Sunday, September 16, 2018

Blessing and Cursing

Blessing and Cursing

            “From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.”
            Isn’t that always the way? 
Yes, a small fire warms the soul, but the moment it gets out of control—a forest fire.
            Or thinking of the storms these days, water is necessary for life, but it can easily endanger lives as well.
            The internet promises instant connection, and also makes us less and less connected with our neighbors.
Yes—"From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.”

“From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.”
There is a grave danger, Luther reminds us in his small Catechism, that from our mouth will come all sorts of lies about our neighbors.
Lies, simply put, not telling the truth about their actions—bearing false witness.
Or slandering them and destroying their reputation by lying about their character and conduct.
Or betrayal—making a promise to them with no intention of following through.
            Instead we ought to use our lips to defend them against the lies of others.
            We ought to speak well of our neighbor, and that means interpreting their actions in the best possible light…
            Don’t we all wish the same for ourselves?

            “From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.”
            As the school year starts back up, Sunday school too, it is worth remembering that we can use our mouths for teaching.
            And yes there is a danger to teaching
—there are two sides to it as well, right
—when we’re considered the expert, or at least the person a little further along in our understanding and skills—it is important that we get it right, or if we don’t know how to do that we say “I don’t know.” Imagine that, admitting the limits of your knowledge—if only humility was commonly practiced by humanity!

            When we don’t do this, especially when religious leaders don’t do this, we create falsescandals… what do I mean by a false scandal? Our faith is scandalous, as Peter points out today, a Messiah who suffers, is rejected by religious leaders and killed—yes truly that isscandalous…
but when we misused our mouth—when we don’t know what we’re talking about, and still keep talking, we can cause trauma and terror, and vex the consciousness of our children and all those who we seek to pass the faith on to…
            For example, many are told by their religious leaders that you have to pick between religion and science… there are so many resources out there to help folk wrestle with the tension between the two, science and religion, written by Bishops and Biologists, some who are both…but when religious folk refuse to investigate and instead just encourage their flock to put away their biology text books and focus on Genesis, they are setting them up for failure.
            Or those religious leaders back in 2007, I know I keep harping on them, they had parishioners come in with loan offers, and instead of inspecting them and helping them figure out if they could afford the loans, or even better, telling them “that’s not my area of expertise” instead they simply told them that their religious faith had finally paid off and asked for 10% of the loan to go to the church—when everything went south during the economic collapse these folk all lost their faith, left Christianity.
            I’ve even heard of religious leaders who tell people recovering from addiction that their cravings will go away, that detox won’t be painful and hard, if they just pray about it some… then when these folk, left on their own, relapse, and their faith is injured, often beyond repair.

            Yes, the responsibility of teaching, especially teaching the faith, is enormous
—yet right teaching of the Gospel sustains a weary world… 
            It even… no… it especially, sustains the teacher…
telling that old old story,
being curious about it again,
learning it again,
firming it up,
firms up our faith every time we speak it,
pass it on…
it is sustenance for the soul…
it is confession itself
—an answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
            Answering that question
…perhaps it is the highest calling, the best use of our mouth, the ultimate blessingwhich we might speak.
            “Who do you say that I am?”
            Answered by Peter, getting ahead of himself—he confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, then backs up when he realizes what kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. 
He grows into his answer.
He stumbles forward and backward into it, continuing to learn and grow in understanding, even as he grows into a leader of the early church.
            This last week in one of the Bible Studies we’re doing, “Making Sense of the Cross,” we wrestled with there being 4 gospels, four stories of the faith
—and one of the lenses we used was to think of it was confession—that each Gospel is a distinct confession, a distinct answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?”
-To Mark, just get the story out before you run out of breath,
-to Luke Jesus the good physician,
-to Matthew another Moses,
-to John the I AM.
            And so too with the three historical creeds—the Apostles, Nicaean, and Athanasian creeds—each a confession, an answer to the question “Who do you say that I am?”

            And so too throughout history:
            “Who do you say that I am, Augustine?” The restless find rest in you.
            “Who do you say that I am, Julian?” Because of you I know that all shall be well!
            “Who do you say that I am Luther?” You’re the one who redeemed me, the one I can trust, a mighty fortress.
            “Who do you say that I am Thurman?” When folk have their backs against the wall, you’re there with us.

            And so too today—that same question is put before us—it is called forth from our lips, our mouths prone to curses called to bless are called, despite their frailty, to confess… today, we are asked by Jesus Christ, “Who do you say that I am?”