22nd Sunday OT B ~ "Kicked in the Mouth" ~ Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer

In the Book of Psalms,

there’s a verse that says:

“Lord, set a guard at the door of his mouth.”

In other words, help me from committing sins of speech…

sins like cursing, cussing, talkin’ trash, talkin’ smack or throwing shade.

“Lord, set a guard at the door of my mouth.

Don’t let such words fall from my lips.”

Let me tell you a story about how the Lord

“set a guard at the door of my lips” one day.

It happened a couple years ago.

I was helping some cowboys brand cattle.

One of the cowboys—I’ll call him Zeke—was flanking the calves.

On this particular day, Zeke had a swollen hand.

He had stuck himself with a hypodermic needle at a branding earlier in the week.

The swollen hand made it hard for him to get a good grip on the calves’ legs.

(You know what’s coming…)

Zeke flanked a calf and stretched out its back leg.

I ran up to give it a shot of penicillin

just in time

for that calf to jerk its leg out of Zeke’s grip.

That calf’s hoof hit me hard!

Square on my jaw!

My head snapped back.

I staggered toward the gate.

Man, did it hurt!

When I regained my wits,

I had to check my jaw

to make sure I had all my teeth.


Zeke asked if I was all right.

I nodded, spat some blood, picked up my hat

and got back to work.


That evening, I got a call from Zeke.

“Fr. Jim,” he said, “I want you to know how sorry I am

about you getting kicked in the face.”

“It was an accident, Zeke. Don’t worry about it.”

“Honest, Father, any other time,

a kick like that

would have caused a fight.

If that had happened to anyone else,

why, that guy would’ve come swinging at me.

And golly, Father, you didn’t even say a bad word!”

Well, I thanked him for the call,

reassured him that I was fine

and that I hoped we’d have a chance to work together again someday.

Now, what I didn’t tell him was that that kick to the mouth

had temporarily locked my jaw!

For a minute or more, it was physically impossible

to say a bad word…even though I wanted to!


So, you see, God does help us in our weaknesses and temptations.

On that particular day the Lord did, indeed, place “a guard at the door of my mouth.”

And that guard came in the shape of a calf’s hoof!

________


I thought of that day when I pondered today’s gospel.

For a sinner like me, Jesus’ words in this passage

remind me of that calf.


It’s message comes off the page like a kickin’ calf

and lands on the chin:


“Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;

but the things that come out from within are what defile.”


Feels like a kick in the chin, doesn’t it?

If you’ve missed his point, you repeats the message:

“From within people, from their hearts,

come evil thoughts and every other kind of evil.

All these evils come from within and they defile.”


These words pack quite a punch!

We stagger back against a fence,

and say, “Man, that hurts!”


It hurts…because it’s true.


I might put on a good front.

I might act as though I’m high-minded.

I might pretend not to look down on those who publicly screw up…

but, deep down, I’m no different.


Maybe I just haven’t caught.

Maybe, I just hold it all inside.

Maybe, just maybe, my heart is as corrupt as the Lord says it is.


And maybe, as you and I stand against the fence

and rub our wounded pride,

we admit that we lost this fight

and start to wonder what we can learn from it.

We start to ask ourselves how to get rid of

those deep-rooted tendencies to sin

that are lodged deep inside of us.


How do we get rid of them?

Here’s the answer: Repentance.


Have you heard that word before?

Does it sound vaguely familiar?


If we’re honest, most days we don’t give that word, repentance, much thought.

Yet, that word, repentance, was the very first word that Jesus proclaimed

when He came preaching the Good News.


He didn’t say, “Accept me as your personal Savior.”

He didn’t say, “I’m here to pay for your sins and you’re off the hook.”


Rather, Christ said, “Repent and believe the Good News.”


True faith requires true repentance.

So, what is repentance?

It’s taking your heart and wringing it out…

wringing it out like a dish rag, like a wash cloth…


Wringing out the sin:

the resentment, the anger, the hatred.

Wringing out the heart because that’s where it all starts.

It starts with decluttering the heart.


“Create a clean heart, in me, O God,” says Psalm 51.

“Renew in me a steadfast spirit.”


Help me love you, Lord, with all strength,

with all my mind,

with all my soul…

and with all my heart.


Then, maybe, I won’t need to worry about getting in a fight

with a cowboy, or my boss, or my spouse,

or my in-laws or my teenage kid.


Why?

Because, finally, my heart will be in the right place.

My heart will be set on you.

My heart will be set—completely, entirely—on serving you.


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