The Word, part 3: The Word in the Church's Witness
Updated: Jan 2
You learn a lot about people by the words they speak. Are their words true? Are they good? Are they effectual – does what they say have real follow-through to completion or fruition? Is there an authority to their words (are they heeded and obeyed, respected and honored)?
All creation heeded and honored God's creative Word, coming forth when called into being, ordering themselves as directed. Earth, sky and seas; sun, moon and stars; sea creatures, birds and beasts – all rendered joyful obedience to their Creator. Mankind alone responded to God's good Word by disbelieving it and turning from it. And given that Man was to serve as the icon of God in the midst of creation, that turning away brought the whole cosmos under the shadow of a chaotic and de-creating darkness.
And so God sent forth the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was and is God, the Word that then became flesh and pitched his tent among us.
The Word of God is a living word; it is active and powerful and discerning. It is not so much a word that we read as a word that reads us, that knows us, that discerns our thoughts from afar, that knows of what we will speak (what will come out of our hearts) before a word is ever on our tongues.
Isaiah tells us that God's word is effectual. It will not go out on mission only to fail and accomplish nothing, but rather it will accomplish that for which it was sent.
Jesus, the Word of God, came on mission. A mission started but not completed. Everything was secured for the mission's success, but it would require an army of little words (living epistles or letters, known and read by all) to complete the mission. Jesus came as the primary witness, the pre-eminent martyr (one who bears witness, even unto death), and his followers were commissioned to be his witnesses, his ambassadors in all the world. As Jesus bore faithful witness about God and Man in the power of the Holy Spirit, so the Church was to bear faithful witness to Jesus by the power of the same Holy Spirit. The Church is engaged in the same mission that Jesus initiated.
But again, the Church primarily witnesses to Jesus. He is the word of witness that we speak. And for that witness to be effective, the word we speak must be credible and consistent with the Word. We are the Body of Christ, the tangible, visible, observable manifestation of Christ on earth. Do we look like him? “By this the world will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another, even the love with which I have loved you.” Do we act like him? “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” Do we speak like him? “Proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor... Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up... Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
And then finally, are we administering the sacraments Christ gave us for the life of the world? Are we making disciples of the nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Are we gathering around the covenant meal, the table of the Lord, to partake of his Body and Blood by faith that we might be strengthened for our pilgrimage here? For Christ is also made manifest in the sacraments.
Go and speak life, speak hope, speak love to the world. Go and speak Jesus.