7th sermon snippet

James 4:11-5:6

 

So, these three paragraphs, at first glance, seem to be about 3 different things.  Slander, making plans, and the evil rich.  But if you do like we do at Bible study…and read it through slowly and deliberately a second time…you can pick out the thread that weaves through these three paragraphs:

 

It’s all about keeping the perspective that it is God who has set up a way for us to be complete and whole.  James points us to the fact that it is God’s Law that gives us insight into this way.

 

So, we’ve spent a few weeks on this stuff of speaking harshly against people.  We looked last week at how, when we take our eyes of Jesus, and we allow envy and arrogance to creep in…things get pretty dark and conflict becomes the ground upon which we walk.

 

So here, James tells us that slandering others is a symptom of that arrogance.

 

When James talks about slander, he’s not talking about making up rumors or anything like that.  You can say something that’s absolutely true about someone and use that truth to berate and belittle.  You all know that I have a hard time not micromanaging things.  You could very well take that truth and use it to tell everyone you know that I am a control monger who wants everything to go his way and is a big bully and a jerk.  That’s slander…even though it’s based in a truth. The point of talking about someone like that isn’t to help…it’s to harm in order to feel superior.

 

When we do that, James says we forget that the law of God is the great equalizer.  The law of God puts us all firmly on the same level pavement.  You can’t look below the pavement…meaning you can’t look down at someone below the pavement.  So we are all on the same level.  The law of God puts us there.  And the law of God says in Leviticus 19:16 you shall not go around as a slanderer.  And quickly after that in Leviticus 19:18, God says You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 

So, here’s the truth…I have the tendency to be a micromanager.  Micromanagers can be really annoying. But we are called to recognize that we are all on the same level in the eyes of God…who is, as James says, the ONLY one who is above us…and the only one who can make judgments on someones eternal destiny…recognizing that, we should all be using the truth as a way to love each other.  So, how do you love a micromanager?  Well, you’ve all done a really good job of that…but I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

 

The point is that James wants us to keep close to our hearts and minds the fact that it is only God who gives us these laws that show us how to love.  When we forget that, and we bring each other down, we are basically making the judgment call that we know better than God.  But James says it right there: that’s not our place.  Our place is to follow the path God has forged for us to be people of love and peace and hope.  We do the law.  We love. We don’t pretend we’re not on the same pavement as everyone else…we’re all looking upwards to God.  Forgetting that only breeds trouble.

 

And James brings that in when he’s talking to the rich.  You hoard all this wealth.  You keep your gold stored up…doing nothing but sitting there giving you some sense of worth that in the end doesn’t really mean anything.  The gold gathers dust.  The moths eat up the fine clothes that you wore once to a party and never again.  And you’re letting all this make you feel like you’re not on the same pavement as everyone else when it comes to God.  

 

And since you let all that stuff give you some false sense of worth.  And since you put your faith in your own ability to gather up all this stuff…you do what you can do to keep it to yourself.  So you oppress your workers.  You defraud people and don’t give them their just pay.  Basically, you have forgotten you are on the pavement…and you have put yourself in the place of God over these people.   

 

James says the rich are fattening themselves up…and leading themselves to the slaughter where all the stuff they have hoarded will just sit there to rot.  

 

Both these paragraphs are about forgetting that God is the only one who makes the path for our true satisfaction and peace.

Both these paragraphs remind us that we are not God.  And because of that, our duty is to follow God and pour out love on those around us.

 

And the middle paragraph is about that too.  And it’s the middle paragraph that we’re going to spend the rest of our time on.  Because it’s the middle paragraph that we all likely deal with every single day.

 

Now James puts this in terms of business at first.  He says in verse 13, Come now you who say “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.”

 

James points out the fact that we can tend to make all these plans…forgetting that we really don’t know what the future holds.  I mean, we see all the time how life is like the smoke off a campfire…it’s there for a minute and then floats off into the air never to be seen again.

 

And here James is calling us to wonder if we make plans in our life forgetting that ultimately our lives are in God’s hands.  It’s not that we don’t plan for the future…it’s how we plan for the future. We have to choose schools for our kids. We have to figure out what grad school to go to. We have to find jobs.  The question is: What is our connection to God when we make plans?  Do we try to micromanage every last detail calling upon only our own strength and gumption?  Or do we look at our plans and put our trust in God that no matter how things go…it’s the path of God that will lead us to true peace and security?

