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Words are important. Words matter.

There are words I enjoying saying: you are forgiven, and hey, honey. There are words I enjoying receiving: nice job, and hi, dad.

There are words that appear in both scripture and worship resources. In the Ash Wednesday service, following the blessing, there is a sending that says:

Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all people; love and serve; rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t like them because I’m confident I will keep the serious, difficult tasks set for me. I’m more likely to forget, or do a half way job, or do the opposite at times. I will fail, and being reminded of what one should be doing isn’t usually welcome. No, I like them because they remind me who I am, and what we’re about together — God with us, you with me.

Words, spoken often enough, can shape the way we think. And often, words express how we see the world. I am guilty of misusing them. I am guilty of not using them soon enough.

There are other words I don’t enjoy hearing, words that are said that cause harm. In such times, in the face of such words and the harm they cause, I seek other words, other outcomes, and see hope.

The village of Le Chambon Sur Lignon saved as many as 5,000 Jews from the Vichy regime. Decades later, the people who did not turn away or turn in a single person who came asked not to be called good, that they were doing what had to be done.

They were Huguenots who survived persecution. Sandhya Rani Jha conveys the story of Pastor Andre Trocme, who delivered a sermon after France surrendered to the Nazis. He said, “The responsibility of Christians is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the spirit.”

Chinue Sugihara was a foreign service worker who defied Imperial Japanese policy, and it’s alliance with Nazi Germany. From his consulate posting in Lithuania, he personally issued more than 2,000 transit visas, saving an estimated 6,000 Jews fleeing persecution. Levine Hillel reports him saying, “It is the kind of sentiments anyone would have when seeing them face to face; I myself thought this would be the right thing to do.”

Words, spoken often enough, can shape the way we think. And often, words express how we see the world. I am guilty of misusing them. I am guilty of not using them soon enough.

Words are important. Words matter.

Be of good courage.

Hold fast to that which is good.

Render to no one evil for evil.

Honor all people.

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Rev. Daniel Disch is pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church. He may be reached at 406-549-7792 or pastor@atonementmissoul.org.

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