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Speaking to the Soul: Not in Writing

Speaking to the Soul: Not in Writing

Week of Proper 2, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 16, 17 (morning) // 22 (evening)

Proverbs 8:1-21

2 John 1-13

Matthew 12:1-14

I once knew a lawyer who was very savvy about what not to put in writing. When giving advice, he always preferred to use the phone or, even better, to speak face-to-face. He knew how quickly the written (or emailed) word can ensnare and haunt us.

The writer of today’s second reading has similar impulses, perhaps for some similar reasons. This reading includes the entire contents of a letter, and the writer explains why the letter isn’t longer: “Although I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink; instead I hope to come to you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” Pen and paper, or typeface and screens, are no substitute for face-to-face conversations.

Besides the fact that written communication deprives us of the joy of other people’s company, it also tempts people to add seemingly binding regulations to the gospel. Writings take us beyond the essential teachings of Jesus, delivered orally and personally to his disciples. As someone writing to a Johannine church, today’s letter-writer considers the command of Jesus to love one another as the only commandment the church needs. They write to the church “not as though I were writing you a new commandment,” but only to remind them of the essential commandment, “let us love one another.”

Too much writing can catch us in legal and religious traps. Too much writing can rob us of the joy of personal, present relationships. Is there a moment today when a phone call or a face-to-face conversation would be a loving and joyful alternative to less-personal forms of communication? (I realize the irony of distributing these reflections via a blog and a listserv, so I’ll stop here.)

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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