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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 20

14 August, 2016

Words. We are surrounded by them every waking moment, through our e-mails, our conversations, the media, the social media, the television; not to mentioned good-old-fashioned words such as conversations and sermons. Sometimes words are informal and even throw-away; at other times every word weighs heavy in our own minds or in the collective consciousness. Certainly every word that Donald Trump currently utters into the camera is analysed and dissected in a frenzy of discussion.

This week Trump famously said: "Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick ... [CROWD BOOING] if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is." Was he inciting an assassination attempt, joking, or intentionally misunderstood? Hillary Clinton was certainly quick to respond at a rally in Iowa: "Words matter my friends, and if you are running to be president or you are president of the United States, words can have tremendous consequences. Yesterday we witnessed the latest in a long line of casual comments from Donald Trump that cross the line."

Words do indeed matter, especially for us as religious people. Along with Jews and Muslims we are known as People of the Book, because the words of our scriptures have for many centuries been foundational to our culture and identity. Indeed, as Christians, one of the names we attribute to the Christ is logos or the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1:1-5).

Our words matter as Christians. Bishop Graeme Rutherford will soon be delivering a teaching series on the Epistle of James. This is a letter that pulls no punches when it comes to the ethics of words: "If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless" (1:26) and "the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire" (3:5-6). Our words, and the ways in which we use those words in relating to one another at St Peter's, was a topic of discussion at the recent Parish Council planning day. What is the culture we have built up over the years as a church community? Are we truly welcoming of the stranger and the new comer? If our words hurt others, or others' words hurt us, what action do we take to restore relationships? Do our words and actions truly reflect our mission statement: "Catholic Evangelism: growing in God's love"? Are we a Holy-Spirit-filled people, equipped to use words of forgiveness and love in our day-to-day proclamation of the gospel? And how can we do this better?

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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