What words are your go to words?

Have you paid attention to the words a teacher uses over and over again in their speech? I am not talking about the verbal mnemonic devices employed, nor the words that function as fillers - like the works "like" or "um". I am talking about the words that the teacher uses time and time again that underpin the teachers overall philosophy?

Richard Rohr's book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi brought to light that Francis of Assisi used some words more than others. According to Rohr, "Those who have analyzed the writings of Francis have noted that he uses the word doing rather than understanding at a ratio of 175 times to five. Heart is used 42 times to one use of mind. Love is used 23 times as opposed to 12 uses of truth. Mercy is used 26 times while intellect is used only one time."


Doing, heart, love and mercy were, perhaps, Francis's go to words that functioned as his philosophical and theological underpinning. I understand that the sheer number of times a word is used does not mean this word is important. For instance, a political candidate may use the name of an opposing party more than they use their own but that does not mean they are secret members of the opposing party. Nonetheless, the frequency of words to the frequency of other words in a given teacher's lexicon is interesting. 

There is this blog that makes word clouds of the different books of the Bible. And when you take a look at that you can begin to see some common themes. The first thing you may notice is how the Bible is often taught as a book about people and how to live - like a Christian version of Hammurabi's code or a moral document. However, the Bible's main protagonist is not humanity but God. This is a collection of books and stories written by people in order to try to put language and understanding around the indescribable and fully unknowable. 

What words are your go to words? What do these words say about where your heart is? If someone were to examine all your writings what would your word frequency be for words like "love", "I", "welcome", "peace", "sorry", "forgiveness", "truth" or "joy"?

Are we willing to be wrong in order to be loving?

You may know the story of what Jesus said in response to charges brought against the woman caught in adultery: "Those who are without sin cast the first stone." It is iconic in so many ways and functions for the Church as a standard for forgiveness, grace, mercy and creativity in the face of difficult situations. 

If you continue to read in John chapter 8, Jesus is engaged in a conversation with the powers that be. Here is the tail end of the conversation:

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

As you may be picking up in the story Jesus is echoing the story of when Abraham did not kill his son. Abraham may have thought that he heard God's voice tell him to go and kill his son, but when the time came to do that he was confronted with the reality that in fact, God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6).

The Pharisees and Scribes that are talking with Jesus are so convinced that they are correct in their understanding of the law and of what should happen to the woman caught in adultery and what should happen to Jesus that in their pursuit of being right they were willing to kill others in the name of "being correct". 

Abraham and the Pharisees were both convinced they were right in their understanding of the desire of God. Abraham was humble enough to recognize that he was wrong. The Pharisees were not.

Are we willing to be wrong in order to be loving? Are we able to admit we are wrong when our convictions lead us to kill, destroy, remove, scapegoat, or condemn another? 

As Ghandi said, "I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill." 

Salvation within the Church community

The following is taken and slightly adapted from a sermon delivered on October 5, 2014 at Saginaw United Methodist Church.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
— Acts 2:42-47

Traditionally we read Acts 2:42-47 and think that the early church was experiencing rapid numeric growth. That is to say that everyday the Lord added new people to the church community.

I am sure the early church grew in numeric "metrics".

But could it also not be the case that all this face to face time with their neighbor and face to face time with God that more people who were already in the community were being saved?

If you did not have to worry about food. If you had a group of people you could count on to be there for you when times were difficult. If you feel the Peace of Christ in your life every waking moment. If you did not have to worry about paying rent when you lost your job because a community would help you out in your time. If you did not need to worry about your medical bills because you had a community that would sell what they owned in order to ensure you were treated. If you had all these things and more, would you not be saved?

Saved from anxiety, worry, fear and isolation.

Sometimes we talk about the world needs to be saved as though we are not the ones we are talking about. We need to save those people out there by getting them in here. And if we did that then the Lord would add to the number of people being saved.

I would argue that all of us need salvation (aka: health and wholeness). All of us need a community. All of us need meaningful relationships. All of us need face to face time in the relationships that nurture healing and wholeness.