“Words Matter”

A Pastoral Message for Sunday, August 16, 2020

Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Prayer.

Indeed.

“It is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” (Matthew 15:10)

Words matter.

When we speak, we make choices;

Which word to use

To match the emphasis of our choice

For the audience we intend.

We make choices all the time when we speak.

So choose carefully.

Choose wisely.

One who is vile and vulgar in one setting

May choose to be

Polite and proper in another.

Others are remarkably consistent;

Always polite and well spoken

Or endlessly provocative and inflammatory.

(Those are the ones I block on social media)

Most of us live someplace in-between.

Words matter.

Words matter.

This is why I write out every sermon, word for word.

I’m very careful about my word choices.

Is it right?

Does it convey the thought,

The spirit,

The intent of what God is saying through me?

Does it bring laser focus upon that which God intends

Or does it distract,

And should be, therefore, discarded?

Four years ago

I faced a significant challenge

When Pastor Juan invited me to preach

At his church in Tecpan, Guatemala.

His congregation spoke Spanish, with bits and pieces of Mayan.

Pastor Juan asked me the night before!

It was only by God’s grace

And the support of prayer

That the extemporaneous words I chose

Were culturally sensitive,

Historically sound,

Politically neutral,

Adequately translated,  

And, yet, still capable of allowing

The truth of the Gospel to be communicated.

Try threading that needle!

Words matter.

“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18)

Our baptism is when God

Calls us and grants us an identity as “Christian.”

There’s no going back on our part,

Because it is God who is doing the calling and naming.

You and I have been named.

We’ve been forever labeled,

Branded like a Texas steer.

Our name is “Christian”.

We are a people who God has chosen

To be disciples of His Son, Jesus Christ.

At our baptism

Three promises are made.

Promises are made by us directly,

Or, if we were baptized as infants or children,

Promises we personally confirm at our Confirmation.

These three promises have remained remarkably consistent

Over the course of two-thousand years;

Ever since the ascension of Jesus

And our Apostolic beginning.

Words matter.

Do you …

“Renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,

Reject the evil powers of this world,

And repent of your sin?”

Friends, let us not be naïve.

Neither let me beat around the bush.

In recent memory

Evil sent children of God to the gas chambers.

Evil segregates people by skin color.

Evil stakes the claim that some are more deserving

Or of greater value than others.

Evil hates, hurts, steals the rights of others.

Evil is quick to blame others for personal dissatisfaction.

Evil distorts truth by attempting to create moral equivalences, half-truths, and outright lies.

Evil is quick to resort to violence.

Jesus names evil:

“Evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19)

The spiritual forces of wickedness

And the evil powers of this world

Are causing us to writhe like we are passing a kidney stone.

We find ourselves in a whirlwind of wickedness.

The Devil is personified by torch bearing hatemongers

And by those who stand silently to the side,

Failing to use our baptismal voice

To renounce wickedness and evil.

Words matter.

At our baptism

This affirmation was made by us, or on our behalf:

Do you …

“Resist evil, injustice, and oppression

In whatever forms they present themselves?”

I do.

Do you?

The word “Resist” has taken on a political nuance in recent years.

It is used by some with an agenda.

But “resist” is a politically neutral word

When the politically reality of this world can successfully

Establish and maintain

Freedom, equality, justice, and liberty for all.

“Resist” becomes energized

When leaders and principalities of this world

Take away freedoms,

Endorse inequality,

Deny and withhold justice,

Imprison liberty.

Then every baptized Christian,

By our vows,

Is called to resist.

Resist!

Not just for our sake,

But for our neighbor’s sake, too;

Less we break our baptismal vows with our God.

Jesus learned the lesson of resistance

When he came across a Canaanite woman.

When he failed to grant her request for mercy,

She schooled him.

She schooled him hard.

This Canaanite woman “resisted”

Jesus’ rejection:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel …

… It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:24-27)

Now, there, …

That, there is resistance.

There is resistance that speaks of greater faith!

“Woman, great is your faith,” Jesus relents,

“Let it be done for you as you wish.” (15:28)

Resist

Evil, injustice, and oppression.

This is our vow.

Our words matter to God.

Words matter.

The third promise that is made by us, or on our behalf, at our baptism is this:

Do you …

“Confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,

Put your whole trust in his grace,

And promise to serve him as your Lord …?”

Many of us equate serving Christ

As loving our neighbor.

I do.

When I go on mission trips,

I make friends.

I love neighbors.

I do so serving Christ.

When I support local ministries,

Food pantries, campus ministries, chaplaincy, and other similar efforts,

I do so as a fulfillment of my baptismal vow to serve Christ.

Serving Christ can be, and should be, more than doing the work of Christ.

Serving Christ should also include speaking up

And speaking out on behalf of Christ.

By our baptismal vows we are called to advocate

For Christ,

For the Gospel;

The message of grace and love,

Forgiveness and salvation,

And for the emergence of Christ’s kingdom;

Where peace and justice reign and God is glorified.

Advocating for Christ

Is hard.

It’s intimidating.

Even I struggle to speak up and speak loud

For fear of offending or crossing political boundaries.

Yet,

By our baptismal vows,

We must speak up and speak out for Christ.

Words matter.

When we rise to claim the resistance of our baptismal call,

Do so boldly;

With the conviction that Jesus Christ is right by our side.

Don’t worry about the words, we are assured.

The Holy Spirit will give us words.

Do not be filled with anxiety about those that leave, we are assured,

Even Jesus regretfully allowed some to walk away.

Serving the Lord, Jesus Christ,

Requires that we speak up, speak out, and speak loud,

To open hearts to

All people,

All ages,

All nations,

All nations,

All races.

All means all.

Words matter.

“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” (Matthew 15:18)

When Christ fills your heart,

The words you choose

Are words given to you directly from Jesus.

Keep your eyes

And your heart

On Jesus.

At the same time, use your voice.

Speak up and advocate for Christ.

Resist all that is evil, unjust, and oppressive.

Resist wickedness and the evil powers of this world.

Let us not sit idly on the sidelines.

God’s kingdom is at stake.

Our baptismal vows are on the line.

Words matter.

Choose your words wisely.

Amen.

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