 

So James says, we should make our plans saying “If God wishes, I’ll be doing this.”  He couches it in terms of arrogance.  You’re arrogance leads you to make plans without considering the fact that your plans are ultimately in God’s hands.  And here’s how I think it applies to us…arrogance leads to worry

How do you do with all of this?  Is your life fraught with worry?  Are you looking to Christ for wisdom and direction?  Are you breathing in and asking God’s Holy Spirit to comfort you?  Are you looking to God and with the same energy you are making our plans also saying “Lord, lead me in the way you want me to go?”  

 

Or are we forgetting God in the process?

We are people who have been saved by the grace of Jesus

We are people who are firmly held in the arms of a loving God

Our lives are not separated from that. In anything.

So how are you dealing with the question of what school to send your kids to?

 

How are you dealing with the plans you’re making to get out of debt?

 

How are you approaching where to go to grad school?

How are you praying through the unbelievably daunting schedule of grad school?

Who are you looking to when you are at home wondering what job you’re going to get?

 

Are you taking it all on yourself?  Or are you bringing God into the conversation…into the plans.  Are you on the pavement with everyone else, or are you thinking our are somehow on the mountain…strong enough to breathe the thin air with your own overworked lungs?

 

We need to ask ourselves this.  And we need to practice seeking God in all of this.  And that’s what we’re going to do right now.  Because we could wrap up this message and receive Eucharist and eat the LoveFeast and then go home and continue taking it all on ourselves.  Sometimes, we just need to pray together.  And we need to allow our community the opportunity to love us and help us, in the name of Jesus, carry each others burdens.

 

 

6th sermon snippet

James 4:1-10

 

These people James is writing to are people in the church.

They are people who James has been calling to have undivided loyalty to the things of God…

But they aren’t pulling this off very well.

There seems to be some pretty major conflict.

We don’t know what it is and we don’t really need to guess

Because James is addressing the hearts of these Christians.

And he’s calling them out for dividing their loyalty between God and something that isn’t of God.

James addresses the fact that they are asking God for certain things and they aren’t getting what they want.  And because one person is praying for something and not getting it…and then seeing that someone else in the community might be satisfied in some way…envy is present.

 

And James points out that the prayers of an envious person are messed up.  Because the prayers of someone who envies and wishes the destruction of good in someone else’s life are not pure prayers that desire God’s desires.  

Basically, James says, you are praying to God to give you something that you lust for or desire for your own pleasure…but those lusts and pleasures are not within the scope of God’s desires for you.  Especially when the pleasure you seek includes the pain of another person.

 

 

And then he hits us with another really hard phrase.

You adulterers! Don’t you know friendship with the world is enmity with God!  Don’t you know that if you are a friend of the world you are God’s enemy.

If the wind wasn’t knocked out of James’ readers before…

What’s with the Adultery stuff?

James is using this notion from the prophets that God, when God established a covenant with God’s people, entered a marriage relationship with God’s people.  And the church today, according to the New Testament, is considered the bride of Christ.

God married us.  We are married to God.

And James calls the readers Adulterers because they are seeking things that are detrimental to the marriage relationship

 

 

They have been stepping out on God.

They have been cheating on God

But the crazy thing is they have been asking God to ordain these envious motives by praying to God and saying

“Give me the things that ultimately destroy the health of our marriage.”  And then they get all mad when God says, “I’m not going to give you something that will ruin our relationship.”

 

But here’s the good news!

God gives grace to those who are humble.

Right there…immediately after these really intense words James says

Even though we’ve been a bad spouse, God is ready and willing to pour out all kinds of grace to help us get back into healthy headspace

So we can have a good marriage.

So we can really truly be fulfilled and at peace and…happy.

 

So…how does this happen?

James says we’ve got to humble ourselves and submit to God.

Now the word used in English…submit…is a really passive word.

You get this notion…especially when you hear it at weddings…Oh that means the one who agrees to submit has to become this weakling who just says yes to whatever the other person wants.

And while James in no way is saying that we don’t have to simply say “yes” to God…what James intends with the word we translate “submit” is that we become people who actively engage in the things that make the relationship between God and the church healthy.

We enlist join in the activity of making the relationship beautiful.

And the fact is, God has set up all of the stuff that will bring about that beauty.  All the talk of God’s laws in James simply points to the fact that God knows what we need to be people who thrive in this relationship…God knows what we need to be who we were created to be.

