Worship for Sunday, September 12, 2021

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 116:1-12

I love the Lord, who has heard my voice,
and listened to my supplication,
for the Lord has given ear to me
whenever I called.
The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I came to grief and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray you, save my life.” 
Gracious is the Lord and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord watches over the innocent;
I was brought low, and God saved me.
Turn again to your rest, O my soul.
for the Lord has dealt well with you.
For you have rescued my  life from death,
my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling;
I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living. 

James 3:1-12

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 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. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 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. 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! 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. For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 8:27-38

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I absolutely – positively love words! I use a lot of words in my daily life. And frankly I wish I could use even more words.

I long to be able to speak Spanish – because I love traveling to Mexico.   I love the food and the culture.   I love the people and I really – really want to be able to communicate with them. Because when our family goes to Mexico we skip the fancy-smancy all inclusive resorts where everyone speaks English. Jason is big on experiencing the real Mexico. We take buses with the locals and eat where they eat too. But my Spanish isn’t just bad – it is wretchedly awful. Horrifying even!

I can’t even say “hello” properly in Spanish.   Seriously – my “hola” is laughable! I am not kidding. When I say “hola” the people of Mexico laugh at me . . . and so does my family!

And it just gets worse when I actually try to communicate with anyone. There was the day – I accidentally insulted the nice lady at my favorite restaurant who was just trying to help me. After we left – Jason turned to me and said with a huge grin on his face – “You know Kerri – you just told that nice lady ‘she spoke very bad Spanish!'” (Oops – so NOT what I was trying to say . . .)

Or the evening I somehow confused our sweet waiter so badly – I ended up with not 1 but 2 entire entrees! Yes – I got both the beef and the chicken for supper . . . Jason just paid the bill and smiled indulgently – yet again.

There were a few times when both Jason and the boys asked me very kindly but firmly NOT to say a single – solitary word. Like the afternoon soldiers from the Mexican army boarded our bus and began inspecting everyone’s travel documents. Jason gathered our passports – looked me square in the eyes and said – “Kerri – I HAVE THIS!” Which was code for “Kerri – zip it . . .”

“Okay then” apparently my beloved husband thought I was going to get us deported or worse!

Words are important. Words are powerful. Words can and do change lives. Sometimes words can even help us cross cultural divides – or NOT . . .

The words we speak share our thoughts – our dreams – our needs – and wants.

Words are a huge part of our lives. But since words are so common. And because we use so many of them – it is easy to use words lightly.   Carelessly even. We toss words around without even thinking about them.

Our scripture reading for this week from James – calls our attention to this very concern. James reminds us words are powerful. He declares our tongues can get us into a lot of trouble.   They can betray us – and cause all sorts of problems. The words we use can hurt and wound and do incredible lasting damage.

So – James tells us – we need to guard our tongues.   To be careful about the words we use.   We should pay attention and think before we speak. We need to be aware of the powerful impact words can have on other people. We need to remember every time we utter even a single word that we are God’s children.

Because words can and do hurt. Words can break hearts and change lives.

We have all heard these words. We know these words far too well – words like – “I hate you.” “Shut-up.” “You are worthless – or stupid.” “I don’t like you.” Words like “get lost.”   “You are ugly or awful.” “Loser.” “Gross.” “Idiot.”

Words that tell people we think they aren’t good enough – aren’t worthy – aren’t meeting our standards.

Lies – manipulations – gossip – gas lighting – judgments . . .

Words like those crush people. Words like those aren’t forgotten or just shaken off.   Words like these stay with someone forever.

These are the words James is warning us about.   Because these words burn like fire.   These words hurt. Words like that crush souls. Words like these leave deep and lasting scars.

And sadly – these words roll off our tongues far too easily. Words like these slip through our fingers and into texts or onto Twitter and online comments or other social media so quickly.

We hardly even think about it and before we know it those words are out there in the world, because of us.

Make no mistake about it – the words we speak and type and whisper have the power to change lives. Even anonymous words burn and scar and hurt.

James calls us to use words of kindness, love, and blessing.   To use words that reflect God’s love for the world.

Words have power. Words change lives. Words can hurt. And once spoken – we can’t get them back no matter how badly we may want to.

But words can also bring healing. Words can be a blessing. Words can bring joy. Words can be loving. Words can give life.

James comes to us today to remind us that as God’s followers we are called to speak loving – gracious – kind words. To chose to spread love – grace – and kindness. To be encouragers and helpers.

When we speak words of love – we are being who our God has called us to be. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

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