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February 14, 2011
Words Have Power
By Rev. Ted Schroeder
Read as much of John 1 as you have time for.
Ever happened to you? My wife and I were going out somewhere. I was watching the news. “Let’s go,” she said. “Wait. I want to hear the weather.” We both sat down and the weather came on and went off again. When it was over we looked at each other. “What did he say?” “I don’t know. What did he say?”
We are so inundated with words that words become almost meaningless. Yet we know that words have power.
I was not a good student in grade school. I seemed to find looking out the window more interesting than looking at the board. My sister could spell words like incomprehensible and polyphonic. I had trouble remembering whether the word was spelled does or dose. But still, I loved to write. I remember one essay we wrote in fifth grade. We were to write about someone important to us. I wrote about my grandfather. I think I got a “C” on the paper. It was covered with corrections. But on the bottom the teacher had written: “You write very well. You could be a writer.” I suppose it was an offhand comment for her. For me, the words changed my life. Now, even after more than 50 years, I can see those words on the page as if they were written yesterday.
Invariably (check it out) people who achieve in the world can think back to at least one person who said the right word at the right time. And many adults who falter, stumble and struggle through life lack not ability, not intelligence, not opportunity. They simply lack confidence. No one – not a teacher or a mentor or a pastor or a leader – let them know that they were people of worth, that they had something to offer, that they were gifted and a gift.
Words have power. We can do almost miraculous things if we take the time to speak the right word at the right time. And yet we have lost our faith in the power of words.
It is not only our faith in words that has failed, but our faith in the Word. Look at the first words in the Gospel of John. There is the Word in stark reality. That Word has power to expose and to heal, to strike down and build up. Jesus, the Word, is the very power of God. God spoke the Word and the world came into being. Jesus healed with a Word.
In the Old Testament words had power. A blessing placed a perpetual light of hope in the future and a curse became a clinging shroud of gloom. In the New Testament Jesus calls himself the Word and sends His disciples out with the Good Word.
Luther shook the religious world of his day, not only because of his grasp of grace, but also because of his understanding of Word as power. For Luther, it was the Word and the water that made a baptism. He said and we affirm that the Word and bread and wine make the sacrament. Certainly, it is the Word that is the power of God in the heart by which the Holy Spirit works faith and rebirth. For Luther, the Word of God was not just the words of the Bible, but the power of God working miracles through the proclaimed truth of God.
We are a very dwelling place of the Word of God. We dare not lose our sense of Word. We are not just pallid tellers of words about God, we are God’s Word in the world. Our qualification to be a word bearer is irrelevant. Whether we halt, hesitate or consider ourselves unqualified – still, we proclaim the Word of God. Still, we become the way in which the power of God accomplishes what God wills.
The word from the Word for this day, this week: Don’t just “watch your words.” Watch the Word at work in you and through you. That’s the good Word from one Word worder to another.