“W” is for Word (March 15, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

But the word of the Lord came to [Abram], “…No one but your very own issue shall be your heir.” He brought him outside and said, “Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” (Genesis 15:4-5; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “W” is for Word. The word “word” crops up over and over again in the Hebrew Scriptures (commonly called the Old Testament). Take Abram for example. God has promised him offspring of his own, but his wife is well past childbearing years, and she ain’t getting any younger. Feeling desperate, doubtful, defeated, Abram questions God. And at that moment, the “word of the Lord” comes to him and gives Abram the strength to believe that God will fulfill God’s promise.

You may ask: “How can mere words give Abram such strength? What if the promises are empty? Where’s the action to back up the talk?” Okay, so translators do the best they can to render the original languages of the Bible into English, but sometimes a Hebrew word is just too deep and complex for a single English word to suffice. In these cases, the English is like looking at a picture of a cake. The Hebrew is like taking a big bite of the cake itself.

Such is the case with the word “Word.” In Hebrew, the “Word” is not simply speech or writing on a page. The “Word” happens to people. The “Word” is an event, an encounter, an action that calls for further action. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, God spoke creation into being: “God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light.” The Word of the Lord happened, and, as a result, creation came into existence. When the Word of the Lord happens to Abram, he finds the strength to go on trusting God in spite of all the reasons why God’s promise seems preposterous.

The Word can happen to us in this same way. In an encounter with the Word, we are aware that God continues to speak us into existence. And from existence into service. And from service into love. And from love into the transformation that happens when we follow Jesus Christ our Lord. You see, when the Word happens to us, we are changed. We may be changed minutely or momentously, but we are changed. We may be changed slowly or suddenly, but we are changed. We are changed into better lovers of God, better servants of other human beings, and better human beings ourselves.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you speak creation into existence and your Word sustains all life; help me to listen for that Word in my life so that I may be changed. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.

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