That’s why we can’t seek wisdom from sources that aren’t God

Those sources don’t provide us with what we need to be who we are meant to be.

It’s only when we draw near to God

And we come humbly saying, “Yes we agree God that you have set things up in a way that will bring peace and hope to our lives.”

It’s only then that we will avoid all this envy and horrific stuff that James is warning his readers against.

This humble submission stuff is really just a call to a deliberately cultivated fellowship between God and the church.  And that means a deliberately cultivated fellowship between us as members of this church.

 

So we are called as a church to deliberately and actively be in the marriage.  We don’t just say, “Yes, honey, I won’t go out and flirt with other people…I’ll stay here and sit around so you know where I am.”  No we say, “Yes, I know that I’ve gone out and been unfaithful, but I am here…I am part of this. I am going to join in the health of this relationship…and I’m not just going to sit around. I’m going to love you back…and even though I can’t even come close to the kind of love you have shown me…I’m going to show you that I do love you and I do want to work towards making you happy.”

As a faith community, we get to practice this every week.  When we come to worship, we don’t come as people who simply desire to get filled up with whatever inspiration we can find and then be on our way.

We don’t come here to engage in some one sided observervation experience.  We actively engage.  And we engage humbly…as people who really do revere our spouse Jesus Christ.

If ever you’ve been in a relationship…and been in love…you know those moments when your partner walks through the door and you feel your gut drop…because not only does he or she look good, but you, in a moment realize that they are it.  What they stand for.  How they carry themselves.  How they smell. How they laugh.  How they know just how to talk to you to calm you down or lift you up…or even put you in your place.  And you stand in awe.  And you say, I’m going to be in this…right here and right now…and I’m going to lift this person up too. And I’m going to say sorry if I screw up.  And I’m going to receive his or her forgiveness, because I know she means it when she says “I love you still”

And we’re going to listen to his hopes and dreams and his invitation into making those hopes and dreams a reality.  And I’m going to give of myself to her.  Because I want her to have all of what I got.

And I’m going to eat the food he prepares for me…because he’s the best cook…because he is mine and I am his…and breaking bread together isn’t just filling, it’s somehow spiritual and more important than when I eat in front of the television.

That’s what we want to cultivate in worship.  That’s what God wants to bring us in worship.  This interwoven and interlocked love affair that can never be matched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th James sermon snippet

James 3:13-18

 

The hook of this book is that our loyalty in life, if we want to live a beautiful life

If we want to live a life that honors the God who made us

If we want to honor those around us who bear God’s image

If we want that…our loyalty must be laser focused on Jesus Christ.

 

James is telling us that if we have been given the wisdom that comes from God, our lives will be marked by beauty and not disorder

gentleness and not brashness.

 

If we’re ever going to get a handle on our tongues and thoughts

If we’re ever going to get our hearts changed

We have to seek wisdom from God alone

And that wisdom is going to produce in us beauty and gentleness.

 

If instead we seek wisdom from sources other than God

Whether it’s our own gumption or some growing trend in the world at large

 

We will become people for whom selfish ambition rules

and selfish ambition produces disorder in our own lives and the lives of others

Selfish ambition leaves the needy out in the cold without a meal to eat

Selfish ambition causes us to focus more on defending our own point of view, rather than loving someone else enough to live peacefully with him or her.

Selfish ambition leaves you empty

But the spirit of gentleness that comes from wisdom makes you beautiful. (Keller)

 

It makes life beautiful.

It makes life worth the living.

 

 

We’ve got to let our hearts be affected by the one who perfectly embodies what James is talking about here.

 

And that’s the Savior Jesus Christ.

The one who shunned selfish ambition in order to save our lives.

 

Christ could have looked at the cross and said, “I’m sorry, but this is my blood and I intend to keep it in my veins where it belongs.”  Instead, he became absolutely humble and shed his blood so that we could be forgiven of all our shortcomings…that’s why we raise the cup at communion.  Because Christ in meekness didn’t keep his blood in his veins.

 

Christ could have seen the plight of the world from his high place in heaven and said, I’m sorry, but those people are dastardly by their own doing.  I won’t sacrifice my high position…I’m not going to accept punishment for something I didn’t do.  But Jesus didn’t do that.  Jesus didn’t defend himself.  Instead, he laid down his position and became humble so we could live.

