- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Diana L. Ley at Marvin Memorial United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Md.

What brought us together today, and what holds us together as God's people?
God convenes us on the basis of words. Just words the primary way that our God works. In Genesis, He created the world by His word. "Let there be light." Just by speaking, God created the world.
Once long ago on a starry night, God spoke to Abraham, saying, "Though you and Sarah are very old, I am going to make a great people out of you." Israel is created from the word of God. From a ragtag group of nomads came a great nation that blessed the world.
As the story of Jesus begins, John the Baptist says, "Do not say that I have Abraham as my father, for I tell you, God is able to raise up people from these very stones." God has done it before. From out of nothing, God has created on the basis of words.
What about you and me? We are here this morning for the word of God, not my words as a preacher. God's word called us to be the church, a community of faith, and the word is Jesus calling us to be His disciples today. It is like Genesis all over again.
We have so little to hold the church together, given our variety of backgrounds, perspectives, races and economic classes. The word brings something out of nothing. Some of you have been gracious in sharing with me how the word has affected you. You came one Sunday empty and downhearted, but in the words of hymns, the Scripture and maybe even the sermon your name was called… .
One of you told me how, during a recent sermon on miracles, you weren't paying attention. You could only think about a tough business decision to be made. But then you heard, "We need eyes to see the miracles of God happening before our very eyes." In that moment of crisis, you recognized how God's blessings had helped you start your business in the first place. Suddenly, your eyes were open. You saw the miracle of God's grace in your life. You told me, "My entire demeanor changed." That is the power of the word.
In today's Scripture (Luke 4:14-21), what did Jesus mean when he read from Isaiah, "The spirit of God is upon me?" This past week, that is the question I and my colleagues asked candidates to be ordained in our Baltimore-Washington Conference. "What is it to have the spirit of God upon you, and to preach the word of God?" It means to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, to make God's words flesh.
In today's Old Testament lesson (Nehemiah 8:1-10), the Jews have returned from exile, and in Jerusalem they found an old Torah scroll. When Ezra the priest reads them the law of Moses, the people weep because God has come again to them through the word.
You came here this snowy morning for the refurbishment and substance in God's word. That is how our faith rises. Each Sunday recapitulates the Creation in Genesis. In the reading, singing, preaching and hearing of the word, our faith is reaffirmed.
Let me end with a story from World War II. The Nazis had entered Prague and rounded up all the Jews, and then torched the synagogues. But in one of them they found an old rabbi preparing his sermon. To humiliate him, they made him strip and stand in the pulpit with only his rabbi's cap. And they taunted him. "Say something in Hebrew for us. Preach to us."
The old rabbi paused for a moment, and then said in old Hebrew the words that have time and again reconstituted the people of God: "In the beginning, God created the world, and God said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light and it was good." In that moment, the power shifted from the cruel Nazis to the old rabbi. A new world was being reclaimed for God in that moment, and not even the reign of death could defeat God's word. God will always have the last word.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. R. Clinton Washington at Jerusalem Baptist Church in the District of Columbia.


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