“make these words more than words”

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“Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.”

This is the final line from the prayer, “In the Morning,” from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (p. 461). I was surprised to find it, partially due to the fact that I am Episcopal-adjacent. For many years, when my wife Banu and I were on vacation — or staying with my mom in Tennessee — we would often worship at an Episcopal church. I have some familiarity with their liturgy.

Seeing that in print echoes a feeling or impulse I have long had. (At some level, it is summed up by saying “practice what you preach”). But it is far deeper and more profound. “These words” are not simply spoken by the mouth, but they emerge from the heart; they flow from the spirit.

However, being given the “Spirit of Jesus,” as we see it, has not been a part of my expressed wish. On a side note, the term only appears in the New Testament in Acts 16:7. The Spirit of Jesus. The spirit of the living human, not yet resurrected and ascended — or so I imagine. In some ways, it seems an even higher standard, a higher energy.

Does the denizen of the sea ever visit the surface, though perilous the ascent might be?

In uncertain times (and when are they not?), such boldness can be a rare commodity. At least, it is for the pray-er. It is when my deep sea shuns the light above. How much is it a measure of courage to admit cowardice? Can one who’s never plumbed the deeps understand the temptation to lie undiscovered, to succumb to the desperate desire to remain hidden? From where does that come? That almost vampire-like need to evade the light?

Make these words more than words.

Are we arrogant enough to say those words matter more than ever? What generation doesn’t? And yet…

Spirit of Jesus, what say you? When the apostle Paul and his companions had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but you did not allow them. Why? What was so terrible about their intended pit stop? Was the vision of the Macedonian man so compelling? Was Europe so enthralling? We often hear the journey is more important than the destination. Spirit of Jesus, are you the ultimate tour guide?

Timing is such a vital factor. It turned out Bithynia was an unnecessary detour. Paul’s encounter with Lydia might never have occurred. This seller of purple, with the wealth it brought, enabled this convert to offer her home as an outpost, a place of welcome for traveling believers. Lydia was a precious gift for the followers of Christ.

Image of St. Lydia assembled by the author with “found art.”

When our words fail to become more than words, we miss out on so much of life. We flirt with regret, that terrible sense of opportunity lost. Oh, to have a time machine!



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James Moore

James Moore

lover of snow, dog-walker, husband of a wonderful wife, with whom I also happen to be a co-pastor (list is not arranged in order of importance!)