I cannot tell you how many preachers I have heard recite these words over the years. All kinds of preachers from an array of traditions, cultures, and backgrounds. Sometimes this is the entire prayer offered right before the sermon. Sometimes it is added at the end of a much longer prayer.
It tells the congregation that words matter. What we say matters. How we say it matters. Why we say what we say matters. What we hold in our heart matters.
These days it would be helpful if political leaders would take a moment to recite this verse before speaking, tweeting, posting, casting a vote. At the minimum we hope that they would take the time to weigh the consequences, count to ten, or get feedback from a trusted and responsible source.
But many of our leaders and many within the Christian community don’t believe their words matter at all. They do not understand the power of their words. They do not take any responsibility for the harm they cause and don’t seem to care one bit if God is displeased with their hateful, racist, anti-Black, misogynist, homophobic, elitist, white supremacist rhetoric and messaging.
Unfortunately, this distorted and individualized concept of free speech—“I can say whatever I want to say”—is now combined with the ability to hide behind a keyboard, leading to destruction. We claim to follow Jesus, the Word made flesh; yet we often speak, type, or post as if words don’t matter, forgetting that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).
Word who lives among us and within us, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (KJV). Amen.
How do we feel when we read the word of God? The Israelites rejoice in God’s law. At the time of the restoration of Jerusalem after the return from exile, Ezra reads from the Law and explains its meaning to the people. They respond by holding a feast because understanding God’s teachings is a source of joy. The psalmist says that God’s law revives the soul, causes the heart to rejoice, and helps us to see clearly. Paul continues with his teaching on spiritual gifts, emphasizing that all members of the body of Christ have an important role. No one can claim to be any more important than anyone else. In Luke, Jesus reads from Isaiah and declares that his messianic ministry will focus on justice, mercy, and healing.
Read Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10. When has God’s word overwhelmed you? How did you react?
Read Psalm 19. How do you seek to speak or sing words acceptable to God? How does this shape your life?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a. Within the body of Christ, as within our human bodies, parts compensate for one another. How do you take on more to support the body of Christ when others struggle? How do you allow others to take on your roles when you struggle?
Read Luke 4:14-21. In what ways have you rejected Jesus?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.