Just Waiting for a Chance to Get Out

 James 1:17-27; Mark 7:21

As a Pastor I never know exactly what a person is going to say about my sermon. Sometimes folks say things they mean to be a compliment, but the way they express it often changes it. I remember a time I was preaching about a subject of which I was very passionate and my sermon went a little longer than usual. As folks were leaving I asked an older member of the congregation how he liked the sermon. He was very enthusiastic in his reply: "It was refreshing…absolutely wonderful!" the man said. I was very pleased with his response until he added, "I felt like a new man when I woke up."

The title of my sermon today is "Just Waiting for a Chance to Get Out." It's based in part of the Epistle lesson today from James, and from one line of the Gospel lesson. In part the lesson from James talks about the tongue and how it can reveal what's in our heart. It speaks of how we can deceive ourselves, thinking because we SAY something, that is how we actually feel, when our actions reveal how we truly feel.

And in the Gospel lesson from Mark, Jesus says that what we do outwardly comes from how we feel about something inwardly-our intentions come from within, from the human heart.

Both James and Jesus focus on the negative thoughts that get expressed because they want to show us how easily we can deceive ourselves with what comes out of our mouths. James warns us that a person who claims to be religious is not that at all if the person cannot bridle their tongue, who just speaks without listening, without thinking. And Jesus says that it isn't a matter of keeping religious law that keeps one in a right relationship with God; it's not a matter of what one piously says, but what is in one's heart that matters. That is, we say one thing, but do another. We say one thing but believe another.

A couple of sayings speak to these points: "Actions speak louder than words" and "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Ah, this second one, if folks would really believe that. Words can't hurt you unless you let them. But for most of us, we DO let words hurt us. What someone says about us DOES hurt us at times. Even though we aren't who they say we are with their hurtful words; and even though we know they are incorrect in their thinking and in their assumptions, we let what others say about us, hurt us.

And we also say things that hurt others. Sometimes we actually intend to have what we say hurt others, and other times, we don't mean it, but nevertheless the person is hurt by what we've said.

Sometimes it's as though something is just sitting there within us, just waiting for a chance to get out and we say something we regret saying. Those hurtful words were sitting there waiting, but it is the intention of our heart that releases those thoughts into words.

Now, at the same time, there are WONDERFUL words just sitting there waiting for a chance to get out. God has implanted wonderful things within our hearts. Often they have to fight their way past the junk we have sitting waiting to be spoken or acted upon. In Deuteronomy we are told that God has written his Word upon our hearts.

It's a constant battle that goes on within us-to speak words that build up or words that tear down. The thoughts we harbor in our hearts become the intentions of our words and actions. So if you harbor negativity and grudges and fears in your heart, then your good thoughts, your good intentions, the beautiful promises that Jesus has planted in your heart in order to save your soul, get pushed aside by your negative attitude and outlook. So, what comes out of your mouth is not beneficial, and your good actions get suppressed or turned into something negative.

Scripture tells us we need to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. But just the opposite happens over and over. We get angry; we speak too soon; we don't listen. Parents so often say that to their children, "You never listen!" but the irony is that parents don't listen either. Parents often do not listen to what their children are trying to tell them.

And often people don't listen to what Jesus is trying to tell them. They listen to the world and not the Word of God. So often they confuse what the world is saying with what God is intending. Suddenly they make what the world is saying into what GOD is saying. Suddenly human tradition becomes the Word of God.

We have to really focus on the good that is within each one of us just waiting for a chance to get out. When we focus on all the negativity in life, especially as we hear or read in the news, we suppress all the good intentions that God has planted within us.

I love the bumper sticker phrase that reads, "Practice Random Acts of Kindness." Acts of kindness, words of encouragement and praise, they're all just waiting for a chance to get out. When my mother would get angry she'd say, "You're full of what makes the grass grow green." Of course she meant a certain word which she wasn't saying, but by the same token she was also speaking the truth. That is, we ARE, each of us, full of what makes the grass grown green. What makes the 'grass grow green' are things that nourish it. We are full of nourishing words to speak to others. We are full of the SON who nourishes our spirits.

For every unkind word or action on our part, there are hundreds and hundreds of positive, uplifting words and actions within us just waiting for a chance to get out. Each one of us is equipped by God-created by the Father, taught, save, freed by the Son, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit-to be a positive force in this world.

It just takes a bit of work on our part not to be overtaken by the world and the devil working within it. It means we have to listen before we speak. It means think twice before we speak. It means consider carefully before we act. It takes a bit of work on our part to block out what the devil is trying to brainwash us with in his having us look at the world negatively and have us approach life with a negative attitude. The devil wants us to speak those negative things just sitting waiting for a chance to get out. He wants us to forget about acts of kindness. He wants us to adopt negative attitudes he has implanted in the world that tempt us to be greedy instead of sharing; that tempt us to be stingy and withholding rather than generous; that tempt us to tear down others rather than build them up; that tempt us to complain about His church rather than work positively for it.

Focus on the good intentions planted in your heart by God. Focus on the good thoughts and words that Jesus nourishes us with through his teachings and saving grace. Focus on the strength and guidance given to you by the Holy Spirit. It's all there-we just need to focus on that, rather than focus on the negativity that is there. There is so much good just waiting for a chance to get out. Start now, before the worship service is ended to focus on that good, especially every time a negative thought pops into your mind. And don't only THINK positive; practice it in your actions. Say positive, uplifting, encouraging things, and do positive, uplifting, encouraging things. Don't let the devil have his way with you. Don't give the devil an opportunity to suppress all that good within you that is just waiting for a chance to get out. The devil can only stop you if you think he can. Listen: God is calling.


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie