"Let no evil come out of your mouth but ONLY that which is useful for BUILDING UP AS THERE IS NEED so that the words you speak may give GRACE to those who hear." Ephesians
One of my favorite jokes growing up was about the little boy who had never said anything. The parents were worried about him but everything else about the boy seemed fine. One day, the mother was spreading peanut butter on his toast, and the little boy suddenly said. "Why do you always put peanut butter on my toast without putting butter on it first!" The mother exclaimed, "You talked! And when you talked it wasn't just a word, it was a whole sentence, and it made absolutely good sense! How wonderful! How wonderful! I was so afraid that you would never be able to speak. What made you able to speak?" And the little boy said, "Well, up to now, everything has been just fine. There was nothing that needed saying."
In the midst of Nazi persecution Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book, Life Together, "If there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of Christian with Christian, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God's will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!...let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God's grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare; It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian sisters and brothers!"
One of my greatest daily sins is that I do not spend a great portion of the day simply filling it with thanksgiving and praise for the gift of the wonderful community of the church! One of my greatest daily sins is that I do not spend a great portion of the day simply building up the church through words of thanksgiving to my sisters and brothers!! I confess to you that I see the church and my congregation far more like the little boy. I say nothing really until someone butters my toast wrong, and then I speak out. Up to that point, it seems that all is well. Never mind that it is sheer grace, sheer grace that I am ABLE to know Christian sisters and brothers!!! Never mind that it is sheer grace that I have a pastor who can enter a pulpit and my hospital room and speak the Word to me about a crucified and risen Lord who is FOR ME! Never mind, that I have the sheer grace to be able to read and have a second of time to consider reading a piece of writing about the glory of God and the utter blessings of God!
No! Jim! Wake up!!! Let no evil come out of your mouth this day, words that destroy and deflate and wound and have a power of destruction to them as soon as they leave your mouth or as soon as they hit the email! Rather......RATHER....but only those words that build up AS THERE IS NEED! I tell you in this world and in our lives and in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ THERE IS NEED for words that build up! THERE IS NEED for words that speak life! THERE IS NEED for words that express thanksgiving and for the sheer grace of the ability to BE in Christian community.
I far too often think there is need for me to speak the truth in love. The problem is, that seems to be the ONLY time I speak! Telling others the truth 'in love'. But I have every day. Every day to build up this church and build up others in the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ BECAUSE THERE IS NEED for it!
The little boy finally spoke cause things were no longer perfect. The little boy never brought forth a good word, a thankful word, a building up word. His silence brought worry, anxiety, or just another day without a word that built up.
But the building up words speak GRACE to those who hear it....like a word that I was chosen and loved before the foundation of the world. Like a word that nothing shall separate me from the love of God. Like a word that tells me how much I mean to another.
So, I tell YOU this day. It is sheer grace to have you in the body of Christ. It is sheer grace that we can write such words and cherish one another in Christ! I tell you how blessed I am to be a part of College Lutheran and how grateful I am for the very presence of my pastors, Wynemah Hinlicky and Bill Wiecher! How I get down on my knees and give thanks for the presence of these saints whose faces seem to bear the likeness of the Christ FAR more than the Christ I feel in my heart on many, many days.
It is sheer grace. It is all sheer grace! Speak the word that builds up. Speak the word that builds up. How absolutely BLESSED we are in this synod! How BLESSED we are, no matter what we think about how our toast is being buttered.
What a privilege it is to be a Christian and to have the ability to say I am to others in this country. We dare not consider this as small a thing as buttered toast. It is grace. Sheer grace.
Worth building on and building up, this day. Every day. I would say.
Lord , we thank you for the grace-filled, blessed all over gift of this new day! It comes out of the hand of your providing and out of your mouth in the Word of your creation. How can we ever praise and thank you enough for the gift of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ! How dare we not consider for a single second the gracious Spirit of the message of a filled manger, a borne cross, and an empty tomb. How profound is the thought that you use us as your ambassadors of the message about the love of your Father for us, for us all. How wonderful that our word in your Name has power to heal and bind up, to give hope and love, to build up and provide newness of life! It is all sheer grace, dear Lord. Sheer grace. Do not let my lips be silent this day, O Lord. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall shout forth your praise! For the power of your Holy Spirit, I pray this day, all in your glorious Name. Amen.