Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Playing with matches and other daily activities

Today's New Testament passage from the daily lectionary is from James 3 - all of the lectionary passages can be found here:  http://gamc.pcusa.org/devotion/daily/2010/11/16/  - I want to look at and talk about just the james passage, starting with verse 5: 5So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits.  How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6And 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. 7For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8but no one can tame the tongue - a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. 11Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? 12Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.
The tongue is compared to a fire.  And the passage above is completely dedicated to a warning against the power of the tongue and what damage can be done by a 'small member' of the body.  I think this is an important warning for all of us - and if you know me at all you know that I have, what the kids call a 'big mouth'.  So these words I take to heart and I am painfully aware that on more than one occasion my tongue or mouth has gotten me into quite a bit of trouble.  
I know that my mouth can get me into trouble, and I think most of us are aware of the trouble that we can make for ourselves and/or for others simply with the words that we say.  But in spite of that, I think we - myself included - dismiss or even worse, just don't even think about the effect that our words can have.  
The James passage does a great job of highlighting the dangers that our mouths or tongues can cause and the trouble that we often have 'taming our tongues'.   And, indeed, our words have the ability to quickly light a fire that we are unable to control and often burns others as well as ourselves.  
But I think there is an other side of this point.  Words - our mouths or our tongues - have real power.  Power that is often underestimated.  If the words we say can quickly set fire to the world around us, sometimes that can be a good thing.  
Our words have power.  What we say to others matters and can make a difference in the way we are perceived, the way others perceive what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and even how people perceive what God is really all about.  
Our words can quickly spread trouble and discord like wildfire, but I believe when we choose our words carefully and prayerfully we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to work in us and speak through us and can set our lives, our communities and even our world on fire.  
The world has been changed  by words.  Words of hate have incited death, destruction and discord for centuries, there is no doubt about that.  But words have changed the world for the better as well.  The words of Jesus have transformed lives, communities and the world for two thousand years.  
Every time we speak we are potentially playing with fire.  Are we lighting matches to burn things down our are we lighting the way towards a transformed life lived in relationship with Jesus Christ?  

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