Why study all of scripture, even the seemingly unusable parts of Leviticus? I answered that question in several ways in a recent sermon, borrowing heavily from this very good essay from Dustin Messer at Theopolis but taking it in a slightly different direction.
In the modern world, we have an unhealthy tendency to treat everything as if we were scientists in a lab, always breaking things up into their smallest parts. So a delightful honey crisp apple, for example, becomes a collection of certain proportions of fiber and sugar and dosages of vitamin K, B-6, and E. Now it may be true to say those things about an apple, but when you put those nutrients back together, you don’t get an apple. The parts interact with each other and the apple itself interacts with our body when we eat it in complex ways. The experience of eating an apple, the taste, the crunch, is part of living and being human that looking at the cell of a fruit under a microscope can tell you nothing about. To live we need food, not just nutrients.
To grind up scripture into tiny parts of text to study certainly has some value, but in doing so we run the risk of becoming modernist scientists cooking up magic pills to solve world hunger, including our own hunger. Jesus, in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, gives us bread and wine to eat. In the church, he gives us a new community of extended adopted family to live amongst. These things are complex and we can’t always say how they work or are supposed to work. He gives us the whole of scripture – the very old, old, and new. The stories, the worship, the songs, the teaching, and the mysteries. The Word of God is our food. Studying and meditating on books like Leviticus is part of our effort to eat everything good on the plate that has been prepared for us. Some of the dishes might be unfamiliar, but the chef has a fabulous reputation, so let’s keep our expectations high!
Ever since the exile it had been possible to study and practice Torah even without the Temple and the Land. In the exile, of course, there was no Temple. This, naturally, constituted part of the problem of how to be a Jew in Babylon, how to sing YHWH’s song in a strange land. But in the [later] Diaspora [at the time of Christ], then and subsequently, the study and practice of Torah increasingly became the focal point of Jewishness. For millions of ordinary Jews, Torah became a portable Land, a movable Temple. The Pharisees in particular, in conjunction with the burgeoning synagogue movement, developed the theory that study and practice of Torah could take the place of Temple worship. Where two or three gather to study Torah, the Shekinah rests upon them. The presence of the covenant god was not, after all, confined to the Temple of Jerusalem, which was both a long way off and in the hands of corrupt aristocrats. It had been democratized, made available to all who would study and practice Torah.
-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.228
Wright is imitating the phrase of Jesus in Matthew 18:20 (“where two or more are gathered together”) regarding the presence of God in his description of later Jewish thought about the Torah, but I think it’s accurate. The original reference is to ‘mAboth 3.2’, that is, Midrash Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers):
Rabbi Chanina son of Tradyon would say: Two who sit and no words of Torah pass between them, this is a session of scorners, as is stated, “And in a session of scorners he did not sit” (Psalms 1:1). But two who sit and exchange words of Torah, the Divine Presence rests amongst them, as is stated, “Then the G?d-fearing conversed with one another, and G?d listened and heard; and it was inscribed before Him in a book of remembrance for those who fear G?d and give thought to His name” (Malachi 3:16).
This entire shift is fascinating to me and the parallels in some sections of Christianity and Islam seem possibly related.
During the Babylonian exile, the focus of worship and devotion to Yahweh shifted from the temple (which was torn down) to the scrolls – the written word of the law, the Torah. Even after the temple was technically rebuilt, things were never the same. The cloud of glory was gone. The Ark was likely gone (this is never explained, leading to endless speculation). The Davidic kingdom was gone. The Romans ruled through a puppet king and the access to the rebuilt temple was controlled by elites. Devotion to the scripture had already begun to replace proper temple worship in Jesus’s day. The destruction of the temple in AD 70 was just the last nail in the coffin, not the beginning of a new era. From then on the holy words on the scrolls from God and the endless debate of their meaning (and the teaching of that meaning) would constitute the activity of the priestly class, now open to anyone willing to exercise their reading chops. Before, being a Levite was primarily to be a butcher. Now it was to be a scholar. The Word became a proxy for the (now inaccessible) Temple and Holy Land.
