Words have great power. Sometimes that power scares us, because words peel back layers we have wrapped around the quiver that is our hearts.
I run into this a lot as a clergy woman, this word aversion. At a former church I served, the word “struggle” sent a shiver of distaste up the spines of some of our leaders. We wanted to use the word in our mission statement. It seemed important that our church claim our participation in the struggle against the death-dealing amnesia that can be our cultural reality. The amnesia would have us to believe that poverty and isms and injustices of the endless stripes that exist are somehow beyond the notice of nice Christian folk. To acknowledge that living the teachings of Jesus is struggle in our world means that we might have to engage, get dirty and roughed up in the living of the gospel message. Well, of course.
The lament goes up often: why is it that the church seems to be increasingly sidelined in our civic life? Why is it that our young-ins seem to scorn an institution that is built upon the teachings of a man who was radically inclusive and insistently justice seeking? How is it that in a time when loneliness and a sense of powerlessness grip our communal being the movement of Jesus is deemed somehow irrelevant?
It’s about words. The words we are afraid will somehow offend or challenge or confront. Words that would stake our claim upon the challenging and cosmos healing vision of Jesus. Words that would call us to claim that systems of oppression, even when they facilitate our middle class comfort, those systems of oppression must be named and claimed as foe.
Why? Because of a word that we hold to: gospel. The good news. The good news to the poor and the outcast and the addicted and the lonely and the frightened and the hopefilled and the beaten and the powerful. The message of relief to those burdened and awakening to those whose hearts have been too long wrapped.
Our hearts need to quiver.