Sunday, 23 April 2017
The Power of Words Spoken: Like Bullets or Like Seeds?
Now I was recently asked a question, that I struggled to answer, by an occasional visitor to one the chapels I serve (Dunham Road Unitarian Chapel, Altrincham), after the service. She asked me why I went into the raised pulpit to deliver the sermon. She further added it didn’t seem to fit with what I shared which was more open, inviting and inclusive and not really preaching and looking down on people. I remember thinking she made a good point and it’s not something I do at Queens Road Unitarian Free Church Urmston, they don't have a raised pulpit. I remember coming up with some nonsense about it being historical and her husband saying it was about the primacy of “The Word” in the non-conformist tradition. She wasn’t having any of it and do you know what I agree with her. It does create a barrier and kind of goes against the words I am sharing.
As I was thinking about all this I remembered the the following little tale I recently heard…Like the tales about Nasruddin it spoke to me…
There’s a story about a Unitarian minister’s new car breaking down just after the Sunday service. The next morning, the minister managed to drive the vehicle to his local garage for repairs. “I hope you’ll go easy on the cost,” he told the mechanic. “After all, I’m just a poor preacher.”
“I know,” said the mechanic. “I heard you preach yesterday.”
Now I hope this isn’t true about the worship I create. I know I perhaps don’t speak perfectly. In fact I’m sure sometimes the language I use gets some getting used to but I do hope that what I share with the people I serve touches them and not only speaks to the mind. If I fail to touch their hearts and souls, occasionally at least, then I know I am a poor preacher. I don’t believe that I am, well at least not always.
It matters what we say and it matters how we say it, in the spirit that it is delivered. It is important how we speak. Are words we utter about creation or destruction, separation or connection, is it about authority above or it’s about inclusion? It matters you know it really does.
Now the power of the spoken word is a concept recognised by many cultures, both now and throughout history. It pre-dates the written word. In many ways some of the power has been lost as we have bound up words in books; books written by men at a certain time and place and claimed to be the ultimate authority. Well who gave them that authority? It is claimed that the printing press and to some extent the internet liberated people, but did it really? Well it depends; it did if we give authority to the written word…Well I’ve never really been a believer in taming things, particularly creative things I suspect it is the root of all our human created problems. We are constantly trying to tame and control things, to reduce them to our all too human level. How vain we can be.
Words are powerful they can be either destructive or creative. Perhaps an example of their creative power comes at the beginning of John’s Gospel and the following lines:
'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.'
Now I believe what we say and how we say it really matters, as everything really matters. Others beg to differ. They say that nothing really matters, especially what we say. This is exemplified in the following familiar rhyme.
'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names (words) will never hurt me.'
Now if this is true then words don’t really have power, that they can’t really hurt us. What do you think? Do words have power? I believe that they do, in fact that are they so powerful that they can either create or destroy life. Or do you believe that they really have no power at all? Do you believe that words can never hurt.
Yehuda Berg an author on the Kabbalah a mystical form of Judaism said:
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”
Words are very powerful, what we say and how we say them have power. We affect people and life just as we affect ourselves with our words. So are we speaking creatively or destructively? Or has Proverbs 18 v 12 put it (written words I know) “Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Gary Chapman in his book, “Love as a Way of Life” uses a similar metaphor for words as being either ‘bullets or seeds’. When we use words as bullets or like sword thrusts we are playing a part in the destruction of life, we are building barriers of separation and or exclusion; where as if we speak from wisdom and love we become part of the creative process we are part of the love becoming flesh, we are building bridges of healing and restoration and holding out our hands in an inclusive and embracing way.
Words are powerful, it matters what we say and how we say it, and in what spirit. We hear words and how they are spoken before we can understand them with our minds. We hear them from the moment we are born, perhaps even before we are born in our mother’s womb. Here in these powerless and utterly dependent moments the words we hear and digest have a powerful influence on the people we become. Words are very powerful, the words spoken and the spirit that they are spoken in have the power to create and or to destroy life.
Everything matters, every thought, every feeling, every action and every word spoken. What we say and how we say it is not the only power at work, of course not, but never ever let anyone tell you it does not matter. You have no idea the power that you are involved in with the words you speak. Your very next sentence maybe the beginning of something beautiful in the life of another, it may well play a part in changing or giving life to someone. Or on the other hand it may aid in their destruction.
So choose your words carefully, ensure they are spoken in the spirit of love of creation.
May your words be like seeds that create life and not bullets that destroy life.