We see a similar shift with the more recent rise of Wahhabi Islam. This strict Sunni sect holds the holy words of the Koran to overshadow any later Muslim traditions or even borrowed traditions from the beginning. While the Shitte still have holy places and shrines, the Wahhabi (which currently includes many in power in Saudi Arabia) make a point of bulldozing them. ISIS destroys ancient sites of pilgrimage wherever they go. In this version, Islam is reimagined as something whose entirely lies completely in the text. The land (the currently non-existent caliphate) and the temple (Mecca) are downplayed in key ways.
Even the significance of the Kabba stone, the central cultic artifact of devotion from Islam’s conception is minimized under this scheme. It’s almost seems to me as if they are preparing for it’s possible destruction: accidental, or by enemies in war, or even by iconoclast clerics themselves. Under the Wahhabi scheme, the loss of the Kabba would not really be a mortal blow to Islam. It’s integrity would lie chiefly in the words that remain.
The parallel in Christianity is with those traditions that hold to fundamentalist Biblicism. In extreme expressions, the Bible is cherished as the thing that saves, not Jesus Christ. Evangelists urge listeners to come to the “saving knowledge” contained in it’s pages, rather than to enter into the work of Emmanuel, the outside savior come close.
Naturally, such an idea could only develop in a highly literate culture where all people could have unhindered access to their own copy of the scripture. A natural outworking of this theory is that the celebration of the Eucharist are extremely minimized and church polity is made a free-for-all. The formal Church, both the Pope with the keys in Rome, and the Reformed “Mother Kirk” variety, can be completely discarded. Sacraments? What are those? Church buildings are pointless. Let’s just repurpose a warehouse or arena. Worship modes conform to whatever conventions are familiar to the people. There is no ‘temple’ and no ‘land’, just the Word. Historical theology is completely disregarded. It’s just the Bible and God speaking to me via the Bible and my devotion to God via the Bible. My congregation is my local peeps who believe the same.
Adherents to this tradition (of which I count my own background as belonging to some lite flavor of this) describe it both as a “progress” away from medieval and even reformation-era baggage, and a “back to the roots” recovery movement of a more early “raw” and true form of Christianity. All Bible all the time. I’d love to believe the best and say that this tradition arose out of deep love of God’s word, but I suspect it’s more complex than that. I think it’s often rooted in anger at the institutional dysfunction of the church, or in feelings of disenfranchisement (loss of temple), or with increased cultural decadence and the rise of secularism in America (loss of land).
All three movements replace the importance of stuff “out there” with the stuff in the scrolls. It could be seen as just a cultural retreat (and it may be that), and yet, in a mystical sense, there IS some possible justification for this. Jesus Christ describes himself as the living Word. The meaning of John chapter 1 is still a mystery. Psalm 119 praises God’s delivered precepts in a way that is blurred with worship. Many of our philosophers have marveled at how the power of language seem to transcend communication mechanics and touch on something deep in the imago dei. When the Pharisees adapted their worship to center on the Torah rather than the temple, it made sense. The Holy Spirit has ensured that the Word is remarkably resilient.
In psalm 23:5, David says that the good shepherd prepares a table for him in the presence of his enemies. But how close are they exactly?
Those who insist the pastoral metaphor extends throughout the chapter imagine the sheep being fed from a trough in the evening while wolves sulk in the distance, knowing they dare not approach.
The more common interpretation (and what I typically hear preached) is that the metaphor changes at this point in the psalm and we find the author in a great feasting hall with the king seating him in honor at the high table while his enemies watch on fuming from the cheap seats. The Lord’s blessing and protection is prominent and public.
Again though, reading through the Amharic translation recently, I was struck by how different a word is used to describe the proximity of the enemies: “fit lefit” – face to face. The enemies aren’t “out there” watching you, but rather sitting AT the table right in front of you. Perhaps the Lord has transformed them into friends. Perhaps his protection allows you to sit across from them without fear, but empowered to give hospitality. Either way, they are not as easily dismissed moving forward.
As part of learning to speak and read Amharic this year, I’ve been translating familiar passages from scripture. I recently went through psalm 23 and was struck by how in verse 2 when the Lord “maketh me to lie down in green pastures”, the word used there instead of “green” is (transliterated) “lemlem”, meaning verdant or full of life. Well of course – the good shepherd’s pastures are not just any old fields of grass, but particularly lush and healthy ones. But why should this be news?
