Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
14. November 2010
Words matter. If you say, “I love you,” love happens. The words don’t just signify love, they create love and relationships. If you say, “I hate you,” relationships are destroyed and emotions are bruised. Sure, sometimes, these words are said under the breath and half-hearted. But even if you don’t mean it, the words cause pain. The children are taught to say, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” How naive! Words always help or hurt, sometimes worse than any sticks or stones. They aren’t empty speech but are loaded with meaning and intention. Sure, sometimes, you speak without sincerity saying words with little meaning. But, usually, what you say does something. Thus, words matter.
This is why in wisdom the Holy Spirit has delivered to us the will of the Holy Trinity in words. He stirs us the souls of His faithful people with words. He gives His people a language to confess with their lips so that they might believe with their hearts. He puts songs on our tongues and laments in our bellies. Much of our Sabbath is dedicated to hearing these words and praying them back to our Lord.
These words aren’t empty words. They are loaded with meaning. They speak of the Trinity, of His nature, His will, and His promise. They tell us of our nature, our will, and our life. These words the Father speaks into the darkness. Our hearts and minds are dark because we are not God. We do not have His knowledge, His wisdom, or His love. We don’t want them either. Our flesh doesn’t want to hear what God has to say. It doesn’t care for God or for the light of His truth.
No matter for the infinite Creator to remedy. He speaks. Light shines forth from His mouth and illuminates our soul. The windows are cast open and we are awaken. His light recalls in our minds the great deeds of old. The Lord has preserved His people.
He did not cast the people out of the garden without a promise. He spoke a word of promise to Eve. The seed of the woman crushed the wicked Serpent’s head. He spoke a word of promise to Noah and his family. The world has never been destroyed by the flood. The Lord spoke a word of promise to Moses. The sea dried up so that the redeemed could pass over. The Lord spoke a word of promise to the nation in pilgrimage. The chosen people dwell in the promised land.
These words He puts in our mouth. These words are never empty or void. They always do what the say. The Lord is faithful. He does not lie or speak half-truths. He speaks words of judgment upon our heads and we are judged. He heaps His words of mercy upon us and our heads are anointed with everlasting joy. His words matter.
So it is for the Son of God. He is the Word of God from the beginning. All of creation was made through Him. He is the light that rips open the curtains of our darkened souls. He is the light of truth no darkness can overcome. This Word became flesh and dwells among us, full of grace and truth. Christ is no empty Word. He is no half-heartened mumbling of God saying, “I love you.” Christ is the Father’s speaking with complete sincerity. Christ is the Word of promise made flesh. He is the promise to Eve. He is the promise to Noah. He is the promise to Abraham. He is the promise to Moses. He is the word of promise fulfilled. God is not a liar.
When He speaks, the deed is done. The savior comes. Sin is forgiven by His words. The head of wily Serpent is crushed when He speaks. Eternal death is vanquished when He says “It is finished.”
Sometimes we doubt the sufficiency of God’s word and the breath of the Holy Spirit. We doubt that God can work through such simple means. We doubt that God’s words hold the answer to everything needful in our lives. We doubt that the Spirit can guide us into all truth, even through your call and ordained, yet crude and clumsy Moses.
Repent. You don’t need more than Moses. You don’t need more than this young, immature, and inarticulate preacher. Why? Because the power of my speech, the power of the holy liturgy, the power of the singing does not come by our effort, by our emotion, or by our skill. God’s word does what it does without our trying, just as God’s kingdom comes without our prayer. God’s words are powerful and effective because they are of him and work by His Spirit.
Not everyone doubts the effectiveness of our Lord. The woman with the discharge believed that Jesus could heal her. She trusted that a simple touch of his cloak would fix her up. Her faith wasn’t perfect, for that’s not how the Lord works. There is no promise attached to the frill of his garment. He speaks. He enters into the ear and heals. He makes promises with His mouth and keeps them with words. Thus, knowing her desire and her faith, Jesus spoke to the woman and it was done. He says, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matt. 9:22). He says she is well and instantly the woman was made well.Only the Word incarnate can speak and fix, utter words and recreate. Our words do what they say sometimes. Jesus’ words do everything they say every time.
