Lenten Meditation: the Word Sustains & Shapes

“Since that day God has been at work toward the meaning of the creation… The kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, stands for a mended creation with people and things – a social, economic, ecological reality. Thus, Jesus’ miracles were not primarily signs of his power but acts of mending the creation, pushing back the frontier of Satan, healing minds and bodies, feeding, even counteracting the devastation of the premature death of the young and needy.”
Kister Stendahl, Meanings

“The nature of water is soft, the nature of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above a stone letting the water drip down, it wears away the stone. It is like that with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard; but if someone hears the word of God often, it will break open his heart to the fear of God.”
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, p. 191.

This evening, we have two qualities or actions of the Word of God instead of one, however how it ‘sustains’ and ‘shapes’ us go hand-in-hand.

There a variety of images that came to mind as I prepared for this evening. One selected is humorous and the other more serious, so we will start with the serious.

While in the final year of Seminary coursework prior to internship, I was also the dorm proctor. One day early in the academic year, a professor had let us “go free” for an hour to read an article and then return ready to discuss it. I was sitting at a local coffee shop, enjoying a coffee, and reading the article when a first year Seminary dorm-mate saw me. He inquired about the article I was reading, which was exploring the different visions of salvation, such as (1) who is saved, (2) how are we saved, and (3) how do we know. Then he asked for my opinion, I gave it to him, and he informed me that I was WRONG. After a few intense moments of discussion, I told him that he would not change my mind and we would have to agree to disagree. His response was to lean over the table between us and start pounding his fist on the table saying “NO! I CANNOT DO THAT”. I replied “I don’t know what to tell you”.

People understand the role of a pastor includes “saving” you, “sustaining” you spiritually, and to correct your misbehavior (sin) transforming each into righteous (Old Testament) law-abiding Christians. Well, I have news for you:

The last time I checked that was NOT within my job description.

The (majority) of my role as pastor is the same vocation that WE ALL have through the waters of baptism: to proclaim the Word, to seek justice, to act with compassion and mercy, to love and to serve. This is my role (job/vocation).

Why do I say this is not my role or responsibility while our topic is how the Word sustains and shapes us? Because it is NOT me, it is the Word.

The Word saves us.
The Word sustains us.
The Word shapes us.

Although I did not include the quote in our presentation, one of my favorite Martin Luther quotes comes from the Table Talks which were notes of informal conversations with students. Luther claimed that all he did was sit around with friends (the Wittenberg Theologians) drinking beer and discussing/writing about the Word of God, while the Holy Spirit worked through it to cause the entire Protestant Reformation (16th century).

It is the WORD that sustains and shapes.

After the above conversation with my dorm-mate, I was on the phone with John (my now ex-husband). I confessed that I am a stubborn person who will share my opinion, but I do not have the same “passion” to beat on a table, being THAT vocal, to covert another to agree with me. He responded with a profound thought that the wind can be loud, it can cause damage, and it can change the landscape some but it ultimately blows over.

Besides, how often do we have a change of mind or heart because someone yelled at us?
It is rare.

John continued the thought that water, on the other hand, is quiet, slow, steady, and consistent and it was water that shaped the Grand Canyon.

It is THAT quiet, slow and steady example of love that sustains and shapes us.
It is the WORD that offers that consistency.
It is that WORD that offers us the example of perfect, pure love.

On Facebook today (National Pi day), I saw a post that read: “Love is like Pi, it is irrational and everlasting”. It is irrational. It is everlasting. It is the WORD.

There is a new show on CBS, it is Living Biblically. Has anyone watched it?

There are several pastors on Facebook reporting that the theology is horrible and it is lacking in humor… personally, I hope people are not turning to a COMEDY for their theology. {So, simmer down people.}

During the most recent episode, the Catholic priest who is advising the main character tells him that if he is serious about living according to biblical standards he must love his neighbors. He says “I can do that, it is about 18 people”.

The priest, shaking his head, says “no, everyone is your neighbor”.

He replies, “WAIT! What?”

Priest says, “everyone is your neighbor”.

He asks, “so who is not my neighbor?”.

Priest replies, “no one”.

He turns to the Rabbi, as though the Rabbi would give a different response. The Rabbi says “I cannot help you. We are all in agreement and it is a biggie.”

Love is the common thread throughout our scriptures.
Love is a powerful force.

Ultimately, it is the love we experience through the Word, written in the scriptures but also the bone and flesh of Jesus the Christ, that sustains us in our journey of faith and it is that same love that softens our hearts, shapes us, and transforms us into the people God has called us to be.

In summary, it is GRACE. And thanks be to God for that. Amen.

Scriptures were Psalm 1: 2-3, Psalm 119: 25, and Psalm 119: 169.
Originally preached on Wednesday March 14, 2018 at Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN)

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