Because for me, and as I suspect for perhaps some others in the modern world, “green” is strictly a color and nothing more. Now the word for “green” in many languages still caries this memory of growing things. In Spanish the word is “verde” with the same root as our “verdant”. I figure that when the scribes working under King James back in the 17th century decided to use the word “green” in English, it still retained that lush meaning for them and their immediate readers.
But no longer. For those of us who were raised around computers and on a steady diet of science curriculum, “green” has little to do with life and everything to do with optics. I remember entering RGB (red, green, blue) pixel values by hand on the computer when I was young and using some kind of paint software. When I hear the word “green”, in my mind’s eye I see a color wheel or selector like this:
Chlorophyll is green and emeralds are green and eyes can be green and Gatorade is (hopefully) green, but green is not necessarily chlorophylly or emeraldy. Now, when you begin to modify the word and say things like “Kerry green” (my wife’s favorite color), or “forest green”, or “neon green”, “sea green”, or even “grass stain green”, then it comes to life with all kinds of additional meaning, but in the 21st century, in the West at least, the memory of it’s former life seems to be somewhat faded.
That is why, as many qualities as the KJV and their kin have, they end up staying the same while the meanings of their words among the common people changes. Even if you have been deeply educated in its reading, the halo of meaning and memory that surrounds the words in your mind is very different than what people had in their imaginations in previous centuries. In addition, you are probably the least qualified person in the room to articulate what those differences in shades of meaning might be.
Finally, that is why we simultaneously can still benefit from new translations, and the study of the original languages.
I haven’t had this significant of a lull in writing since I began in early 2007. The reason is that I have been preparing for a trip later this autumn to Ethiopia. I’m been practicing Ethiopian Amharic pretty regularly for the past two months. My wife has been a great help. We’ve learned the bulk of the Fidel/Ge’ez script and are up to somewhere close to 600 words. I’ve also learned quite a bit more basic grammar this time around. I still feel completely useless though and terribly slow. But no matter – it’s time to just keep pushing through. I believe it’s entirely worth it.
Why am I traveling? Many reasons. First of all, I’ll be looking up the immediate and extended family of my adopted daughter. I know close to where they are located and am enlisting some help to find them. I hope to give them pictures of their daughter (they last saw her over four years ago) and just talk to them a lot and learn as much as I can of her history. I’ll be showing them some videos and also recording some to bring back home. My daughter is still too young to visit, but I hope to take her back there in a few more years, along with maybe the entire family.
I’ll also be visiting a boy we have been sponsoring in one of the orphanages there for several years. We met him on our last trip and though he isn’t open for adoption, my wife and I both desired in our hearts to do something to support him directly. I’ll try to meet him casually without giving him any reason to become attached and also inquire into some of his persisting medical issues. I haven’t been able to make much headway on that from afar.
I’ll also be scouting around a bunch looking for future volunteer service opportunities for if my wife or the whole family if we were to come here short or long-term. I’ll be visiting a couple of different schools for the blind and talking with some other teachers and missionaries in the area. I’ve discovered that virtually none of what I need to know can be discovered by surfing the internet or via email. I’m just going to have to go there myself to learn about what’s happing first-hand. That will help us get the information we need to decide in what capacity to go back in the future. This could be anywhere on the spectrum of “visit as tourists for a week” to “move the whole family there for 2 years”. It could also be soon or far in the future. I have no idea. I am hoping that the Holy Spirit makes it obvious what we should do.
While I’m there, I’ll also be looking up a few people that I can talk to about the state of Christianity there as I find it (and it’s contrast with the secular west) completely fascinating. I’d love to talk to someone at a protestant seminary, as well as an Orthodox clergyman. I’ve been slowly making contacts. I’ll also be visiting a couple of people that helped us out with our adoption and an acquaintance at a tech incubator in the capital. I don’t think I’ll end up doing any of the typical tourist things except drink a lot of coffee! With any luck my Amharic skills will be at least slightly useful. Fortunately, Ethiopians are not at all snooty about feregi (white foreigners) trying to speak their language. Whew!
I also hope to journal a lot about my time there. Hey, it worked last time! In the meantime though, I probably won’t be putting much down into words. Even my sermons at church as of late have been delivered from shorter notes and I’ve skipped the labour of materializing them as a series of blog posts. My to-read pile is backed up beyond my mortal ability to catch up with it. But maybe that can be a good thing.
