Today is Palm Sunday for many Christians around the world. (Orthodox Christians celebrate Holy Week and Easter a week later than we do this year.) Our worship at Wausau: First included a heavy dose of Mark’s gospel account as we first read Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem then, after a brief reflection, read of Jesus’ last night and day – two chapters interspersed with hymns and some silence.
It seemed to go over well. People spoke of how moving the service was. Since I plan such services with more time and energy than perhaps I ought, I’m glad it worked for people. I enjoyed it as well. Three people read at one service, four at the other. Hearing them with only an hour between, I was able to notice how differently each person read. Bonnie and Will read the same passage, yet Will emphasized certain words or phrases while Bonnie stressed others. All were quite effective.
Words are important. I once knew someone who was not careful with their words – not even when they knew that what they said could cause pain or conflict. “It’s up to you to hear my words the way I mean them.” I get that taking time to consider one’s words is work but how are listeners to know how the speaker means them? (For the record, I’ve historically been bad at this myself – though without the declaration.)
Yes, words are important. So is their delivery. I had to share the sad news this morning that a younger member of our congregation had died earlier this month. The death was unexpected. I was distressed when I first heard and I’d never met this person. How much more would people feel who had worshiped, ushered, broken bread and laughed together with this family? There is no good way to share such news. I could only hope and pray I didn’t do it badly. I prayed, the day I heard the news, yesterday and frequently in the time between.
When I was growing up I learned not to express anger; acting or speaking in anger was discouraged. When I married, I found that in my (now-former) husband’s family loud was fine and normal. So was anger. My Pandora’s box was opened and I struggled through the ensuing decades unsuccessfully trying to get the lid shut again.
I can’t undo any of that. But I work each day at watching and hearing the person across from me. What do they hear? What do they notice? I’m again practicing silence – at least once in a while. Seldom do we do harm with that. (Methodist friends: Did you notice the General Rule reference?)
The Ecclesiastes writer mentions, “a time for tearing and a time for repairing, a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking” (3:7). I, for one, would be wise to continue practicing this.
If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. James 1:26