Words, Words, Words...


I enjoy word games… for years my wife, Sally, and I have played "Scrabble" on holiday or late at night, then last year two American friends introduced us to another word game called "Quiddler" that is played using cards… they were with us again at the weekend and introduced us to another one called "Bananagrams" which is like scrabble on speed without a board or points. We also play wordgames online against the clock with friends. Im generally fairly good at word games where I have time to consider how to use my letters and words strategically, but in ones where the clock is ticking, I'm utterly useless… My wife wins the majority of them, as I just can't get the letters down quick enough… I’d love to say she wins the online ones because I can’t type as fast as she can, but whilst that may be true it is not the reason she beats me nearly every time…
But whilst I enjoy word games, words are not just playthings… I enjoy words and wordplay; I love to read, not just for my job, but for pleasure… I love poems and plays, reading and hearing words used well. I enjoy writing… Whether anyone enjoys reading or hearing what I write is a moot point, but I still enjoy it, and I recognize what a privilege it is to be able to read and write… Two generations back, half of my relatives on my father’s side couldn’t even write their own name…
But words are so powerful. They tap into a wellspring of meaning and emotion that is not easily stemmed. There is a story I was told long ago of some nameless tribe (I think it was in Africa) who believed that words are so powerful that they have no name for the knoves that they carry for fear that speaking the word will blunt the edge of their weapon. I think it was the same tribe who reputedly didn't give you their own names until they were certain they could trust you, for similar reasons. I don't know whether either of those stories are true, but they certainly express a truth. That a well written or spoken word can make the difference between healing and harming, hope and despair, life and death, but a careless word can wound deeper than any weapon, and is almost impossible to call back.
The Jewish people have historically been great wordsmiths... perhaps denied by God's commands the ability to create physical representations of how they feel in art for fear of idolatry, they channelled their creative energies into words... songs and poems, stories and psalms. To prevent any fine nuances of meaning getting lost in translation, for much of history a significant number of Jews have refused to let their sacred writings be translated from Hebrew into any other language...
They were also forbidden to abuse or misuse the name of God who created all things by his word of command... So in order to avoid that they never pronounced the sacred name of God, substituting the Hebrew for Lord every time they read God's name in scripture...
Over the past few weeks, as we've been preparing for the 400th Anniversary of the publication of the so-called Authorised or King James Bible, in our Bible Study we've been remembering that one of the greatest privileges we enjoy is the fact that we can read our scriptures our own language. But we've also remembered that the Bible as we have it may include the written word of God, but in Jesus we find the incarnate or living Word of God... no longer an unpronouncable name... But a flesh and blood manifestation of God's creative and redemptive word.
We may love or loathe word games… But if we seek to be followers of God's Word, we need to start putting words into action...


This is an adaptation of my Just a Moment for this morning on Downtown Radio.



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