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On The Upper Room Discourse Re-Release For Lent 2024


The LORD is in his holy temple;
 let all the earth keep silence before him! 
Habakkuk 2:20

“I don’t know what to say! All I can say is ‘Thank You.’” That is what my wife Rita said to me on Good Friday after we had prayed and meditated on Jesus and the cross. My wife, who is normally articulate and well-spoken, simply ran out of words before the mystery of such grace and humble love revealed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But Rita’s words “I don’t know what to say!” meant so much to me as we worshipped: we were out of words

As we thought more on the meaning of Good Friday, I thought of how the word “mystery” in the Bible comes from the Greek, musterion, derived from the root muo, meaning “shut the mouth.” Before the mystery of the cross and empty tomb, I had to shut my mouth. Ancient Greeks well understood that silence is not just the absence of words, but more so the highest expression of wonder and amazement.

My forebears from the Southern United States would probably have said, “Well, shut my mouth!” Words fail us in trying to grasp or express the wonder of what Jesus did for us on His cross. Here is amazement! Astonishment! I don’t know what to say!

If you traveled to Iran, to the UNESCO World Heritage Center and see “The Behistun Inscription”, you would get an idea of how being speechless can be the highest expression of awe and amazement. The immense, trilingual Behistun Inscription, accompanied by a massive rock relief, is the largest inscription in the world. The inscription was carved 330 feet over the ancient Silk Road where kings and emperors displayed their powers. The inscription tells the story of the Persian King, Darius the Great, mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Daniel 5, 6, 9, and 11. The rock relief shows Darius on his throne, wearing his royal cloak, crown on his head, and holding a bow as the sign of his sovereign rule over all. In large rock relief before King Darius are the kings of the earth bringing tribute to him. They are depicted honoring the king by placing their hands over their mouths. They don’t know what to say! They are rendered speechless before such greatness.

To know God, who so loved the world that He gave His Son, will often leave us not knowing what to say. We are left speechless before the musterion of such love and grace. Like the old hymn writer, we would wish “for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.” But we can’t find the words in one tongue or language.

Thomas Aquinas is regarded as one of the greatest thinkers in Christian philosophy and theology. He was eloquent in his many writings, spanning thousands of pages. His “Summa Theologica” alone was over 3,000 pages.

Ironically, on December 6, 1273, this great thinker and writer was changed forever as he was worshipping the God who became flesh and lived among us. After that day, Aquinas refused to write anything more about God, believing he could not put into words what he had come to know of God’s great love. When his secretary, Reginal, tried to encourage him to write, Aquinas said: “I can do no more. Such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems as so much straw.” Firm in his resolve, Aquinas wrote not another word.

As I think about God’s love poured out for us in Jesus, it is mystery. I am speechless. I have preached quite a few sermons and written many words, and they seem like straw. I stand with my wife, Rita: “I don’t know what to say. All I can say is, ‘Thank You!”

A fellow traveler,

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