion of our non-verbal speaking but to highlight the verbal message, that I offer a few “for instances.”
When God set about to create “the heavens and the earth which were devoid of meaning and purpose and thus presented a dark chaotic menagerie,” He SPOKE into it. He SPOKE over it. He SPOKE on it. Literally, “And God SAID….” God gave the COMMAND and without hesitation matter took form in the order of meaning and purpose for which it was intended and, as you will most certainly be able to SAY what came next, “It was GOOD.”
Now, let’s move to the New Testament version of this creative effort on the part of God as it was revealed to John the Apostle, the beloved disciple of Jesus of Nazareth who is the Christ. He related, “In the beginning was the WORD. The WORD was with God, indeed, the WORD was God. Nothing that exists could exist apart from that WORD and that WORD became the light for every person.” There is another important truth here which John made sure the “hearers and listeners” of this WORD which was read to them and expounded upon for them by the Apostles’ teaching. That truth was “The WORD was the light which shines in the darkness of chaos and the darkness could not overcome it [resist it, deny it, avoid it, debate it or simply pass it off.]” In other WORDS, the spoken WORD of God was effective, efficient and overcoming. No wonder Jesus would say to His disciples in the Upper Room when the end was at hand, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not dwell in fear when chaos rises up against you. Trust in Me because I have overcome the world.” In all of Jesus’ actions, we find the procession of words leading Him and us to those actions. Jesus would even lead those who had faith in those dire situations to “confess and profess” the Word of belief even when they added the reality of unbelief. When they spoke the WORD of faith, Jesus affirmed that what they had sought from Him was already made evident by them.
Let us go toward the “end of the story” of the people of God which had begun with the descendants of the Hebrews and proceeded to the descendants of those whose faith was in Christ. The very “Revelation to John” begins with the WORD (and WORDS) that were not only spoken to John but to the Seven Churches in Asia Minor. Each community of faith in Jesus as the Christ and its members were given a WORD of affirmation, then a WORD of confession and finally a WORD of profession. Take that WORD “profession” literally to mean “the work which one is called to do as the substance and provision of his or her life.” Even in the “end time,” the Church and its individual communities and their individual members, had work to do. Starting with the “home church” in Ephesus with the admonition “you have forsaken your first love…take it back up again” and continuing on to the seventh “church” in Laodicea with the admonition “you have become lukewarm in your faith, so speak with conviction one way or another lest I vomit you out of MY MOUTH,” we are impressed upon by the spoken WORD as one which we not only must hear but in listening obey. His WORD as the WORD is definitive and final. It cannot be overcome, denied, debated or put aside.
And in this, we are confronted with the truth in love that we are to “speak” with the words of our mouths the meditations from our hearts. We cannot be silent in our words or in our works. We must speak clearly and plainly what is our first love and greatest truth. In the words of Joshua they sound like this, “As for me and my family, we will serve (that is worship in spirit and in truth with words and actions) the Lord God and Him alone.” (Joshua 24.15) And we must be clear in our WORDS (remembering harmony not hypocrisy) of our mission, purpose and intent. We dare not and cannot operate by assumption that everyone knows, believes or understands what we are about, who we are in faith and whose we are in truth. It must be clear that we are given the ministry of Jesus the Christ who said Himself as the WORD, “I do the will of the One who sent Me and that is ‘to seek and save the lost.’” Mighty ones of God, let there be no doubt in the world as to the identity and intensity of our existence on earth lest we miss our existence in Heaven. We are living in these days which demonstrate the birth pangs of the close of the Age of the Church as never before and thus the birth of the Age of the Messiah in the New Heaven, New Earth and New Jerusalem which shall endure forever. We must not only BE THE WORD but we must surely SPEAK THE WORD and validate that our actions and their intentions are true and righteous altogether. Let this circle be unbroken! Love one another so they will know we are the disciples of Jesus the Christ that they may come to be His disciples, too.
Father, through Your Word we have life and have the opportunity to have it abundantly and eternally. We receive it. We believe. We share it. We become it. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.