Be sober, be watchful

Those of us who preach and teach and minister to each other need to focus on words more explicitly, intentionally, and caringly as part of the practice of our trade. This is necessary and urgent activism: to resist “newspeak,” to insist on precision and charity, to love the bald statement, the long sentence, the particular example, the extended definition, the specifics of story, and the legacy of language we carry in our Bibles and on the shelf with Shakespeare. We are stewards of treasures that have been put into our keeping. We’re not doing too well with fossil fuels and wetlands. I commend those causes to you as well. But  along with them, conversation itself – the long conversation that is the warp and woof of civil and communal life – is in need of preservation and renewal. 

Peter’s admonition to “be sober, be watchful” applies to this ongoing work. Noticing how things are put, noticing what is being left out or subverted, takes an active habit of mind. But what is our task as “people of the book” if not to cherish the word? The Holy One who became, as T.S. Elliot so beautifully put it, “word within a word, unable to speak a word,” has put power into our hands and on our tongues. It is up to us to use it to good purpose. 

From “Caring for Words In A Culture of Lies” by Marilyn McEntyre – Eerdmans Publishing