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 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:2-3 



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Pastor Rob Rogers was born in Seattle Washington. He has a B.A. in Communication from Concordia University, Austin, TX and a Masters of Divinity from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. READ MORE >>

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Pentecost 16 – September 12, 2021
Text:            James 3:1-12
Theme:         Do You Kiss Your Mother with that Mouth?


                On the playground in Junior High, which for those of you under 40 is what we had before Middle School, and it was infinitely better if I do say so myself, at any rate, on the playground I was trying out some newly discovered vocabulary that I had learned from the High School crowd at the back of the bus while on the school bus that morning.  Every worldly thing a boy wanted to know about was readily available at the back.  So, I decided to try the new vocabulary out on one of my friends and unfortunately for me, the teacher who was doing playground duty happened to be in earshot.  “Mr. Rogers!” she exclaimed. “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?  I am certain that she would be interested in hearing about your creative vocabulary.”  And I was certain that Miss Wilson would waste no time in letting her know. She did and I was treated to a very long lecture detailing the immense embarrassment I had brought on the family and how my mother may never be able to show her face at the Lady’s Aid Society again much less the LWML. 

        Then I was treated to another lecture, although he called it a theological discussion, with my pastor who my mother had called upon.  He used our text from James that we have before us today to describe to me the power of the tongue.  Through that pastor and some experiences yet to come in life, I learned that James was indeed right. There is no more powerful a tool that God has given us than our tongue, with the exception, of course, of our faith, which, if strong enough, can govern the tongue, and if it is weak cannot.   James says,

        “It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.”  James points out exactly what Miss Wilson asked me.

“Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Do you speak to God with the same tongue you use to gossip about each other?  Do you use the same tongue to receive the holy body and blood of Christ as you do to stir up dissension within the family of God?”  Of course, we do, but James is right in saying it should not be so.  And it should not be so, and it does not have to be so.

        God promises to give us the power to use the tongue for good, to tame the tongue.  Our problem is that we seldom remember to call upon him to do so.  Like the disciples in the Gospel could not dispel the evil Spirit because, apparently, they had forgotten to ask God to empower them.

        “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ And he said to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.’” Prayer is not some mystical incantation. Prayer is simply speaking to God.  It is asking God for the power to do what you need to do! You can accomplish everything and anything with God behind you, and without God behind you, you will be quite impotent against any and all evil.

        So, James teaches us two things in his epistle. Neither is anything new or revelatory to us but, apparently, we need to keep hearing it over and over again until people stop tearing the family apart and tearing each other down with their gossipy, vile tongues. First, you can do a great deal of damage with your tongue.  You may think no one listens to you, like I had no idea Miss Wilson was listening to me.  Who might we hurt with our words who we had no idea was listening to us as we randomly and carelessly spew forth?  Second, while we are powerless to stop ourselves, God is not powerless to stop us, and just as a demon can be instantly cast out by Jesus, so our dangerous tongues can be bridled by prayer.

        The next time you find yourself about to say something hurtful or negative, or to get into a negative or hurtful discussion, pray first. A simple prayer asking God to bridle your tongue and turn it instead for good is a powerful thing in your life and in the lives of others and in the life of the Church.  I contend that Christ has given us the formula for peace and harmony on this earth.  While this earth will never be paradise because it is broken by our sin, Christ wants us to live in joy as much as possible and a first step to doing that is to bridle the tongue. 

The 8th Commandment says You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor, but Luther reminds us that every commandment contains both Law and Gospel.  God not only tells us what to do or not to do, but he empowers us to do His will, and in so doing we receive blessings beyond imagination.  Just imagine a world where you only use your tongue to help others grow and prosper.  Imagine a world where tongues are used to tear down all that which is unholy and evil.  Imagine a world in which you choose to explain every single thing in the kindest way, instead of seeking to gossip and undermine and rally people to your side.  The world is a sin fallen place, but we really do have the power to make it just a little more blessed, a little more joyful simply with what we say.

Finally, our Youth Director brought this up in Youth Bible Study this past Wednesday night. She mentioned that we can do something positive long before we get to bridling the tongue. The tongue can only proclaim what the heart has already put forth.  If we bridal the heart first, the tongue will have to follow suit. It has no choice, and we bridal the heart with the same tool with which we bridal the tongue – prayer.  If you find yourself thinking badly about someone, pray for him. If you find yourself plotting evil against someone, pray for him. If you are in conflict with someone, pray for him. In so doing you will bridal your heart, and your heart will bridal your tongue.  Fill your heart with God’s Word and His body and blood and it will be all the easier to bridal. In fact, a heart full of Jesus all but jumps into the bridal and gladly runs down God’s path.