Year A Proper 17 WEDNESDAY, 2 September 2020
Video service from St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA
“Watch Your Tongue & Pick Your Fruit”
Collect: Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
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.
22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
These days, the Scriptures seem to be a stumbling block, the Lectionary selections anyway. We see repeatedly this tripping up and mirroring the current situation. Funny that way. (Or Holy Spirit? You make the call.)
And we see here both Jesus and the author of James to be saying, in a nutshell two cliches we bandy around. “Watch your tongue.” And, “The proof is in the pudding.”
When I was a child, like many children, I was pretty literal. When my mom would say something like, “Watch your tongue.” I would try, like when a doctor said that the only thing I was allowed to put in my ear was my elbow. Boy, did I try to make that happen.
But I cannot physically see my tongue, but I sure need to mind it. Putting so much content out in these recent days, I am constantly reminded that no matter what I say people are going to hear what they want to hear, no matter my desired intent. Thankfully, as far as I know, most people give me the benefit of the doubt, or reach out to clarify confusion. Please do if you do not!
Watching what I say is something both readings make sure that I do. Jesus cannot speak against himself or his mission, it is impossible, like my ear and elbow. James, likens our tongues to horse bridles and fire. Control or out of control, such importance to something so small.
In these days when we seem to be arguing over the meaning of any and everything, how we use our tongues are all the more important. I saw someone gloating over the CDC report that most deaths with COVID-19 were linked to underlying conditions. He was bragging about how he was right and this was all a hoax. Only 9,000 died of COVID. But that misses the obvious fact that it linked with other factors to kill over 180,000 so far. It may not have been the only gun, but its bullets did not help at all! But still my friend bragged about how smart he was.
The other phrase pointed to in both is “The proof is in the pudding.” We are known for what we accomplish. Our fruit shows what type of tree we are. Some people come across as nice and polished, but they leave a wake of disorder and chaos. Some people are barely noticed, but they leave behind a legacy of peace and love. What is it you produce? How is your life evidence of what you stand for? Does it line up with your words? I pray mine do.
God be with us in the living of these days. May we watch our tongues, and be careful what we say and how we say it. And may our legacy be in lockstep with our words, and may both be Grace-filled. Amen