While preparing the sermon for this week, I came across this interesting words, “In Biblical days it was a miracle for ass to speak. Now it is a miracle for one to keep silent. I don’t know how you find that but I think that there is some truth to this especially when I find myself always surrounded by words. When I get into my car, I automatically turn on the radio to listen to something, news or music. When I walk on the street, I always take my I-Pod with me so that I can listen to music. When I work on the computer, I always turn on music website so that I can listen to either NPR or music. When I don’t listen to something, I feel that there is some emptiness that I need to fill. How about you? Do you have any moments in your daily life that you experience silence or quietness? Maybe the only quiet time you have is the night time when you go to bed. You lay your body on the bed and feel the comfortableness. And you say “ah...”
I suggest this morning we take one or two minutes to take silence. I know that this could be a little awkward but let’s try it.
(Silence: I was going to take at least one minute but I felt awkward and couldn't go more than 40 seconds. )
How was it? How did you feel during the time of silence? I think that some of you may have felt nervous when you felt that there was sound around you. Some of you may have thought that the associate pastor is trying something that makes congregation feel nervous again. Some of you may have heard sound coming out of the sanctuary. Car driving. The sound of wind. The sound of people chatting...etc. Some of you may have felt certain emotions when you thought about someone in your life. Was it joy, happiness, or sadness, frustration, or anger? See even if we try to create our space with silence, we often feel that there are many emotions or thoughts in us that need to be expressed through our words. We are always ready to express our thoughts through our words.
How about preaching? We sing several songs. We do the prayers. We read the scriptures. Then the preacher comes to the pulpit. Everyone becomes quite. Preacher only speaks and fills the sanctuary with his or her voice, otherwise quite. What a responsibility! How vulnerable it can be! I still remember the first time I preached at Union UMC. I felt sick in my stomach because I was really nervous. What words should I say? How would the people respond? All kinds of thoughts came to my mind and made me sick. Then Rev. Martin McLee, the senior pastor at that time, called me to his office and anointed on my forehead with oil praying for me. And I went to the sanctuary feeling comfortable and confident in the presence of God. I was feeling comfortable but don’t know if I made the people uncomfortable. We all need Jesus. And I need Jesus especially when I preach in the pulpit.
James says that not many of your should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. I hope this verse doesn’t make any teachers in this place nervous; teachers at school. teachers in Sunday school. In the time of Jesus, the teachers were seen as those who imparted great knowledge, the truth, to their pupils. It was an honorable position that people wanted to be in. But today, the teachers, not all of them but many of them, seem to be losing their credibility. When I was in Korea, students were expected to respect their teachers. We honored our teachers with respect. Parents gave their permission to the teachers saying, “Teacher, if my kids don’t behave, please discipline him with strictness. You can even spank him.” However, these days, teachers in Korea are losing their credibility and the students don’t respect their teachers like before. They don’t trust their teachers as those they can learn from. They learn English, math, science from their teachers but they do not trust them as someone they can learn their personalities. I hear from my friends here in Boston that there used to be a time when the teachers were treated with respect and honor in the U.S. And I wonder if it is still the case now. How about pastors in church?
Just a couple of weeks ago, I read a news article that a minister in Arizona who preached in his sermon how much he hates the current president of the U.S. He begins his sermon with saying, “Today I am going to talk about how much I hate Obama.” A preacher is speaking hatred in the pulpit. He held a grudge against the president over the issue of abortion. He argued that Obama was committing sin against God by allowing the unborn babies to die. His sermon seemed obviously influential to his congregation. The next day one member of his church showed up at the presidential event in his town with his rifle and hand-gun. I am arguing here whether it is right or wrong to allow abortion. I would need more research, prayer, and discussion before I speak about the issue. the person who supports the life of unborn babies brought a gun to kill other people. How ironic it is. James says, “With tongue, we bless the Lord and FAther, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.” There is one thing that I learn from this case. The power in our words. Especially for those who are in the position of leadership.
How many times a day do we regret, “Oh my God, I wish I never said that.” I know that there is an American saying, “There is no use of crying over the spilt milk.” What can you do with the spilt milk? You can’t put it back to the cup. It is like our words. Once we say something, it is hard to say, “Oh.. I didn’t mean it.” It’s often like a sword that penetrates into our flesh and our heart leaving so many wounds. The words between parents and children. The words between friends. The words between workers. The words between husband and wife. I remember my friend’s spouse always saying, “See I told you!” That person could have said, “It’s OK. Don’t worry.” But always said, “I told you it would happen!” It could be us who actually say something hurtful to others. We think that we point out the truth. We think that we help others with our words. If you want to be more conscious of what you say, next time you think about what you said to others and ask yourself, “How did my words serve in my relationship with someone someone? Did they serve me well?” But the results do not often turn out as we expected. And we regret later, “Oh my God, I wish I never said that.” You know what I am talking about.
Is there power in the word? We see a lot that the power of the word that destroys our relationship with others. But is there another power of the word? Certainly there is the word in the Bible that builds relationship with others rather than destroy it. In Genesis, it is said that God created the world with God’s words. God filled the earth, a formless void and the face covered with darkness with light, vegetables, fruits, animals, by saying, “Let there be light.” “Let the earth put forth vegetation” “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” And God saw that it was good. God created the world. God gave the order to the formless void by God’s word. John 1 says that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. This Word came to this world in flesh. Jesus came to this world speaking repentance, love, peace, and forgiveness. Jesus drove out the demons by his words. Jesus taught his disciples and people with parables. Jesus died on the cross because he fought against the powers and principalities of this world not with his fists or weapon, but with his words. The Word of God builds relationship with God’s creation. The Word of Jesus redeems us even when we don’t know how to live as God’s children.
When we took the time of silence this morning, I said that I could sense many emotions. I hear some preachers say that we need to come to the worship service laying down all our burdens, brining our pure hearts for God. However, I think that it is very natural that we come to the worship service with our burdens. Trouble with our relationship with family. Trouble with our work. Trouble with seeking jobs these days. Trouble with our health. We carry them with us. But we come to church to learn how to lay them down in God’s presence. As a preacher, it would be very irresponsible for me to say, “Just believe in Jesus and give God more offering, then you know that God will give you good health, God will give you a nice house, God will fix your relationship with your family and friends.” I am very concerned about my soul that will be judged before God with more strictness. It wouldn’t be easy to lay down our burdens whatever they are. But we discern the presence of God who is walking with us, suffering with us, and helping us free from the burdens. So we praise God’s name. We pray together to God. And we share words of God because we believe the power of words that proclaims the message of peace in the time of violence, message of justice in the time of oppression, and message of love in the time of lovelessness.
So let us pray that God sanctify our lips, as the angel of God sanctified Isaiah’s lips with the coal. Let us fill the silence with the sound of our joy and gladness. Let us say words that build our relationship with God and our neighbors. It doesn’t have to take many words to express our thoughts. Start with saying “God bless you.” In the morning when we take shower, think about your baptism if you have been baptized as you wash your body with the water. And say, “Lord, bless me this morning, bless my family, bless my friends, and bless the people that I will meet today.”
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