The Pastor’s Pen

Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Matthew 5:37 NRSV

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”

Alan Greenspan

         It happened again. I sat with someone over coffee who thought they knew what someone thought they said, but what they meant to say was not at all what the other person heard. We got together because she asked for help untangling a two year-old argument with her friend, over a misunderstanding that she knew didn’t have to have occurred in the first place. Are you with me?

         Communication was central to the storytellers of our earliest ancestors. They memorized and recounted God stories that were told and re-told around campfires in the desert for generations. Eventually the written word on stone or papyrus moved the process forward, and then the printing press, and then the telephone and the telegraph, and now this.

         When we want to share something with one another we have about ten ways to do it. Like the menu at Burger King, we want to have it our way. As a consequence, we have started to ask people their preferred communication.

“Would you like that delivered by cell phone, land line at home, land line at work, by text, e-mail, linked IN, Face time, Skype, insta-gram, snap chat, twitter or through a Zoom call? Would you like that mailed to your home or summarized in the bulletin or in the newsletter, and would you like that newsletter mailed to your home or do you prefer to read it on-line. Would you like an e-vite or do you want to “like” that post on Facebook, and which Facebook account do you prefer to use. It turns out the church has three, don’t ask me why.

Is it any wonder that Jesus commended us to plain, simple, authentic speech? “Let your yes be yes and your no be no”, he said. Let your word align with the integrity of your faith. Speak when you have something to say, and think first about what you hope to accomplish by saying it. Since our words now live in the Cloud forever, we’re back to writing on stonewalls in caves. People will perhaps be able to access that word we thought we sent in a private and fleeting chat room only to discover that everybody knows what we said all over the internet.

Or as my favorite eighth grade history teacher Mr. Gillen said upon confiscating a love note between me and a boy I once thought I loved, “Don’t put in writing something that you don’t want to show up in divorce court.” I can only imagine what must have been going on in his life, but then again, I was only fourteen and pre-occupied.

So just for today, put away the cell phone and the computer and maybe even the landline. Look somebody in the eye and smile. Then say something charitable and encouraging, offering an authentic word of hope, plain and simple.

Prayer: God of heaven and earth, help me to trust you so wholly that what you utter into silence resounds more strongly that the words I only imagine the waiting world needs to hear.

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Pastor Anna V. Copeland