I was an adult before I learned the lyric in Alabama’s Song of the South is not “sweet potato pie and a shirt in my mouth,” but “sweet potato pie and I shut my mouth.” (secretly I have kept whispering it my way when I hear the song.)
That’s how it is sometimes. We hear something and it gets lodged in our brains. Sometimes we don’t mishear, we simply misattribute.
Take Saint Francis’ “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary use words.” Never said it apparently.
It may have been that someone took what he did say and made it “catchier.”
What did he say?
“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
The two statements do seem to communicate a similar message; What we say is important and so is how we live. (Here is an article I found helpful concerning Saint Francis’ thinking.)
As a preacher, I am particularly sensitive to this sentiment.
Does what I speak match what I do? Do my words speak to my convictions. As the phrase goes, “do I talk the talk and walk the walk?”
In this I can only say I am a work in progress. As I often remind those with whom I share the preaching moment, whatever I share is almost always a message I need to hear as much or more than anyone else.
And here’s the thing with us works in progress, sometimes we get it wrong. When I do, I hope I learn. I hope I do it better next time. I hope my speaking and my actions come into alignment and others will be able to know the God I say I love by the love I offer to them.
Francis may not have spoken the words we attribute to him, but I speak many words I cannot pretend belong to anyone but me. So, I pray the Spirit translates whatever I speak to be the words others need to hear or at least that my words are helpful and true. I have generally offered some form of this prayer before I preach, but I’m starting to think I need this help in every interaction I have. Perhaps the key is for me to do less speaking and more listening?
“Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
Life is better together,