I have a gift for redundancy and repetitiveness, and perhaps this is why I have concluded that the most important word in all of theology is the word, “Word.”
See! my redundancy is a gift and a curse.
Why do I believe that the word, “Word” is the most important word in the faith? Because it simply is what it is, and what it is, is everything!
We begin with Genesis 1:1 and 3: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
If we fast forward in God’s Word, to the Gospel of St. John, we read, “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 were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4)
St. John tells us that as the Father willed and the Holy Spirit hovered over the deep, the Word, Jesus Christ, was there. His speaking created. He went forth by the breath and will of the Father and the Spirit to create with them.
With a word, the Word created all things, light and dark, heavens and earth, waters and dry land, plants, fish, birds, reptiles, mammals, you, me, everything. Consider a thing like that. God speaks and what he says happens. And so, the “Dabar Yahweh” – the Word of God – speaks words and therefore acts as what we call the operative word; he breathes life into all creation.
Of course, in our desire to be gods in our own right, we did not listen to what God spoke to us. There was only one thing that we were told not to do, and we went and did it. We twisted God’s Word and ate the forbidden fruit. But God would not leave us alone in the death of our sin. He promised that his Word would come and redeem humanity.
When God’s Word goes forth, amazing things happen, life-giving things. When the Prophets of old spoke God’s words, nations would rise, and nations would crumble.
Life was given to those who had died; dried bones could even take on flesh. In Ezekiel, we read the word of the Lord, “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord’” (Ezek. 37:4-6).
The Word of God is powerful in every way possible. Not only is the Word that which creates, but one that recreates, restores, renews, and revivifies that which is written of for dead. Because our God is not a God of wrath but a God of love, he is compelled to redeem that which he created. The creating Word of God, therefore, came to speak new life into those who had rebelled against him and brought with that rebellion temporal and eternal death.
So it is that with a word, God created all things that with the Word, he recreates, redeems, and revivifies his beloved people, you and me. The Word dwelled among us, the Word suffered our existence, and worse, he who knew no sin became sin so that you could be the righteousness of God. The words of this glad exchange of our sin for his righteousness comes to dead hearts and brings joy and life eternal.
The Word of God is powerful, operative, and does what it says and says what it does.
The power of the Word of God is the power of God himself, for he is always faithful to his Word. From the cross, Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh, spoke you into his kingdom. With a word, “tetelestai” – “it is finished” – your salvation was accomplished.
After rising from the dead, the Word dwelt among us for another forty days before ascending to heaven. But he promised his Apostles that he would be with us always. How is it that Jesus ascended to heaven and yet he is with us? The answer is simple – through the Word in all of its forms.
The Word of God in the Holy Scriptures puts Jesus in our eyes and in our hearts and minds.
The Word of God preached in the church puts the Word of God in our ears, hearts, and minds.
The Word of God attached to the waters of baptism covers and coats us with Jesus.
The Word of God spoken into the bread and wine is the very body and blood of Jesus.
The Word of Absolution spoken over and into us does more than remind us that we are forgiven, but it is truly the forgiveness of God that penetrates our souls.
The Word of God is powerful, operative, and does what it says and says what it does. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
I could go on and on about the majesty of the Word of God, but it is all in all because it is Jesus Christ and his loving will to create, redeem and restore you and me to our rightful place: being in the Word in every way.
As Martin Luther reminds us, “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us; The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.”