If we want the kind of wisdom James is talking about

We have to look at the things God does to make us free and safe

And allow ourselves to get wrapped up in the beautiful sacrifice that God made for us.

 

If we want true wisdom

If we want to get a handle on the fact that we must revere the image of God in people

Rather than deride people who bear God’s image

We have to open ourselves up to the fact that Jesus does for us what no one else can

We have to breathe in God’s Holy Spirit and accept the peace that God gives us in the Holy Spirit.

 

That means we aren’t preoccupied with the downfalls of others

It means that we are preoccupied with Christ and  bringing out the beauty Christ makes possible.

It means that instead of metaphorically sowing seeds of envy and selfish ambition…we sow seeds of peace and gentleness.

 

 

Selfish ambition grows in the garden of envy.  Of bitter jealousy.  And the produce of that garden destroys the goodness in other people’s lives.

 

If we sow peace in the garden…and we tend to that garden, making the environment one where the garden produces gentleness and kindness…the produce will help others thrive. It won’t destroy others, it will enliven them.

 

But we can’t do this without the aid of the Holy Spirit.

It’s not about our own gumption to be peaceful

It’s about allowing God to take hold of our hearts and being humble in God’s presence to realize

That just as Christ set aside all selfish ambition to make us alive

We are free to do the same…so that we can honor God’s image in those around us.

 

It’s going to make being right all the time way less important

Because the peace of a Community whose loyalty is to God

Is so much more rewarding and life giving than an isolated existence where everyone but you is somehow less worthy of a good life.

 

Basically, what we need to wrap our minds and hearts around

Is that we must take our cues from Christ himself.

Are we tempted to deride someone?

Think of how Christ could have done the exact same when faced with the task of saving us.

 

But he didn’t.  He didn’t say, I’ll save them I guess…but they are so completely lousy.

Jesus loved

Jesus was meek

Gentle

Jesus didn’t give credence to the stuff in the atmosphere that makes us deride others

He said, the only way that the wrong can be reconciled is if I show my love…unconditionally and immediately.

 

We take our cues from Jesus

We seek God’s wisdom alone

and we allow God to mold us into people who are more concerned with peace in our relationships than anything else.

Even if it means we stop proving we are right all the time.

 

The beginning of wisdom is to be absolutely awestruck by our God who stopped at nothing to make us right with God.  The beginning of wisdom is to realize that it is only in this God…the creator and sustainer of our life…it is only in this God where we will hear the only inviation that matters.

 

The invitation from a wonderful savior who says to you and to me

Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th James sermon snippet

James 3:1-12

 

Whether it’s on facebook

Twitter

On comment sections of CRC websites

 

There’s a lot of really harsh language that’s out there.  There’s this notion that if you are going to disagree with someone, that a normal way to express it is to malign the person.

 

We see it all the time.

I keep thinking about a phrase that I heard growing up “The world is creeping into the church”

Most of the time people say that in response to things like sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.  Or television. Or movies. Or beer.

 

When people say “the world is creeping into the church” they typically mean that we’re getting this lax view on morals.

 

But when I think of that phrase, I think of how the way we do politics in this country has been influencing the way we go about our spiritual business as the Body of Christ.

 

When is the last time you saw an ad for a politician that, while on the surface seemed to be talking about policy differences between candidates, wasn’t actually carrying the subtext: My opponent is an evil warlock who wants to eat your babies and kill your grandparents?

 

And this stuff gets played out on the news shows we watch

And it’s easy to get caught up in it because, well, it’s become part of our culture to get caught up in it

 

In verse 1, James is pointing out teachers in the church.

 

There are a few different takes on what James is getting at here.

One of my go to authors suggests that James is saying: If you are teaching people who God is…and how God can move in your life and how Jesus Christ is the Messiah sent to save you from your sins

 

If you’re going to take on that responsibility

You best recognize that you are not perfect and that not everything you are tempted to say to or about someone is holy.

 

It goes back to the stuff in Chapter one about true religion

If you claim to be religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on your tongue, you are deceiving yourself.  Be slow to speak and quick to listen.

 

That’s an important thing to keep in mind.  None of us is perfect.  If we never say anything nasty or gross about someone…then yes, I suppose we could argue perfection

 

But who among us can pull that off?

So realize that we don’t pull this off…and watch what you say.

Especially those of us who have taken on the calling of teaching people God’s word.

 

What happens in verse 9 is crucial to not only understanding this passage, but also actually reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

James says that with the same tongue we praise our Lord and Father

And with it we curse those who have been made in God’s image.

