Sermon September 26, 2021: Taming the Tongue (Pentecost 18)

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/614805541

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/crQOcoV6Bek

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

HYMN Let There Be Peace On Earth
Let There Be Peace On Earth (lyrics) – -Sang by Vince Gill
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_DxNpW1kHQ

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference … living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN We Shall Overcome
We Shall Overcome – Joan Baez
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VGZQmZdDjs

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Taming the Tongue
Text: James 3:1-12, Galatians 5:13-14
Series: Doers of the Word

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all make many mistakes, and if any one makes no mistakes in what he says he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Look at the ships also; though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue–a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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HYMN Jesus Is All The World To Me
Jesus Is All The World To Me by Kadarman Sisters (15 August 2015)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-OEGwu8EoM

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Over all of history, the previous hymn – “We Shall Overcome” – has been known as a song of protest. And certainly, there is evil in the world today that needs to be overcome. But I have to be honest with you. When I sing these words, I’m aware that what needs to be overcome is what’s in MY heart. We shall overcome. Deep in my heart, I do believe. I will overcome … someday … what is in me. What causes others harm.

At the basic level, the idea of repentance is a very important part of our faith. And here’s the problem: Every now and then, what’s in your heart comes flooding out, and it’s not always pretty. Jesus said in Matthew 12, “You brood of vipers, how can you speak good when you are evil? Because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. What you feel inside builds up and overcomes your common sense. Begins to flood out of your heart into your words. So psychologists actually call this flooding. We’re just overwhelmed.

Some psychologists call it an amygdala hijack. When people are emotionally flooding, and what’s in their heart is pouring out of their mouths, it’s a reality, friends; they aren’t listening. And as much as you want to change the way they think, as much as you might be tempted to challenge them or argue with them or protest what they’re saying, when they are so upset and so angry, they literally cannot hear a word you say.

And what I think is even more tragic, because I sort of see myself as someone who’s really good at calming people down, I’ve learned the hard way. Sometimes nothing you say can comfort or help someone who’s overwhelmed in this way.

And what’s the result of that? In our society today, there is more conflict between people, between neighbors, than probably any other time in your life that you’re aware of. People are feuding with each other.

And so, James, Chapter Three says, “The tongue is a fire.” It sets people on fire. And what we have in our communities, we have churches on fire, because arguing and bickering, and backbiting is burning down everything that’s good. Churches on fire, towns on fire, schools on fire

And if you needed anything more to believe that this is true, there’s nothing on fire more than Facebook. Sometimes it’s hard to open that Facebook and find anyone happy or calm because everybody’s on fire and finding fault with each other.

And as I said, this is a real problem for me because I’m convinced that whenever things are going wrong, I can fix it with more words. But here’s what the Bible says friends, Proverbs 10:19: when there are many words, sin is unavoidable. Let that sink in for a moment, when there are many words, sin is unavoidable. The last thing that any good feud needs is more words. The Proverb goes on to say, the one who controls his lips is prudent, is wise.

When everything’s on fire and people are going to war and “flaming” each other – that’s the slang word for it. Sadly, one of the best things that you can do is to not add fuel to the fire by not adding words to the fire.

Up here in the North, I don’t know that we deal much with kudzu. The first time I drove down to Florida years ago, I began to notice there was this strange weed growing on everything. Not only that, it doesn’t take very long … the picture in the top left there, in the winter, you can hardly see any kudzu. But in the spring, it starts to grow, in the summer it grows even more, and by early fall it has covered everything. The kudzu vine can grow an average of 60 feet in a year. It was brought to the United States as an ornamental shrub and for livestock feed. I don’t know where the cows and the sheep are, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in that picture, where that vine has totally and completely covered that house!

Friends, we reap what we sow, and our words are like seeds, and they have power. Sadly, the seeds that we are sowing are not flowers, but all too often they are a kind of weed that makes things worse.

Our words have power. So here’s what James says, let not many of you become teachers, brethren, or preachers for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness for we all make many mistakes. Is that right? You bet it is. We all make many mistakes! And here’s what James says, if any one makes no mistakes in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

I gave my heart to the Lord many years ago, as I got older I did my best to surrender my hands to the Lord, and when I got older, I was able to give my wallet to the Lord. But what James is saying here is the very last thing that surrenders to Jesus Christ is Lord is what you say.

If we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. 4 Look at the ships also,” James says, “though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder, and the tongue functions like a rudder. It points us in a direction and it turns our words in directions that we don’t want … Wherever the will of the pilot directs.”

So the tongue is a little thing. A little member of your body. And it boasts of great things, how great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire, the cycle of nature. And the source of that fire, James says it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird of reptile and sea creature can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind. But no human being can tame the tongue. And here’s the result, a restless evil full of deadly poison. With it, we bless the Lord and Father. And with it, we curse men who were made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth, come blessing and curse. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

I now want to tell you a joke. We need some preparation, sometimes, to get the joke. And I’m actually going to read it because I don’t want to read it wrong.

