Summary: Sermon for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost reminding us that being a Christian is more than just using Christian words and acting like one on a special day of the year.
A Great Mutiny
Sermon on James 3:1-12
Pentecost +15- B
September 17, 2006
Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
“For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature,
can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species,
but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it
we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so.”
Ever since the time I entered divinity school, I have been so busy that I have apparently neglected a lot of important things that have been happening in the news. In fact, I have missed a singularly important news story for the last five years straight! It seems that every September 19th since the year 2002 that day has been “National Talk Like a Pirate Day.” It’s coming up on Tuesday. You don’t want to miss it again this year, do you? On that day, people are given permission to go around and get on everybody’s nerves by talking like a pirate, matey—all day long. Observers of National Talk Like a Pirate Day are also encouraged to dress like a pirate and add that pirate flavor to everything they do this coming Tuesday. According to the official website of National Talk Like a Pirate Day, one should simply include words like “Ahoy,” “Avast,” “Aye,” and “Arrrrr” into regular conversation. I don’t think people are encouraged to board Spanish ships and rob them of all their gold and rum though. Pity.
Our society is infatuated with pirates. Pirates and Buccaneers are the mascots for at least two professional sports teams, but really Vikings should be added in there as well because they were Scandinavian pirates. The sequel to the movie Pirates of the Caribbean that came out a few months ago was the highest opening day money maker of all time! You can bet that come October 31st , Halloween Night, that more than your fair share of pirates are going to be boarding the ship of your home and demanding the loot of your candy stores—trick or treat…yarrrr.
Did you know that piracy is still alive and well today? Most people think that piracy is only found in the pages of Treasure Island or in a history book and that it has been totally eradicated. But not only has piracy never been eradicated, but the number of pirate attacks on ships has also tripled in the past decade-putting piracy at its highest level in modern history. And contrary to the stereotype, today’s pirates are often trained fighters aboard speedboats equipped with satellite phones and global positioning systems and armed with automatic weapons, antitank missiles, and grenades. Piracy is quickly becoming a new favorite method of terrorists worldwide according to the journal Foreign Affairs.
For such reasons as this, many people have mounted protests against National Talk Like a Pirate Day. They believe that it is wrong to emulate criminals of the past. Now, I don’t think a big budget movie about pirates or even a day where people are encouraged to speak like them is going to cause anyone to board a freighter and take possession of the ship’s treasure chest. That’s the thing about pretending and acting like a pirate. Anyone can put on a black eye patch and get a plastic hook for a hand, a peg leg, and put a parrot on their shoulder and talk like Blackbeard one evening, demanding candy from the houses of your friends and family and then the next day everything is back to normal except for maybe a stomach ache from ingesting all that stolen booty.
With the same body God has given us we can act like pirates one day and the next day we are back to normal. Nothing about us has been permanently changed. None of us actually has a hook for a hand or an eye that we lost while boarding a ship. We don’t speak like we’re pirates and put a big arrrr after everything we say. Nothing in us has been permanently changed.
That’s where today’s epistle lesson from the Book of James comes in. In it, James tells those early Christians he was writing to about something very similar. He asks if salt water can come from the same source as fresh water, or if a fig tree can bear olives, or a grapevine figs. Of course the answer is no. But why then is it that with the same mouth, we can praise God and then curse someone created in the image of God? How is it that those of us who call ourselves Christians can praise our Creator and yet with the same mouth talk horribly about another person?