The Gospel according to John reminds me of the letters wrote by the apostle Paul. These texts have long, switch-back styled, confusing sentences of deep philosophical and theological language. Honestly, It is easy to get lost.
Our Scripture, the Prologue in John, is perhaps the most challenging.
There was the WORD.
The WORD was with God.
The WORD was God.
The WORD created all things.
All was created through the WORD.
Who else is confused? (Raising my own hand).
I am not ashamed to admit it. It is confusing.
Again, it is has though this journey through John is switchbacks on a mountain road causing us to lose track of north and south, east and west.
And yet, this idea of the WORD is important in the church.
We, as individuals, witness the power of words in our own lives. The words we speak to ourselves, others, and into our world influences all that hear it.
Words have power, and yet, 80% of communication is non-verbal.
Again, 80% of our communication has nothing to do with selecting the correct word. This 80% includes our tone, because there is a difference between:
- “Melinda” (regular, conversational),
- “Melinda” (excited), and
- “Melinda” (angry, disppointed, or questioning conduct of).
Trust me, I have heard that often when I was a child and a couple times this last week while in Arizona.
The tone can speak more volume than the words themselves.
THEN, there is body language or the embodiment of our words.
I talk with my hands, which some people would prefer my hands remained at my side and it drives them crazy… but, it is just how I am.
It is claimed that if the person you are speaking with is listening, interested, and engaged, their body language will mirror your own. Thus, if you are curious if one is engaged, cross your arms and wait to see if they cross their arms.
Plus, we are able to discern the difference in body language from a friendly gesture or one intended to intimidate, assert power, or is aggressive.
The idea of our words, tone, and body language is involved in the Scriptural WORD.
The WORD, within the church, has three separate expressions.
First, Martin Luther referred to the entire Scripture, but especially the Gospel accounts, as being the cradle that holds the Christ-child. Isn’t that a beautiful image, the cradle that holds the Christ-child. Our Scriptures is where we, similar to the shepherds and the wise men, meet God face to face. The Scriptures are the written WORD.
But, second, this WORD was present at the dawn of creation and, in fact, creation was formed through this WORD. It is the WORD that left heaven, was born on earth in human flesh and bone as a helpless infant on Christmas, who grew into a man in public ministry, who taught in parables, and who taught through his actions about living into God’s will. In other words, Jesus the Christ was the embodiment of the WORD.
We also know that Jesus the Christ, the embodied WORD, would depart this world. Thankfully, we have the written WORD and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (the advocate) to assist in our discernment of the written WORD in black, and sometimes red, on white pages.
Third, Martin Luther discussed the preached WORD.
Our image is often the ‘sermon’, or that thing everyone sleeps through. It is the image of the preacher, or as I was recently called preacher-ess (laughing from pews)… it is simply preacher, standing in the pulpit on a Sunday. One might envision fire and brimstone, another grace, mercy, and love, but either image is still a man or woman, often in a white robe, and preaching from the pulpit.
BUT, the preached WORD is each time we proclaim Christ.
We, all who are baptized, have entered into a commitment to proclaim Christ in word and deed… and that deed is the 80% non-verbal communication.
In other words, our actions speak louder than our words.
This brings forth a quote from Saint Francis, which a Washington colleague despised.
It is “preach the gospel at all times, use words when necessary”.
The colleague despised the quote because we should be verbally proclaiming Christ. I responded that I do not recall Saint Francis promoting not verbally proclaiming, but if 80% of communication is non-verbal, perhaps 80% of proclaiming Christ should be through our deeds, our lives, and our commitment to the additional baptismal commitments of seeking justice, acting with mercy and compassion, while loving and serving all people… such as Saint Francis was well known to do.
On this Second Sunday in Christmas, we are still celebrating the LIGHT dawning on the world to disperse the shadows of hopelessness, conflict, fear, hate, and evil. It is the LIGHT of hope, peace, joy, and love, which John writes the darkness cannot overcome. It is the LIGHT that is also the WORD. It is the LIGHT and the WORD that throughout the centuries has called the shepherds, the wise men, the disciples, the saints who have gone before, and us to proclaim that WORD and shine that LIGHT of hope, peace, joy, and love into our world through our words but even more so through our deeds.
May every part of our lives reflect that light and proclaim that word. Amen.