August 8, 2021 “The Words of My Mouth” Rev. Patrick Mecham
Ephesians 4:25-5:2 John 6:35, 41-51
11th Sunday after Pentecost
When you were growing up, I’ll be you were told, “If you can’t say something nice—don’t say anything at all!” Some attribute this to Bambi, but Bambi was just quoting our mothers, right?! Be nice. Be sweet. I’ll agree that we need to teach our children to be KIND, to hold back on those words that hurt. Words can hurt. When I was a kid, we tried to stop people from hurting us by chanting to them, “Sticks and stones may break my bones—but words will never hurt me!” So, I grew up learning how to be NICE—but the problem is that I was a devious little weasel, and I only learned how to seem nice while actually being kind of rotten!
Eventually, I learned how to say what was really on my mind, but usually to say it in a way that might cause less harm and actually be healthy. I got some solid help from the book, Speaking the Truth in Love. These days we call it communicating with assertiveness. It’s a way of helping others understand what you are feeling and what you want without raising their defenses or miscommunicating.
Well, our Scripture texts for today are focused on this issue. Jesus is telling his listeners the Truth about who he is (despite the fact that they think they know who he is already). Jesus finds a way to share the truth, even if it might be unpopular. And Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, has a great deal to say about what comes out of our mouths. Let’s take a look.
Speaking the Truth
Last week, we heard Paul’s words, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” We look to Christ to learn how to share difficult truths. To the Samaritan woman at the well, he said, “You have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” (Just the facts, M’am.) He was engaging in a conversation with a woman who would spread the news about him to her whole village, and he spoke the truth without condemnation. When the Pharisees brought to him a woman who had been “caught in adultery” (where was the man?!), he said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, her accusers went away, and Jesus asked, “Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Sir.” And he replied, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”
Paul is telling us to speak the truth to each other, because we are members of one another. (Anything that hurts another person hurts me, and anything that helps another person helps me!) We are MEMBERS of one another.
He says, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up.”
This is an echo from a great verse in the Psalms: 34:13, “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking lies.”
Another great verse about our tongues is found in James chapter 3: “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. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.”
So Paul is urging us to Speak the Truth in Love, saying only that which is useful for building up, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. That means that our spoken words, our written words, our e-mailed words need to be:
Forgiving Each Other
As you well know, sometimes our sisters and brothers in Christ do NOT meet these criteria. Sometimes their words to us cause hurt, cause discouragement, drain the life right out of us. Paul understood this pernicious aspect of being human, and he includes the antidote to verbal poison. He says to let go of bitterness and wrath and anger. Then he says to forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven us. Instead of hanging on to bitterness, he says to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, being imitators of God!
Friends, that’s how we keep the church healthy: speaking the truth in love and forgiving those who fail to do so.
Let the Words of My Mouth
I began my sermon today with a prayer based on Psalm 19:14. It’s sung by a group called Take Six, and here are the lyrics:
Let the words of my mouth bring you praise.
Let the words that I speak be seasoned with your love and grace.
May the things, O Lord, that I choose to say bring GLORY, not shame, to your name each day.
Let the words of my mouth bring You praise!
Now, of course, anyone who is all talk and no action, well, that’s no good. But we must remember that our words have POWER—power to hurt, and power to heal. If our words are seasoned with God’s love and grace, life will be better for all concerned.
I want to finish today with an exercise of your imaginations. You know the story of Johnny Appleseed, right? Going all over the place, planting trees grown from the seeds he had collected, he made a glorious transformation to the frontier territories of his day.
Words are like seeds.
I would like you to examine the seeds that have come from you in the last couple of weeks. Will those seeds spring up as something healthy and good—or will they be nasty weeds? Will your words be giving grace, or causing others to wither?
Prayer: Lord, let the words of our mouths bring you praise. Let the words that we speak be seasoned with your love and grace. May the things, O Lord, that we choose to say bring GLORY, not shame, to your name each day. Let the words of our mouths bring you praise!