Tuesday, December 16, 2014

You are the Voice, not the Word

My sermon for this week was based on John 1:6-28.

To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.

If you have ever studied communications at university or in a workshop of some kind, the instructor probably started off with the most basic concept: communication of any kind requires 4 factors.  These four factors are as follows:

1. Sender: any communication requires a sender, a source, someone who wants to convey a message.

2. Message: the sender needs a message, something he or she wishes to convey.

3. Medium: the sender must decide how he or she wishes to convey the message.  Will it be spoken, written, conveyed by gesture or picture?

4. Receiver: for any communication to be successful, someone needs to receive it.

This is pretty basic stuff.  It is probably pretty obvious that any communication that does not have all of these four characteristics will fail.

Without knowing modern theories of communication, John the Baptist clarifies the difference between the message and the medium in today's Gospel passage.  When questioned by the chief priests as to who he claims to be, he says, "I am the Voice of one calling in the wilderness" (italics mine).  Particularly in the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is referred to as the Word, and it is that distinction between John as the voice and Jesus as the word that I find so interesting.

John takes great pains to let people know that he is not the Messiah.  He is not the one they are waiting for.  He is not the word, he is not the message.  He is merely the voice announcing it.

Jesus Christ had a voice, of course.  He taught a number of lessons, he preached a number of sermons, he told a number of parables.  So one could say that he was a medium as well.  But what Christ represented was much deeper than that.  Christ was God's greatest message, and that message was simple:

I love you.  You matter.

Christ did not just speak that message, he lived it.  He breathed it, walked, talked, ate and slept it.  He communicated that message in every word and gesture.

I propose that churches fail, individual Christians fail because they are confused about what position of that communication matrix they occupy.

I think a great number of Christians think they are the receiver, particularly around Christmas as we wait to celebrate once again they coming of God's greatest message into the world.  Most of us have heard and told that story every year for as long as we have been alive.

I have news for you: if you have been a churchgoer all your life, you are no longer the receiver.

If you have been hearing this message your entire life, you are in fact the medium now, just like John the Baptist, and it is time to get your ass out of the pew and do something about it.  You may no longer just sit in a pew every Sunday and hear how God loves you.

Love is an action word.  It may be a noun, but you cannot love someone or something and NOT be moved to act to protect, to nurture.

You and I have heard the message.  Repeatedly.  We know it well.  It has been received.

If we believe the message that you and I matter to God, it necessarily follows that everybody else matters to God, and the reality is that you and I are the voices, are the vessels through which this message is to be conveyed.

As we approach this Christmas season, it is of course gratifying to be in church, to be in a community, to be with family and friends, to eat good food, to drink good drink, but there are people out there who don't have that.  People who have very little reason to believe that God loves them because they have very few examples of God's love.

In other words, they have comparatively few voices conveying God's love to them.

We are those voice.  Go out and speak.

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