The Action of Words

“Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

In this short quote from the end of John’s gospel text, Jesus is asking us to become like Christ in the way that we move in this life, and Jesus gives to us the gift of understanding that words are meaningful only when those words are embodied in our lives.  Words, in this sense, have a physicality to them that break the boundaries of the spoken word or of the written word, both of which seem to be locked into a medium of their own – advancing only so far.  The wall, this boundary of physicality, seems to keep the thoughts, the words, the imaginings of humanity bound into a limited sphere in which the word is one thing while action is another.  And then, we encounter Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh.

In the person of Jesus we encounter not just word or just action but the combination of the two into a single entity that is completely divine.  Christ enters into our reality in the Word incarnate and brings with him everything that is God.  Jesus’ entire being is the Divine being that exists outside of our sphere of understanding, yet God is made known within our sphere through the person of Jesus – the divine Word that comes among us and walks along side us.  In Christ, we discover that God’s word is God’s action, and God’s action is God’s Word.  The two things that seem separated by this boundary – word and action – are made a single reality in the person of Jesus.  The second person of the Trinity, then, invites us into that same reality to the extent that we are able to participate in the divine being – to the extent that we are able to match our words to our actions, our faith to our embodiment of it. Continue reading

A Strange New World

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“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” – John 20:25b NRSV

The words of Thomas come up in the lectionary every single year on this, the second Sunday of Easter.  Every year we get the tale of “Doubting Thomas,” and perhaps the most regularly preached sermon as it relates to this particular scripture is a sermon about doubt as intrinsic to having a life of faith.  It is preached countless times – not to fear having doubts in your own faith life but to embrace those moments as moments of calling you deeper into your own life of faith as you walk your journey of discipleship.  While I do not discount the validity of the message, I do question if it is the best way for us to move forward in the contemporary era, and I question it as a way forward because that line of thought assumes a comfortableness with the Easter story – something that I think is, perhaps, deadening to our growth as disciples of Christ.

The interesting thing about the way that Easter is preached in the modern era is that we understand it first as a story of consolation.  We enter into it with a sort of jubilant expectation.  The story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection should be completely startling to us.  It should be a story that, when told, invokes a sense of fear of a certain sort.  It is the sort of fear that happens when our current systems of language, of processing the material world, of being able to understand what is taking place in front of us fail.  The ways that we have, as creatures, to cope with the reality in front of us are short circuited, and we are left speechless because the information is too incredible, too impossible to be true.  The fear that the story might create in us is the same fear of which Paul speaks when he admonishes us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  In other words, the fear will seize us for a moment until we are able to come to the realization that God has taken the ultimate action for the salvation of creation by virtue of the nature of God’s self. Continue reading