The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,
but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul, healing to
the bones. Proverbs
These are only a few of many, many instances in the Old and New Testaments where we are taught the power of our words, for good or for evil. Psalm 34, the text of several sermons in August, exhorts us to encourage and to teach “the fear (awe) of the LORD.” According to Psalm 34 we live that awe of the LORD first of all in our use of words:
I will teach you the fear of the LORD . . .
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:11, 13
One of the most powerful ways that each of us may use words for peace and healing is through letter-writing. I know . . . in this age of tech and texting, it's almost a lost art to put pen to paper and actually write a letter.
Clair Hill, one of our church members now living in Wellsboro, is a prolific note/letter-writer. She faithfully writes to Annie and me at least once a month. No matter how often she writes us, every time we are deeply touched by her encouraging words and by the fact that she remembers us and takes time and energy to write her thoughts to us. I am sure you know the warm feeling, too, of checking your mail and finding a card, note, or letter addressed to YOU! And many of you are also very faithful in this ministry of writing and sending cards and letters. Our Prayer Breakfast tradition of signing cards each month which are sent to people on our prayer list is another example of this positive use of our words. Repeatedly we hear how touched people are to receive those signed cards.
In this spirit, allow me to share a meditation I recently read called “The Beauty of Letter Writing.” Written by Henri J. M. Nouwen, it appears in his book The Road to Daybreak. Here he so richly expresses the profound power of the written word in the personal letter:
As I was writing letters today, I realized that writing letters is a much more intimate way of communicating than making phone calls. It may sound strange, but I often feel closer to friends I write than to friends I speak with by phone.
When I write I think deeply about my friends, I pray for them, I tell them my emotions and feelings. I reflect on our relationship, and I dwell with them in a very personal way. Over the past few months I have come to enjoy letter writing more and more. In the beginning it seemed like a heavy burden, but now it is a relaxing time of the day. It feels like interrupting work for a conversation with a friend.
The beauty of letter writing is that it deepens friendships and makes them more real. I have also discovered that letter writing makes me pray more concretely for my friends. Early in the morning I spend a little time praying for each person to whom I have written and promised my prayers.
Today I feel surrounded by the friends I am writing to and praying for. Our love for each other is very concrete and life giving. Thank God for letters, for those who send them, and for those who receive them.
Is it any wonder that most of our New Testament Scriptures are letters between Christians?
I challenge you this month to think of just one person, someone whose life you could easily brighten merely by taking a few minutes to write them your thoughts. Why not do it? You might change a life!
Remember . . . “Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul, healing to the bones.”
See you on Sunday!