Unto Us a Word Is Given

Unto us a Word has been given. Across time and the centuries, the people of God have always looked to the Word of God to inspire them in their faith, to inspire them in their walk, and their life, and their journey. But where do we find the Word of God? Where is the Word of God? The easy answer is, "In here." This is a Bible, right, the Word of God? That's what we see when we turn on the television and we flip through the religious channels. It seems everyone is pounding the Bible and saying, "This is the Word of God. Listen to what I read." Is it that simple?

For a long time growing up in the church, I hoped it was that simple. Then as I went through Sunday School, I started to find out that maybe it's not that simple. Each Sunday School class looked at things a little bit differently. Each time the curriculum changed for us, it seemed that some of the answers changed. When we went to our Bible and we listened to people talk about what the answer was for them, we realized their answer was not our answer. So how do we know that this is the Word of God? Paul, in his letter to Titus, says, 'All Scripture is inspired by God and worthy of teaching.' And with Paul I agree, to a large extent. Scripture is inspired and worthy of teaching. It is what we draw out of the Scripture, it is what we draw out of that Word that helps us to know how to live.

In my notes this morning, in a fit of inspiration, I said, "Where do we find the Word of God?" I have my list. Do we find it in the Torah or in the Talmud, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Bible? Which Bible? There are many English translations of the Bible in print and circulating. Did you know that one of the principal objectives of the Protestant Reformation was to unchain the Bible and to present its truth in current spoken language which could be readily understood by ordinary people? That has led to so many different English translations of the Bible. So if we, as Christians, proclaim, "Well, of course, the Bible is the Word of God for us," which one is the right one when they all read slightly differently? And slight changes in the way things are written completely change the meaning, especially if one is bent on a literal interpretation of the Bible, which is something very difficult to do.

In more recent years, biblical archaeologists have discovered things that were lost and forgotten. There are other books of the Bible that aren't in our Protestant Bible. They are now, but they weren't when I was a child. Have you ever heard of the Apocrypha, the hidden books? The confirmands should say yes because we glanced through some of those unfamiliar books at our first confirmation meeting. What about the Gospel of Thomas or, more recently in the press, the Gospel of Judas? What about lost books of the Bible that have been found, books that were determined as non-authoritative by the early Roman church, books like II, II and III Infancy, or the Gospel of Mary. What about those books? Are those books part of the Word of God? Which one is the Word of God?

That is a difficult question to answer. And when you speak to different groups, even different Christian groups, everyone seems to have a slight variation on which books contain the Word of God. In the leadership of the United Church of Christ, we're pretty open to lots of different books. We still affirm the Bible as our book of choice where we search for the Word of God, but the leadership mostly agrees that Scripture is inspired by God, yet written by human hands and containing human influence. Literary scholars who have long studied the Bible have proven, or at least made a wonderful case, that there has been much editing of the Scriptures, notes added by scribes which later became part of the text, and teachings that were put in by well-meaning priests in the ancient history of the church, stories that may not be factual, but which teach a lesson. Are those the Word of God?

Scientists in the modern day have been inspired by the wisdom of God and have shown that many of the events in biblical history are simply stories and not fact. If that is the case, is our Bible the Word of God? What Word is the faithful Christian to follow? That is the question that will have all Christians continuing to debate beyond our generation today and into the future for many years to come. But I lift to you another possible Word that we may look to that is sufficient and that will keep us faithful.

What is that Word? I'm heading over to a place where we may find the Word of God, or at least an image of where we may find the Word of God as a hint. And I will read to you from one of our Gospels lifting this up to you as a possibility coming from the first chapter of John, '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. What has come into being in him was life. And the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.' Skipping forward, 'And the Word became flesh and lived among us and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. From his fullness, we have all received grace upon grace. The Law indeed was given through Moses. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God, the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart who has made him known.'

So for your consideration, what is the sufficient Word for us to follow? If we proclaim ourselves to be Christians, to be Christ's followers, it should be sufficient for us to look to Jesus Christ, the Word. And what Word do we sense within us? When we meet up front at the baptismal font for our baptism, we ask for the Holy Spirit to fall upon each child or adult who is baptized. In that Spirit, God is writing the very Word in our hearts, similar words as we hear in Jeremiah, 'No longer will they ask people, "Do you know God?" I will be written in their hearts.' In the moment of baptism, in the time that we pray, as we are forgiven and filled with grace, receiving spiritual nourishment from Communion at Christ's table, the Word that has been placed within us comes alive. The Word that is within us gives us new life, a Word coming from God that is within our hearts and gives us peace.

So when we hear people thumping on the Bible and preaching different words from their own understanding and their own perspective, we must ask ourselves, "What word is it from God that is written upon our hearts?" In my heart, that word is amazing 'love.' And each time that word dwells within me, it helps me to become stronger, more hopeful in prayer as I spoke about with the children, remembering that God hears us when we pray, more hopeful for the future of our country or the future of our world, more hopeful that one day Christians will get together and agree at least on one word, the Word made flesh that we all follow, that hopefully, in listening to his words found in the Gospels, we may find inspiration and new life and the will to bring the good news to others. May it be so, and may that Word be what touches us today.

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