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 Five of this series I’m calling “My Relationship with Words and ‘The Word.’”
Over the Winter Break, just like a month ago, my sister Anna had to look for something in my Dad’s email archives. And while she was there, she found drafts of some emails that my Dad composed but never sent. It felt really special to read some of these thoughts, but also really painful. One of the emails, dated September 8, 2020, showed how my Dad felt as he was losing his grasp of words. And the Word.
The role of COVID-19 is being studied from all sides. I want to be able to contribute to the conversation, but “my participation in these epic times” is prohibited when I can’t even remember the most basic words in the discussion, such as the names of the disease we are supposed to be fighting… I’m working hard to regain some of my mental faculties, but when I read Scripture that should be familiar to me, it just doesn’t stick. I am continually reading the same passages over and over in order to at least get the context so that maybe the next time I read it the next time around.”
Gosh. Can you imagine what that’s like?!? I have to hope that my Dad knew his relationship with the Word (both the book and the person) superseded his relationship with words.
These days, my Dad has become less quiet but also less coherent. Sometimes he still makes sense, and we can have real dialogue. But a lot of the time, he’s prone to speaking in this sort of “word salad,” stringing together rather complicated, professorial-level words (like masticate and peripatetic) in long sentences that don’t make a lot of sense to me. So I don’t always know what’s going on inside his head. Still, I find it fascinating — and somehow comforting — to know that even as his Parkinson’s and his Dementia has progressed, my Dad’s fluency for prayer and for singing old hymns has remained much greater than his fluency in everyday conversation.
I don’t know what it’s like to be my Dad right now. But I’ve come to identify with him more and more, as I’ve gotten older. And I feel like my love for the Word of God has gotten deeper and deeper. Hidden in my heart… Deeply determined to keep its decrees to the very end. My identification with my father has gotten to the point that I now start most of my days at my desk, with a Greek New Testament open in front of me, along with a journal that contains my own translations of words, phrases, and verses from the Word of God. It is a labor of love to study, to ingest, to savor the Word of God. I don’t pretend to be an expert in the field of Greek translation or New Testament scholarship. But I sure do love the Word of God.
In that review of my Dad’s old email drafts over Winter Break, my sister also discovered a message addressed to me, shortly after I had sent him my first full translation of one of the (shorter) books of the Bible, seemingly composed on May 20, 2020.
#1 Son, I am proud to see your ASP paraphrases of 1 & 2 Thessalonians. I guess I brag that I played a part of your learning how to do something that I played with but never followed through on. You really did a lot of work in order to make it legitimate. Dare I assume that you hope to do the whole New Testament? If you do, that is obviously a huge undertaking.
I don’t know if I’ll have the opportunity to do my own personal translation of the entire New Testament. But I love the opportunity I’ve been given to learn and love the Word of God.
I’ve been telling you this story about me and my Bibles and my Dad because I want you to be able to visualize it. To feel it. And especially to want it for yourself. Maybe it’s an act of self-therapy. There is certainly an element of catharsis that has benefited me in preparing for this message. 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.
This whole time, I haven’t been talking about myself so much as I’ve been talking about the Word of God.
I love the Word of God so much that I want you to love the Word of God. I want you to pray the kind of prayers that we read in Psalm 119, like David did, and Dave did, and I’m trying to do. I want you to take advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of you. Read the Word of God. Memorize the Word of God. Let the Word of God shape you. Prioritize your life and make decisions based upon the Word of God. Don’t wait. Do it now. This is my prayer for you.