Deadly Poison

How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 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. (James 3)

As a pastor there are several passages of scripture that I am reminded of from time to time or that I turn to in time of need.  Unfortunately, this is one of those passages.  I realize that  Christians are sinners like everyone else in the world, and I realize that the Church can act like so many of the other organizations in the world as well, but there should be a limit to how true this is in practice.

I have served as a conflict intervention consultant to seven churches and have also been appointed to serve in two churches that were at the highest level of conflict prior to my arrival. the words that James writes above are dead center on the mark when it comes to churches in conflict, and unfortunately they are also applicable to some churches that are not in open conflict.

When will we learn as Christians to place our tongues along with the rest of who we are under the lordship of Christ? in the past few weeks i have seen the deadly effects of loose tongues more interested in complaining, hurting and destroying than they are in praising, healing and building up.

Nothing will destroy a church more quickly than the fire known as the tongue.

And the Dead Shall Arise

As I consider the texts for this week the theme of death and resurrection is obvious. The valley of dry bones (how many churches fit that description?), Paul’s reflections on life in the spirit and the power of the spirit to re-animate what is dead, and of course, the story of Lazarus rising from the tomb.

Several observations on these scriptures:

  • It is the breath or spirit of God which brings the bones to life in Ezekiel.
  • It is the spirit of God which gives life to our mortal bodies.
  • It is the voice (breath, spirit) of Christ which calls Lazarus forth from the grave.

My questions:

  • If a church or group of people is dying, how can we invoke the spirit of God to bring new life?
  • Is it necessary for the people or church to want new life? (at least according to Ezekiel and John the answer appears to be no, but what about now?)

Jesus Called Him “Friend”

I have been thinking about the readings for Palm/Passion sunday, and I came to realize that in the gospel of Matthew there are only two times real people are referred to as a “friend.” The first time is when Jesus is called a friend of publicans and sinners. The second time is when Judas is addressed by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus says to Judas, “Friend, do what you came to do.”

I, at least, find it rather amazing that of all the people Jesus could have called friend in Matthew, he only does so to Judas.  I still don’t know what to make of it exactly, but I will continue to ponder its meaning.