Unspoken and Spoken Messages (Bonnie Morton)
Last week we celebrated the arrival of the Magi and the magic of light. Our readings today move us into the beginnings of Jesus ministry. These readings like other readings have very clear messages and sometimes we have to sit with the readings to hear the messages that are not spoken, or written. Then sometimes we pick and choose what we want to hear or take from the readings. We shouldn’t be picking and choosing we need to hear all and live accordingly.
The prophet Isaiah lived during the latter part of the 8th century. Earlier in this Book of Isaiah he warns the citizens that the real danger to people of Judah wasn’t their powerful neighbours but the danger was through the sins of their own nation, their disobedience and lack of trust in God. He also told them of the hardships they would pay for this lapse in faithfulness. Isaiah’s job as the prophet was to deliver not just the good news to the people of Israel, but also the tougher messages people needed to hear when they were swaying away from their faithfulness. The message Isaiah was delivering in this reading was one of good news to a people who had come through some very hard times. The messages within Isaiah are very clear, don’t be afraid, I am with you, God will bring your people back together from the east, west, north and south. The unspoken messages in this passage, although they are implied, are; God loves you, you are forgiven for your sins, disobediences, and mistrust. I use Feasting on the Word commentary as a tool when developing the messages for Sunday service. For this passage today Rick Nutt points out that “our boundaries are not God’s boundaries”, which I think we tend to forget. W Carter Lester states; “What makes us worthy is not our individual achievements or the size of our congregational budgets, but God’s gracious love”. These messages are not voiced or written within this passage but are unspoken messages all the same.
Mr. Lester goes on to point out that the words within “Isaiah 43:1-7 are easier to read and write about than “to truly hear and believe”. I can relate to what he is saying. I’m going to share with you a very personal crisis and spiritual time in my life. I have heard this message many time times over the years, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you”. I have heard it but never had to put it to the test until almost two years ago, when I laid in the hospital, in the midst a 3rd degree heart block. When I was rushed into the hospital with a heart rate of 27 I was petrified. Later that night when my heart rate dropped to 19 and I was drifting in and out of consciousness the message of a “Don’t be afraid, I am with you” came to me, calmed me and comforted me, because this was the first time I really heard and believed it. At that point I was able to comfortably place my life into the hands of our Lord and those of the capable health care providers that surrounded me. Until put to the test these words really were only words to me. In my crisis these words took on real meaning. Even though words were not spoken, the unspoken message was that I was cared for.
In the Gospel of Luke we hear conflicting messages, one clearly spoken and one unspoken. When questioned as to whether or not he was the Messiah they had been waiting for John said no but one greater would come, and that he, John, was not good enough to tie his sandals. Then in the second part of the passage we hear how Jesus waits in line with all the others, those who would be considered sinners, to be baptized. Jesus was baptized by John, the very man who believed he was not good enough to tie his sandals.
The message I got from this written word was that John didn’t think he was worthy enough, that Jesus stood in line with others and waited to be baptized, and after being baptized he prayed and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him. The unspoken messages I got from the Gospel reading today was that John had a job to do in caring for people’s soles before the Messiah would arrive. He was also telling the people to keep the hope because the Messiah is still yet to arrive. Although John thought of himself as unworthy in the end he was worthy enough to baptize Jesus. Jesus action was the unspoken message that spoke loudly about being with others. Although he was the Messiah he didn’t expect preferential treatment, he waited his turn. How many of us know people who hold positions of power and expect to be first in line? Jesus action of praying and the Spirit ascending upon him is the unspoken message that praying is important, and that the Spirit is with us when we pray. The connection between prayer and the Spirit is important for us to hear as Christians and people of faith.
No matter what we read, watch or hear, whether it is the Bible, poems, stories, history, social policy there are clear spoken messages, but also we need to spend time seeking and hearing the unspoken messages. In 2005 Peter Gilmer and I were asked to join community service groups at Social Services. They said they wanted to consult with us, but it was really an information session to put before us the Regulations and Policies of the new Transitional Employment Program. After reading this material we were able to tell them what the unspoken message, or reality, was within this legislation. We identified everything that would go wrong with the program and how it would negatively impact the lives of those who found themselves caught up in this system. This program still negatively impacts people but what you hear is the spoken message of how many people are no longer on welfare, not the unspoken message of how many may have been made destitute and/or homeless by this systemic program. Unspoken messages are equally as important as spoken messages.
I am encouraging us to be intentional in listening for both the spoken and unspoken messages, in all things. More importantly let us hear both the spoken and unspoken messages within the readings today and throughout the Bible. Let us not forget that we are not to fear, God is with us, God loves us and forgives us, we are worthy, just because we have a title or a position of power we are no better no worse and no more entitled to life’s necessities than the next person, so be prepared to stand in line, prayer is important and should be part of our daily lives and as we do that the Spirit will be with us an guide us. May we listen to God, and through Jesus’ example become the people and disciples we are called to be. Let us be faithful peacemakers. With that may All God’s children say Amen.