How do we talk about gossip without gossiping? James wants to help us tame the tongue. It’s true that we don’t take this one all that seriously (see the preaching notes for more), but we’ve all experienced the sting of the tongue as we were growing up, and even as adults. We all know what it is to bear the brunt of rumors or misrepresentations or words spoken in anger. And just as likely we know what it is to watch our words bring pain to another, intentional or not. How can we get worshipers to take this text seriously? What stories do we tell? What confessions do we make? What prayers do we pray?
Maybe we could provide space for people to come and kneel and ask for God to heal us from sting of words, given or received. Anointing could be offered to aid in the healing process. Let people write down the words they used or that were used against them and then fold them up and burn them or leave them at the cross on the altar.
Care must be taken in the words used in worship. Knowing what we know about the stories of those who gather, we can pay attention to the images we use that might trigger unintended responses. Then we must realize that there are even more stories and experiences before us of which we are not aware. So, we must be even more vigilant in how we present God and what words we are wanting to put in the mouths of those who worship with us this day.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.