Vandalia United Methodist Church

Pastor's Perspective

"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water?" James 3

I returned to Kansas for a family funeral in July and went by the grain elevator where my grandpa served as manager for many years (just outside Winfield). It was a nostalgic moment as I can still remember the days grandma would pack two lunches (one for grandpa and one for me) and I would get to go with him to work. I can still remember the grain dust billowing up inside the elevator, the smell of the wet grain and the sweat from the workers, the sounds of trucks pulling in and out, and the playful banter of the workers.

What I especially remember was that this banter changed markedly in tone whenever grandpa was anywhere near. He was a deacon in the Methodist Church in Winfield and to the best of my recollection never swore, told off-color jokes and seldom raised his voice in anger. I can still remember him once telling me in a soft voice, "Tommy, I am disappointed in you." Nothing filled me more with regret than these words! The men who labored and brought wheat and other grains into the elevator knew this and their language changed when Harold Bender was around. This was out of respect for his faith.

Recently the news has been awash with Americans shouting at each other and threatening violence at county board meetings, health meetings, school board meetings. It does not seem to matter which side of the issue folks side with, they want theirs to be the loudest (and sometimes the most profane) in the room. We think nothing of wearing expletives on our clothing, on yard signs and even plastered on the back of our vehicles. Our common language these days is peppered with violence, sexual innuendo, and cruelty. The sacred hours of family television, when it was assumed anyone could watch television without seeing and hearing certain things, is long passed by.

James reminds us of an important truth. Our language, stories, jokes and gossip reveal not just what we have heard from others, but what we feel in our hearts. It's not just the words we speak that judge us, it is the fact that we conjured them up first inside. Our words, stories and accusations reflect who we are. So James reminds us, "let us examine our hearts and not just our words." I am working on this.

What is our Christian witness to this world of abusive and aggressive tongues? Do we participate, pass on, or even overlook such crass language? Do we simply accept it as part of the times, or can we witness to another way of speaking? Perhaps we simply walk away? Maybe the simple truth that our friends, coworkers, and colleagues know that we do not talk this way might be deterrent enough? I think back to the witness of my grandpa and how out of respect for him, the language of those around him changed. Does it change when I walk into a room?

I remember years ago at Promise Keeper’s meeting a challenge that has stayed with me. The speaker, addressing men who were used to mouthing whatever we feel, asked us. "Would you talk differently if you knew Jesus was in earshot of what you were saying?" The answer was obvious, "of course we would." Then came the speaker's reply. "Jesus is nearby when you speak"! So let us weigh our words, our condemnations, our judgment, our off-color stories; and let our willingness to speak words that heal and help inspire others to the same tongue. Amen.

Pastor Tom



September Worship Notes
A good way to prepare for worship is to read the preaching text prior to worship on Sundays!

Series: The Marks of a Methodist, based on John Wesley’s sermons

September 5 Matthew 22: 34-40
A Methodist Loves God!

September 12 2 Corinthians 11: 21-32
A Methodist Rejoices in All Things!

September 19 Philippians 1: 3-11
We will celebrate the legacy of our 50 plus year members! A Methodist Gives Thanks

September 26 1 Thessalonians 5: 12-22
A Methodist Prays Constantly

October 3 1 John 4: 7-16
Communion Sunday A Methodist Loves Others



9:30 AM Worship Service
10:40 AM Sunday School

First United Methodist Church of Vandalia :: 618.283.3684