Good morning and welcome to Wednesday’s podcast. My name is Laura and I lead our Under 5s work here at STC Sheffield. Our reading today is Matthew 12 verses 22-37. We will focus on verses 33-35:
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Helen has already spoken about how, in the Bible passages we are reading this week, Jesus is facing many challenges and frustrations. In today’s passage Jesus heals the demon possessed man so that he could see and talk again but the Pharisees say that this is the work of Satan. The bad fruit of their words revealed the bad roots in their hearts as they rejected this miraculous healing. I am sure at the time the man was healed that there was much gossip and intrigue over what had happened. I can imagine friends and neighbours discussing the healing and who to believe. The Biblical equivalent of gossiping at the school gate! The people who witnessed the healing had a choice – to accept Jesus’ account and turn to God or to listen to the “careless words” (verse 36) of the Pharisees. At the moment, in the midst of the pandemic, I am really aware of how many different, often competing, voices and opinions we are exposed to, from those of politicians and scientists to the views of our family and friends.
The words we choose to hear can easily cause our hearts to become burdened, weary and fearful.
Isaiah 40, verse 8 says:
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”
When we look back over the last week, whose words are we relying on? Is it in the words we hear on social media about the pandemic or is it in the hope given to us by Jesus? This is not to say we should downplay the situations we are facing, as individuals or as a nation, but instead hear God’s words over those of the world: He walks with us when times are good and when times are bad; in the mountains and the valleys.
In the last couple of weeks in the news, you may have seen that Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. She was a Supreme Court Justice in the United States. As a judge she has left behind many words. The news and social media has been full of her most famous quotes. Even though I didn’t know her, through reading her words I got a sense of the person she was, her values and what was important to her.
Verses 34 and 35 say:
“…For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
Our words reflect our heart to those that hear them. Not many of us will have our words scrutinised to the extent that Justice Ginsburg did but what do our words reveal to those that hear them? Are they words of hope? What do the conversations we have with our friends, neighbours, parents at the school gate or our colleagues on Zoom show to those around us? Do they point others to Jesus?
Another news story in the last few weeks was about the parrots at a zoo in Lincolnshire. In August they adopted some new parrots who were introduced into their existing aviary. Unfortunately the new parrots could swear and began to teach the old parrots bad language. They have had to be removed because they were swearing in front of the visitors. The parrots did not choose to fill their hearts with good things, they did not choose wisely who and what to listen to! What do we want our witness to be about? What do our words say about us? In this pandemic season, how do we store up good things in our heart so that the words coming from our hearts are good fruit? Unlike the parrots, we need to choose to fill our hearts with good things!
We need to read God’s word, not just on our own but in community with others, even if at the moment this means we can only meet on Zoom. In this strange season we are in, we need to encourage each other and cheer each other on in our pursuit of his Word so that we do not lose sight of the promises God has spoken over our lives. We need to store up his words in our hearts. We need to pray and ask to be filled each day by the Holy Spirit so that our hearts are changed, renewed and filled with his power.
Thank you that we can rely on your words in this season, that your words stand forever. Thank you for the hope you bring to our lives. We pray now that you would fill each of us with your Holy Spirit so that our hearts overflow with your love and that today our words would be good fruit to those around us. Amen
BIBLE READING: Matthew 12:22-37
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
‘Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
‘Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.’