A joy in ministry is to receive the blessing of insight and wisdom from valued friends. Jo Hudson and I met in 1997 when she was pastor at Friends UCC in College Station. She has been Senior Pastor/Rector at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, now serves a new church in Dallas, “The New Church” and an internet ministry for the United Church of Christ. The friendship is inviolate…she’s so “in depth” with her thought and caring. She and her wife, Stephanie and their daughter Sydney, live in Dallas. Jo wrote this blog for today and has given permission to share it. More than for the good of the order. Helps me think more than once about what I say…hopefully its impact will not be like being pelted by popcorn! [Love that image from another incredible clergy, Bill Coffin—God rest his soul.]
Jo speaks through her writing:
‘Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4. 29 (NRSV)
I don’t know about you, but lately it seems to me that the public discourse has spun out of control, that there are no boundaries on words and their use to bully, belittle and blame. Or, maybe, this isn’t a contemporary problem since both ancient Hebrew Scriptures and even the words of Jesus have cautions about how we use our words.
For example, the writer of the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes warns us, “Do not let your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake; why should God be angry at your words, and destroy the work of your hands?” (5:6)
And the writer of the Gospel According to Matthew tell us that Jesus instructed, “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (12.36-37)
Evidently the ancients had just as big a problem with the use of words to harm and hurt, as we do today. I suppose it feels like a greater problem today because we hear it so readily through our 24/7-news cycle and through the phenomenon of the Internet and social media.
I just can’t help but think of the words of Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks in the movie Saving Private Ryan, who said, “I just know every time I kill someone, I feel further away from home.” And I can’t help but think that we are killing each other with our words, sometimes figuratively and sometimes literally, in the case of bullying that has played a hand in our children killing themselves out of despair. And every time we do that we move further and further from our home in God.
I think it is time that we hold our politicians, business leaders, professional athletes, movie stars, and music moguls and even ourselves accountable for the words we use that do harm to others. Let’s call for a boycott on words that bully, belittle and blame. Instead, let us heed the call of the Apostle Paul to build each other up with our words so that we may give grace to those who hear them.
I’m in, what about you?
Holy One, You brought our world into being with a word. I pray now that you would help me to use my words to build up your people and your creation on this good earth. Amen.”