Today’s Word from Pastor Jim

I thought this morning that I would start by telling you a lie and the truth. I am counting on you to determine which statement is the lie and which is the truth.

1. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

2. “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.”

Wounded people come to my office, send me emails, call me for counsel or consolation. Ten years ago today, I officiated at a funeral for a parishioner who had died by suicide; there have been half a dozen more since then. I have muddled along trying to be faithful to this pastoral gig for a very long time. I have seen pretty much everything, but no one has ever come into my office with an ax in their leg, or a sword in their side, or a sharp arrow in their head. Our culture has evolved to be a little more civilized than that.

The wounded who seek me out have almost always been disabled by words. Saying number one above is an absolute lie. Saying number two is from the Bible; it is one of a hundred verses that warn us about the use and misuse of words.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

“With their mouths the godless would destroy their neighbors, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.”

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

“Let your conversation always be full of grace.”

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up.”

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.”

All quotes from the Bible. In a day of uncivil rhetoric and dysfunctional social media, we would do well to recognize the power of the spoken and written word. Might we pause before speaking, and ask if the words that we are about to utter will be helpful or hurtful; will they build up or tear down?

I will end with words that I read at a wedding last Saturday; the words were chosen by the bride and groom.

“Whoever speaks must do so as one who is speaking the very words of God.” I Peter 4

Perhaps if we dig down deep, we can memorize that simple verse and focus upon it each day. What would it mean for us to speak the very words of God? A God who is defined by love, forgiveness, new beginnings, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

It is a difficult season to be a human; let’s not make our neighbors’ burdens greater with insensitive or unhelpful speech. Online, or in-person, if you are not going be their friend, please do not be their enemy.

One beggar telling another where to find bread, I am your…

Pastor Jim

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