The readings in the LCC lectionary this Sunday have to do with control of speech. (Does blogging count? Oh dear!) We all know the creative and destructive power of the word (mirroring the Logos in miniature) in our lives. The tongue is a little member, but it boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! However, it is all too easy to take James’ counsel to offend not in word as an instruction to be “nice.”
To take a public example – this week, we have listened to the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church carry on at great length about dialogue, listening, and her desire for TEC to “remain in the conversation” of the larger Anglican Communion. It all sounds very nice. But, out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. Despite all the best intentions in the world, Katharine Jefferts Schori’s nice words are full of deadly poison for the LGBT members of her church who are being asked to bear an unholy sacrifice, in limiting or eliminating their access to the sacraments of holy orders and matrimony.
However smooth and pleasant our words may be, how do we know if we are speaking a blessing or a curse? Here the gospel (from Luke 6) can help us. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. We can simply look at the results of our speech in the world, in our lives and the lives of those we touch. Are we building up or tearing down? We may be seeking good fruit, but are we foolishly putting our hand in the bramble-bush, hoping to find a grape?
While I have taken Katharine, my sister in Christ, to task in this reflection, the gospel also reminds us to remove the beam from our own eye, before taking the mote away from our sister. We independent sacramental Christians certainly have plenty of beams in our eyes. We ride the coattails of the larger churches, trying too hard to be like them, and lying when we are not. Not unlike Katharine, we fail to articulate the vision of church which the Spirit has given us. As we pray for Katharine and those in her care, may the struggles of The Episcopal Church remind us to speak truth plainly and clearly, in words of strong blessing which bear only good fruit.