In her memoir about growing up white and privileged in the South, Episcopal priest and feminist theologian Carter Heyward shares this story from her childhood: she loved horses, and she often rode one special horse named Red. One day, while she was riding, she was having an especially difficult time getting Red to synch up with where they both needed to go. If she indicated right, Red went left, and vice-versa.
Her frustration grew and grew (which, of course, did nothing to address the problem!). Eventually her trainer entered the ring, saw what was happening, and shouted out, “Communicate with your horse, Carter!” So, she reports that she started talking to Red as if the horse was a child, or a friend. The trainer corrected her immediately: “I didn’t say talk to Red. I said communicate!”
Yesterday was the day in our church calendar when we remembered St. Matthew. Apostle, evangelist, and author of at least some of the Gospel account that bears his name, we have been walking with Matthew throughout this lectionary year. And while all of the New Testament gives us information about what it means to live faithfully, the Gospel passages assigned to recent Sundays have been especially focused on that place in Christian discipleship where words become activated and take shape in the world.
Conflict resolution. Forgiveness. God’s kingdom represented by love in action. During these weeks of September, Matthew shines light on the ways in which Jesus helps us understand what it means to communicate our faith. Talking can be part of that communication–sometimes it’s essential—if, as in all things, it contributes to how we embody the love that God shares so generously with us in Jesus Christ.