I love the variety of people who shop at Winco, our beloved local grocery store, late on a Friday night. This list is entirely accurate (though not exhaustive), and almost completely hyperbole-free.
1. The Indian guy buying 5 pounds of curry powder in bulk.
2. The Chinese couple with an entire shopping cart full of bok choy and pork and nothing else.
3. The frat guy with 2 cases of Keystone Light.
4. The elderly couple walking 1 mile an hour and blocking the soup cans indefinitely.
5. The mob of sorority girls in yoga pants, loud and rude.
6. Players from the basketball team, extremely tall and chugging an entire Gatorade while waiting in line at the checkout.
7. The tired mom with screaming kid who I’m sure the mom wishes could be in bed.
8. The stock worker who just about runs you over with the forklift.
9. The deep woods homesteaders buying two giant carts full of food since they only come into town once a month.
10. The dad who drank way too much coffee buying yet more milk and frozen Eggo waffles promised for his kid’s “balanced” breakfast the following day.
Joyce’s Ulysses cries, “History is the nightmare from which I must wake up.”
As in previous millenniums of the Christian story men found and testified and fought for one God and one earth, so now we must find and testify and fight for God’s one time against impatient men’s private plans for history. Schemes to usher in the end of history overnight defy the Christian belief in a dispensation of time, whereby God is taking care of his world from beginning to end.
-Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, The Christian Future, p.20
Though Nazi Fascism and what would become Communism were the two things on the radar when Rosenstock-Huessy wrote the above in the 1940s, this observation seems equally relevant if not more so today. I look all around me and I see “schemes to usher in the end of history overnight”.
I see “futurists” gushing about the impending AI “singularity” when the intelligence of machines will surpass that of man.
On the other side I see Christian Zionists who talk incessantly about Israel and prophecy, with their televisions tuned to CNN and their web browsers to World Net Daily. Any minute now, the last something showdown blood moon something tribulation something is going to explode. Heck, maybe we can even help it along, eh!? It’s kind of a drag that Jesus is taking His sweet time.
I see Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs talking with straight faces about how their new app will literally overhaul all of humankind.
I see pop atheist writers rejoicing at how we are throwing off last vestiges of religion and embarking on a future of pure humanistic freedom (in apparently the last days of man as the environment decays around us).
Joyce yearned to throw off history and even language, and yet he is so steeped in Catholicism, he can almost sound like a religious man to our ears today, his invented words and run-on sentences relegated to the ivory tower. Picking up the mantle are the contemporary gender-benders and linguistic castrators building a safe couch cushion fort out of trigger warnings. Their dismantling of the past seems eminent, but only to the Bay area social media app users on the one hand and the folks permanently tuned to CNN on the other.
For the rest of us hanging out somewhere in the middle (including the +1 billion Christians and +1 billion Muslims not living in the modern west), these schemes seem much less impending.
I believe God is “taking care of his world from beginning to end”. I pray to Christ today to protect me from the temptation to try to exert more control than I have been given, and the temptation to tremble in fear of the control other are exerting. There are schemes to yank history in this or that direction, but his slow growing seed of life and hope cannot be dislodged. Amen.
I’ve asked the question before (and here): what is an acceptable level of syncretism (mixing folk religion) in Christianity?
Syncretism, defined most narrowly would be formally and obviously mashing things up another proper religion. Recently converted tribes where local deities are still appeased is the textbook example. Some rituals of the cult of the Aztec goddess Tonantzin sometimes making their way into the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mexico is another classic example. Much of what is often called Messianic Judaism probably fits this definition. But these distinctions are easy and the cases isolated. I’m not at all interested in this kind of syncretism.
It seems to me that there is no general escape from, as a young Christian, blending in your own preexisting beliefs (be they Pagan or secular, or what have you) with your new-found faith in Christ Jesus. An immature believer will have all kinds of silly baggage still in there from his previous years, his parent’s beliefs, and practices instilled in him by his job and cultural context. In short, we are ALL syncretists, especially at first, and remain so to some degree for our entire lives.
