The man named John “was not the light” (Jn 1:8). Neither was he The Word. Only the eternal Son of God can claim to be The Word, the Word who became flesh in Jesus. In contrast to “The Word”, John referred to himself as “The voice” (v.23). He had something to say, but he was not the content of what he had to say. A messenger, but not the message. Similarly, we are not The Word; but we are words – vehicles to convey the truth of the Word.
Stanley Fish (in How to Write a Sentence, p.2) talks about words. He writes, “Before the words slide into their slots, they are just discrete items, pointing everywhere and nowhere”. So are we, in isolation: random words of little value. But Fish continues, “Once the words are nestled in the places ‘ordained’ for them... they are tied by ligatures of relationships to one another. They are subjects or objects or actions or descriptives or indications of manner, and as such they combine into a statement about the world, that is, into a meaning that one can contemplate, admire, reject or refine.”
What a wonderful description of Christians! Paul’s teaching that we are all joined to and arranged within the Body of Christ could not be better expressed than in Fish’s terminology: we have ordained slots to slide into, to nestle in. It sounds like Fish has read Paul when he goes on to describe us as thereby “tied by ligatures of relationships to one another.”
And all of this is to what end? So that we might no longer be “discrete items” – meaningless sounds that, in isolation, point everywhere and nowhere. Words only effectively convey meaning when they are combined in a sentence. And God’s purpose is that we may be placed so precisely in combination with other words, other people, that together we can carry the message of the Word.
No more lone voices in the wilderness. It is the Church who now proclaims the message. And sometimes she does that without a sound. For Paul tells us that every time we meet in organic harmony to eat bread and drink wine we “proclaim (kalengello = preach) the Lord’s death until he comes”. The very existence of the church, isolated individuals coming together to each take their place in relationship, articulates the Truth of the Cross and conveys the meaning of The Word.