St. James in his epistle mentions horses (James 3:1-12). If you’ve ever ridden a horse, you’ve seen the bit that you put into the horse’s mouth to control him. The bit rests in the mouth and on the tongue. The bit then connects to the bridle, and then the rider sits on the back of the horse with the reigns connected to the bridle. So, through the little bit in the mouth and on the tongue, the entire animal can be controlled. That one little part controls the huge beast.
Likewise, says James, are we to control our tongues. If we can control our tongues, then we control our whole bodies. Our tongues are like bits in horses’ mouths and rudders on ships; they control and guide us, so we ought to be careful of where they lead us. But, this is difficult for us to do. James says of our tongues, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”
Indeed, from the same mouth ought not to come both blessing and cursing. We ought not to come before the Lord in prayer one moment and then turn to other people to curse them. We ought not to gather before the Lord to receive His gifts in worship while remaining at anger with others in the family that the Lord has made us a part of. Out of our mouths should come the fresh water of blessing, not the poison of curses and anger and hate. We must bridle our tongues so that they steer us towards blessing and not cursing.
Sometimes we belittle the power of the tongue, we minimize the power of words. But, words have power. Our words create reality to some extent. If you tell someone you love them or hate them, those words have an effect. They create that reality of love or hate. If you tell someone you want to get married or break up, those words have effect. They do what you say. When someone pronounces a couple as either married or divorced, those words have effect. They bring together or break up. So, we must be careful to make sure that the words in our lives are blessings and not curses.
So, if our words as fallen human creatures can create reality, how much more so can the holy Word of God create reality. Our words are tentative, they can be weak, they can fail. We can create marriages, but also break them up. We can fulfill promises or we can break them.
But, God does what He says and is always faithful to His promises given through His Word. So, faithful in fact, and so powerful is His Word that He created all things through His Word. God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence. And then to redeem and restore His fallen creation from the sin and death and evil brought into it by the rebellion of Adam and Eve, the Lord sent His Word in the flesh, Jesus Christ.
And we see the power of the incarnate Word Jesus Christ in the Gospel reading in Mark 9:14-29. His disciples, even though they were commissioned and empowered by Jesus, are unable to cast out an unclean spirit from a man’s son. Their words have failed. So, the man brings the boy to Jesus. Perhaps God’s Word in the flesh will be able to succeed where other words have failed. So, the man says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The man asks for Jesus’ help, if he is able.
Jesus says in response, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” The man then responds with the faint cry of a grasping faith, saying, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
This is our cry of faith: “I believe, help my unbelief!” We are always in this half-way point of faith; we believe, and yet we do not. We waver, we falter; our faith is not perfect, it is often very weak. And yet, Christ’s work and the power of God’s Word overcomes our weakness. You see this in the text as Jesus turns to the possessed boy and says, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” At this Word of God, the spirit left the boy. But, the boy looked like he was dead; all the life was drained from him through the evil that had possessed him. But, Jesus lifted the boy up and he arose to new life.
The power of Jesus’ word, God’s Word in the flesh, cleansed this boy and gave him new life. This Word of God, through whom all things was created, is now in the flesh healing through the power of His Word. The boy was mute, his tongue was powerless to heal himself. Even the disciples lacked the power to heal this boy. Man’s word failed to bring healing and was unable to rescue the enslaved boy from the power of evil and death. But, Christ’s Word is strong and able to heal. Christ’s Word removed the boy from the power of evil and death and brought him into new life.
Christ’s Word creates reality, because He is the Word of God through whom God spoke everything into existence and through whom God is even now continuing to restore and heal all things. This world is fallen and tainted by the sin and death brought into it by Adam and Eve’s sin. This world is polluted by the devil and his evil. But, God is healing this world through Christ and his death on the cross and resurrection from the empty tomb.
In fact, in the New Testament we see through Jesus’ miracles the healing power of this Word. We see in the New Testament that God is beginning the healing and restoration of His creation through Christ. This healing and restoration was long promised by God, beginning in Genesis 3:15. And Jesus Christ, the Word of God, came in fulfillment of this promise to begin the restoration of all creation. God made a promise through His Word, and His Word came in the flesh to fulfill this promise. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and died and rose for you.
So you who have been baptized have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and the healing and restoration that it brings. You were once like the mute boy, seized by an unclean spirit, unable to heal yourself, unable through your own power to set yourself free. But, Christ has set you free, He has spoken you into salvation. He has removed you from the dominion of sin, death, and the devil, and placed you into the dominion of God instead. He has bespoken you righteous through the power of His Word.
So, in your Baptism, God freed you and made you His own by bestowing upon you the Holy Spirit and the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection that He gifts to you. You have been restored to God as His children, no longer rebellious enemies, but rather family through Christ. You have also been restored to each other, no longer alienated, but now brothers and sisters in Christ. You are all one family in Christ Jesus our Lord, at peace with God and each other.
And in His Church God continues to dwell in our midst through His Word in all its forms. It’s not as if Jesus came, died, rose, ascended into heaven, and then left us alone. No, he is still with us. He is ascended on high, seated at the right hand of the Father, but he continues to pour out his gifts to us through the power of His Word brought to us by the Holy Spirit. God continues to work in the world through His Word which sustains us in His Church, the land of the living.
And this Word comes to us in many forms. We believe, and yet we cry out “help our unbelief.” We need God’s Word to continue to feed our faith. And God is gracious to do this by giving us His Word in many ways. So, we have the written Word, the spoken Word, the sacramental Word; all these forms are giving us the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are creating and sustaining faith, because God’s Word acts and creates; God makes reality through His Word.
God says that you are His own in Baptism, and so you are. Christ says, “This is my body, this is my blood,” and so it is. And He says that this is given for you for the forgiveness of your sins, and so you have exactly what he says you have, freely, as a gift. The Lord’s Word has power, and He uses this power to redeem you from sin, death, and the devil, make you His own, and sustain you in this faith.
So, the Lord is continuing to build up His Church through the power of His Word, redeeming and making a people for Himself. We may have our growth programs, we may have our plans, but it is God’s Word that plants and waters and grows the Church where His peace is found.
But, even through we have healing and restoration in this life in His Church, this healing and restoration is not yet complete. What we have here is a foretaste of what is to come. For, this life, this world, is still tainted by sin and evil, and of course we still face our own mortality. But, God’s promise is that He will bring the full restoration that Christ began to usher in through his death and resurrection. God’s promise is that Christ will return to complete what he started. Christ is coming again, and this promise rests on the power of God’s Word, and God always fulfills His promises.
So, the day is coming when Christ is returning. He will complete what he started. No longer will there be the rebellious backtalk of sin. No longer will there be the threat of the grave. No longer will there be the taunts and snares of the devil. Only Christ and His Church will remain, and God’s creation will be restored to the perfection and goodness in which He originally spoke it into existence.
And you will live with Him in the new, restored creation; and you will be fully healed and restored yourselves. The Lord has spoken you into this promise, and when Christ returns you will receive the full fulfillment of this promise. The Lord will have the last Word, and you have been sealed into this promise by the power of this Word, so you can be sure of it. Amen.
(Image: The Blessing of the Redeemer. By Lippo Vanni – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=154990 )