Monday, October 21, 2013

Scrabbling in the dirt


But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29

Once again we heard Jay wax eloquently about the power of words, The Verb. And he is very persuasive with his images and stories and statistics and piercing questions. And we all left the service glorifying God for His great gift.

But the end of the story is not the words.

It is the person of God. And His great power. 

Because I know that those words can lie lifelessly on the paper waiting, impotent. Sitting on dusty shelves or in bottom drawers all over the world. Or worse, they can be gathered up and crumpled together and hurled like a weapon. At the foundering or distressed. You can even text those pelting stones. And If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

Words, words, words
I'm so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don't talk of stars, burning above
If you're in love, show me
Tell me no dreams, filled with desire
If you're on fire, show me
Never do I ever want to hear another word
There isn't one, I haven't heard
Here we are together in what ought to be a dream
Say one more word and I'll scream
Sing me no song, read me no rhyme
Don't waste my time, show me
Please don't implore, beg or beseech
Don't make a speech, show me
                                    -My Fair Lady

And I deal in words all day long. I mean, I read the entire Odyssey Saturday.  And ever so many translator commentaries about Homer combining fixity and flexibility and all of those winged words pouring eloquently off of golden god-like tongues. And I spent all day yesterday, well, almost all day, figuring out how to teach Greek roots and prefixes and suffixes and how to tug teenagers through the process of writing a respectable journey poem complete with keenings and I am going to include a story or two of Scott’s about life in Somalia and trying to learn a language chock full of keenings and making little game boards for charades of palabras de emoción and what is sustainability all about anyways and labeling lots of 3 ounce cups with “human needs” and “agriculture needs” and it’s going to be a busy day today.

Marco and Matteo just returned from Assisi, where they gathered with over 20,000 other young people longing to hear from this new pope, Francis, a burnished and brilliant homily of words that would forever inspire and transform. And it was humiliating. And I tried to clarify terms with Marco, humbling? Because sometimes we don’t speak the same language, but no, he meant humiliating.

Because so often words bring power, in the epic hero sense of power, as in a hero is “not only a warrior and a leader, but also a polished speaker who can address councils of chieftains or elders with eloquence and confidence,” copied straight from my PowerPoint presentation. And there the eager and ready and gifted and educated ready-to-be-set-on-fire Restless Ones waited for the match. We are going to overcome the world. Waiting for a spectacular act of renunciation along the lines of his namesake who stepped out of his robes on this very spot. Waiting for a hero to follow with sword brandished high. And that is not what they heard. Rather it was a quiet call to each of us to renounce our own worldliness and be conformed ever more closely to Christ. Mere words can be empty; rather we are to listen to God in silence, in prayer and in the Sacraments. Not our burnished words, but rather our knees are burnished, from kneeling in prayer and service. So Marco headed back to Lugo and began babysitting a severely handicapped teenager so the family can have one quiet evening a week and harvesting grapes which is really not at all a picturesque affair, but sticky and gooey and slightly rotted and there are lots of flies. And saying no every day to the world and yes to the Unknown.

Humiliating. It is not about me and my gifts and my powers and my words of wisdom and understanding.

I must remember that Jesus’ most convicting sermon was silently scrabbling in the dirt.

And his most powerful words were this: It is finished.

Nothing I can say.  He said it all.