And because that is the case with all of us – that none of us ever holds exclusively to orthodoxy, despite our deepest intentions and our most careful crafted confessional documents, this must be, more or less, OK. I’m serious. God must be completely OK with the fact this is going on. Oh the shock! No! Wouldn’t the Lord grieve over our continuing to walk in darkness? That’s just not right! But wait. Think of it less in the abstract and with an apt analogy:
We are his children, his most beloved children. We are also rather young – not babies, but not elders. Think of your own children. Imagine your are in the shop with your ten-year-old son building a bookcase out of wood. You are doing most of the cutting, but he gets to fit all the pieces together and hammer the nails. When it’s all done and painted, you see that some of the nails are driven in crooked and protruding into the shelves in a couple spots. Do you scream at your son for his error and then smash the bookcase and throw it into the fireplace? Of course not. You know how to be a good father so you kindly point out a couple shortcomings (probably not too many – you decide not even to mention the corner that didn’t get sanded right), and move on.
The next day, your eleven-year old daughter is cooking spaghetti for the family. You’ve helped her do it a couple of times in the past and she’s excited to do it without any help this time. She browns the beef and adds the tomato sauce and salt, but absentmindedly looks at only the first letter on the bottle in the spice cupboard and adds a tablespoon of ginger instead of garlic. There are some funny looks at the dinner table later in the evening as it’s obvious something isn’t right with the sauce. But do you respond by throwing the food in the garbage and banning your daughter from cooking again until she completes a 2-year degree with Le Cordon Bleu? That’s ridiculous. It’s a learning experience. The next one will be too.
Our faith in Christ, though completely honest and stirred up by the Holy Spirit, is always muddled up with other ideas and faulty thinking about the nature of God and the world. Lots of good teaching and spiritual formation helps, but that takes time and mileage may vary. God knows all of this up front. Missionaries have often been criticized for, in hindsight, not “doing it right” when introducing Christianity to a foreign culture or little-understood people group. But geesh, somebody needed to do it! The early church was rife with pagan practices that took a whole generation or two to (mostly) root out. Read the letters to the Corinthians.
We in the modern west like to think of OUR ideas as pragmatic and scientific – not capable of mixing with religion since they are NOT religion themselves. Aren’t we clever? We are fools to think this. Our ideas about medicine, or free markets, or individual rights intersect deeply with our beliefs about the nature of God and man. They are our own folk religions that get blended with the Gospel when we try to think through problems and articulate our beliefs. If, when faced with a question, our conditioned gut-reaction is to check our iPhones for an answer (long before praying for wisdom), this too is not a wholly a-theological response.
But the Holy Spirit knows all this. Of course he does. And he is always guiding us into deeper relationship with God and greater maturity and understanding, a little bit at a time. Sometimes, branches on the new tree may take hundreds of years to bloom. That’s OK. We may think we don’t have much time, but the Lord has plenty.
And this helps explain why it seems like the Church is always in disarray. Its sheep are at all different levels of maturity. Its leaders are at different places along this journey too. Regionally the Church in China may have matured and learned some lesson that was long forgotten by the church in, say, Canada. Different modes of teaching and expression will be more effective for different people, at different stages of life, in different regions.
We’re all over the place and each new crop of children has to be brought into the faith as well. This is painstakingly hard work and we as parents can tie ourselves in knots worrying about drift. (Forget cross-cultural issues, personality differences is my own kids are challenging enough!) But God is our good Father, the Good Shepherd, and he will gently (and occasionally not-so-gently) lead us to good pastures. I think our ability to articulate and transmit orthodox belief is just not as hot as we think it is or wish it were. Syncretism, in the broad general sense, abounds, but this doesn’t mean the Church is a failure. It only means that God’s work is diverse rather than technically monolithic.
What got me thinking about all this again was this passage from Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Christian Future:
Each generation had, and still has, to be introduced to the whole painful process of rediscovery. Hence the Church has acted like an immense sponge, sucking up all childish approaches toward understanding, and deterring no one who was of good faith and on the road and still alive. No pagan, native, primitive first step was rebuked as long as group or individual remained in communion with the complete truth and its guardian, the Church. As a result, rationalists – who are a large part of the “world” in our day – are able to see this sponge character of the Church, but not the central truths toward which it drew the pre-Christian approximations which it absorbed. So rationalists reduce Christianity to a mere patchwork of prior sources, and identify a literal adult belief in the Creed with this or that childish state in its own understanding.