This can’t be right.

We know it’s not right

I mean how would you feel if during our time of adoration

We sang Holy Holy Holy

And before moving on to the next praise song I said, “Now let’s all recognize that Pat Robertson is a crazy man or that Rob Bell a vile example of humanity?”

 

We know that doesn’t work.  

 

But what we have to see here is that the juxtaposition is not between praising people and cursing people

 

James isn’t saying the way to tame your tongue is to stop cursing people and start saying good things about people.

 

James is saying it’s incongruent with the saving grace of Christ to Praise God and curse people who bear the Image of God.

 

The only way we can ever get our tongues right

Is if we rely on God to make this happen.

 

And so, we don’t put all kinds of effort into “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.”

 

But we make a lifestyle of praising God

And we really think about how each person on this earth

Bears God’s Image

And how cursing another human being

Is in essence cursing God

 

We’ll get a bit shaken

And we’ll feel the tension between our love for God

And the way we can tend to be cruel to people

Even if that cruelty resides mainly in unspoken thoughts.

 

How do you really stop making cruel judgments against people.

I mean, maybe we can get better at not just blurting out terrible things in conversation

Or online

 

But how do you not let your mind go there?

 

And as plainly as James puts it

And as on a practical level it seems a little too good to be true

To just praise God all the time

and boom, you have no more evil thoughts

 

We do worship a God who does change us

As Christians who have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection

 

 

God’s Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our hearts

And the Holy Spirit is active

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate

And if we are open to God’s leading

God will heal our hearts

And God will heal our thoughts.

And we can become people who not only speak of peace

But in our praise of the one who saves us, we can be people whose hearts and minds are filled with God’s peace.

 

But it’s uncomfortable

Because we also have to be active in the process.

We have to be honest with ourselves

We have to be honest about where our thoughts go

About where our hearts go

About where our words go.

 

 

 

God wants to shape you.

So let him

Accept the invitation

The invitation from our wonderful Savior who says to you and to me

Come

 

3rd James sermon snippet

 

 

 

James 2

 

Identity in Christ.  Who we should aspire to be as Christians.

At the end of chapter 1, James says that pure and faultless religion is this: too look after the orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by all the garbage out there that tells us to look out only for ourselves.

 

When James talks about religion…he’s talking about the external enactment of an internal reality.

 

A different way of saying that is: If we find our identity in Jesus Christ, our disposition will be one of mercy to those around us

 

And not one of individualistic self-preservation

 

The reason for that is: Jesus Christ is a God of mercy. Jesus came and instead of figuring out ways to keep from dying on the cross, he instead set aside individualistic self preservation

He let go of looking out for number one

And sacrificed himself so that all of us could be washed over with mercy.

 

If we find our identity in Jesus Christ

That’s going to be our tendency too…to show mercy, even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

If the command of God on our lives is

Love God

Love others like you love yourself

 

What is our response to the poor supposed to be?

 

The positive scope of verses 15 and 16 would be

If a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, you say to her: here is food. Here is a sweater. Let’s go together so we can make sure you stay warm and fed.

 

That’s our religion. That’s the enactment of our faith

That’s the external response to the internal reality that Jesus has changed our lives with his mercy and grace and hope and love.

 

But Listen to two things very carefully:

 

1. This is not a political discussion. This is a spiritual one.

When we talk about this stuff in the political sphere, we get into all these arguments about people needing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and prove that they are worthy of the help. Prove that they won’t waste the energy we spend in getting them some food or clothes or work or whatever.

 

We are not in a political conversation as this church

We are in a spiritual one. We are on a spiritual journey.

And we are to recognize that none of us merits the good things we have

None of us is more worthy of mercy than the one who has yet to receive mercy

 

All of us have fallen short and receive God’s mercy simply because

God is love

God loves us

And God showers mercy on us

Even though we prove all the time that we can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps

None of us can attain the perfection of God

So Jesus intervenes

And shows mercy to the human race

Even though he had to sacrifice himself to do that

Even though none of us deserve it.

 

So we don’t talk about what kind of poor people deserve help

We don’t say this poor person shows initiative, we should feed him

We don’t say, this poor person seems to be a bit daft and will probably not properly care for the home we helped her get into.

 

The second thing we need to hear…with careful ears

Is that most of us have a lot of room to grow with regards to this.

