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11th Sunday After Pentecost - August 8, 2021

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

They’re not really exactly sure who wrote the letter to the Ephesians. I mean, of course Paul is a good guess and a possibility, but it might not be. And yeah I know it begins with his name, but many people think it was someone, another pastor, writing on Paul’s letterhead. Maybe…I don’t really know. I don’t lose any sleep over it.

But it is kinda fun to think about. Someone other than Paul. Maybe a younger apprentice or assistant of Paul’s. Maybe someone Paul brought up in the faith, discipled, nurtured – deeply influenced by Paul but this pastor’s got their own style – likes to use different words, tends to wax poetic, maybe thought Paul sounded too grumpy in his letters. Maybe he’d come by Paul’s dusty apartment with bagels and coffee, raise the blinds, water the plants, work on the letter together whilst learning valuable lessons on life and love. I don’t know.

If you don’t like my Tuesdays with Morrie edition of Ephesians, that’s alright. What’s really important is that the early church read this letter. They found something crucial inside it. And it is a remarkable letter. It has this flow, this movement from the outside in, from the cosmic to the specific. Imagine it like a film shot – starting from space, there’s earth floating in space, then the shot begins to drop through the stratosphere, through the clouds, and you see land and its topography, then you see a city with it’s many buildings, and you get closer and closer, and it focuses on a neighborhood, then a street, then a block, then a home, then a room, then a person. The beginning of the letter is all about who Christ is and who we are in Christ and what that means for the Church, then it moves more and more into what shape our Christ-likeness takes in this world, in our lives, and with one another. And this morning we are in chapter four, well into what kind of people we are to be – the character of our lives so that people can actually see Christ in and through us.

And what does this section of the letter point at? What do we need to be most attentive to? Mindful of? What is focusing on because it can be the most damaging?

Our speech. Our words.

How we speak to one another and about one another.

Now, as Americans I think we’re in love with our own talking because it’s rooted in our Freedom of Speech and we’re proud of that. I get it. I’m just as guilty of it too. But I love the words of philosopher Soren Kierkeegard when he wrote, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”

And this morning that is what the Letter to the Ephesians is exhorting us to have….

….thoughtful speech.

I love how The Message interprets this passage in Ephesians. I’m just going to share a few sections.

What this adds up to then is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth…Watch the way you talk…say only what helps, each word a gift…make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, and profane talk.

Now we might hear this and think, “Okay preacher, I’ll watch my cussin and those colorful jokes.” But I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s deeper and more complex than that.

Let me ask you a question: how many churches have you seen torn apart because of untruthful speech? How many friendships broken due to slander? How many communities divided because of gossip, back-biting, and thoughtless words?

In the Greek the word the author uses is “sapros” which means rotten or rotting…the image here is our words hold within them the ability to bring about decay – our words can rot and putrefy our communities, our friendships, ourselves. I know all of us have experienced this first hand at some point in our lives. I have sat with people in counseling situations and there is this part of them inside that that has been rotting away for years because someone spoke something into their life, even if it was flippant or said out of anger, but it’s there – you can see the pain behind their eyes. I have a learning disability and well into adulthood I lived trying to prove my worth in whatever way I could with the hurtful words of certain teachers and fellow students echoing in mind. And I have spoken words that have hurt, that have damaged – that made their way into someone’s life. All of us have given and received such words.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel once wrote, “Words create worlds.”

Words create worlds. He’s right. And just as our words hold within them the ability to bring rot and decay so the also have the power to bring life, to build up, to no