Truth, however, is only in those experiences that can be expressed by various ages in various ways. Even in mathematics the same truth recurs in new applications and in very different forms of statement. So legends like Santa Claus are not lies when told to children that they may understand the workings of the Spirit among us – as long as the legend waits to be told again, in appropriate terms, to the adolescent, the man, the father, the community leader. To omit the legendary form of truth is to suppress truth. As a human being, I need legend, the myth, the ritual, the poem, the theorem, the prophecy, the witness, the sermon, every one of them. The four Gospels give a model example of this rule that one truth must be expressed in different ways for different times of life. and that the whole truth is conveyed only on several such levels together.
I am fully conscious of the hollowness of these remarks [about the Christian Creed] for many good people who have no notions of God. To tell them that Jesus has divinity conveys little. They would first have to realize who God is, by starting with some experience of the Spirit who triumphs over their prejudices. It is the third article of the Creed [the Holy Spirit] which will have to form the basis of experience without which no reflection on the dogma is of any use. After all, the Creed reflects active participation in some prayer to God the Father or some sacrifice in the love of the Son. All the Scholastics who reasoned out God were priests or monks who prayed day and night. Their reflections on the trinity came as afterthought to real action and a way of life.
One of my students, on the other hand, frankly told me in his examination paper: “I have never prayed and I do not know what prayer is or is intended to do.” It is forbidden and would be blasphemous to discuss with this boy the divinity of Christ. He must be plunged into some communal experience of inspired living before we may mention to him the spirit behind all inspirations. I am afraid that we are prone, in our discussions of the Divinity, to gloss over the second commandment not to use God’s name in vain. Alas, it is applicable to our vain attempts of “discussing” God with people before they have experienced Him in one of the tree ways in which God overwhelms us, as our Maker, as our Victim, and as our Vivifier.
-Eugen Rosenstock Huessy, The Christian Future, p.105
This passage makes a penetrating statement regarding something I’ve long felt (from my teenage years), but have been unable to articulate – something wrong about some modern evangelism and Christian interaction with the secular public square. Check out what Rosenstock Huessy is saying here about interacting with the young agnostic man. “It is forbidden and would be blasphemous to discuss with this boy the divinity of Christ.” To geek out on the finer points of theology around this guy would be to take the Lord’s name in vain. To try to tell him of the glories of the Trinity might be a great wrong. We probably do this every day with our public spats on the internet about doctrine and ecclesial inside baseball. I also think this is a major shortcoming or at least danger of presuppositional apologetics. They are worse then nothing to the listener who has not been “plunged into communal experience” or been “overwhelmed by God”. In some fashion, the “seeker-sensitive” church recognizes this and attempts to make amends, but ends up breaking more things than it fixes in the process.
The chief pillar of good communication is understanding who you are speaking to – knowing your audience. It would seem that the most important element when preaching the gospel or teaching the Word would be discerning the activity of the Holy Spirit, how much and in what manner, in the lives of the listeners. As this is virtually impossible at a distance, the healthiest context is probably a relatively small congregation – not an unknowable number of listeners.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead
His eye to watch, His Might to stay
His ear to hearken to my need
The wisdom of my God to teach
His hand to guide, His shield to ward
The Word of God to give me speech
His heavenly host to be my guard
The second to last line of this stanza in this translation of St. Patrick’s Breastplate (see above) always gives me bit of the chills. “The Word of God to give me speech.” This could mean Jesus the creator giving us, his children the, power of language. I also picture children with slates and an old Bible centuries ago learning to read by memorizing and copying scripture. We talk so much about so many things and so presumptuously, but our very breath comes from Him. Without His gift, it’s like our mouths are glued shut, our minds in a dense fog.
I think this passage from Eugen Rosenstock Huessy’s The Christian Future is trying to get at a similar idea.
The Living God thus revealed by Jesus must be forever distinguished from the merely conceptual God of philosophers. Most atheists deny God because they look for Him in the wrong way. He is not an object but a person, and He has not a concept but a name. To approach Him as an object of theoretical discussion is to defeat the quest from the start. Nothing but the world of space is given in this manner. Nobody can look at God as an object. God looks at us and has looked at us before we open our eyes or our mouths. He is the power which makes us speak. He puts words of life on our lips.