Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Word and word

The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living. If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it!

Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human.

This was today's offering from the Henri Nouwen Society...and once again, it was spot on for me. I'm one of those who doesn't really know what she thinks until she hears what she says, or at least reads what she has written. Similarly, significant experiences are not really mine to take hold of until I have articulated them to someone I trust; that's why it's important, always, for me to connect with my Spiritual Director before I head home from a silent retreat.

Some of my menfolk, who operate very differently, find this hard to understand...I'll never forget reading Hugger Steward some piece of hugely beautiful spiritual writing, which opened all sorts of amazing windows onto God for me, and hearing the incredulity in his voice
"Words really do it for you, don't they?"
Well yes - they really do.

And I'm more aware each day of the power and weight of words used liturgically.
On the fabulous retreat that he led before our Diaconal ordination, Senior Cleric Whom I Much Admire talked about the "words of power" we would be given and I wondered...It didn't seem possible really - until it was. Again and again I've shared the experience of words changing things radically and against all expectations as I speak them for the community in liturgy.
I'd been in full-time ministry for quite a while before I realised that, at every funeral visit, I always read the likely selection of readings aloud, even if everyone in the room has a Bible on their knee (a pretty rare scenario, but you get the picture)....I wondered why until I reflected on the impact of those words spoken clearly into that context, and their transformative power, again and again.
"Nothing life nor death nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God...."

Words matter....
How they are delivered during worship is surely of the utmost importance, for they are signposts to something far more weighty, treasures that we can hold as hostage for the truths that they point to.


Songbird said...

I've often said I'm a Word Girl, and it is true on so many levels.

Jonathan Hunt said...

Word delivery is something very much devalued and underestimated in worship today.

Diane said...

wow, that is so great!!!!

glad I wandered over here, today.

Mary Beth said...

Love your reflection on this. I read it this morning too, (the Nouwen) and had chills. Fab.

RevDrKate said...

Oh, yes, this is absolutely spot on. Every single word! And I am with you on the whole "words of power" business. There are still days when I am quite sure it cannot be....until it surely is. Well said, Kathryn, well said!

Ivy said...

I love Henri Nouwen's writing and I am with you on words. Peace.

LutheranChik said...

This truth hit home for me this past Sunday when I preached the sermon -- a very occasional thing on my part -- and one of our members began weeping over something I'd said. I also had someone tell me that they appreciated how I was able to apply the Gospel lesson to a situation they were living right now. It was very humbling for me, because I'd come to church that morning pre-critiquing my sermon as not very good...not appreciating, or perhaps even at heart believing, that my spoken words could be conveyances of God's truth and grace for someone listening to them. And yet they were, for these individuals.