JAMES 3: 1-12
JOHN 13: 33-35


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July 21, 2019

Friends, the more I reread portions of the book of James … the more I can get fooled into thinking that this is a commentator writing for a 21st century publication.  His words are contemporary … the lessons carry vivid reminders about choices; choices that we each have to make in our lives.  Revealing who we are in relationship to God, the One who created the heavens and the earth.

James rarely holds back in explicitly distinguishing what it takes to be a Christian in fact rather than in name or title.  Or perhaps some might say his writing pushes us to consider Christian values since many who enjoy the name Christian attached to their resume might not want to accept that Christian is a lifestyle that reflects change that is both internally transforming and externally noticeable by others who see us in our daily lives away from church or people of faith … people who pay attention to our work, actions, and words in the real world, which is where our journey in this series took us last week. As we venture into chapter 3 of James, we are challenged to consider the greatest weapon we all possess; young and old, men and women, rich and poor, high school drop-out and PhD possessor.  It is a weapon that society attempts to camouflage as having no power when the truth is … this weapon has started wars; this weapon has inspired mass murders; this weapon has cause more psychological trauma and more pain and pushed more people ‘over the edge’ than any man created weapon … and this weapon when honed into a tool; when the edges are melted down so that only goodness is produced … has produced so much good too.  In fact it has brought people to God.

The weapon is words.  They come in every language; they come with various intonations and whatever the language most of us can tell their meaning by the volume, intensity, and way in which they are spoken.  The shortest word in the English language is maybe the one with the most power I and the longest … no it is not supercalifragilisticexpialidocious instead it is the 45 letter long pneumonoultramicroscopicsillcovolcanoconiosis, which as we all know refers to a long disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles from a volcano. Ah words and phrases all with such power to bring about change and to show love or to harm.

A NEW BORN BABY IS BEAUTIFUL <<SAID IN AN ANGRY TONE>> A NEW BORN BABY IS BEAUTIFUL <<SAID in a SOFT TONE>> MON DIEU EST UN DIEU GENIAL <<SAID IN AN ANGRY TONE>> MON DIEU EST UNDIE GENIAL <<SAID in a soft tone>>.  Same phrases … different languages but the tone reveals something about the speaker.

And, James writes … ‘WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES.’  And, we do … don’t we.  We are human, we slip up.  And, many of our errors and mistakes are careless ones … unintended oops moments or our minds get so busy with things we forget and suddenly we didn’t do what we had the best intentions of doing.  Do you forgive the mistakes and errors of family and friends without using your words to constantly remind them that they had a human moment?  Forgiveness is a Christian thing too but a different message although your words aren’t … your words of non-forgiveness can tear and destroy too.

But then James brings focus to our words because whether they are written or spoken they are solely within our control.  He wrote this powerful question, “Both fresh water and salt water don’t come from the same spring, do they?”

In World War 2, our nation had a campaign reminding our citizens that LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS.  There was a concern that Americans might casually mention where loved ones were stationed … they might talk about ships heading out to sea after work at a bar.  On the cover of today’s insert is the image of a button that was handed out to wear … don’t be a WALKIE TALKIE … the idea being “when we can bridle a horse and put bits in their mouths … “ well perhaps as James writes, “because of the tongue the circle of life is set on fire.”

To give us courage when we are young … perhaps to empower those victimized by bullies whose mocking loud voices are energized whenever they identify weaker victims and when those bullies can get the crowds on their side through intimidation … we teach ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.’   Such a crock of lies … the psychological damage; the destruction of relationships; the total devastation of individuals’ future potential that come from words of negativity, words of hate, and carefully honed words designed to get at targets’ weak points are often more effective than the author or speaker of the words intended.  Words tossed out casually … words spat out intentionally … words to make us feel good at the expense of others and their feelings.  It’s like hitting someone over and over again long after we have left them behind because the words stick.

My brothers and sisters here at St. Paul’s this morning or watching this segment of our Faith and Actions series online .. does your mouth release both fresh and salty waters?  Is the spring from which your written and spoken words essentially a salt water one because if that is who you are proud to be … if the saltiness of your words towards those you disagree with; towards your neighbors; and even towards your family is who you are then … who are you, really? James writes “Can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? Of course not,” James writes. “And, fresh water doesn’t flow from a saltwater spring either.”

