WORDS IN THE SPIRIT
When I was asked to be the preacher for the North Little Rock Ministerial Alliance Community Thanksgiving Service, I was floored. I didn't think that anybody thought that much about me. I was honored by the gesture, but the moment I said "yes," my nerves got the best of me. I know that God has not ever failed me, but even though I'm not of this world...I still live in it. And the somatic changes in body gave me heart burn and an upset stomach.
Finally the moment arrived for service. I read over my sermon frantically. The more I read over my sermon, the more nervous I became. Finally Dr. Watkins told me to stop reading. I obeyed her, but I didn't want to. I felt like that my life depended on me reading over that sermon just one more time. All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. Would they laugh at my jokes? Will they get my off color humor? Would I offend one of the priests in our group with my encouragement for the assembled congregation in Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church for vocal feedback throughout my message? I didn't know what to expect, so I said a quick prayer and trusted that God would deliver.
The core of my message that evening was everyday that we experience is a day of Thanksgiving. Morning by morning new mercies we see. Thanksgiving is not a holiday, it's a way of life.
I hate to admit it, but I got full of the Spirit and said something that even surprised me. I said, "This here Methodist pastor is about to turn it out in this here Lutheran church!" I continued to say that because of this very moment right now, I will forever be grateful to God because God gets all of the glory. To my surprise, the congregation erupted with an explosive affirming Amen. I hope that I don't offend anybody when I say this, but from a cultural stand point -- me, being an African American pastor, I haven't ever seen a congregation of Anglo people get full of the Spirit like that before. It was like being at McCabe Chapel, but better because they wanted to hear the message that God put on my heart. I was humbled by that because they received the message with gratitude and joy.
That experience made me realize that I must watch what I say and do at all times because I have experienced and witness people of different denominations, priests, and pastors receive my sermon as if it came directly from the mouth of God. That's humbling on so many levels that I can't even describe it. All I know is that I've been changed forever by it.
Proverbs 18:21 specifically states that words kill and bring life. They're either poison or fruit. We're the ones that make the decision on which one we produce.
According to John Wesley, death and life are brought upon by men based on the words that they choose to use (Wesley's Notes). That just goes hand in hand with what Christ says in the twelfth chapter of Matthew: that if we have minds like snake pits then the things that we do to build the kingdom will not be heartfelt and sincere.
What's in our hearts, not what what's in the dictionary, that gives meaning to our words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. Jesus continues to teach us a hard lesson in that same chapter by telling us that every one of our carless words are going to come back and haunt us. Words are powerful; take them seriously because words can be our salvation as well as our damnation.
Are we going to produce life or death with what we say?
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