There is something that is invisible to the naked eye, yet found in every part of the world, that has the power to alter the course of our very lives. It can create breathtaking highs and unimaginable joy, or it can inflict scars that never heal and can even cause death. It can be found among the poor and the starving in Ethiopia and Yemen. It can be found in every casino in Las Vegas. It can be found in North Korea, Buckingham Palace, and in the White House. It can be found in the refugee camps of Syria and even in the halls of the Vatican. In fact, it is here before you right now.
It’s not some top secret artificial intelligence or weapon of mass destruction. No, it’s not a drug or some microscopic medical procedure. People who have studied this phenomenon have found that each and everyone of us comes in contact with it on an average of 18,000 times a day. So what exactly is this life-altering occurrence? Words. The power of words can bring death and they can bring life.
This Sunday we begin Holy Week with Passion Sunday and we hear how the Jews threatened Jesus’ life, not because of what he did, but because of what he said; his words. Because he was the “Word of God.” We only have to look as far as the Book of Genesis to see how powerful words are. The creation of the universe happened purely by the spoken Word of God. If that’s too mythical of a story for us, then let’s look at our world today. Let’s look at the words of our politicians and government leaders. Some words can create encouragement and hope, while others can create fear, violence, and racial discrimination. Our schools too are sanctuaries of words, havens that can open and broaden minds and shape life experiences but can also hold words of terror when our children are bullied and traumatized for being different or unique.
Words can look for the positive and words that can focus on the negative. Words that build up or tear down. Words that are life giving and words that bring betrayal and destruction. Whatever our actions or words might have been along the way, our long Lenten journey has now brought us to the very gates of Jerusalem. Like the disciples and followers of Jesus, this weekend we too will sing our words of Hosannas, we will listen to the words of Jesus passion, we will hear the words “this is my body – this is my blood,” we will speak the words “peace be with you.” Words, powerful words. They will be among the other 18,000 words you will utter that day.
While our words hold enormous power for evil and for good, the Word of God is infinitely more powerful to transform our words into life. Ready or not, this coming week we come face to face with our destiny and our words. Will they bring us death or will they bring us eternal life. Are we ready for them to bring us both?