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Summary: Declare if you know. Interesting word, “Declare”. As in the Declaration of Independence, or the Balfour Declaration. The word suggests speaking with force and clarity, with certainty and intensity. Some folks do not declare, they merely suggest.

Declare if you know. Interesting word, “Declare”. As in the Declaration of Independence, or the Balfour Declaration. The word suggests speaking with force and clarity, with certainty and intensity.

Some folks do not declare, they merely suggest. They offer timid little ideas and apologize for having dared to harbor a creative thought. One person I know brings up ideas, but they are so hedged around with, “Maybe this isn’t necessary” or “You’ve probably already tried this” that I pay not attention to what he says. It’s a suggestion, but that is not declaring.

Other folks go beyond suggestion, and propose. They think about some issue and come up with a way to solve it. They and are not so timid that you cannot hear them, nor are they so strident that you will not hear them. Some folks do not merely suggest, they propose. I like people with ideas, who propose them; but it’s still not the same as declaring.

And then there are others who neither suggest nor propose, but who announce. There are some folks who do not consult with anyone, but who just announce what they are going to do, take it or leave it, thank you very much. I had a leader in my church at Takoma Park who would conduct a committee meeting by announcing what he had already decided to do. By the way, one day someone on that committee just stood up and did his own announcing – saying that he was not going to stand for that style of leadership any more. But announcing is not quite declaring, either. It doesn’t have that forcefulness.

So while there are some who suggest, timidly; and while there are some who propose ideas; and while there are still others who announce what they are going to do, there is yet another level. There are those who declare. There are those who with force of personality, clarity of language, and the power of the moment, declare. The most vigorous form of communication is to declare. I get to declare occasionally: “By the power vested in me, I do now declare that you are husband and wife”. Or at Takoma Park, we would bring new members in with the “right hand of fellowship”, and I would say, “In the name of the Lord of the church, I declare that you are now in full fellowship with this congregation.” I like doing that. Declare! It communicates confidence, boldness, and certainty.

So Job says to his friends, after listening to their rhetoric, “Declare! Declare if you know.” How about that clause? If you know. Declare, if you know.

I

You see, Job is aware that just because we say something, that does not mean that we know anything. Just because we are loud, that does not mean we know what we are shouting about. It is said of some politicians that that they are in love with the sound of their own voices. They just keep on talking, whether or not they have anything to say. I suppose some of you would be unkind enough to accuse preachers of the same thing! A humorist, Roy Campbell, described himself that way:

“Of all the clever people round me here

I most delight in me –

Mine is the only voice I care to hear,

And mine the only face I like to see.”

Well, Job felt that his friends were like that; they just talked to hear themselves talk. They approached things not with an open mind, but with an open mouth. They had all sorts of handy-dandy explanations as to why Job was suffering, and all kinds of advice about what to do. But Job found their pronouncements empty, because they had not really experienced what they were telling him. So Job challenged them and challenges us: declare – if you know.

On Palm Sunday, the crowd around Jesus was declaring what they did NOT know. If it is true that the shouts of “Hosanna” turned in only a few days to the cries of “Crucify”, then you see that all this exuberance, all this energy, is only a front, and nothing lies behind it. Like Job’s friends, who said what they said with such emphasis, but who had never really experienced life the way Job had, with all its pain and anguish, now the crowd around Jesus, that day in Jerusalem, is just “sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

II

Declare if you know. Sometimes we declare ourselves precisely because we do not know. Sometimes we make pronouncements to cover the fact that we have no idea what we are talking about. A pastor friend of mine said that he didn’t prepare his sermons ahead of time because he didn’t know what he thought until it came out of his mouth! Imagine that: declaring what you have not reflected on, preaching what you have not thought about, teaching what you have not experienced. I do understand: some of the best funeral sermons I’ve preached were for people I didn’t know, so I could be very forceful, since my mind was not cluttered up with messy facts!

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