“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We have all heard this adage. It is a lie. Words do hurt. I remember this each time I stand behind the pulpit at First United Methodist Church, Water Valley, Mississippi. I realize that the words I speak from the “sacred desk” can plant seeds of love, hope and forgiveness. Goodness gracious the world needs some good seeds planted by those of us who have the privilege to preach and teach God’s people. This week, another sermon from a minister in North Carolina went viral. The first preacher advised the daddy’s of his congregation to give their little boys a good punch if they started acting a bit to effeminate. No, this is another guy who spewed poison to his parishioner’s. Another minister who abused the trust, and sacredness of his calling. Perhaps the most disturbing fact about this sermon was that the more toxic the sermon became you could hear congregants shouting, “amen” and “tell it like it is.” What a sad and sordid state of affairs if this is the norm that comes from behind the majority of pulpits across America. I have come to the conclusion after almost 20 years in ministry that I have an obligation, a responsibility to be mindful of the words that I speak each week to the 120 or so folk that gather together as a community of faith at First United Methodist Church Water Valley. The reason being that I can either build up or tear down. I can either tear do or build up someones self-esteem by the things that I say. I’ll never forget an incident that happened to me as a teenager. I had been asked to sing at a church in our little community. I was so excited, the opportunity to sing and minister for the Lord. The preacher introduced me to the congregation (they all knew me and I knew all of them) and he started his introduction about how overweight I was. I can assure you that my self-esteem took a dive that night. It was a wonder I could even get up and sing, but I did. I laughed along with the rest of the congregation about how fat I was, but on the inside I was crying. Words do matter.
The preacher from North Carolina advocated taking, “all the gays and lesbians in America and putting them all together and fencing the area off with a big electric fence, and ever so often flying over the area and dropping food down for them to be able to eat.” This is not a new idea it was actually done to the Jewish people during the Holocaust and over 6 million were systematically eradicated. So, the good reverend did not come up with a new or original plan. However, I wonder if he ever took a few moments to think about the words that he said? As I listened to his hate speech I thought to myself, “he sounds crazy.” The reality is that a lot of people in America don’t think he’s crazy. A lot of people would agree.
Yes, words do matter. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” What a lie, let us as the people of God live in the fulness of God’s grace and glory. Let us speak word of healing and wholeness to a world who desperately needs to hear.