The surprising power of words
You may have noticed that words are powerful things. They often do far more than simply describe a situation. Very often, they create a new one.
When a police officer says ‘you’re under arrest’, she isn’t just describing a state of affairs – she’s creating one. Likewise, when a priest declares a couple ‘husband and wife’, a new reality – a marriage – is actually brought into being. If you tell someone you love them (or that you hate them!), the words you use will not only depict the relationship – they will alter it. Our words are powerful.
If our words can be powerful, it is partly because we reflect the one in whose image we were made – one whose words carry great authority and creative potential. God’s word doesn’t simply communicate information. Like ours, it creates a new reality.
For example, the book of Genesis describes the creation of the world as a product of the speech of God. God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God’s word was the creative act at the source of the world’s existence.
So the ‘word of God’ is far more than simply a series of messages God wants us to hear. It is also a creative force. In fact, it is more than a force – it is a person.
In the dramatic opening of John’s gospel, we are told, ‘In the beginning was the Word. And the word was with God. And the word was God.’ John’s opening claim is that Jesus’ life is best understood as the embodiment of God’s eternal, dynamic, creative presence – God’s very Word.
This divine Word was present in eternity past, active in creation and manifested in various ways in the story of Israel. This same Word is alive today in the church. God speaks to us – and to his world – through his Son, and through his speech changes and renews us.
When we understand the Word of God in this way, it’s possible to see that what happens in church is far more significant than we might have imagined. When we hear the Gospel read and proclaimed, or when we study the Bible together, we are doing more than listening to a record of historical events. We are encountering God’s own presence in Jesus. As the word is read and preached, we meet the Word– Jesus, who is God’s ultimate creative and communicative expression.
It is in this encounter with Jesus – who is discovered in the pages of Scripture, but who is also present with us through the Holy Spirit – that we are opened up to the creation of a whole new reality as its transforming, healing and re-creating power reaches into our hearts and minds.