Even though most of us see the real need for Justice in our city

Even though most of us wouldn’t flinch if an obviously impoverished person walked into our worship service…and we do have some sisters and brothers in our fellowship who have just about nothing…

Even though

Most of us need to make more room in our lives to exhibit mercy and work for God’s Justice in this city.

On our streets

On our blocks.

 

We all need make ourselves available and show mercy.

Mercy in the context of verse 13 is all about physical needs

And we need to wrestle with the weight of this statement that those who have not shown mercy are in trouble.

 

Because if we are not people who show mercy, that means something isn’t quite right in our hearts.

It means that somehow our glorious Jesus and the mercy he has come to give us hasn’t had the room to grow in our hearts

 

Basically James is being super bold and says

If you aren’t a person of mercy, you haven’t really let Jesus into your heart. You’re not really bearing the glorious name of Jesus. You’re not really a Christian.

It’s important that we take the internal reality:

That we are people who love and trust Jesus

And turn it into our religion

 

watch for opportunities to throw your hat in the ring

Watch for opportunities that we as a church promote…

And make some room in your life for responding in mercy to the physical needs of people in our city.

 

And when we do that…the love of Jesus will be so evident to people

that people will want to know what motivates all this

They’ll want to know why we are people of mercy

And the Gospel of Jesus will be proclaimed through us

And the Kingdom of God will grow.

 

Because through our acts of mercy and justice

and our disposition of humility in Christ

will serve as a wonderful invitation to people

the invitation our wonderful Savior constantly gives to you and to me

 

Come

 

3rd James sermon snippet

 

 

 

James 2

 

Identity in Christ.  Who we should aspire to be as Christians.

At the end of chapter 1, James says that pure and faultless religion is this: too look after the orphans and widows and to keep oneself from being polluted by all the garbage out there that tells us to look out only for ourselves.

 

When James talks about religion…he’s talking about the external enactment of an internal reality.

 

A different way of saying that is: If we find our identity in Jesus Christ, our disposition will be one of mercy to those around us

 

And not one of individualistic self-preservation

 

The reason for that is: Jesus Christ is a God of mercy. Jesus came and instead of figuring out ways to keep from dying on the cross, he instead set aside individualistic self preservation

He let go of looking out for number one

And sacrificed himself so that all of us could be washed over with mercy.

 

If we find our identity in Jesus Christ

That’s going to be our tendency too…to show mercy, even when it’s uncomfortable.

 

 

If the command of God on our lives is

Love God

Love others like you love yourself

 

What is our response to the poor supposed to be?

 

The positive scope of verses 15 and 16 would be

If a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, you say to her: here is food. Here is a sweater. Let’s go together so we can make sure you stay warm and fed.

 

That’s our religion. That’s the enactment of our faith

That’s the external response to the internal reality that Jesus has changed our lives with his mercy and grace and hope and love.

 

But Listen to two things very carefully:

 

1. This is not a political discussion. This is a spiritual one.

When we talk about this stuff in the political sphere, we get into all these arguments about people needing to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and prove that they are worthy of the help. Prove that they won’t waste the energy we spend in getting them some food or clothes or work or whatever.

 

We are not in a political conversation as this church

We are in a spiritual one. We are on a spiritual journey.

And we are to recognize that none of us merits the good things we have

None of us is more worthy of mercy than the one who has yet to receive mercy

 

All of us have fallen short and receive God’s mercy simply because

God is love

God loves us

And God showers mercy on us

Even though we prove all the time that we can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps

None of us can attain the perfection of God

So Jesus intervenes

And shows mercy to the human race

Even though he had to sacrifice himself to do that

Even though none of us deserve it.

 

So we don’t talk about what kind of poor people deserve help

We don’t say this poor person shows initiative, we should feed him

We don’t say, this poor person seems to be a bit daft and will probably not properly care for the home we helped her get into.

 

The second thing we need to hear…with careful ears

Is that most of us have a lot of room to grow with regards to this.

Even though most of us see the real need for Justice in our city

Even though most of us wouldn’t flinch if an obviously impoverished person walked into our worship service…and we do have some sisters and brothers in our fellowship who have just about nothing…

Even though

Most of us need to make more room in our lives to exhibit mercy and work for God’s Justice in this city.

On our streets

On our blocks.

 

We all need make ourselves available and show mercy.

Mercy in the context of verse 13 is all about physical needs

And we need to wrestle with the weight of this statement that those who have not shown mercy are in trouble.

