Scripture - Psalm 46 ("Be still and know that I am God")
James 3: 5-12 ("The tongue is a fire . . . )
This Lent our guide is Jesus’ invitation to come unto him, all who labor and bear heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me. For I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
We’re giving it up for Lent - those things that burden us and drag us down, drag us away from Jesus and the Life he offers.
Last week we talked about heavyness of heart, which is relieved by forgiveness. This week, think with me a bit about something else that may weigh on people these days:
Too many words. Too much noise.
There is good research now that shows it is more and more difficult to find true quiet.
The noise of electronic communication is almost omnipresent - radios, TVs, broadcasts of various kinds. Scientists have shown that the loudest part of our noise problem is transportation. Highways, airports. When I read that, I laughed. Haha. Not if you live in Philo! I thought. And just then a train came through.
All this noise effects our heads. It makes us less thoughtful, more irritable, less rested. All manner of health problems are linked to our noisy, noisy world.
Which shouldn’t surprise us, because some of the strongest statements in the Bible are about the need to listen for God and about encountering God through quiet and silence.
The Sabbath is a quiet zone.
We read the 46th Psalm - Be Still and Know that I am God.
The story of Elijah’s encounter with God on the mountain. Where earthquake - then wind - then fire pass by, but the Lord was not in the earthquake - or the wind - or the fire. Then Elijah heard a still, small voice. And THAT was the voice of God.
Can we make audio space for God’s still small voice?
There’s a special challenge for many of us. We find that when we seek quiet, it is our own words that interfer: Joe Jones had a song that describes what I sometimes think I should sing to myself:
You Talk too Much
Our talk has such incredible power! James says it is like the rudder of a ship that steers our whole lives. And as much as that scares me, it seems to be true. What we say to ourselves matter. What we say to others matters. Our speech is connected to how we feel, how we think, how we act. Neurons fire, and we see the world differently.
Jesus said our spiritual health is reflected in our words, and we must be responsible for what we say. Watch your mouth. It’s not what goes into the mouth that ruins a person. It is what comes out. Out of a bad heart, bad words come, and out a good heart, come good words. And you will be held accountable for every careless word that you speak. Matt 12;36
But there is hope - we can change. If you have a problem with being critical, complaining, being consistently negative, always being picky with the faults of other people; if you change the words that come out of your mouth, you will start to change your very personality and the feelings inside of that personality.
Events of the last week have made us all think long and hard about the tone and level of discourse that our culture and society tolerates and even encourages. We’ve gotten to the place where extreme polarization and ridicule of those who think differently is the norm. It is not unusual now, for public figures to call the opposition names, or tell people to go to hell, or be disrespectful of each other in meetings or public events.
And there’s something sort of fun about having strong opinions and expressing them in the most colorful ways. It makes us feel smart, I think. And it bonds us with others who agree with us and insulates us from caring about those who disagree. But what we have to notice is that it bonds us in hate, not love. It binds us in a sort of sophomoric society of opposition to something rather than common cause FOR something. Do we really want that negativity and disdain to be the ties that bind us?
I do think this is business for Christians. I think we have to set a tone in how we deal with one another and how we deal, even with those who we consider “the opposition”. Otherwise, we are not living up to our calling to be the Light of the World, the Salt of the Earth, which Jesus said His followers must be.
The University of Georgetown - a Catholic University, as we all know now - brought a theological perspective to the issue. Here is just a little bit of what their tradition, and ours, offers:
"In an earlier time, St. Augustine captured the sense of what is required in civil discourse: 'Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.'
"If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger — even hatred — to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another."
Romans 12:18 - Insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with others.
If we as Christians want to lay aside what has been called “the fiery burden” of stridently expressed opinion, we have help in Christ Jesus - we have his example of measured and loving words, his teaching to be careful what comes out of our mouths, but most of all, we have his own presence at the Table set before us, His own Words which, even in the most danger and distress, were words of Love:
This is my Body, given for you. This is the cup of the new covenant of forgiveness.
When we put this bread and this wine in our mouths and let Christ’s presence enter our hearts, then we are strengthened to let only good things come out.