Continually Inviting

Continually Inviting

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you
from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dear brothers
and sisters in Christ, the text for this morning comes from that Gospel

Complacency kills. One of the most sorrow-filled times as a
chaplain in Iraq was seeing how soldiers who’d begun to become complacent
weren’t checking their weapons as they should, weren’t keeping things where they
ought to be kept, were not paying attention to warnings and precautions, would
get injured, and some, in fact, more were killed by complacency than
necessarily the bad guys. Now, we think complacency in that kind of
environment, well, that makes sense. But there is no difference between that
environment there and, surprisingly enough, the complacency that has already
infected you and me as we drive home down 35, not thinking in terms of people
merging in and leaving and cutting across. The complacency whether we have as
we try to make our shift from one lane to the other and merge onto that
interstate, not being aware when someone might run out in front of us, a biker
or maybe a walker. There’s no difference between the two areas.

Complacency still does kill, and complacency is a part of
the Gospel reading, because having heard Pastor read that, you and I are
tempted to become complacent because we say that kind of a situation where a
boy is writhing about, foaming at the mouth, rigid as almost dead because of
demonic possession, why, that doesn’t happen. And you’re right. Unarguably, it
doesn’t happen that often, but the complacency is that we forget the most
common form of demonic possession—unbelief. Unbelief is the most common form of
demonic possession that’s all around us. And we meet it in people who are very
kind and polite. We listen to it from the television screen and read it from
magazines, seeming innocuous almost, and yet, it is the constant grip that
Satan is present, but we get lulled into this sense that, “Well, it won’t
affect me.” Like the solder who’s not clearing his weapon properly before
bringing it into a building on the post. The same thing happens. “I thought I
had cleared the weapon,” as it fired off in the clearing barrel. We forget how
serious things really are around us, and one other place we forget to admit
regularly how serious this is, that which beats within our bosom, that which
from come all evil thoughts and desires.

When Jesus speaks through the apostle James and talks about
teachers being judged with strictness, He is not only referring to those who
stood in the front of our classroom when we were growing up or who may be
standing in front of the classroom right now for all of us here are teachers of
the faith. By word and by deed as parents or as friends, we have taught with
our actions. But more importantly, according to this text, we have
unfortunately taught a great deal by our words. The tongue is a fire, a world
of unrighteousness. No human being can tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil,
full of deadly poison. With it, we bless the Lord as we have just been doing
with hymns, psalms, and with it, we curse the people who are made in the
likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these
things ought not to be so.

Have you heard this one? “I’m just telling you how I feel.”
Raw honesty. We pat ourselves on the back with such honesty because at least
we’re getting our feelings out, but with such honesty, it’s not so much a
matter of what we say but of how we say it. “I just want to let you know how I
feel in regard to this matter.” Or maybe the other one, “Keep it in. Keep it
in. Keep it in. I’m not going to say anything. I want to look like I have
everything in control. Keep it in. Keep it in.” And then we vomit it all over
somebody or several people, and the carnage and scars left in the wake of our
vomit of emotion and our tongue at work, damage has been done. Either way, all
of us can remember such words spoken from our teachers of the faith, our own
parents. And isn’t it fascinating that, even as we grow older, we still
remember those hurtful words and we’re unable to completely remove them from
our minds, expunging them from our memory. Oh, how I wish it could be because
as a parent, as many of you are, we have heard those words flow from our lips
upon the very children that we’re supposed to be teaching the faith, and they
too will grow old with such words etched very firmly and indelibly in their
mind. Yes, that very organ within our mouth that God has given us….given us
that gift to praise Him with words that we have not invented but that He has
laid upon our lips is the same tongue that has said such things to our husbands
and to our wives, and most of the people who have received the cursing of our
tongue aren’t so much the people that we don’t know and don’t really care what they
think. They’re mostly received by people we do know and love dearly, aren’t

It is the tongue of the disciples that got them into trouble
this morning. They’re arguing with the Pharisees and the scribes, and the
reason that they’re arguing with the Pharisees and the scribes is because their
pride has been hurt. They were unable to bring healing to the father’s child,
the one in this text who brought his son to the disciples that they might heal
him of this demon, and they were unable, and being unable, then the scribes
pounced on that. And you know there was conversation saying, “Oh, so you follow
Jesus. How come, if you follow Jesus, you’re not able to heal this man’s son?
You must not be a true believer. You must not have enough faith.” And thus, the
argument ensued, and you and I know, whenever an argument does ensue, the words
that flow from our mouths ungodly are they, indeed, because they’re pushed out
by our pride being wounded. Yeah, that pride, what a work of art that is within
us, isn’t it? And in the middle of this squabble, the disciples were looking
not to Christ from where their help would come. Where did their thoughts and
feelings and emotions and eyesight go to but their own wounded pride, turned in
upon themselves were they, so turned in that they didn’t even see the very
answer. And they let that tongue wag, and, boy, did it wag.

You and I can try as we might, but that very organ with
which we bless the Lord is the same organ with which we have caused a great
amount of damage in our life and in others. Empty promises, unfulfilled,
disappointment, and hurts. Notice the tongue. Notice the tongue of the One
spoken of in the Old Testament reading. Of course, the One referred to in the
Old Testament is Christ. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are
taught that I may know how to sustain with the word him who is weary. Morning
by morning, He awakens. He awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The
Lord God has opened my ear.” This is Christ, the “my.” “I”….Christ….”was not
rebellious. I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike. I gave
my cheeks to those who pull out the beard. I hid not my face from disgrace and
spitting.” And what is disgrace but words spoken and where does spit come from
but the very mouth of which we speak. “But the Lord God helps me; therefore, I
have not been disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a flint and I know
that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near.” This is
Christ’s perfect faith in the Father as He strode toward the cross with the
words that had been indelibly imprinted in your mind of misspoken words, the
words indelibly imprinted in your mind of words spoken to you did He carry with
Him as he approached the cross for which He died, gladly.

And all we can do is cry out in great humility and
repentance, like that father. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” “If,” Jesus
asked, and you remember, “all things are possible to him who believes.” And
like that father, you and I do believe. That’s why we are here. That’s why that
law crushes us. That’s why we can remember those words that we spoke and have
heard, and that’s why we have only one help. And rather than focusing upon
ourselves, He drives us to the very meal that feeds such broken hearts. Here is
where I have chosen to bring myself to you, the one who did not turn backward
but faced those who accused Him and the spit that came with it. Here I have
chosen to feed you that which dispels doubts about your faith of which you and
I struggle at times, because out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing,
and we’re God’s children?

Here is where He has promised and here alone to feed such
doubts and troubles that gurgle within here as we ruminate. Oh, that doggone
rumination which causes us to second guess and reflect upon things that have
been said, things that we have said. Did it get misunderstood? Is it going to
be taken wrongly? What do we have to come to God but those words of the father.
“Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief.” And He feeds you, and He brings
relief to such doubt and struggle, and He applies balm to those scars that you
bear and that you have wrought upon others. And forgiveness is yours, sweet and
pure. Drink deep at this well. Imbibe greatly at this feast and you may know
such peace and that you may be released of such demonic oppression, because
when we speak of such, it is not God the Holy Spirit, is it? It is the one with
whom we have become complacent who has lit afire our very flesh, and here is
the water that has put it out again. Come and be quenched. I believe, Lord.
Help thou my unbelief. And it is so, and the child who was thought dead was
raised, and you and me, who think ourselves dead at times, have been and will
be raised this morning in the name of the One who feeds us Himself, Christ
Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.