Two cars were waiting at a stoplight, one in front, one behind. The light turned green, but the man in front didn’t notice it. The woman in the car behind him is watching the traffic go around them both. And the woman begins to pound on her steering wheel yelling at the man to move. The man doesn’t move. The woman is going ballistic inside her car, ranting and raving at the man, pounding on her steering wheel and the dash and the light turns yellow. The woman begins to blow the horn, screams at the man. The man hearing the commotion looks up, sees the yellow light, speeds through the intersection just as the light turns red. The woman is beside herself screaming in frustration as she misses it’s her chance to get through the intersection. As she is still in mid-red, she hears a tap on her window and looks up into the barrel of a gun held by a very serious-looking policeman. The police officer tells her to shut off her car while keeping both hands inside. She complies, speechless at what is happening. After she shuts off the engine, the police officer orders her to exit the car with her hands up. She gets out of the car. He orders her to turn and place her hands on her car. She turns, places her hands on the car roof, and quickly is cuffed and hustled into the patrol car.

Why? Well, friends, something that you need to understand, something that policemen understand perfectly, is a person who is not in control of their emotions can be dangerous. They can do anything. They must be secured for the scene to be safe.

The woman is too bewildered by the chain of events to ask any questions and is driven to the police station where she is fingerprinted, photographed, searched, booked, and placed in a cell. After a couple of hours, a police officer approaches the cell, opens the door for her. She is escorted back to the booking desk where the original officer is waiting with her personal effects.

He hands her the bag containing her property and says, “I’m really sorry for this mistake. But you see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn and screaming profanity at the car in front of you. And then I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ license plate holder and the ‘Follow me to church’ bumper sticker on your car. So I naturally assumed you had stolen the car.

“My brethren,” James says, “this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening fresh water and brackish? Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine, figs? No more can salt water yield fresh.

God desires a holy consistency in what comes out of our mouth.

Let me tell you a joke I told you two weeks ago. I hope it sank in. Maybe it’ll sink in this time.

A woman goes to the doctor, worried about her husband’s temper and the doctor asks, “What’s the problem?”

The woman says, “Doctor, I don’t know what to do. Every day, my husband seems to lose his temper for no reason. It scares me.”

The doctor says, “I have a cure for that. When it seems that your husband is getting angry, just take a glass of water and start swishing it in your mouth. Just swish and swish and swish, but don’t swallow. Don’t swallow it until he either leaves the room or calms down.”

Two weeks later, the woman comes back to the doctor looking fresh and reborn. The woman says, “Doctor, that was a brilliant idea. Every time my husband started getting angry, I swished with water, I swished and swished, and he calmed down right away. How does a glass of water do that?”

The doctor says, “it’s not the water, it’s keeping your mouth shut that works.”

Friends, more words don’t help in certain situations, whether your words are kind or cruel, whether your words are critical or simply honest, often more words don’t help. But if you take that water and cool off that tongue on fire, that’ll help a lot.

In fact, if you swish with that cool water enough, it might actually put out the fire that is on your tongue!

All too often with human beings– and I share this with a deep humility because one of the biggest problems I have is understanding that sometimes the kindest and most helpful thing that I can say to someone is nothing. It almost kills me to not add my words to their problem. But here’s what Proverbs 26 says, 26 verse 20 “For lack of wood the fire goes out. And where there is no whisperer, where there are no more words, quarreling ceases.” And that’s because sometimes our words are the fuel for the fire.

So here, friends, to be honest, is the simple cure. In your car, if you have an automatic transmission, you know what a PRNDL is – Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Low. It’s not the time to put your tongue in drive and go anywhere. The simple solution, friends, is for you to put your tongue in Park and be still. I didn’t say it was easy, but I did say it was simple. Put your tongue in park and be still.

What does God want from us? Well, there are many things that God wants from us, but the point that James makes is – the very last thing God is going to get – is for your tongue to submit to God’s will.

But here’s what God wants. We were called to freedom only let us not use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but through love let us be servants of one another. For the whole law, the whole desire, the whole expectation and wish of God is simply fulfilled in one word. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

And so may it be that as we share words with our neighbor that we are sowing mercy, that we are sowing grace. But sometimes the greatest kindness we can do for our neighbor is to sow peace and quiet that allows them to calm down.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, when we get stirred up, we want to go. We want to go. There are things we have to do. There are things we have to say. And any little thing that keeps us from doing what we want sometimes, Lord, our heart overflows with frustration and we’re just like that woman at the red light. Help us, Lord, not to put fuel on the fire. Help us, Lord, not to add words that make things worse. Help us, Lord, to learn how to put our tongue in park and just wait a moment. And then, when there’s peace, help us, Lord, to move forward in peace. We ask you, Lord, to help our tongue come to the point to where Jesus is Lord, even of our words. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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