Lotus of the Heart > Path of Spirit > SoothingSpeech


Soothing Speech

Speaking For Peace

Sep 17, 2006

Saying For Today: We must speak peace among ourselves to enjoy peace among ourselves.

Story I: The Rabbi and the Wandering Preacher

An old Jewish story tells of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak entering the House of Study in Berdichev. At the pulpit was a guest preacher, one of the wandering maggidim, who made their living speaking in one town after another. Levi Yitzhak listened to the preacher tell the failings of the Jews, giving a vivid account of sins and unworthiness. When the sermon was over, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak lifted his eyes in prayer, saying, "Master of the Universe, please give this man money!" The parishioners next to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak looked on him in shock. Was their rabbi praising such a maggid? Rabbi Levi Yitzhak, famous as the compassionate defender of the Jewish people? Rabbi Levi Yitzhak continued his prayer: "Obviously, Almighty, this preacher needs the few coins he is given for these bitter sermons. I beg you, please give him some other source of income, so he will no longer need to chastise Your children!"

Story II: Lemons To Chew On

A young pastor asked a retired pastor friend to attend one of his sermons. He observed that the people were not responding well to his messages, and though he loved them much, they left worship apparently angry with him. He wanted the professor to show him how to change the response of his congregation. The retired pastor visited and listened attentively to the younger pastor. Afterward, the young man asked the elder pastor, "Well, what do you think? Did you pick up on anything that might be leading to the negative response of the people?" Replied the older man, "Son, it took me many years to learn one lesson." "What is that?" inquired the young pastor. "If you what your people to look sweet and act pleasant, then, don't keep giving them lemons to chew on."


The Proverbs reminds us of the calming effect of kind words: "A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up" (Proverbs 15.1, CEV). "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD, but gracious words are pure," the aphorism of Proverbs 15.26 (ESV) speaks. Proverbs, also, teaches us, "You can persuade others if you are wise and speak sensibly. Kind words are like honey--they cheer you up and make you feel strong. Sometimes what seems right is really a road to death" (Proverbs 16.23-25, CEV).

I was raised in a religious tradition that deemed critical preaching good preaching. I became like so many of the so-called good preachers. I wielded the Scripture to beat the people. Ironically, generally, persons esteemed me an excellent preacher. After those sermons of lemons to chew, persons would leave saying things like the following, "Preacher, that was really a good sermon this morning, you really stepped on our toes."

I learned over the years two things: (1) Such preaching projects the self-righteousness of the preacher, and (2) Such preaching might give a temporary spanking but it does not lead to a growing and deep spirituality among persons. Frankly, persons who like getting beat up on Sunday mornings are persons who have not yet rightly learned to love themselves enough to grow deeply in the spiritual Path. Utilizing religious communication of any mode to abuse persons, even if they say they like it, is not only wrong, it is impractical--as is clear from repeated aphorisms and teaching in Scripture.

However, this subject does not just apply to preachers. The principle of kind speech applies in all our relationships. If we speak anger among ourselves, we will live in anger among ourselves. We must speak peace among ourselves to enjoy peace among ourselves. Let our words be honey, bring healing and calm among all, in the Name of Christ.

*OneLife writings are offered by Brian K. Wilcox, a United Methodist pastor serving in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Brian lives a vowed contemplative life with his two dogs, Bandit Ty and St. Francis, in North Florida. OneLife writings are for anyone seeking to live and share love, joy, and peace in the world and in devotion to God as she or he best understands God.

The Peace of Christ to All!


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