Words have power. They can hurt, or they can heal. They can make this look like that. They can enlighten our minds and hearts, or they can cloud our understanding. They can be sincere, or they can be deceiving. They can be used to build walls between people, or they can be used to tear down walls.
In this reading, we are called upon to speak the truth in love so that we will grow in Christ. Words of love knit us to others and to God.
As a pastor since 1979, I have had many experiences of congregants speaking the “truth” to me. Some spoke from the heart of love; and some uttered words from hard, unloving hearts. Both, I am certain, tried to be true to what they believed.
The comedian Minnie Pearl was a member of the congregation I served in Brentwood, TN. She had performed at the Grand Ole Opry and many other venues. She knew how to use words to evoke laughter and applause from audiences. One of her favorite sayings was, “Laughter is the hand of God that rocks the cradle of a troubled world.”
One day I went to see her because I was getting some painful feedback on my sermons. I shared some of the critical notes I had received, and I shared my pain. I asked her to give me her feedback on my sermons. She was reluctant to do so, but I insisted. Finally, she spoke the truth in love to me. She said, “Joe, just give us one take-home that we can apply to our lives. You also need to work on your punchlines.” Those were the loving words I needed to hear.
God of love, help me to use words that increase love in the world. Amen.
David thinks he has gotten away with his sins, but God sends Nathan to tell David a story. The story angers David, but Nathan reveals that the story is really about David’s own behavior. Indeed, it can be tempting to condemn others’ sin, while we justify our own. Psalm 51 is David’s appeal to God for forgiveness and restoration. If we want to please God in our own lives, what does this look like? Ephesians tells us that the signs of a redeemed life include humility, love, patience, and building up one another (the opposite of what David displayed). In John, Jesus has crowds following him because they want a free meal. The lasting nourishment they truly need, Jesus teaches, comes through believing that God has sent him.
Read 2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a. When has someone else helped you see that you have sinned? How did you respond to that person?
Read Psalm 51:1-12. When have you felt “unclean” before God? How did God restore you?
Read Ephesians 4:1-16. What are your gifts? How do you use them to build up the body of Christ?
Read John 6:24-35. How do you feed your soul?
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