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  Ah Wisdom speaks. 

How we wish she would and far more often than she seems to.  It’s more common to hear the fire-y tongue of James’ reading than the wisdom of the Spirit in proverbs and that is too bad.

Whether they are profound or banal, words have power.  Great words like a great piece of music have a way of sticking in your head, and a way of influencing you…great words have a way of changing things…for good or for evil.  It is no mistake that the savior of all is introduced in John’s gospel as the WORD.  Jesus is the first and final word in the comedy and tragedy that is human existence…and never has a word had more power.   That word, the word of God, is woven throughout all of scripture and for those who read and hear that word, it permeates us.  Influences us. Forms us. 

However, the question of how best to spread that Word is a continual debate.     Especially for us Anglicans, for whom the word and act of evangelism is something not entirely comfortable.  We prefer the ‘come and see approach’, the osmosis approach to the Word.  Come to church and take the Eucharist, participate in the liturgy, hear the Scripture and let the Word wash over you.  And I’ll be the first to admit that there is something to that.            

On the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, the National geographic published an article on the influence that translation has made.  The article recorded it’s impact on the English language, as being greater than any other written document in history …     or the present… for that matter.             

The average person may not use the King James version much anymore, but we have received in it a significant heritage.         Through it, the Word has changed the speech of generations, but now the words of that great translation have lost power due to the arcane language that 21st century people fain to comprehend yet fail, and thus dejected and o’er wrought …the multitudes return the sacred tomes to their perpetual seat uncomprehending.  Even for us BCP’ers I bet that will take a minute to sink in.            

Language is powerful, but only if it is comprehensible.  The words we use change from generation to generation, they evolve and grow.  When the Anglican Church was being formed one of the big debates was around language.  Catholics believed that the bible and worship should remain in Latin, which was rarely understood by congregations and sometimes not even the priest! Whereas the reforming churches believed that the bible and worship should be in the language which the congregations spoke.  The King James Bible came out of that debate. 

When COVID closed the church buildings for so long we found ourselves in the midst of debate again.  How do we express, preach, tell the Word of God in a new language?  The option for people to attend church and have the Word wash over them was taken away and there were many responses to that …well, exile.  Through that exile came the age old question…how to sing our songs in a strange land.  How will Wisdom cry out if not in church?  The scripture tells us that in the streets Wisdom cries out.  At the busy corners and the city gates.  

In essence, Wisdom speaks where people gather.  Unfortunately, it is just as true that where people gather so to do many a tongue of fire as James calls them.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing, and it is through language that wisdom or fire is expressed. The language of the people is evolving into an increasingly technological based media.  New words, new expressions, new language is evolving into everyday acceptance. 

And the question the churches were forced to address through COVID was… do we remain true to the spoken and written word or do we start to speak in the new language of the people?  Which is what many churches started doing through COVID, using technology, at first quite badly then with increasing fluency, to ensure that Wisdom would still be crying out at the busy intercessions of FaceBook and YouTube. 

That the perennial question…who do you think I am? Is still and always being asked, but in new ways. It’s an important challenge, and as the church enters this technological age we, as a church, have a responsibility to become part of this evolution of language even beyond the necessity of COVID.  To ensure that the WORD of God, is not deemed irrelevant or archaic and unintelligible like the King James.  Beautiful and traditional though it may be.

There is another challenge as well. For too long the internet has been the mission ground of the mega church and the evangelical, the wider church is representative of the great diversity of humanity and online ministry should represent that.  If you look for churches online it is clear that mainstream protestants, represent the minority and are hard to find.  Anglicans fall in that hard to find online category.   Why is that I wonder?  Are we so uncomfortable with declaring our faith to strangers that we would leave this important mission ground to others? 

Our gospel reading today speaks of the importance of declaring our faith in word and deed amidst a sinful generation.  And a sinful generation we still are, and nowhere is this as clear as online.           

In a world where wisdom cries out “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”  and in the world where untamed tongues spread poison to millions…the church has a unique ministry. To stream, publish, tweet, blog, post and comment the answer to Jesus’ ongoing question ‘who do you say I am?’  and with a distinctly Anglican interpretation. 

Because if Jesus were to ask those online ‘who do people say that I am?’ the answer would be resoundingly negative.  News clips and sound bites of angry, fire-y tongued hateful Christians or prosperity gospel preachers are far more common, than that of the Christ’s call in the gospel today. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. “  

The voice of self sacrifice and love is too often missing.  The Anglican middle road of Tradition, Scripture and Reason is too often missing.  The word of what I hope, believe and pray are the voices of teachers, of wisdom sought diligently, of tradition and scripture tempered with intelligence and reason are too often missing from this new online language.             We have a ministry to reclaim the Word of God in the words of today.  To repeat the majesty and influence that the King James Bible had in the past with words of the internet.   To speak aloud to literally the ends of the earth the words of faith, to read aloud the Holy Scriptures.  We have a ministry to be a place and a means by which a person can be inspired and uplifted by the simple and powerful words of faithful people.  And to use technology as a means to do that, to use the language of the people.            

Words are powerful and embed themselves in your mind…words spoken touch our hearts and inspire us to act, believe and live in ways that reflect them.  We have a ministry to be the voice of the church, the tongue that speaks the WORD of Christ…the blessings of Christ…in a time when online tongues can run untamed and unchecked.             To many people out there who know no different …the tongue of Christianity belongs to churches that tout extremist principles rather than Godly Wisdom.             

But we have a ministry to answer Wisdom’s call, to speak blessings out loud, to pour forth fresh spring water and wash away the brackish pools that cause faith to stagnate and people to turn from a faith that should inspire love in action…but this ministry is unfruitful if spoken in words people don’t understand.            

We have a ministry to speak the Word aloud.  To be a place where Good News is proclaimed…a place where we imitate Peter’s confession of Christ …boldly voicing “You are the Messiah." Rather than earning Christ’s rebuke…as Peter did mere moments later.            

We have a ministry to answer whether the world is reading silently or when the twitter-verse is screaming “who do people say I am?”  because in those moments Christ is asking us “who do you say I am?”            

We have a ministry to let wisdom speak through us and inspire our tongues to speak words of blessing throughout our parishes and the world…in whatever language the people speak.  “The heavens and earth declare your glory…day to day pours forth speech and night to night declares knowledge…. their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” Who do you say I am?             You are the Messiah."  And we will tell the world.