by Matthew A. Rich
Almost two million. That is my best estimate of the number of words I have written for sermons, weddings, funerals, a book, articles, reviews, presentations and Bible studies since my ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament 16-and-a-half years ago. That does not count the myriad of emails I write or respond to every day. And what about texts? Do those count as words?
Some days I speculate I must have said a great deal of important things in those two million words. Then I laugh. For more often I find myself agreeing with the Reverend John Ames, Marilynne Robinson’s protagonist in her novel “Gilead,” as he reflects on boxes and boxes of handwritten sermon manuscripts: “I wrote almost all of it in the deepest love and conviction. Sifting my thoughts and choosing my words. Trying to say what was true.”
Yes, sifting thoughts and choosing words. Trying to say what is true. That is why writing is an essential piece of my life and ministry. I write fundamentally in the hope and expectation that by putting pen to paper I will discover what I am trying to say. With each keystroke on my computer, I pray I will find a way to express — with the deepest love and conviction — what is true.
Perhaps that is why you read as well — to hear a word of truth. Truth is often hard to find in this world. Words surround us and, despite 24-hour news channels and the internet, we still wonder about what is true. Is truth perception or just how you spin it? Is there anything so sure that you can build your life upon it? What do you know so certainly that you want to pass it on to the generations that will follow? Yes, perhaps that is why you read — to discover what is true.
This quest for the truth as we write and read is not a fool’s errand. No, we live with the promise of Jesus Christ himself, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). The Spirit guides us as we read and write to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life: Jesus Christ. The truth we seek is not an “it” that we must discover, but a “whom” who comes to meet us as the Word made flesh.
Almost two million words. Feeble attempts to witness to the gift, the grace, the glory — not because I have new words to say, but because the Father’s Word incarnate lives and moves and dwells among us. I pray that with the Spirit’s help these words we now share as writer and reader will help us to welcome the Truth when he comes.