A quick web search for “Average number of words heard per day” and you’ll find estimates of 30,000. That’s a lot of words. Assuming there are eight hours/day when we aren’t hearing words, that’s 1875 words/hour or, to calculate it differently, that’s hearing a sermon every hour you are awake!
Whatever the quality of the sermons you might take in (this week at Central there will be 2 good ones!), most of the 30,000 words you hear each day aren’t sermons. Plenty are mundane, some are inane, enough are insane. Words can make us anxious, sad, comforted, and amused. Words are powerful, at times affecting our esteem and reputation.
St. James in his epistle gives a lot of attention to the power of words. This Sunday’s reading in The Well (James 1:17-27) is a reminder that when it’s a good word, a gospel word, it’s meant to inspire a response, often that means action. We are to be doers, those who act upon the meaning of the best words, the gospel-words, we hear and read. If we merely hear them and don’t act on them we demonstrate that their importance in our lives has been drowned out by the din of all the other words reverberating around us.
Some of those other words have left us feeling overwhelmed. It’s a feeling King Solomon had before us. With the weight of the nation of Israel on his shoulders, he cried out to God for help. The words of his prayer (1 Kings 3:3-14) are instructive for us as we sort through how to be doers of the word in a world that overwhelms.
If you’re in Florence this Sunday, bring your words and your ears, what overwhelms you and what brings you peace to your place of worship. You, your community of faith, and God all deserve it.