Twice. In a week.
The first time it was the grass can incident. In all the years we lived in Watertown, I’d never missed a garbage collection or cut grass. I put the cans down between 7 and 8 a.m. and brought the empty cans back to the garage in the afternoon. Like clockwork.
But one afternoon when I was about to put the cans away, I saw that there was still grass in the green can. I checked my neighbour’s green can. Empty. You missed me. How could you miss me
I could have let go of it, there was still room in the can for another week, but I decided to call to point out the mistake of their ways. The gentleman on the other end of the line listened patiently to my complaint and then asked for my address. After a short time he came back with the news that the green cans on our street had been picked up at 6:40 a.m. that morning. I had forgotten the new schedule previously announced. I managed to say thank you when I quickly hung up. Yes, it was someone’s fault, just not what I expected.
That was Wednesday. It rained the following Sunday. When the rain stopped I opted for an ice cream. As I drove to my destination, I noticed that at least ten feet were being watered by sprinklers. I figured I don’t understand why people don’t turn off their sprinklers when it rains. How stupid.
On Tuesday morning I woke up to another fine rain. I looked out the window and saw that the sprinklers, my lawn sprinklers, were watering the back yard in unison with the rain. I forgot to turn it off the night before, even after hearing the rain forecast. How stupid.
There is this word from James in the New Testament: “You must understand this, beloved: let everyone listen quickly, speak slowly, be angry slowly” (James 1:19)
I spoke quickly, judged quickly. Twice in a week. And these are the times that I remember
For which purpose? To make me feel better “I may not have everything together, but I’m sure not as bad as this and that.” I build my righteousness on the back of another child of God.
James continues, “If someone thinks he is religious and does not hold his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26)
And more. “How big is a forest that is set on fire by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. With this we bless the Lord and the Father, and with this we curse those who are made in the form of God. Blessings and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it shouldn’t be like that. “(James 3: 5b-6a, 9-10)
Yes, James, it shouldn’t be like that. But it is too often. And with our technology and the various social media platforms, we can attack another child of God without taking responsibility for our words, without looking in the person’s eyes and seeing their tears.
One of the most daunting discoveries for me is reading social media posts written by people I know, people who bear the name of Christ, who are now writing horrific words about other people. I wonder is that really you? Was it all an act?
We can yell at another child of God, shout their names, threaten them because “we would never do such a thing”. We can condemn an entire community of people or judge a religious belief because someone in that community or someone of that belief has done something terrible.
But mostly it’s easier to get closer. Most of the time it is about the words we speak to our spouse or children, a neighbor, or someone in our own community. The hard words come easily. Contrary to James’ admonition, we listen slowly, speak quickly, and get angry quickly.
God forgive us.
I saw a Christian news program. The host spoke of a war in a distant place, and then turned to a local reporter. The reporter said, “Terrible situation here, but of course we know that God is in control.”
I remember yelling back, “People kill each other and God is in control? You must be kidding me. Is God in Control? “
We are not puppets on a string. We make choices. We don’t just make mistakes, we choose. We don’t just stumble, we decide. We are responsible for our words, our lives.
There is an old Good Friday hymn “Ah, Holy Jesus” that includes the words. . . “Who was the culprit? Who brought you this Oh, my betrayal, Jesus, undone you. ‘Twas I, Lord Jesus, I was denied you; I crucified you “
I tend to be Lutheran, so I’ll close with a quote from Martin Luther who said, “A Christian is free, subject to none. And a Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, subject to all. “