I am here this morning to declare my opinion that the words from those claiming to be Christian that are filled with hate, anger, and criticism are chasing Jesus away from some really good people who might otherwise be embracing God with the same love we are taught by Jesus to give to God ourselves.  But, what these nonbelievers discover when they encounter individuals claiming to be Christians are individuals with totally unbridled tongues who almost gleefully attack other human beings with their words both written and spoken.  They hear church goers whose words attack others for their politics, their lifestyles or they even criticize their fellow church goers rather than praising them and having words that celebrate other people of faiths work for the Lord.

And, it was just this morning when I again heard the words from Jesus … “I give you a new commandment: LOVE EACH OTHER.   JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” 

 Remember that this is Jesus … the one Christianity is all about.  You remember Him, right … the manger … the feeding of the 5,000 … healing miracles … parables … SON of GOD; PRINCE of PEACE … raised Lazarus from the Dead … “come down out of that tree Zacheus” … Calmed the waters … the Sermon on the Mount Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS … the grape juice and bread thing … THE CROSS; you do remember THE CROSS and that Good Friday that wasn’t all that good … EASTER minus the rabbit and the candy but still with an empty tomb … THAT JESUS that so many claim to have as theirs.  Some who almost brag how they paid particularly close attention to His words to Nicodemus in that John 3 16 verse “whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” while totally missing the very next verse that said Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world … in fact, many of those people miss out on the teaching of James that “faith without works is dead.

And, many non-believers noticed the chants we have heard on the news this past week by people claiming to be good Christian folk, Christian Church attenders but whose words are loudly filled with hate.  Did they somehow miss out or perhaps they have just rejected these words from Jesus Christ that are the ultimate definition that reflects how are actions and words of Christians are to come together if … and, I say this with clarity just as I have spoken in many locations over the last 2 weeks … no one forces any individual to be a Christian but to be a Christian one must follow and obey Jesus Christ … there are far more people who enjoy saying they are Christians but absolutely hate following Him because Jesus stated very clearly:

I GIVE YOU A NEW COMMANDMENT.  LOVE EACH OTHER.. JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, SO YOU ALSO MUST.”  Let’s stop there because this relates back to today’s verses from James about our words.  Jesus is using the word MUST.  Jesus didn’t say that this is something to only do during the Christmas shopping season … He didn’t say this is something to do when the kids from Vacation Bible School are around but otherwise you don’t have to … this is a MUST and our words “Blessing and cursing should not come from the same mouth.”

And, Jesus continues …JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, SO YOU also MUST LOVE EACH OTHER.  This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples when you love each other.”

Words of anger … words of selfishness … words of hate … words intended to hurt … words that separate us from God and Christ.  When many of us said PEACE and LOVE at noon two weeks ago it felt good.  Imagine putting that on your schedule … every Sunday at noon the phone alarm goes off and wherever we are we just say PEACE and LOVE out-loud.  Maturity in our control of the words we use … words that God would celebrate us saying for others to hear.   Yes, James writes that “no one can tame the tongue” and he continues “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  But we can do our best to change … to love and forgive.  He writes those who “don’t make mistakes with their words have reached full maturity” so I guess junior high insults and name-calling don’t work for God, do they no matter how funny they seem.

There is a powerful song from the Hillsong singers whose opening line is “You call me out upon the waters … the great unknown where my feet may fail.”  And, when it comes to language, when it comes to hearing … one of the lessons of James is the need for us to hear God, connect with God more often and not just in church for an hour in person or online.  Bible study … prayer … God is calling you; calling me to a new place … a great unknown where our feet may fail but God will lift us up.  The song continues “I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves.”

Friends, when you and I consider our words … when we pause before using them to attack, to hurt, to make ourselves feel better than someone else … if we can pause before we choose to join the hate-filled choruses of humanity whose words harm others but instead we choose to love all others as Jesus did through our words and actions it will be in those moments that we can be seen as the disciples of the living Son of God.

If we are not the ones called to produce the freshwater that so many others need who are thirsty to take in God’s all forgiving love … to experience the new life created in love through Jesus … if we refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our words and lives then who will make the new disciples for Christ … how many will turn away and lead to church doors being locked forever.  If not you and me … then who?

<<A VOICE SINGS OUT>> Spirit lead me where my trust is without. Borders.  Let me walk upon the waters. Wherever You would call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger.  In the presence of my Savior.



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