“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)
In my parents’ house sits a Grandfather’s clock in the corner of the dining room. It;s one of those clocks that will chime every fifteen minutes through the hour. each time the chime gets longer, so by listening to it you know if you are on the 15 minutes or the 45th minute of the hour. Then on the hour it erupts in a full song on the chime and then it begins tolling the hour.
My grandmother hated that clock. Well, I’m sure she liked the clock, as clocks go. But she hated the virtually constant chiming of the clock. It drove her nuts. She could hear it even in the bedroom where she would stay when she visited. I can understand her discomfort. It would be like living in a real version of Poe’s “The Bells”.
Now the funny thing is we never heard those bells. After the first week or two we began to stop hearing them. Our ears adapted to that sound and so our brains were able to put it in the back of our minds where it wouldn’t distract us. Often My Father would have to go look at the clock and made sure it was still working because we no longer heard the chiming.
That’s how our brains help us deal with distractions. We register new stimuli, but after it’s been introduced to us several times we simply stop registering it, so we can deal with new stimuli. So we stop hearing , or in some cases stop seeing something after we have a sense it a few times.
I thought about that yesterday As I sat in the congregation listening to an incredible sermon by our Associate Minister. We have a beautiful and unique Sanctuary full of reminders and symbols of our Christian faith. When I first came to the church, I was caught up by all of the symbolism. but after a while I stopped seeing them.
But yesterday, because I was sitting in the congregation my view changed a bit . And I noticed again, almost as if it was the first time, to symbols, one on the lectern and one on the pulpit. On the front of the lectern is a carved lamp. On the Pulpit is a sword marked, in Latin as the sword of the Spirit.
These two symbols, light and sword stand as firm reminders how we , as the church, are to treat the Word of God. For Christmas, and I speak of the entire church, those fat and comfortable in the pews, those huddled in persecution reminding their Bible by Candlelight are to see the word of God as Light and as the Sword of the Spirit of God.
Recognizing this might help us get through the contentious aftermath of an election. But it should also help us see and navigate the world better as a people of faith. For those of us who are United Methodists, we harken John Wesley’s words to be a people of one book. But how is that book to inform our lives?
God’s word is indeed a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Psalm 119:105 KJV) The Bible is to be a light to help us understand what is important in life. It guides us in our decisions. The United Methodist church sees the Bible as the prime authority of God in all matters of faith and practice. ALL MATTERS. The Bible is to help us to be able to see clearly the issues that are around us. It is by the word of God we understand what is right and wrong , what is true and what is good. We are not to be guided solely by cultural opinion, or even, gasp, political parties. Far too often we as the church have diluted our witness by allowing culture to guide us instead of what the word of God says. One wonders how we can light the path for the lost when we’ve allowed the light to grow dim even for us? A church, or even a Christian built on the shifting sands of public opinion cannot withstand the storms of life.
But the word of God is also supposed to be a sword. Swords are dangerous. They make us uncomfortable. Things change when you begin to wave a sword around. Yet time and time again is it the exact image used, exactly in the New Testament, when we are talking about the word of God. It is a sword, Hebrews tells us, that is living and active. It’s a sharp two edged sword. It pierces, it cuts us to the narrow and it judges our thoughts and intentions of the heart.
God’s word ought to make you feel uncomfortable. Anytime the light of God illuminates our hearts we will see the sin and darkness within That ought to make us uncomfortable. It should pierce us. While the is much comfort in God’s word there is much that makes us squirm as well. Jesus calls to absolute submission and total faith. The people we are to forgive. The stances we are to take against actual, not perceived injustice. The knowledge that following God can separate us from our friends and loved ones. It can divide us from our families. It can separate us from the way the world sees life.
But following Jesus isn’t supposed to be comfortable. Its not supposed to be easy to be a Christian. it’s never been easy to relay follow Jesus. It’s about taking up a cross. Its about laying down our lives. It’s about standing firm when the world tells us not to because “people don’t believe that any more”.
If we are to be a people of one book, we must read it. We must believe it. And we must allow it again to be the light and the sword of the Spirit. <><
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones