I think it is virtually impossible for any of us over a particular age to hear “Only you . . .” without filling in the rest with “. . . can prevent forest fires” complete with the visual image of a stern bear pointing directly at us.
For some people that might have been their first experience with someone, other than a parent, telling them that they had personal responsibility for something. Some, such as the comedian Steven Wright took it to mean that it was only them who could prevent forest fires and that is taking it a bit too far.
Taking personal responsibility for things that are properly under our control is a sign of maturity. It isn’t always easy, of course, and taking personal responsibility for our words is one of the least easy things we will ever do. James, in his letter in the New Testament, says that our words are like a fire; he says that our tongue can be like a spark that starts a whole forest on fire.
I don’t know if I know anyone who hasn’t been wounded by words and, in turn, wounded others with words. It seems to be part of the human condition that we say things we shouldn’t. What I am trying to get at in these sermons is that first of all we need to control what we say and second of all we need to admit that we cannot do that on our own. It is only through the assistance of the Holy Spirit who is alive within us that we can learn to control our tongues, our words and not start fires.
Knox Presbyterian Only you can prevent those fires
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Only you can prevent those fires