Thursday, December 20, 2007
TALK IS CHEAP
Suppose a brother or a sister is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says, 'Good luck to you, keep yourselves warm, and have plenty to eat', but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is in itself a lifeless thing.
Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.
At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression... was God. So the word of God became a human being and lived among us.
Let what you say be simply 'yes' or 'no'; anything more than this comes from evil.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation, and tells Zion 'your God is King'.
(James 2:15-17, NEB; James 1:27, Phillips; John 1:1,14, Phillips; Matthew 5:37, RSV; Isaiah 52:7, JB)
Communication is the first essential ingredient in any relationship: between marriage partners, parents and children, labour and management or in international affairs. Failure to communicate lies at the root of all tension, friction and fear. Mankind's objects -- to achieve peace and reconciliation -are possible only through real human communication. Communication is a bridge fashioned out of words, feelings, gestures, 'body language' and attitudes. Words are the most common vehicles of communication.
Words are amazingly powerful. They can sway crowds for good or ill. They can bring relief, hope, encouragement. The gospel is couched in words -- the greatest words in the world: love, forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, faith. It is the good news about Jesus which has the power to save and dignify human life.
But words, rather than being a vehicle of deep communication, can be a barrier to effective communication. Words are too often substituted for action. They can be offered instead of sacrificial and loving involvement in another's needs. Words can be the world's most devalued currency.
The most powerful temptation to beset the preacher -- or any Christian who wants to communicate the gospel -- is to offer words (however true and orthodox those words may be) instead of offering him/her self. Great Christian words of faith all too easily become mechanical formulas.
Words are a cop-out whenever they are cheapened.
God's means of person-to-person communication extended beyond the words of the law and the prophets, to incarnation -- the Word becoming flesh!
Christians dare not forget that incarnation lies at the heart of the gospel and its communication. There is no escape for the Christian who takes Christ's commission and method seriously.
The whole anguish of religious broadcasting is that we are transmitting a message of love and it is costing us nothing. It costs us nothing to say 'I love you' or 'God loves you' except the breath it takes to speak into a microphone. There is a powerful missionary movement being built up around the use of private satellites and cable television, based mainly in the United States. From these sources, electronic missionaries placed 23,000 miles in the air will preach the gospel to the people of Africa, Asia, and South America. But you see, it costs nothing. In terms of personal cost -- of the real giving of self -- it doesn't cost a thing. Therefore it is a ghost, a distortion of what Christianity is about. Unless I actually stand alongside you -- not as an electronic ghost, but as someone who shares your life, who sweats, fears and hungers, and who risks the same diseases, it is not what Christianity is all about.
Colin Morris, Head of Religious Broadcasting, BBC
The most immutable barrier in the world is between one person's thoughts, and another.
That blackguard who uses the science of speech more to blackmail and swindle than to teach.
Henry Higgins, in Lerner and Lowe's My Fair Lady
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug in the world.
The finest possible communication... (brings another) into a relationship instead of isolating him.
Berthold Brecht, Radio as an apparatus for Communication
In the beginning was the Word. The Word was made Flesh. His word was his bond. He was true to his word... And it is startling to discover that 'the word', whose possession marks man off from the rest of creation, whose employment is the key to his self-knowledge, his relationship with others, and his intellectual, spiritual and material evolution, leads his understanding as far as it can go into the inmost nature of the Trinity. The word plies between heaven and earth, has application to both God and man, and is the sign through which each, in that many-layered expression, gives himself away...
The Word which is Christ is the most translucent window opening onto the inner nature of God. And the words we use in everyday life are in similar fashion windows through which we know each other. The word is not our only means of communication. But since the dawn of language -- and how awesome and mysterious must that dawn have been -- words have been the most universal, most serviceable and most flexible vehicle of human communication.
Words are hard to pin down. Far worse is the damage we human beings inflict upon words by negligence or malice. Words are the coin of mutual trust. When we use them carelessly, twist them out of shape, force them into the service of falsehood and half-truths, we debase that coinage and undermine the trust that keeps society functioning. Christ tells us that he is Truth. It is the Devil who is the father of lies. To be a follower of Christ entails being a servant of the truth; and that service requires that we keep the vehicle of truth, our language, our words, in good repair.
John Harriott, 'Words and the Word', The Tablet
Words and magic were in the beginning one and the same thing, and even today words retain much of their magical power. By words one of us can give to another the greatest happiness or bring about utter despair... Words call forth emotions and are universally the means by which we influence our fellow creatures. Therefore let us not despise the use of words.
In Hebrew the term debar means both 'word' and 'deed'. Thus to say something is to do something. 'I love you.' 'I hate you.' 'I forgive you .' 'I am afraid.' Who knows what such words do, but whatever it is, it can never be undone. Something that lay hidden in the heart is irrevocably released through speech into time, is given substance and tossed like a stone into the pool of history, where the concentric rings lap out endlessly.
Words are power, essentially the power of creation. By my words I both discover and create who I am. By my words I elicit a word from you. Through our conversation we create one another...
God never seems to weary of trying to get himself across. Word after word he tries in search of the right word. When the Creation itself doesn't seem to say it right -- sun, moon, stars, all of it -- he tries flesh and blood... Jesus as the mot juste of God.
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking
Lord, give us grace, and give us the spirit of adventure and sacrifice that will transform each of us from being a mere vehicle of words, to becoming living words of life and hope, a word of God to others.
0 Lord, I know that men and women in past ages have heard your word, for it is so true today; it changed their lives and made them feel part of a great purpose. Grant that I may relate the truth of your word in the past, to life today. I pray also to speak to me anew, new things under new conditions, for the sake of him who was the word made flesh and is the eternal word, revealing meaning and truth, even Jesus Christ, my teacher and my Lord.
George Appleton, Journey for a Soul
Lord, never once did you substitute words for actions. You achieved the perfect balance between what you said and what you did. Of all people who ever lived, you are the only one whose actions were the personification of his words. And whose words were the commentary on his actions. You did not shrink from total involvement with individuals in their need, nor even humanity in its suffering and lostness. And the word you brought was yourself. Offering words, even good words, is so often for us a way to avoid offering ourselves. Help us to follow your paths of costly caring and true communication, because it is in the same way as the Father sent you -- the way of incarnation -- that you send us. It frightens us, but we know it is the only way to touch, heal and save others. Lord give us this grace. Amen.
Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour everyone; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Still Waters, Deep Waters ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 269-273