In Your Ears

25 Jan
Luke 4:11ff
We
live in a world of words. Words come at us from every quarter, the radio, tv,
conversations, advertising hoardings and more. We constantly have to make
choices about what words we listen to, what words we respond and how to decide
which words are worth our effort and which are not.
Human
beings are wordy people. We write books, songs, poetry and propaganda. We
believe intrinsically in the power of words. We use words to say I love you, I
hate you , I don’t believe you and what’s for dinner; often without taking a
breath. We pay millions of dollars each year to copy writers, advertising gurus
and spin doctors to find the right words to entice, cajole and bully others
into doing, buying or following what ever is the most expedient for us.
We
use words to labels others, to excuse behaviours to convince others of the
rightness of policies, programs and lies. We use words to designate who is in
and who is out, who is acceptable and who is not and who are the reason for the
situation we find ourselves in.
We
understand that words do more than simply communicate an idea, that words are
in fact the most powerful tool we have at our disposal. Martin Luther King,
John F Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating were great
orators who knew the power of the word to make a case for an idea, an idea that
generated response and action. Powerful men, powerful words.
We
may have once said ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but names (words)
will never hurt me’ but we now know this for the lie it was. Words hurt and
words inflict, encourage, and incite harm beyond imagination.
Governor
Lachlan Macquarie wrote in his Orders to Soldiers in 1816, ‘All Aborigines from
Sydney onwards are to be mace prisoners of war and if they resist they are to
be shot and their bodies hung from trees in the most conspicuous places near
where they fall, so as to strike terror into the hearts of surviving natives.’
The consequences of that statement were felt across the colony up to the late
1800s.
Today
we have refugees who arrive by boat labelled as illegal and placed in offshore
detention (prison) camps for a decade, and in some cases more without recourse
to the legal system, work or appropriate living conditions.
Words
are not neutral and call from us the best and the worst, dependent upon who is
using them, how they are used and what they are used for. Spend a week watching
the commercial tv news and scan the transcript of the words used to introduce
and describe each news story. You will be surprised at what you hear.
In
today’s Gospel, those gathered in the synagogue, the house of meeting, were
surprised by the words they heard, spoken by the living word of God – Jesus.
Jesus was the word God spoke into the world to act out of the mystery of the
Godhead. The idea of Jesus as the word is made clear to us by John in the
prologue to his Gospel – “In the
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He
was in the beginning with God. All things came
into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” Jesus
was the creative word spoken at the beginning of all creation and as spoken
word, was a verb, the word that brings action, doing, into life.
For those who read the Jewish scriptures there
was no separation between the word and action. One was the result of the other.
One called the other into being. Without a word, a saying, a name, nothing
existed or would exist. There is no tree or variety of tree until we give it a
name. There is no individual person until we have a name to call him or her. There
is no emotion until we have a created a name for it.
Luke has Jesus introduce God’s mission plan,
naming it very clearly and laying it baldly before his audience. The idea of
God’s preference for the poor is based heavily on tis text. Yet it is not
simply a statement of what has long been known by his listeners, the text he
uses was one used by Isaiah many centuries before and would have been know by
those listening. They would have nodded agreement and muttered their approval
of the text of the day. They had heard it before as the readings from the
Jewish scriptures were akin to our lectionary, following seasons and festivals
with readings appropriate for each.
What surprised the listeners were the words he
used just before he sat down. “Today
this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Or more literally ‘in your
ears” and therefore in your knowing and acting.
It has been suggested that the text, written in
the past tense, refers to something that has being and is to continue to have
being. In other words, this has happened, it is not wishful thinking it is
real, then, now and eternally. And you, having heard this are obligated to
ensure it occurs. You have heard the word, you are give life to it, bring it
into being, making real the words you have heard.
You and I are obligated to make real now what
has already happened in the eternal scheme of things. What is real in the
spiritual is to be real in the material.
No wonder they asked who he was and imply, how
dare he impose such obligations on us? They began to look for reasons to
sidestep their responsibilities, something Jesus returns to often in his
dialogue with the religious leaders.
We
live in a world where, according to recent Oxfam report, 61 people have between
wealth equal to that of 50% of the world’s population or 3.7billion people. In
2013 there were 10.2 million people in prison with almost half in USA, Russia
and China. In the last major study on homeless there were 100 million people
homeless worldwide. Another study suggests that 35% of women worldwide suffer
some form of domestic violence. Some 168 million children are caught up in
child labour, over half of them in hazardous work.
It appears
we are slow to put the word into action. Yet we are not exempt from the
obligation to do so. As a result of hearing the will of God for the world it is
up to us to make it real, as a nation, a church and individually.
How
do we do this?
  • ·     
    By being conscious of how we use words and
    labels to describe others, are we adding to the violence by the way we speak?
  • ·     
    By critiquing the words we hear used in the
    media, by politicians and those who wish to control our actions and rejecting
    any language designed to coerce, manipulate or appeal to our baser emotions.
  • ·    By being aware of words that appear rational and
    reasonable which are used to incarcerate, marginalise and enslave others such
    as progress, development, economies of scale and more.
  • ·     
    By supporting words that are life giving and
    empowering such as rights, opportunities and respect for the dignity and life
    of each of God’s created words (creation) in the world.

These
are broad suggestions. The task we share with Jesus is to discern the practical
ways in which we can make them real. Jesus did it through obedience, dialogue,
respect and experience.

“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in
your hearing.” Go and make it real. Amen.

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