I don’t remember where I read it, but at some place in my ramblings I’ve encountered the claim that one way of showing people Christ is through the dictionary. And thinking about it in terms of the prelude to John’s Gospel – in the first chapter – it’s not really surprising that this would be the case; because the logos, the Word is what “became flesh and tabernacled for a while among us.”
Words are important. They connect your inner life to the world around you – and it works both ways. Even the thoughts and feelings that you have are given form in the shape of words that you’ve learned. Things come in, and things go out, as words. The things that you hear over and over from outside affect or maybe inform the things that you tell yourself on the inside.
Words give you ways of clarifying things. Even when you have nothing going on inside that is particularly clear, you have words with which you can express that lack of understanding or clarity. Words give you the means whereby you make some sense of yourself and what is out there around you. They eventually give you a basis for thinking, judging, making decisions, and getting along even at the most basic level.
As Lutheran Christians we have a perhaps unique perspective on words. Words are the primary means that God uses to come to us. It is in hearing the Words of scripture preached and taught faithfully that you are shown your sins; that apart from God’s grace and favor you are lost. It is in hearing the Words of scripture and proclaimed among God’s people about the person of Jesus of Nazareth that the Holy Spirit works faith in you; rescuing you and giving you the gift of forgiveness and justification through faith in Christ and His life, death and resurrection.
It is also in the attaching of words to “things” such as water, bread, and wine, that the Holy Spirit comes to you from outside in concrete ways; ways that are both “heady” and “handy” at the same time. These are the ways in which God comes to you – and He becomes the foundation that gives meaning and substance and clarity and purpose to stunning Kansas sunsets, the cry of an infant, and the love of a spouse. It is by the Word that is heard, the Word that washes over you in Baptism, and the Word that is “tasted” at His table that God would come to you and give you life in Him; life in its fullness; life forever.