Bishop James Swanson: Apples of gold in settings of silver

Bishop James Swanson: Apples of gold in settings of silver

By Bishop James Edward Swanson Sr.

I was invited some years ago to give a devotion and prayer for the Georgia General Assembly. I used Proverbs 25:11 as the biblical text, from the New International Version: A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. In “The Message,” Eugene Peterson says it this way: The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.

This summer during my renewal leave, Delphine, the kids, and I went to Philadelphia for her family reunion. We decided to tour the downtown area of the city. The tour guide was a knowledgeable person who shared some interesting facts about William Penn.

illiam Penn, of course, is known as the founder of Pennsylvania. He is also known as a Quaker and for his “Great Treaty” with Delaware. What is not known, however, is obscured by myth. In fact, Penn did not name his colony after himself (as he feared would be assumed), but after his recently departed father. Penn wanted to call the colony “New Wales” or “Sylvania,” but King Charles II intervened, suggesting instead “Pennsylvania.”

It was the father, after all, who left Penn his wealth, including the king’s debt to him – which Charles II paid in full with a chunk of New World land. Penn became a Quaker in his 20s, shortly after posing for his only painted portrait (the one with the lad in a full suit of armor). Yet peace is what William Penn was loved and memorialized for, especially for his treaty with the Indians of Delaware. “I desire to gain your Love and Friendship by a kind, Just and Peaceable Life,” he wrote to them from England. He followed up with that desire with his “holy experiment.”

Penn’s holy experiment was firstly his plan and secondly idealistic to the point of utopianism. He wanted to establish a society that was godly, virtuous, and exemplary for all of humanity. Fortunately, Penn was adept at convincing people. By 1681, when he received the charter for the colony, Penn had been a proponent of Quakerism and had written several political pamphlets. He was a persuasive speaker and was fond of politics. Penn was both idealistic and practical, and he operated by trying for the best he could conceive while pragmatically retreating from impossible heights.

William Penn was quoted as saying, “I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”

In the book, “When Words Matter Most,” author Robyn Freedman Spizman writes: As we pass through this life, each of us has an opportunity to identify meaningful moments with our unique signature. We use words as tools to accomplish this. Our word choices are endless and offer great potential for us to embellish every occasion. No matter where we go or what we do daily, the words we use help us connect in large and small ways with each other.

What does your unique signature tell others about you? Every word you use in writing or communicating to those in your company or your circle of influence indicates the kind of person you are. Proverbs 25:11 (King James) tells us, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”

My brothers and sisters, choose your words wisely. The American philosopher William James once said, “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” Jesus spoke of those who strain at gnats and swallow camels. Seek to discern what is important – and what does not matter. A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.