By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
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Our current sermon series is exploring words. Slowly, deliberately, examining different words, what they mean to us, and how they are affecting us in the moment. And this is quite a moment.
Last week in this blog I described this sermon series as “fun”, and it still can be! And it still is! But given what has happened this past week, it’s important that we recognize how important our words are. Our words are not important. Or they’re monumentally important. Or all of the above.
How many Facebook posts, tweets, articles, news stories, op-eds, podcasts, sky-writing messages, smoke signals, telegrams, etc. have you read about the events of January 6? I’m guessing the amount of words I’ve consumed greatly outstrips the words that I’ve digested. What’s the value of words when there are just so darn many of them? As George RR Martin says in his Song of Ice and Fire series, “Words are wind."
Words may be wind; felt, but insubstantial. But also, words in great number accumulate inside of us and affect who we are and what we do. I’ve read so many words, heard so many words, said so many words; and those words form a picture, form an identity, and crystalize inside of me into something more immutable than individual words can do on their own. Words, in large numbers, become truth. Even lies, repeated often enough, embed themselves as truth.
“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
Let all that you do be done in love. I would add, let all that you say be said in love. Because if what we say is said in love, then our words accumulate to create a better world. But we need to remember that love lies in the truth. Our words cannot be comforting lies told to assuage egos. Our words cannot be lies told to bolster people in power. Our words cannot be lies. Because there is not love in lies.
We need to keep speaking words, speaking words in love, even hard words. There is no better time for words of truth spoken in love. The truth will release us as a people, and the love will seed the ground for whatever comes next. And I don’t know what that is. Unity may still be a distant vision; reconciliation depends on the willingness of the abusers to repent, but to continue in love despite these obstacles will keep our humanity alive.
Our words matter, even if the individual words don’t. We need to speak and speak and speak. We need to be a voice in the chorus; a voice of love, a voice of truth.
What happened in our nation’s capitol was the culmination of lies, spoken to enshrine power, and ultimately lies that led to death and destruction.
We need to do everything in love. Love of neighbor, love of the image of God that dwells in all of our siblings. Love of our enemies. We need to watch our words, knowing that words spoken in hate will only perpetuate hate. But we need to watch our words, knowing that well-meaning lies are not loving.
My challenge for myself this week, and one that I’m passing along to you, is to find what is true and say it in love. Find the courage to say that evil deeds are evil, and that because you love your neighbor you will not stand idly by while evil multiplies.
My challenge for this week is to love other people. It is to make sure that my love doesn’t water down my zeal for justice, but rather amplify that zeal. It is to speak when I would rather stay silent because love doesn’t back down in the face of hatred.
It’s hard, and it will continue to be hard. But we keep this work up in order to make the world look more like the Kingdom of God.
If we can strive to emulate Jesus’ love for the world, then we will find the words we need, even the hard words.
Be good to yourselves this week, and God bless you all,