Words are powerful – more powerful than we sometimes realise. Words can tug at the heart-strings: Josephine, a lovely, kind, cultured young lady from the church I led in Damascus wrote this week “last night ISIS tried to attack my village … today was a bad day, we were asked by security to leave the village.” More ‘internally displaced’; friends not numbers.
Words can build up and encourage: Isaiah has been given the gift of “sustaining the weary with a word”. Do you offer that kind word to a suffering neighbour? Are you going to look out the refugees to be housed in Crawley to extend a word of “welcome”?
Words can express profound truths: “You are the Messiah” says Peter, barely comprehending the meaning and significance of what he says in response to Jesus’ question. Words will allow us to convey our experiences, doubts, confusion and understanding when we (OK only about 30 of us signed up so far) meet for the Alpha evenings and find it’s OK to get it wrong sometimes – as Peter does in today’s gospel.
Words can also tear down: they don’t have to be “full of deadly poison” to hurt and undermine others – a sarcastic comment; the hint or insinuation in some ‘harmless gossip’ is enough. The adage “You are what you eat” is familiar and we try to limit our excesses. But do we think that “you are what you say” and take as much care over that? If we are deliberate about holding back angry words, or the temptation to boost our ego by diminishing another but instead look out opportunities to offer a kind, encouraging or welcoming word we (individually and as a Church) will be offering clear, sweet water not a brackish poison. We can’t offer both. How will you use the power of your words? Which are we to be?