Covenanting with our Teachers

We shared a De-Covenanting Service with Rev. Heather today. The audio and the print of this service are available at…

Words Matter
September 13/2015

When I was a little girl I used to get teased a lot – I was called ‘carrot top’, ‘freckle face’, ‘red headed woodpecker’ – I even had a boy in my grade 5 and six class who always called me Woody – after Woody Woodpecker – I don’t think he even knew that my name was Heather. Some of the reason’s why I was teased had to do with my colouring, the red hair and freckles were a good target – some of it had to do with my always being the new kid in school – from Kindergarten to Grade 13, I went to 8 different schools. And some of it had to do with my own attitude – I was an easy person to tease, I imagine it was satisfying to those who teased me – I responded in the way that encouraged other kids to continue – I would yell back or sulk or cry – I would get upset and my behaviour seemed to inspire those who would call me names. My parents used to tell me to tell my tormentors “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” – and I did – but you know what – it did not stop the teasing, nor did it help me in any way – as the matter of fact – I came to understand that it was not true – stick and stone will break your bones – but words can break your heart…

I think that all of us in our lifetime will hear breaking heart words. Have you ever heard?
• You’re fired
• I don’t love you anymore
• I want a divorce
• You have cancer, or heart disease or diabetes or a terminal illness
• Your such a disappointment
• You’re nothing to me
• I can’t believe that you did that or said that or behaved like that
• There is nothing more we can do
• There is someone else
Words that break our hearts

I think that all of us in our lifetime will say heartbreaking words. How many of us have had these words fall from our lips:
• I don’t care
• I don’t want you in my life anymore
• Leave me alone
• You’re no good
• You have disappointed me
• You should be ashamed
• Go away

Words that break the hearts of others

Words matter, what you say, how you say it, who you say it to – words have the power to build up and to break down, they have the ability to create or destroy, words can help in a situation or thwart a project, they can be used to include or exclude, pull people together or scatter them into different camps. Words can praise, encourage, they can be healing, loving, giving, nurturing, and comforting. Words also have the power to devastate, they can damage, break down, insult, confuse, discount, create fear, and hate. As James says: “This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!” (James 3:7-10 The Message).

Our politicians are certainly aware that the tongue runs wild – and they have been very careful to say the right thing. A couple of days ago, Anna Marie Tremante was talking with Peter Mansbridge on the Current about the interviews he conducted with the three main political party leaders (Elizabeth May’s interview had not happened at that point) – and what I found interesting was that Peter Mansbridge was indicating just how polished each of the three leaders were – and how challenging it was to find the questions that would allow the conversation to leave the carefully thought out words and phrases and rhetoric and have them answer from their heart instead of using political speak that they have learned from their advisors.

We have got to watch what we say, how we say it and if it needs to be said at all. This morning’s gospel reading is a great example of someone trying to get his words right but ending up putting his feet in his mouth. Jesus and his disciples are in the Roman City of Caesarea Philippi, and it is here, in a Roman city – named after the Caesar the self-professed god – that Jesus asks this crucial question to his disciples – now remember – the disciples have been with Jesus for a couple of years now, they have witnessed to the miracles, the healings, the teachings and the radical message that Jesus is teaching – they are also men who have some understanding of the Jewish faith, the promised messiah – so when asked by Jesus – “who do you say that I am” to begin with the disciples share who others are saying who Jesus is – Elijah, John the Baptist or another prophet come back to life…but Peter seems to get beyond the rhetoric and the reincarnation images and uses new words to answer Jesus question.

Peter appears in that moment in those words to come to the conclusion that Jesus is the promised one, the Christ, the Messiah the one sent by God to save the world. These words ‘the Christ, the Messiah’ are pretty radical words – for these words are dangerous and can get you killed. In a world where the only one to be proclaimed as ‘god’ is the Caesar – in a world where the religious authorities dismiss your message as heresy – proclamation of the Christ – the messiah is dangerous business.

And in a wonderful example of how quickly words shift things– from right to wrong, from good to bad – from approving to judgemental – within a sentence just after Jesus saying ‘way to go, Peter, you nailed it’ – Jesus is saying – ‘get away from me Peter, you don’t understand’. Peter’s words of recognition and acceptance become words of rebuke and chastisement. And although Peter names Jesus as Christ – he does not treat Jesus as Christ but instead as someone who needs to be handled – and to be called out for words that are uncomfortable to hear – words that predict Jesus impending demise. It is so easy as James says for our mouths to speak words of blessings from one side and curse words from the other.
It is “No wonder Peter rebukes him.” writes David Lose: This sounds like blasphemy. The saviour of the world, suffer? God’s messiah, die? Are you mad?
Peter, you see, wants and needs a strong God. Like so many of his day, he’s looking for a descendant of mighty king David to come and overthrow Roman rule and restore Israel to it’s rightful place among the nations. Jesus has to be that person. After all, he’s already brought relief, comfort, healing, and life. So what’s all this talk about suffering and death?
Peter wants a strong God…and who can blame him. Are we any different? When the crushing weight of hardship bears down upon us, when the voices of despair drown out all others, when it’s one disappointment after another, don’t we also want a strong God to avenge our hurts, to right all wrongs, and to put us back on top of things?
Except…except that it’s precisely when I’m down and out, when life’s setbacks and disappointments have conspired to make me feel like I’m nothing, that I wonder what a God of might, strength, and justice–the God of winners, that is–has to say to me, an ordinary schmuck and everyday Joe, who often feels far closer to defeat than to victory.
I think this is what Jesus means in his rebuke to Peter by contrasting divine things and earthly ones. By our human reckoning strength is everything, might makes right, and the one who dies with the most toys wins. But God employs a different calculus and measures strength not in terms of might but of love, not by victory but vulnerability, not in possessions but in sacrifice, not by glory but by the cross.”
And our world is turned upside down –not by strength but by weakness. God turns the world upside down. The first is last, the poor are blessed, and so are the grieving, strength is received through weakness, receiving happens through giving, freedom comes from service to the other and living happens from dying – upside down.

Which is partly why our words get us into trouble – so what words do we use when we ask the question? – “who is Jesus” – how do we in the church live who we believe Jesus is? When we proclaim Jesus as Christ, as Messiah, as the one sent from God to save the world – how do we act in such a way that those words reflect our actions in how we live together as God’s people in the church. I think one such way is to weigh the words we use and find ways to speak in heart healing ways instead of heart breaking ways. If we use our words to build up instead of break down, if we choose words that care instead of criticize. If the way we speak to each other and ourselves is how we imagine God speaks to us – words like

• I forgive you
• Lets try again
• Can you help me please
• Thank you for what you did
• I love you
• Hey, your terrific
• Lets see if we can figure it out together
• How can I help

Heart healing words

Words matter what you say, how you say it, who you say it to – words have the power to build up and to break down, they have the ability to create or destroy, words can help in a situation or thwart a project, they can be used to include or exclude, pull people together or scatter them into different camps. Words matter

I am looking for words right now, about how to say goodbye, and say thank you and to apologize for leaving just as we are getting going. I want you to know that I cherished my time here with you – that I value the relationships we have formed in the past year. I thank you for your care and support and I leave you with a heavy heart. I do believe that God is with us and that you and I will continue our journey’s with God and all will be well. Many blessings everyone. Amen.


[1] David Lose:


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