There’s a word I read this week that I found helpful while reading this text from James 5:13-20 today. That word is “speech-acts.” We know our words have power. We use them to bless and curse. The same voices that lavish praise on Jesus also swear at the person who cuts them off on the New Jersey turnpike. The words we use are more than just words. Words create actions. They make people feel joy and pain. With words, we can inspire people to great acts of beauty. And with words, we can destroy souls. Words are powerful, living things. And James, as we saw in chapter 3, knows the problems words can cause.
But James also knows who we are. We are followers of Jesus. As he wrote in 1:17-18, “every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” We are God’s creatures which means we have new words to speak. Our words, like God’s love, is rooted in generosity. Our words are meant to tend and serve each other. The words we speak should create new kinds of actions that bring love, gentleness, and hope to the people around us. Our words are powerful because the Word, Jesus himself, is the center of everything we say and do.
So what should our speech-acts look like? Rev. Robert Hoch writes, “If someone is suffering, let them pray. If someone is happy, let them sing songs of praise. If someone is sick, ask the elders to come and anoint them with oil and pray for their healing. Confess your sins to one another. Be reconciled. Be renewed. Be whole. Learn from people like Elijah, who was just like us, and whose prayers were powerful and effective amid natural and political droughts. Restore one another to the community forged in God’s image.” Our words should shape our actions to clearly resemble exactly who we know Jesus Christ to be.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, 9/30/2018.