Not just with words: sermon for Ipswich Deaf Church

John 1.1-14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

In the beginning was the Word. It’s one of the most famous verses in the Bible. We usually hear it at Christmas. We are hearing it today because this is the Sunday when our church thinks about God’s creation.

But when I realised we would be having it at your service, it set me thinking. Words and speaking and hearing so easily go together. But in fact there’s a lot more to words than that.

Words can be seen, in books and and screens. They can be represented by signs. If we have difficulty hearing, our ability to understand through seeing may be sharper. Many of you for instance can read a person’s lips in a way that I find very difficult. If we have difficulty speaking, we may well become more expert at getting our message across through a sign language or gesture, or the expression on our face. St Francis is suppose to have told his brothers to always preach the good news, using words if needed. So often our actions speak louder than our words.

So communication is much more than words spoken and heard. In fact, learning to communicate in a richer way is a very powerful thing  to do. And one that can have a big impact. I remember when as a student I visited a hospital near Cambridge and was introduced to a young woman. She was lying on a mat, and had no ability to communicate through words or even gestures. But I learnt more from her than anyone else. She showed me that to be human is to live with limitations. I have limitations too, but often hide them and we all play a sort of game that says being really human is about being young, beautiful, fit and rich. Well I’m none of those. And I’m not sure that any of you are either. Not all of them anyway. But you and I can be just as human as the glossy super-model. In fact more so. Because we are real. And the more we have to live on the edge and explore our boundaries, the more real, the more human we can become.

Especially if we respond to the challenges of being on the edge with love. Do you know the old children’s book called The Velveteen Rabbit? A toy rabbit’s greatest wish is to become real. He wonders how it happens. Is it some sort of special mechanism that get’s wound up? Eventually he learns the answer from an old toy horse whose skin is in tatters, because he’s been hugged so much. To be real, the horse says, is to have been loved for a very long time. And, I would add, to have learned from that how to love in return. If we can help each other to love and be loved, we all become more the people God, who never stops loving us, means us to be.

I’ve got one more thought. I’ve just said that God never stops loving us. I hope I never stop loving my wife Jean, and I’m a bit soppy and love telling her that and saying how wonderful she is. But how does God get his message across?

There’s an old Christian idea that can help. It goes like this. Humans, it says, usually speak with words. Words about things. Signs for them. But God doesn’t just speak about things. He made the things. And he speaks to us not through words about things but through the things themselves. Jesus said that if the crowd stopped shouting as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the stones themselves would sing his praise. And in one of our Communion prayers there is a lovely sentence that goes like this: “From the beginning you have created all things and all your works echo the silent music of your praise.”

We can hear God’s word of love to us when we let ourselves become still and listen to the silent music of creation, singing his praise. The heavens, as the psalmist said, are telling the glory of the Lord. And you may be better than me at tuning in to it.

Let’s be quiet now and listen to the silent music of God’s love.