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We're so glad you decided to join us today!
Every week, we use Psalm 19:14 as our benediction. This hymn came up as referencing that scripture.
When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns. Take a few moments to consider your past week, and the joys and worries it brought you. If you would like others to pray for these as well, you can add a comment at the bottom of this post.
This week's prayer is actually going to be two prayers put together. One is called A Prayer for Inner Strength, and the other is a morning prayer. We will start with a prayer together. Then, we will include our personal prayers. Finally, we will pray together again.
Please give me the strength to face the day
and to see the many blessings that it contains.
Give me the courage to walk on,
no matter how long the path
or how many turns the road holds.
Guide my thoughts so that I walk in love and peace
with gratitude stamped on my heart.
[Pray your personal prayer here]
As I start my day Lord, I thank you for all you have blessed me with,
including another wonderful day of life.
Every day is a blessing.
Every day my faith is recharged, renewed, and stronger than the day before.
No matter what I face today God,
I know that I am never alone.
You are always with me.
Today, I will accomplish great things because of you God,
and my faith is in you.
This week’s lesson is on James 3:1-12.
Introduction: The Power of Words
The longer live, the more acutely we are aware of the power of the tongue to destroy. From the days when we hurled schoolyard taunts or insults (or were on the receiving end of those), we realized the power of words to hurt or damage.
Every generation seems to learn this lesson the hard way. Consider, for example, the impact of social media in the world in general and in the church in particular. With fingers typing as an extension of the tongue, Christians argue sharply with each other about faith, politics, etc., in publicly visible Facebook threads. Prominent ministers and authors quarrel with one another on Twitter; relationships are strained or broken on ill-considered tweets of 280 characters or fewer. What would the Bible writers say about such practices?
As we saw in previous lessons, some practices of James’s audience ran counter to what they voiced in speech. Up to the point of today’s passage, James has written about negative modes of speech, such as the self-justifying claim that one is tempted by God (James 1:13), the flattering speech that reveals partiality toward the rich and shames the poor (James 2:3-6), the careless speech of those who wish the poor well but do not help them (James 2:16), and the superficial speech of the one claiming to have faith but lacking deeds (James 2:18). Other examples of improper speech occurring later include those of judging and slandering (James 4:11), boasting (James 4:13-16), and grumbling (James 5:9). Sandwiched in between is today’s text.
Since today’s lesson draws heavily on figures of speech, some background information in that regard is in order. Figurative language adds interest and excitement to writing; chief among figures of speech are metaphors. A metaphor takes an idea and imposes it on an unrelated but familiar idea to help explain the qualities of the original. One easy example is the phrase, “Joseph is a fruitful vine,” (Genesis 49:22). This does not mean that this particular son of Jacob was literally a grapevine or other vegetation. It means, rather, that he was productive in some way.
James’s use of metaphor in speaking of the tongue reflects how other biblical writers use metaphor in speaking of the heart. Indeed, heart and tongue are used in poetic passages to stand parallel to one another.
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
Biblical writers use the imagery of the heart to speak of what defines and reveals our true, inner nature. In the same way, the tongue is more than just a part of the body. The tongue is equated with speech, of course. But James’s insight extends beyond that. How one uses the tongue reveals the nature of the heart as motives are connected with speech and actions.
When we meet in person, we discuss the scripture lesson, especially as it relates to our lives. This can include observations, questions, and connections. Take some time to think about your answers to the questions below, which come from our adult Sunday School book. These questions can be difficult to answer, and don't necessarily have one right answer. If you are reading the lesson with someone else, discuss your thoughts together. You can always share your thoughts and questions as a comment below.
Article: Speaking with a forked tongue?
In 1855, the US government told the chief of the Nez Perce tribe that his people would be allowed to keep millions of acres of tribal lands in the Pacific Northwest. A treaty was signed. But a few years later, the government forced a new treaty on the tribe due to the discovery of gold on tribal land.
When the chief died, his son and successor fought to recover the land that had been promised earlier. Some of the Nez Perce were slaughtered; the survivors were forced to live on a small fraction of their ancestral lands.
Historical events such as this provide the backdrop for movies of the "Old West" type, featuring Indians concluding that the white man, "speaks with a forked tongue," or variations of that phrase. Whether or not Native Americans ever actually said that, we speak with forked tongue when we say we revere God as our heavenly Father but then do harm in word or deed to our fellow humans, who are made in his image. How does our speech bear witness or our God for good or for ill?
Today's lesson concerns the destructive power of the tongue. Specifically, it deals with the words spoken by those who were recognized as teachers in the first-century church (and perhaps those who aspired to that role). Their words were of special concern to James because they involved matters that have an eternal import. All of us can think of ways in which words spoken by teachers have had beneficial or damaging effects on the lives of the hearers. Words should be a source of spiritual growth and sustenance.
But how many of us have seen church splits that resulted from ill-advised words? How many of us have seen men and women leave the faith because of spiritually damaging utterances? These concerns lie at the heart of today's text.
James's description of the tongue may lead us to conclude that attempting to control it is hopeless. Admittedly, the tongue is extremely difficult to control. As we know all too well. All of us have said things that we came to regret.
What is more, the work of taming the tongue is a lifelong task. While today's text directly addressed teachers, it calls on all Christians to examine themselves. Are we faithfully using our powers of speech daily? Do we speak words of truth and grace consistently at home, on the job, and in church? Are our critiques healing or destructive?
These are questions for everyone, no matter what position or stage of life. In effect, we are all teachers on some level, by our tongues as well as the examples we set.
Lord god, as we come to see more clearly the destructive power of the tongue, we pray for strength to bridle and to restrain our tongues from all forms of evil speech. Transform our words so that they bring glory to your name. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
This week's benediction is from the Good News Bible.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.