In recent years, a kind of hipster slang has entered our lexicon centered on the word “Word.” Here’s how it works. When you read or hear something you particularly like or strongly agree with, you say “WORD.” Saying “WORD” is a staccato, shorthand response communicating that what’s already been said has been so completely that nothing else needs to be added. Saying “WORD” or even “WORD UP!” means you’ve heard it, you’ve experienced it, and you get it–whatever the “it” is.
In other word’s it’s a cool way of saying AMEN!
Truth is we throw the word “word” around a lot. We ask people “What’s the good WORD?” We say “Now there’s a WORD of truth.” Humorously if we’re mad at someone, we say that we need to have a WORD of prayer with them.
The biblical passages from this week’s lectionary are from Isaiah and Matthew. Both affirm that that the Word of God is an experience. Being open to the word and listening to the word are both key to that experience. Said another way, the Word of God is not flat and it never returns empty. It has creative power and metaphysical dimension.
Our sacred text tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It tells us that the Word of God became flesh, and that it was God’s word that spoke the world into existence. And in Jesus, the Word was inseparable with true encounter with God.
In the same way we cannot suppress a yawn, we cannot suppress the potential of God’s word! If our hearts are good soil, the WORD will grow in a way that is unique to you. That’s because how you hear it, how it lands on you is particular to you. My particular response to God’s word led to me to become a liberation theologian. A liberation theologian is someone who sees the core purpose of the gospel as being the liberation of God’s people–liberation from anything that oppresses, anything that robs them of the knowledge and experience of God’s extravagant love. How the Word lands on the soil of your heart will be a clue to what makes your heart soar or what gives it pain.
According to the Religious News Service, this summer many Americans are watching in helpless horror as more than 52,000 children fleeing violence stream over our southern border. Many are making a dangerous journey by themselves to escape murder rates and gang violence in Central America, particularly El Salvador and Honduras, that are unparalleled except in countries at war. Did you know that if you live in New York City you have a 1 in 25,000 chance of being murdered? But if you live in Central America you have a 1 in 14 chance.
Rev. Gay Clark Jennings recently wrote, “People of goodwill at the border have offered food, water, shelter and compassionate care to these refugee children while others with hardened hearts have blocked buses carrying them to processing centers, despite the fact that it is not illegal for people to cross the U.S. border and ask for protection under U.S. law.”
How have we forgotten that the Gospel of Matthew recounts the story of King Herod who slaughtered all the babies and toddlers around Bethlehem in a desperate attempt to prevent the reign of Jesus — the child he had been told would become a king. That means that as Christians, we worship a child who fled from the violence in his home country.
Jesus was an immigrant.
The baby Jesus survived Herod’s massacre because his parents took him across a border to a land where he could be safe. Just like parents in Central America are sending their children away, Mary and Joseph took great risks so their son could survive. It’s no different!
How we respond to the world around us is in part determined by how the WORD of God has landed on the soil of our lives. The fate of the world God loves demands that we connect the dots between our faith and our lives. For if we do not, we will be saying that the Word of God is just a book, or maybe just a few verses we memorized for confirmation.
If the WORD is alive, if it does not return empty–if it has landed on good soil, may we respond with holy intention. May our prayer forever be, “Lord let my heart be good soil.” AMEN.