By Scott Keith –
(Today, my wife, Joy Keith, has stepped up to proclaim a little Gospel to the readers of The Jagged Word. Enjoy.)
As I was growing up as a Gen-X-er on the South Side of Chicago, my parents used many a classic turn of phrase assumingly trying to teach my brothers and me life lessons. Things like, “If you eat your (insert canned green vegetable of your choice here), you’ll grow hair on your chest.” Or, “Don’t cross your eyes too long or they’ll stay like that forever,” “Don’t speak unless spoken to!” “Children are to be seen and not heard!” “Actions speak louder than words.” So, as the only daughter, I sure as shooting wasn’t going to eat green vegetables, and I didn’t want to marry a guy who did. EWWWW! Recently, as I am a grandmother (who knows better and loves her FRESH green vegetables), I am watching my own kids who are moving out, becoming adults, growing up, and being parents themselves, I’ve been reflecting on some of my life before I left my childhood home.
What on earth were my parents trying to say? Why did they think that saying such odd phrases with passive aggressive tendencies was going to change our behavior? What was half of that supposed to mean? Did they believe that we were not even listening at all? But maybe they were wrong. Maybe these odd phrases said quite a bit, and I was listening.
I may not have heard that I left the fridge open for the thousandth time, and I’m sure they had to yell my name a time or two that I didn’t hear, but I did hear them when they said lots of things. I did have things that I wanted to add to a conversation, and I did have questions that I wanted to be answered by them. I heard them when they talked about instructions about driving safely. I remember my dad distinctly teaching me how to drive at high speeds on the highway. I can hear his voice clear as a bell telling me to gently turn the wheel because the faster the car was going, the easier the car would change lanes and that I should always be aware of my safe spaces and not hang in someone’s blind spot. I remember my mom having “the talk” with me. I remember the things they said. You do too. So, is it the actions or the words that have more impact?
Well, as I reflect on these words of my parents, I think of the words I’m given by my Heavenly Father. He gives us His word. He tells us in the clear written Word. He gives us stories to help us better understand and relate and remember. We hear first-hand accounts of and from people who walked next to the Son of God and witnessed events that have forever changed the world and all of us therein. We can read accounts of good and evil, battles, victories, losses, and gains of lives and whole tribes of people.
Most of all, I can hear from another’s lips the stories of Christ’s death and resurrection for me. I am instructed to forgive others’ sins, and they are forgiven with my words. I am a new person on account of Christ’s words of forgiveness, “It is finished.” I am strengthened by the words along with bread and wine and made new into a family by water and the Word.
Words are life changing. They stick with us and ring in our ears. We remember the words to our favorite songs and hymns. We sing those words from our lips to ask, give thanks, and praise Him. Whether it be a hymn from hundreds of years ago or a song that was written yesterday, we mean things with our words and express our deepest feelings with them as well.
God speaks to us and shows us. He sends His Son to do the actions that we cannot do and bear the punishment that we would not withstand. He dies the death for us and in our place. He daily gives us hope in the waters that washed us in a Baptism. We know that Christ prays for us to His Father. He is this advocate on our behalf, and he intercedes for us.
Actions or words, which speaks louder? I think neither. In fact, I can say that I know the words along with the actions are the best thing, quite frankly. Words with water; words with bread and wine.
So, parents, have conversations with your children. They are listening. Talk about everything with your kids. (Of course, there are appropriate age levels, but then again, if you’re having open conversations, you’ll know where they are.) The world may be in their ear, but your words and the words your Father has given you are the ones that will stick with them. God promises this and that He’s got them in His hand. They are looking, and they are listening. God speaks of Christ in every word of Scripture. You still long to hear those words too. And you also remember them! Some days, you even flee to them. You find comfort, reassurance, and solace there. Most importantly, you find forgiveness. You are forgiven on account of Christ!
Now, you get to speak, but you also get to go and do the actions of serving your neighbor feely because you are, as Dr. Luther said, a “little Christ” to your neighbor. The Family of God where we live for the sake of Christ is a wonderful place to be. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Words with action. Amen.