September 12, 2021
*Call to Worship
Leader: We come to worship God —
People: with our mouths, our voices, our hearts.
Leader: We come to honor God —
People: by honoring the power of our words.
Leader: We come to receive grace
People: and to let grace sing out through our lives.
Leader: God guides and empowers us.
People: God saves and sustains us. Amen.
God, you spoke, and the world was ordered. Through worshipping you today, may we remember the power of our speech, too. May we recommit to speak in ways that help create hope and not harm, justice and not suffering. May our words flow forth faithfully and truthfully to honor you and care for each other. Amen.
*Hymn UMH # 158 Come, Christians, Join to Sing
Scripture James 3:1-12
Taming the Tongue
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Or look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8 but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can saltwater yield fresh.
Meditation Do No Harm
Words hold the power of life and death. What you say matters: speak life and back up your words with actions.
I want to say first and foremost that this sermon is meant for me as much or more-so than for anyone else.
What a joy it would be if I could say that I had never said words that hurt someone’s feelings, or never lied, or gossiped, or belittled someone, or was rude, or was harsh, was argumentative, or boasted, or cursed or was judgmental, or — the list could continue. I long to have a tongue that is always pleasing to God. I think I would have to live in total isolation to accomplish this feat and even then, I’m afraid that my self-talk, you know that talk that happens in your head, would probably take over and I would find myself doing things like arguing with myself.
The first church Rod and I belonged to after we were married, we were at for about 13 years. We were actively involved at this church for nine years before we had children. Once we had kids, we decided it was best for us to leave and find another church to meet the needs of us as a family.
We told the pastor and our friends that we were not going to be in attendance as we looked for another church home. I distinctly remember the comments of two different parties when we told them what we were doing.
- A man, maybe the patriarch of the church, when told responded with what I understood as a criticism – he said something like – well, you can’t expect changes unless you stay around to make them. The words and his tone were harsh and even kind of hurtful.
- I contrast the man’s response with that of a woman named Claire – and I remember her exact words, she said – “You will always we welcomed back”.
Two different people with two very different approached to hearing the news of our decision to leaving the church. I long to be a Claire! Kind, caring, and speaking with the words of the Spirit of God.
Claire’s words were kind, gentle and loving. Hearing her told me that she cared and that we would always be welcomed back into that church.
Words matter. Words can cut deep, and words can heal pain.
Reflect for a bit upon moments in your own life when something someone has said has stuck with you, maybe even here in the church.
We have all been both hurt and helped by words and the ways others have treated us. Also, whether we like to admit it or not, we have probably used our words in ways that have harmed others, as well as helped them.
Anyone have an example to share –
James 3:1-4 focuses on the role and responsibility of teachers, specifically Christian teachers. What we say about God in public is given a lot of weight. If we, as public figures, are misdirecting people, we are doing harm. So, it is important that teachers and preachers try their best in their public ministry of the word. False teaching in churches can do great harm and it is not a job to be taken lightly. When James admonishes not many to become teachers, he is highlighting the importance of humility. We don’t have it all figured out. Yes, we will all make mistakes, but if we recognize that what we say matters, and the potential harm our words can cause, we can move forward in humility. This is related to the connection between personal and social holiness we discussed last week. The words we speak as individuals, especially as leaders, do not just stay with us, they have a social impact.
James 3:5-12 moves from discussing the speech of teachers to the power of words in general. James uses many analogies to describe this. We can all use our words to wound/kill or to heal. Words are powerful. Many people say they “Love God, but hate the church.” Many people have been very hurt by the church. Sometimes we, as Christians and just as people, cause harm to others with our words and sometimes we cause harm because our words and actions or attitudes do not match up. As James points out, we can praise God on Sunday and then say hurtful things about and to other people – all of whom are made in the very image of that same God (verse 9). Or, we can say things that sound nice and then act in a way that contradicts our words or simply fails to live up to them. There is a deep sense of hypocrisy because of this very thing; the same mouth should not be blessing and cursing.
John Wesley’s first General Rule for the people who gathered to “work out their salvation,” (see Philippians 2:12) and which are still in the United Methodist Book of Discipline today, is to do no harm. Part of doing no harm is not just our actions towards other people, but also our words, and having our words and actions “say the same thing”. Wesley gives examples. For instance, avoid uncharitable or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates or of ministers. As our salvation “bears fruit” or produces goodness in the world, it should change the way we talk about and to people; we need to pay attention to how we talk in civil discourse, how we express our opinions and listen to others with different viewpoints. When we simply complain or insult our opponents, it shuts down communication.
How does your faith affect the way you speak to and with others? How does your personal holiness affect the way you interact with others and even the way you respond when someone says something that is hurtful?
Rev George Durham on July 5, 2017 shared the following.
Summary: The Power of Words for good or evil
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Psalms 19:14 May these words of my mouth & this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
SPEECH IS A POWERFUL THING. What you can do with your mouth is more Powerful than what you do with your hands.
If you want to HURT someone, the tongue is much more effective than THE FIST is. If you want to APOLOGIZE to someone, all the flowers in the world won’t accomplish what two little words like, “I’M SORRY’ can do.
