A Well-Taught Tongue

Compassion has gone out of style. Maybe not with you, or your small group, but as a society, we are less compassionate toward the marginalized and more focused on a “Me First” mentality. This attitude prevails from the schoolyard to the seats of government. Bullying is common at all levels of society and often goes unchecked. People say and post things aimed to mock others. Nations turn their backs on struggling nations so that their own resources aren’t compromised.

Thank God for Poland, who has graciously received over two million Ukrainian refugees. England agreed to take 10,000. America will receive 100,000. Frankly, we all can do better. Who will stand up for the tired people?

Isaiah reminds us that God has given us a “well-taught” tongue and we are called to use it as we offer COMPASSION to people who are struggling.

Isaiah 50 (The Message)

The Master, God, has given me
    a well-taught tongue,
So I know how to encourage tired people.
    He wakes me up in the morning,
Wakes me up, opens my ears
    to listen as one ready to take orders.
The Master, God, opened my ears,
    and I didn’t go back to sleep,
    didn’t pull the covers back over my head.

All of us have opportunities every day to alleviate someone’s suffering. A kind word, a smile, a card, or casserole delivered to someone who is sick or isolated can go a long way toward easing someone’s burden for even a brief moment. God is trying to open our ears to the people around us whom we can encourage and lift up.

Isaiah found himself being ridiculed and mocked for his prophetic warnings to the people of Israel. Sometimes doing God’s work entails taking on someone’s anger and rejection. In those cases, Isaiah reminds us to set our faces like flint:

I followed orders,
    stood there and took it while they beat me,
    held steady while they pulled out my beard,
Didn’t dodge their insults,
    faced them as they spit in my face.
And the Master, God, stays right there and helps me,
    so I’m not disgraced.
Therefore I set my face like flint,
    confident that I’ll never regret this.

Have you ever been ridiculed or rejected for doing something good for someone? Never mind. God is our only audience when we walk in his instruction and offer compassion to others.

My champion is right here.
    Let’s take our stand together!
Who dares bring suit against me?
    Let him try!
Look! the Master, God, is right here.
    Who would dare call me guilty?
Look! My accusers are a clothes bin of threadbare
    socks and shirts, fodder for moths!

Look, the Master is RIGHT HERE. Are you being called to serve God by serving others? Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. They soon will flit away to discourage someone else. We are called to serve the Master, God. And when we do, WE receive the blessing.

Sunrise Colors by Michelle Robertson

For the Called

I belong to a United Methodist Clergy Women’s Facebook page, and it is a revelation to hear from others what is happening in their churches. Most of it is uplifting and inspiring. Some of it makes me want to rise from my chair and throttle someone. Ministry is hard, folks. Be kind to your pastor…you have no idea what they are up against. Church is made up of many different individuals, all of whom have an opinion, and all who believe in their right to express it. This often results in the pastor taking the brunt of conflicting opinions while trying to maintain a fellowship of believers who have been called together to be the body of Christ for the world. Sometimes we all lose sight of that.

Any believer who actively practices and shares their faith can tell the same story. The truth is, we are ALL called through our baptisms to go and make disciples for the transformation of the world. This is everyone’s calling, whether you put on the robe or not. And many of you have taken the brunt of conversations with family and friends that did not go smoothly.

In our passage from Isaiah today, the great prophet describes his own process of being called by God to minister to God’s people. He lifts up the blessing of this calling, reveling in the fact that God “gave him an educated tongue to know how to respond to the weary.” YES! This is why we respond to our callings. But then again, he also mentions beard-plucking, which makes me glad I’m a girl:

Isaiah 50 (Common English Bible)

God’s faithful servant

The Lord God gave me an educated tongue
    to know how to respond to the weary
    with a word that will awaken them in the morning.
    God awakens my ear in the morning to listen,
    as educated people do.
The Lord God opened my ear; I didn’t rebel; I didn’t turn my back.

Instead, I gave my body to attackers,
    and my cheeks to beard pluckers.
I didn’t hide my face
    from insults and spitting.

The Lord God will help me;
    therefore, I haven’t been insulted.
Therefore, I set my face like flint,
    and knew I wouldn’t be ashamed.

The one who will declare me innocent is near.
    Who will argue with me?
Let’s stand up together.
    Who will bring judgment against me?
    Let him approach me.
Look! The Lord God will help me.
    Who will condemn me?
Look, they will wear out like clothing;
    the moth will eat them.

I love Isaiah’s attitude, and wish I had a gallon of it for times when I need it. These words apply to everyone. Anytime we have to defend our beliefs and articulate our faith to someone who is insulting and resisting our message, we need to set our faces like flint. What a great visual!

Who will argue with the Lord’s servants? Who will condemn us when we speak God’s truth? The Lord our God will help us, so let’s stand up together.

So the next time you are dealing with someone who condemns you, remember Isaiah’s words of wisdom: “Look! They will wear out like clothing; and the moth will eat them.” We need to remember that when we speak, we need only be concerned with the reactions of the Audience of One. If God is pleased, nothing else matters.

I guess that means I can stop wanting to throttle people, and let the moths take care of it. Thanks be to God!

Stay the Course by Michelle Robertson