Words create worlds – Minister’s Reflection 5/11/23

You may have seen or heard the story of Yocheved Lifshizt this week. You can watch the video here. https://youtube/3Cj3Sq9eG04.

She’s the Israeli woman who was released by Hamas from captivity earlier this week. In the video you can see her walking over to the Red Cross people who are there to take her to safety when she turns to her captures, takes their hand and said “Shalom”. The power of this action and this word has stayed with me all through this week. What was it that inspired her to do that? It wasn’t a politeness or a habit, but a very deliberate action.

She was walking away, and she turned back. She did not have to do it. There was no expectation. She chose to do it. She chose to take the hand of her capture and she chose to use a word that means so much. “Shalom” means peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility. Shalom does not mean peace in terms of keeping things quiet, it is about peace only existing where there is justice. It is linked to the image in the bible of peace coming when everyone sits beneath their own vine and fig tree. Only when there is justice can peace really be known.

I believe she knew exactly what she was doing and saying and in choosing that word she was connecting that moment to a promise of God: the long terms commitment of God to plant “vines and fig trees” – places of safety, shade and provision – for this is what makes “Shalom”. It is not an easy word to say, for it means so much. 

Her actions and her words have stayed in my heart. Where is “Shalom” in our violent world? What words do we chose to speak peace into a violent world?

As a child I was taught the rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” What a load of rubbish that was. The rhyme was usually uttered when I had been hurt by the words of another (often my brother) and were accompanied with the phrase “don’t let him get to you.” But he did get to me – often. He got into my head, and the words he said stayed with me, and sometimes I still remember them. Few of them were nurturing, most of them were meant to hurt, and they did. The rhyme is a load of nonsense because while sticks and stones can break my bones, words can often hurt more.

The words we choose to use, or not use, make things happen, whether we like to admit it or not. So perhaps it is better to say “may your words be sweet and few, for one day you may have to eat them.”

In a violent world we need to think about the words we choose. We have a responsibility to choose our words carefully in our everyday lives, in our communities, in our relationships, in our places of worship, and in response to what we see going on the world. Words create worlds. Hateful, aggressive words create a hateful aggressive world.

In contrast to Yocheved Lifshizt I saw someone swear at an older person this week when I was on the tube in London, simply because the older person was going slowly and was perceived to be in the way. The words unsettled me. They created anger in me as I muttered angry words directed at the aggressor, which soon turned to despair as I found myself wondering what the world was coming to. Words create worlds.

Pray with me this week that we will use words that create peace in a violent world and that our words will come from our being rooted in God, who longs for peace for all.

If you’d like to talk about anything I’ve said here or anything at all, please send a direct message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Shalom, Rev Anne Sardeson

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