 

Because if we are not people who show mercy, that means something isn’t quite right in our hearts.

It means that somehow our glorious Jesus and the mercy he has come to give us hasn’t had the room to grow in our hearts

 

Basically James is being super bold and says

If you aren’t a person of mercy, you haven’t really let Jesus into your heart. You’re not really bearing the glorious name of Jesus. You’re not really a Christian.

It’s important that we take the internal reality:

That we are people who love and trust Jesus

And turn it into our religion

 

watch for opportunities to throw your hat in the ring

Watch for opportunities that we as a church promote…

And make some room in your life for responding in mercy to the physical needs of people in our city.

 

And when we do that…the love of Jesus will be so evident to people

that people will want to know what motivates all this

They’ll want to know why we are people of mercy

And the Gospel of Jesus will be proclaimed through us

And the Kingdom of God will grow.

 

Because through our acts of mercy and justice

and our disposition of humility in Christ

will serve as a wonderful invitation to people

the invitation our wonderful Savior constantly gives to you and to me

 

Come

 

Second James sermon snippet

James 1:9-27

 

What we just read is all about identity.

 

When you read it through first, though, it’s quite intense.  That’s one of the things we acknowledged at Bible Study on Tuesday.  James seems to jump around from topic to topic laying all of this really intense stuff on us.

 

Stuff about the poor and Rich

Stuff about temptation

Stuff about holding your tongue

Stuff about mirrors and forgetting your face

Stuff about the widows and orphans

 

And then we’re done.

And we’re sort of out of breath

Because that seems like a lot of stuff.

 

Poor believers: Your identity is in Jesus who secures for you an everlasting home in God’s presence.  Your current lowly estate can’t rip that from you.

 

Rich people: All the status your wealth gives.  All the earthly power you’ve grabbed because you have a bankroll…it means nothing. You’re identity in Christ is what matters in the end.  If you are hoarding your resources and grabbing for status and power…you’re hoarding and grabbing things that will fade away.

 

The temptation James is talking about here is the temptation to give your loyalty to something other than God.  

 

We all get tempted to do that.  We all get tempted to seek wisdom or fulfillment from sources other than God.  Whether we are well off and get tempted to rely on our money and status to bring us happiness.  Whether we are desperate for a sign from God, but can’t hear God’s voice so we seek wisdom from ungodly sources.  Whether we seek for comfort in food or booze or sex.

 

We all get tempted to divide our loyalties.  It just comes with being human.

But James encourages us in a couple of ways

 

He points out that resisting the temptation to divide our loyalties when we are tested comes with a promise.  A promise that God has a wonderful reward for us.  The promise that no matter our trials, when we fix our hearts on Christ, there is a life so full and so rich that our current trials become extinct.  Right now it’s difficult.  No one is denying that.  But God is the only one who provides true peace in the end.  So rest on that promise.

 

 

 

God didn’t create us to have these temptations.

But they exist because humanity in the beginning divided its loyalty and gave into the temptation to seek wisdom outside of God…that’s what the story of eating the forbidden fruit is all about.

 

So what is natural?

What’s natural is what 16-18 talks about

What’s natural are the good things God has made available to us.  What’s natural is the life available when God’s true word takes up residence in us.  God’s true word is the recipe for our true and natural identity.

 

 

You can spend all the time in the world reading the Bible and letting it’s words rattle around in your intellect…but if you aren’t open to the fact that your very identity resides in the Messiah who came to make these words mean something…it doesn’t amount to much.

That’s why we have to slow down our speech

and give the Word a chance to take hold of us.

 

 

And the Word of God was given to say: You’re free.  Here’s how you can remain free.  Here’s how you can live into the identity that will bring peace and hope and joy and life.

 

What does the law say…well it gets summed up like this:

Love God with everything in you

And love your neighbor as you love yourself.

 

So what’s the purest way we live into our identity? What is a guage for us? what is a way we can know we are living into this freedom?

It’s not by relying on wealth

It’s not by buying into this notion that we have to lash out with indignation when people disagree with us

 

It’s by caring for people

Caring for the poor

Caring for those who bear the Image of God

And not letting all the garbage that’s out there corrupt it.

 

And how do we get there?

We let the Word of God take up residence in our hearts

We don’t just read it and intellectualize it

But we let it shape us.

We fall in love with it

And we let it guide our lives