Words…so much more than letters


Just letters?

God is so gracious with His gifts…dropping treasures in your lap when you least expect them, like during a sermon with which you are just not connecting.  We had three readings at church yesterday- Genesis 1John 1, and Hebrews 1.  The readings, of course, came before the sermon, so my mind had plenty of things to think about when I was not drawn in to the pastor’s message on John 1:1-5.  As I relaxed, I started thinking about the readings we had just heard and the lightbulb came on.  Suddenly, I was alert to what was really going on – God had brought me to church, not to hear the sermon, but to hear the readings.  He had brought me there to think about the readings in terms of the writing on words by Frederick Buechner.

In Wishful Thinking, Buechner explains that in Hebrew “dabar” signifies “word” but also “deed”.  I have been mulling this over and journalling about this for a few weeks now…I find it fascinating that words are not just a random collection of letters, they are loaded with meaning and action.  Once spoken (or written), they become part of the creation of a time, a space, a moment in history.  With this understanding, the importance and role of the Word suddenly jumped to another level.  I re-read  Genesis 1, John 1, and Hebrews 1 – passages that I have read tens of times before.  Suddenly, it was if I had never seen them before.  God had opened my eyes, likely by no more than a mere fraction, although it seemed as if the words were under floodlights so bright, that I felt I had to turn away or close my eyes.  (The bolding is mine.)

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. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.                                                                                                  John 1:1-5

If you put the first verses of John and Genesis together, the connection between the Word, the words, and their active roles becomes incredibly clear.   John teaches us that in the beginning was the Word who was God and has been in existence as long as God, and yet we known Jesus to be the Son of God.  This is next to impossible to get our heads around, particularly when we read in John 1, that “All things were made through him..”. Then in Genesis 1, Moses writes that is was God who created the heavens and the earth.  Juxtaposed  with John 1:1, we must assume that God/Jesus/the Word are One, yet separate.  Word, yet so much embodied within that one word.

                           1 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 made that was made.  John 1:1-3
                           1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was                         without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.                                                                              Genesis 1:1-5

The phrases “God said” and  “God called” are used every time something is created in Genesis.  It was the act of speaking, of using words, of naming what God was creating that gave it substance, that gave it meaning, that gave it a role.  Everything is made through the Word.  With no Word or words, “The earth was without form and void..”.  Through the Word, however, “…all things were made..”, “..he created the world”, and “..he upholds the universe by the power of his word.”  Jesus is Creation.  And we, as Christians, filled with His words and life, through the light of the Holy Spirit, are special creations of the Word – “ In him was life,[and the life was the light of men.” 5 John 1:4

While the Creation story uses the words “called” and “said” frequently, when God is bringing Creation into being, when God speaks of Jesus, he refers to Him as “begotten”.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you”?

                                                                                                                          Hebrews 1:1-5

Understanding “begotten” is vital to our understanding of who Jesus is and His relationship to Creation.  As so much is lost in translation, it is very important to look at the original Greek word used for the English “begotten”.   Monogenes is used in two ways in the Bible but both suggest a specific, one-of-a-kind relationship between a father and a son.  When it is used in reference to Jesus,  monogenes (begotten) means “unique in kind”.  If you then see Jesus as being a unique kind of Son,”begotten” suggests a unique Father/ Son type – relationship; a unique creation story.   What makes it unique is that the Son shares His Father’s divinity.  He is “born” of the Father, he is not created.   This, is in contrast to God’s other children who are created, who are God’s by adoption, and share none of his Divinity.  While it is hard to fathom exactly how Jesus came into being, what is clear, is the love between the Father and Son and the interactions between the Father and Son, which model earthly father/son relationships.

Words… they are so much more than letters.  They hold meaning, depth, history, colour, sound, smell, emotion, and relationship.  As Buechner said in Wishful Thinking, “…Words are power, essentially the power of creation.  By my words I both discover and create who I am.  By my words I elicit a word from you.  Through our converse we create each other.”

Feel free to share a word below…and let’s converse…


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