A great commotion had assembled outside the ruler’s house. Flute players and wailers. The crowd grieved loudly. “The girl is dead!” they cried. No bother for Jesus. He has a new Word for death – sleeping. “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping” (Matthew 9:24). Dead people don’t sleep. Dead people are dead. The truth is different for the girl. Death was swallowed up by Jesus. Death had no power over His Word. The light of His voice could not be overcome by the darkness of death. She received an early taste of the Resurrection from the Resurrection and the Life himself. Jesus “went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose” (Matthew 9:25). If death is only sleeping for those in Jesus, then he can say to us on the last day, “awake, awake!”
Words matter. Jesus changes the definition of death. He rewrites the language so that it does something new. Christians who die are sleeping. They don’t pass away or nor did they sprout wings. They aren’t gone nor on permanent vacation. They are asleep with Jesus. Sleeping has its advantages over death. The first being that its not dead. Sleeping people wake up. Dead people don’t, unless they are Jesus.
These are no empty words. These are the Words of Jesus that always do what they say. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he life. And everyone who lives and believes in me, will never die” (John 11:25-26). These aren’t just words of promise. They are declarative words. The declare what will and has happened. They are words that do for you what they promise.
So it is with our Lord’s voice. For miracles to happen, Jesus speaks. A great miracle has happened to us, even today. Jesus sends His Spirit into our ears. The Spirit speaks to us, telling us of Jesus and the Father. These words work in us. We believe what He says and faith is born. This Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens the whole Christian church, keeping us in this faith. He works through words. Words matter.
Consider St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The purpose of hearing God’s words is that we be filled with knowledge of God’s will with wisdom and understanding. St. Paul places all the effectiveness of new living in faith in the words of God. From there, St. Paul boldly tells the church how to act as Christians. Having learned God’s words for you, act like it. Walk in a manner worthy of your calling, bearing good works of faith.
These words of God equip and empower us to live as Christians, growing in wisdom and strengthened in power. The endurance and patience of joy comes from God’s words that do what they say. He claims us as children of light through words and so we are. He says He delivered us from darkness and brought us in to the kingdom and it was done. He tells us we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins and it was done. And when our Lord looks upon us, the children of light, he says, “It is good.”
These words are big words and they do big things. If God looked at us according to our sin, He would say “guilty.” Guilty means death. Guilty means eternal torment in hell. Yet, in His mercy, has a bigger word, a better word for you. He sent His son, the Word Incarnate, to be your substitute, your atoning sacrifice, your propitiation, to remove the penalty of death from your head. Big words but also a big deal. A just God justly punishes. A merciful God is slow to anger and abounding in love. He loves you so much that he put the just punishment upon his Word-Made-Flesh, who suffered and died for you. The word of promise died so that his all-atoning, sacrificial, propitiatory blood was shed for you.
These are not empty words. They are words that do what they say. They still do what they say. We are forgiven. The blood of the lamb has been thrown on us. His Word says we were washed in this blood. He says the words: we have been set free. He says we are clothed in His righteousness. He promises with words and it is done. He says: “I see your sins no more” and it is done. He says: “You are clothed in perfect righteousness” and it is done.
Trust in God’s words. They are big words. They are difficult words. Listen to the words. Your sins are forgiven. Your debt has been paid. You sentence has been pardoned. You are forgiven, holy, and new. The bonds to our mortal foes are destroyed. Eternal death is no more. Fear not, for the Lord is with you. And if you should die, what of it? “The girl is not dead but sleeping” (Matthew 9:24) You will never die but will live eternally. These words are trustworthy and true. They do what they say. Thus, words matter. Amen.