I was recently given the opportunity to prepare for a sermon about “Learning to Love the Word of God” at H2O Church on Sunday, January 28, 2024. I chose to approach the topic from a very personal standpoint that maybe functioned as a sort of self-therapy, or catharsis. But there was way too much material for a single sermon. So, I thought that I would repurpose some of the extraneous information (along with the original content of the sermon) in a series of blog posts, here. The stories are about me and my family, but it’s really not about me. I’m a sinner. I’m actually way worse than I usually dare to admit to myself, or to you guys. But the Good News is that God’s goodness, and God’s grace, and God’s glory are simultaneously way bigger and better and more beautiful than my imagination can possibly conjure up. And God’s Word is how I know this. So: here is Part One of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.'”
When I think of “Loving the Word,” I think of my Dad. Dave.
Some of my earliest and most enduring memories from childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood involve finding my Dad at his desk, with his blue-and-white Greek-English Interlinear Bible on one side of the desk and a spiral-bound notebook full of his chicken-scratch handwriting on the other side of the desk, collecting his notes on what he was learning.
He was a pastor, like I am. He had gone to seminary and taken classes in Hebrew and Greek. And he used those resources to enrich his (and his congregation’s) love of the Word of God, the Bible.
I suppose some of those early-morning translation sessions were work-related: preparation for some sermon he was about to preach. But it wasn’t just utilitarian. He loved the Word of God. It was foundational to his understanding of himself and the world around him.
He loved words, generally, too. He used the word “peripatetic” when most other people would say “walking, or traveling, around.” He said “masticate” when most other people would say “chew.” His skills in crafting clever puns were strong long before it became popular.
So I think his morning study of the New Testament Greek texts of the Bible scratched two itches at the same time: getting into the Word and getting into words.
My Dad taught me to love words, too.
I was a little bit like the proverbial college professor’s baby, from a joke that my Dad used to tell. The baby who spoke his first words one day, while playing with his toy train set. He picked up the tiny locomotive in his tiny hand, made eye contact with his father, and said: “Masticate, masticate…”
In school, my love of words helped me to succeed as a student. When I got to college, though, my friends sometimes teased me about my vocabulary. They called it “Spice.” I’d use a fancy word in casual conversation — like “surreptitious” when most would say “secret” — and one of my friends would look at another friend, grin, and say, “Spice!”
But my Dad didn’t just teach me to love words. He taught me to love the Word. My Dad also gave me my first Bible. He regularly told stories from the Bible, and I also got to hear him preach from the Bible on a regular basis. As a kid, I memorized lots of different verses from the Bible. Believe it or not, the King James Version of the Bible was the most popular, when I was a kid. So I’ve still got some of those 17th Century turns of phrase stuck in my head… Along with newer versions, too.
Still, it was also when I got to college that my own love for the Word of God, the Bible, really started to take off…
[To be continued]