- Some of the most significant messages people deliver to one another often come in just 3 words.
Words have the Power to forge new friendships, deepen old ones & restore relationships.
I’LL BE THERE – Being there for another person is the greatest gift we can give. When we are Truly Present for other people, important things happen to them & to us. We are renewed in love & friendship. We are restored emotionally & spiritually.
I MISS YOU – More marriages & friendships could be Salvaged & Strengthened if people Simply, Sincerely said to each other, “I miss you.” This affirmation tells partners they are wanted, needed, desired & loved.
I RESPECT YOU – Respect is another way of showing LOVE. & the feeling that another person is a TRUE EQUAL. A powerful way to affirm the Importance of A Relationship.
MAYBE YOU’RE RIGHT – This phrase is highly effective in diffusing an argument & restoring frayed emotions. The flip side of “maybe you’re right” is the humility of admitting “Maybe I’m Wrong.”
PLEASE FORGIVE ME – Many broken relationships could be restored & healed if people would Admit Their Mistakes & Ask For Forgiveness. All of us are Vulnerable To Faults, Weaknesses & Failures. A person should never be ashamed to admit they have been in the wrong, which is by saying that they are wiser today than they were yesterday.
I THANK YOU – Gratitude is an exquisite form of courtesy. People who enjoy the companionship of good, close friends are those who Don’t Take Daily Courtesies For Granted. They are Quick To Thank their friends for their many expressions of kindness. People whose circle of friends is severely limited often do not have the attitude of gratitude.
COUNT ON ME – “A FRIEND IS ONE WHO WALKS IN WHEN OTHERS WALK OUT.” ” Loyalty is an essential ingredient for true friendship; Those who are rich in their relationships tend to be steady & true friends. When Troubles Come, A Good Friend Is There, Indicating “You Can Count On Me.”
LET ME HELP – The best of friends see a need & try to fill it. When they spot a hurt they do what they can to heal it. Without being asked, they pitch in & help.
I UNDERSTAND YOU – People become closer & enjoy each other more if they feel the other person Accepts & Understands Them. Letting others know in so many little ways that you understand him or her is one of the most powerful tools for healing your relationship.
GO FOR IT – Some of your friends may be Non-Conformists, Have Unique Projects & Unusual Hobbies. Support them in pursuing their interests. Rather than urging your loved ones to conform, encourage their uniqueness – everyone has dreams that no one else has.
3 little words for those who are special; I LOVE YOU.
Rev. Durham lays out for us real-life examples of some of the words we can use to improve what we say. Words matter and I long for my words to be Spirit filled and if Spirit filled, I know they will be loving. Our friend Claire knew that words matter, and she demonstrated that to us and I will not forget her love.
Please pray with me.
Oh, most holy God, we confess today how difficult it is to tame our tongues.
We lay before you…
- words that we wish we could unspeak,
- silence kept when it would have been better to speak,
- our double speak and inconsistency,
- all the talk behind backs,
- all the chatter that tears down,
- every confidence broken,
- every wound that words have inflicted.
We pray that you would bridle our tongues…help us to think before we speak,
guide us to use our words to build up rather than to tear down, help our tongues to lead us to maturity in faithfulness.
Here now our silent prayers of confession…
Hymn UMH # UMH # 393 Spirit of the Living God
Pastoral Prayer and The Lord’s Prayer
Lord, we come here today in fellowship with one another setting aside this time solely for you. To offer you praise and worship, to hear you speak to us, and to leave here shaped a little bit more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. So we come humbly and quietly before you, we thank you for those times this week where we smiled and laughed, those times of friendship enjoyed, of meals shared, those times when we appreciated the beauty of nature, when we felt a peace in our hearts, when we paused to be grateful for the life you have given us. For all of these, and so much more, we know that we are blessed. For our days of difficulty and struggle, for the times when we have been less than our best, we give you thanks that you do not turn away from us and that we are never alone. The Bible tells us that when we confess our sins, you are gracious and just to forgive us, and help us start anew. And so, we pause in silence to personally confess our sins to you now. we lift to you, our church. We want our church to be a strong and vital church in our community. We want to be used by you to make a difference in the lives of others. The need for hope, acceptance, love and compassion is great, and you are the answer to those needs. Help us to show others the way to you through our programs, through our ministries, and most of all through our lives and example. We lift to you those who are sick, suffering, lonely, misguided, or just in need of your presence, we ask that you touch them with your healing, with your guidance, with your peace. Lord, for the confidence and joy and hope we have because we walk daily with you, we give you thanks and praise in the name of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ who taught us to pray together
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
*Hymn UMH # 141 Children of the Heavenly Father
Friends, we are called to match our actions with our words. As we worship the God of healing and hope, may we not only praise God’s name with our mouths, but participate in God’s work with all that we have. Let us give our offerings to heal and spread hope to a hurting world.
*Doxology UMH # 95 Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow
*Prayer of Dedication
Jesus, you are the living Word. Through our lives and our words, we pray that you will work your justice and mercy. Accept our gifts and use them to not only heal pain and suffering but to work against any harm that might come to your people and all creation. Amen.
*Hymn UMH # UMH #420 – Breathe On Me, Breath of God