Words Can Actually Do the Heavy Lifting of Setting Free our Imaginations. Amen.

The following is a meditation on James 3:1-18, made by Brian Walsh over at Empire Remixed. For the full text, go here. Walsh is clearly a wordsmith, and we’re all, all the better for it.

We are a community of the word.

We are a community born,
and transformed by word.

Through words spoken and prayed,
recited and sung;
words carefully and lovingly crafted,
words that seek to bless and not curse,
that seek to set free and not bind,
words of love and prophecy,
of lament and wisdom,
words that confront and words that resonate …
through such words we have been born.
And through such words we are nourished.

It all begins with a word,
“Let there be.”
That word becomes flesh in Jesus,
and God gave us birth by that word.

James says that
the word of truth
has been conceived in us,
has given birth,
and we are children of that word.

And so be doers of that word,
live out of that word.

Like the Word who has given us birth,
bear the fruit of the word,
enflesh the word in all that you do.

Speak in a way that is faithful to that word,
and reflects that word.

A word of liberty that sets the captives free,
a healing word that binds up wounds,
a word of blessing and not curse,
a word of life, not death.

James is concerned about how we talk.
He knows that discourse shapes life.

He knows that how you talk about the world,
how you talk about your neighbour,
how you talk about your enemy,
how you talk about those who are different from you,
even how you talk about yourself to yourself,
forms, shapes and legitimates how you live,
for good or ill.

It is said that talk is cheap.
I’m not so sure.
In fact, I think that cheap talk can be very expensive.

Cheap talk will mouth platitudes that will cost you dearly
when you need a real word of truth and comfort.

Cheap talk will revert to a syrupy sentimentality
that cannot sustain you in the midst of real pain and crisis.

Cheap talk will make quick and easy promises
that will evaporate when the going gets tough.

Cheap talk can be very expensive in the long run.

But true speech already knows the cost.
True speech invariably is born in pain.
Such speech knows that truth is never cheap, but always very expensive.
A true word of liberty only emerges out of oppressive captivity.
Words that can heal are always crafted in the face of deep wounding.
Words can bless only when they are wrestled from the grip of curse.
Words bring life only when they have faced death with tear-filled eyes.

It is true that you can talk a lot and do very little.
I’ve seen the tee-shirt: “Less talk, more action.”

And it is true that some of the best things are said
without words at all.
There is more than one way to speak.

And yet, words matter.
Maybe we don’t need “less talk” and “more action”
so much as we need “better talk” that engenders “better action.”
Maybe we need to find richer ways of talking,
deeper ways to speak,
a speech with a deeper wisdom,
a language that gets to the heart of things,
a discourse that breaks some of the rules,
in order to set us free.

That is why we are so grateful to our wordsmiths in this community.

Those who craft our prayers,
choose the words that we will sing,
utter sacramental words over bread and wine,
and have a pastoral word (often surrounded by the silence of listening)
at the right time in the right place.

And so it is that we do not shrug off broken words and broken relationships.
When we pray words of blessing over those who are departing,
those who are about to be ordained to ministry,
those entering into the covenant of marriage,
those reaffirming their faith,
or receiving the waters of baptism,
when we make promises to each other,
when we bear witness to promises of covenant,
we know that these words have power and weight
and we dare to hold each other to our words.

Words that are life-giving are no one’s property.
Such words emerge out of community and are for community.

And so it is that we find ourselves drawn to those who have such words.

Many of you know some of the wordsmiths
who have helped to shape my vocabulary:
Bruce Cockburn
Wendell Berry
Ani Di Franco
Bruce Springsteen

And you also have your own list of wordsmiths.

We are drawn to wordsmiths who give us words
when we don’t have our own.

We are drawn to wordsmiths who employ language to
open up vistas that we have not seen.

We are drawn to wordsmiths who somehow engage the world
with such clarity,
open-eyed honesty,
and hope,
we can see “beyond the range of normal sight,”
we can “rest in the grace of the world,”
we won’t be sold out on any cheap “optimism tonight,”
and we’ll have the imagination “to carry the fire and light the spark”
as we “stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.”

That’s right.
When employed by the likes of
Cockburn, Berry, Di Franco and Springsteen
words can actually do the heavy lifting of setting free our imaginations.

Lord, let it be so.

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