SERMON TITLE: “Taming the Tongue”
SERMON TEXT: James 3:1-12 (also Mark 8:27-38 and Psalm 19)
PREACHER: Rev. Kim James
OCCASION: September 12, 2021, at First UMC
Over the past few days there have been a lot of remembrances and reflections about the 20th anniversary of 9/11. In the midst of that, I was reminded of the passage of the Patriot Act in October 2001. Within six weeks of the horrific attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, legislation was passed and signed that gave our government surveillance power to listen in to telephone calls and look at emails in order to stop any further terrorist attacks.
Over the past two decades, the Patriot Act was revised, renamed, and eventually allowed to expire. But for 19 years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Administration didn’t even need a warrant to search out communications they thought were related to terrorism. For most Americans, for quite a few years, that was no problem. The tragic events of 9/11 shook us to the core, and we were willing to sacrifice some individual liberty and privacy for the sake of our national security. We ourselves weren’t speaking like terrorists, so we didn’t need to worry. But, justly or unjustly, other people had to become much more careful about what they said.
The idea that someone is observing our communications and that we need to monitor our speech goes well with the scriptures we’ve read today. In our Call to Worship, based on Psalm 19, we heard the prayer, “Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord.” In the Gospel lesson from Mark 8, in the dialog between Peter and Jesus, we heard insightful words of faith, difficult words of instruction, and painful words of rebuke. And then in James 3, we heard a discussion about the dangers posed by an uncontrolled tongue. Because such a tiny part of the body can do huge amounts of harm, James says we Christians should be about the business of taming the tongue.