Words to Remember
Rev. Dr. Donna Giver-Johnston
January 14, 2018
How many words do you hear in a day?
I read that the average person during the average day hears about 30,000 words--that’s unique words--which means that repeated words are not counted (so in other words, once you’ve heard the word “and” once, it does not get counted each time you hear it). But if you did count up all the words that a person heard, the total would be closer to 100,000 words each day. That’s a whole lot of words.
--For some, that’s way too many words. As author William Fulkner wrote: “Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.” --For others, that’s not enough words. As poet Emily Dickinson wrote: “I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.” --Whether or not we prefer more or less words, we recognize words have power--for good and for ill. As author Natsuki Takaya wrote: “Even the smallest of words can be the ones to hurt you, or save you.”
Words have power.
Words have the power to break down….Or to build up...
Words have the power to scar us....Or to shape us....
Words have the power to hurt us…Or to heal us…
Words have the power to make war….Or to make peace...
Words have the power to hate…Or to love…
Words have the power to lie…Or to tell the truth…
Some truth takes a lot of words to communicate.
--I bought Brian the book on Ulysses S. Grant by Ron Chernow for Christmas. It has nearly 1000 pages. That’s a lot of words to tell the true story of Grant’s life.
--Some truth can be told in just a few words.
Ernest Hemingway is said to have written a 6-word story that goes like this:
“For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.” Only 6 words, but they tell a powerful story.
--God knew the power of words. And used them sparingly and wisely.
At the very beginning of time, God said just 4 words: “Let there be light” and that started the whole creation...and God saw that it was all good.
Everything from the beginning, God declared will be filled with light and goodness.
And so it was. The heavens and the earth, trees and creatures of the land and of the sea and of the air, and human beings--male and female, in the image of God, all were created and called good.
--But despite all of the words that God spoke to God’s people through the commandments and the angels and the prophets, the people did not listen. They turned away from God and went their own way. God needed another way to communicate with God’s people. And so, God’s Word became flesh and lived among us, full of grace and truth. This Word-become-flesh is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
At the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, we read of John the Baptist who washed people clean of their sins and put them back on the right path with God.
John even baptized Jesus, not that Jesus needed to be cleansed, but that he wanted to share in our humanity in every way. And it also provided the opportunity for God to speak words Jesus and all of us most need to hear.
At that moment, when Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming out of the water, the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit descended like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The heavens opened and Almighty God spoke--just 12 words. But oh, what power these 12 words held.
You are my Son…God declared that Jesus was a man, but not any man. He was also divine and holy. In time, he would do wonders and miracles, and be called Savior. But, no matter what, first and foremost, he was God’s Son. He belonged to God. He had a Father, a Parent, a relationship, an identity, a name.
The Beloved…God uses words of endearment to talk to this son. God reminds Jesus that he will always be close at heart, and will always be dearly loved.
With you I am well pleased...Even before Jesus steps out on his own, before he begins his ministry, whether or not he accomplishes anything, God is already pleased, well pleased. In Jesus, God finds happiness and joy and delight, simply in who he is.
Twelve powerful words spoken by God at Jesus’ baptism.
When we are baptized, we are baptized with Christ, joined to Jesus forever--in this life and in glory. That means that these same words God spoke to Jesus are the same words that are spoken when we are baptized.
But, our baptism was a long time ago, and we don’t even remember the day.
That’s why, once a year, on Baptism of the Lord Sunday, we remember our baptisms.
So that we can remember who we are and whose we are. So that we can hear the words we may have forgotten, words we most need to hear today.
God says to you and to me:
You are my child….From the very beginning and throughout our whole lives, we belong to God. God names us and claims us and promises to always be there for us, no matter what.
The Beloved….God loves us. That’s the essence of our Christian faith. We hear that. Sometimes we believe it. Sometimes we don’t because our sin and shame and doubt get in the way. This word beloved is even stronger than love. By God calling us beloved, God is saying that we are precious, adored, cherished, treasured, prized, highly regarded, admired, esteemed; and not just that we are loved, but that we are much loved.
With you I am well pleased…..We hear a lot of words that critique and judge and hurt. God uses words of praise That remind us that God sees us for who we are, and through God’s eyes, we are enough. We are more than enough. We are precious and honored and a blessing. God rejoices to have a child like us. In the words of God in the Shack, “I am especially fond of you.”
Little Women author Louisa May Alcott says it like this: “I like good strong words that mean something.”
You are my child, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. These words from God to us are good strong words that mean something. They have the power to have lasting impact on us for good, if we let them. They are words of power and words of promise. They are words to remember. Always.