Words are all around us. We read what is written by friends and journalists online. We hear important information spoken everywhere from the doctor’s office to the dinner table. Most of the words around us have little affect on your life, but every now and then someone says something that can grab your focus and make you see the world in a different way.
Language has a powerful way of transforming the way we think. If given the chance, words can also change our lives. That old adage about sticks and stones and broken bones is a myth. Words can hurt, even if you try to defend yourself with a clever schoolyard rhyme. When set in the right cast, bones can heal in a matter of weeks. But the mental scarring of verbal assault can take a lifetime to smooth away.
On the other hand, words of hope and encouragement can heal in ways unimaginable. A child’s self doubt can be soothed when a parent reminds her that she will always be loved. Years ago, I read a report that folks who took time to write down three sentences of gratitude a day were less likely to develop heart disease than those who didn’t take up that practice. On a less scientific scale, I have found in my own life that when I speak positively about myself and others, I notice more of what God is up to in our world.
I don’t mean to suggest that one should distort reality by magnifying the good and ignoring the negatives of life. We should always be honest and truthful. And yet, I have found that the honest truth we speak about the least is the very goodness which is found inside you and all people. We Christians have spent far too much of our history focused on things like Original Sin and our own flaws. That sort of talk can really do a number on a person’s self worth. This is especially true for those who have been marginalized by a church that has used language to diminish folks based on their skin color or gender or sexuality. When language is used to demean, it takes language to lift God's people back up.
In my sermon last Sunday, I challenged folks to give what I called a holy proclamation every day this week. This was in part based on our Gospel reading from the first part of Luke 10, where 70 disciples go into homes announcing Peace and proclaiming that God’s reign is near. The specific phrases you use to speak about God’s peace and love may be a little different than those in Luke's gospel. You may say “God is with you,” or “God loves you no matter what.” You can be like the disciples and simply say “Peace be with you.” Or, for that person in your life filled with guilt, you could remind them that because of Jesus, there is grace enough for them. You get the idea.
Like I did on Sunday, I would like to encourage you to use this language of grace and hope in your own life. Proclaim God’s love, to your family, to yourself, and to anyone who needs to be healed by the Word of God, Jesus Christ. Say them into the mirror if you have to. The reign of God is near, and in it there is no guilt or shame, but only forgiveness and mercy for everyone.
I look forward to hearing from you how such talk has changed your outlook on life.
Pastor Chad McKenna