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“Talk is cheap” says the common idiom. And yet talk is what we do. At lunch. Over dinner. Catch up over coffee. When we whisper our prayers. When we try to get the last word in. When we walk the talk. And when we refuse to be silent.
It’s a strange paradox that we as Christians are quick to talk, and yet often silent. “On one hand most Christians today would be quite willing to say that Christianity involves every aspect of life. It makes claims on our time, our money, our work, our relationships and our politics. On the other hand, however, many of these same Christians prefer to live out their faith in only very personal, very private ways. Despite the fact that we know better, many faithful Christians operate as if Christianity and Wall Street, Christianity and politics, or for that matter Christianity and public life generally are separate worlds best held at arm’s length.” – Thomas Long, Testimony, p. 130.
In the book of Esther, the heroine is challenged by her loving uncle to see that she is where she is so that she can act and speak for such a needed moment as that in which she finds herself. She didn’t chose it. She didn’t seek it. She didn’t prepare it. And God asks her to use it to speak God’s love, promise and potential. We read of such stories, we talk about theology, we speak of our feelings….yet often we don’t talk about God in a public way, in the public arena – not as evangelists screaming a doctrine, but as authentic disciples living life as a testimony to the goodness of God.
Our scriptures today talk about talking. The poet in Psalm 19 sings of the universal voice of creation which praises God. It’s a voice without words, that the poet cannot understand. But by the end of the poem the poet is joining his or her voice to the symphonic doxology of nature. How does he go from incomprehension to collaboration?
In John 10, speaks poetically about his vocation. It follows an early passage about spiritual blindness, a challenge to those who cannot see what is right before their eyes: Jesus as the agent of God in the world. Jesus compares those that follow him, whom belong to his community, to sheep in the care of a good shepherd. How do the sheep recognize the voice of the shepherd? And how do we know the voice of Jesus? French Philosopher Michel Foucault thought and wrote significantly about power, truth and knowledge. In his work he asserts that power shapes what knowledge is for others, so that others are constrained to obey a power. He saw them as interlinked and as subjectively used throughout history to oppress, control and limit other peoples. Is that how Jesus is talking in John 10? Is that how you see and/or experience Christian faith? Why? Why not?
Questions for going deeper:
“If I have achieved anything in life, it is because I have not been embarrassed to talk about God.” – Dorothy Day
“The words with which we praise God shape the world in which we shall live.” – Walter Brueggemann
“Religious beliefs prepare a kind of landscape of images, an illusory milieu favorable to every hallucination and every delirium.”
Michel Foucault, Madness & Civilization
I think we know god by what Jesus did, and how people reacted to his acts, not really just what he said. Jesus’s words were always being contested, it was his actions that made people uneasy, or that motivated people to act as disciples (“follow me,” not just write about me, or admire me.)