One Little Word

Proper 17 texts at www.textweek.com

Jeremiah 2:4-13         Proverbs 25:6-7         Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16         Luke 14:1, 7-14

“So we can say with confidence,

‘The Lord is my helper;

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?’”

Heb. 13:6b, and Psalm 118:6

Some of the littlest words in the Bible have the most to teach us.

Like: “So.”

“So” is a tiny word, a forgettable word. We might skip right over it to the good parts of the verse, the exciting parts: “we can say with confidence” and “the Lord is my helper” and “I will not be afraid.” “So” practically disappears before we’ve even sounded it out.

So I looked up the word “So.” I hear it often (as in “So, Mom…,” typically just before my children ask for something I’m unlikely to agree to), but I’ve never thought much about “So.” It turns out “So,” this tiny word, can function as almost any part of speech! “So” can be an adverb, an adjective, a pronoun, an interjection (there’s my “So, Mom…”!), and, as in this biblical example, as a conjunction.

In case you’ve forgotten your Schoolhouse Rock, conjunctions function as connectors between train cars—I mean, clauses.

“So” is a shorthand for “therefore.” “Therefore” sounds like a Bible word, a word to pay attention to. We know what to do when we see “therefore” in the scriptures: we look back to see what it’s referring to. We look for the connection, for the cause that leads to an effect. So let’s treat this little “So” as if it were a fancier “Therefore.” Why, after all, could the congregation in Hebrews “say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid”?

Why? Because they were grounded in a community that looked like this:

—mutually loving (“Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” Rom. 12:10)

—hospitable to strangers (who may in fact be angels, as in Gen.18:2-15)

—remembering prisoners as though they too were imprisoned (“You had compassion for those who were in prison…” Heb. 10:34)

—remembering those being tortured as though they too were being tortured

—honoring marriage and practicing it faithfully

—keeping free from the love of money

and on top of it all,

—led by people who spoke God’s word, and who lived faithfully so the people could learn from them and imitate them in doing good and sharing.

The audience of Hebrews practiced love, hospitality, compassion, empathy, faithfulness, and contentment. They followed worthy role-models. So… what was there to be afraid of?

These days, fear is good for business, and fear is great for politics. Until today, until this “So,” I’ve been convinced that the fear-mongering that pummels us every day is merely manufactured for the sake of a sale, or with the objective of an office. But this small, significant “So” makes me think: maybe we are right to be afraid.

Confidence in the Lord’s help grows out of a community of hospitality, compassion, and empathy—so maybe we are right to be afraid.

Security is to rooted in mutual, honorable love between people, and our relationship with money is to be dispassionate—so maybe we are right to be afraid.

We applaud leaders who tell us to be strong and to be right, rather than emulate those who do good and share sacrificially—so maybe we are right to be afraid.

The first audience of Hebrews heard: You live as beloved community… so you can say with confidence “I will not be afraid.” Hear the good news for us today: this train can also reverse! You want to be confident in God’s help, so practice relationships. You want to be-not-afraid, so show compassion. You want to fear no one, so serve them and share with them. One little word, connecting practice and promise, joining faithfulness and fearlessness. So…?


First published 8/22/16 on www.bwim.info/blog

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