September 19, 2021
A young musician was substituting for the principal clarinet in the Chicago Symphony. Wanting to make a good impression, she prepared her music carefully, memorized all the hard passages, and when the time came to take her place for her first rehearsal, she played her heart out, dramatically moving with the music and waving her clarinet expressively as she played.
When there was a pause in the rehearsal, she smiled at the player sitting next to her. But he frowned at her, and said, “we don’t do that here.” In the Chicago Symphony, the focus is on the music, not the drama.
We’ve been working our way through the book of James, and I’ve mentioned before that this book, even though it comes in the form of a letter, really has more in common with Old Testament Wisdom literature than Paul’s letters to the early church. James has encouraged us to accept all people without showing favoritism to the rich. He’s taught us to listen first and speak second, and when we do speak, to mind our tongues.
This is all part of becoming more like Jesus, that process we call discipleship. As we work our faith, our faith begins to work in us, and our focus is more and more on Jesus, not the drama. Continue reading
September 12, 2021
James has been teaching us how to work our faith in order to develop a faith that works. Just before today’s reading, he writes, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” (James 2:26)
Our faith shows up in our work, what we do, how we live. But work without faith is just work. When our work is an expression of our faith, we grow in maturity, our words align with our actions, and our actions align with God’s will.
In today’s passage from the book of James, he dives a little deeper into the idea we heard a couple of weeks ago: “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) It’s that “slow to speak” part that can get us into trouble. When we let our tongues run ahead of us, whether we are being careless or intentionally hurtful, it damages our witness for Christ. Continue reading
September 5, 2021
Have you ever needed to make a decision, and you just couldn’t decide? You’d looked at all the options, and there didn’t seem to be one right answer, one perfect solution. You just had to use your best judgment, so you could go forward.
We see it all the time in sports. The referee makes a call on a play that isn’t really clear from the sidelines, so they review it. And as the commentators in the booth discuss the slow motion video of the play from all possible angles, they can’t decide which way it should go, either. But the game has to go on. Everyone depends on the ref’s best judgment to make the final call.
We make judgments all the time. We make choices based on the best information we can gather. Sometimes those choices are good ones, and sometimes we make poor choices. Either way, every choice we make is a judgment call. But there’s a difference between judging and being judgmental.
August 29, 2021
Tradition tells us that the author of the book of James was the brother of Jesus. James was not one of the original twelve disciples – in fact, we have no evidence he even believed his brother was the Son of God until after the resurrection. However, James quickly became a leader among the believers in Jerusalem. And let’s remember that the church in Jerusalem was the flagship church of the whole Christian movement, so James was an important figure in the church’s early development. Paul even submitted to his authority (Acts 15:13-21).
In the greeting of this letter, James addresses “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (1:1) so we can imagine that his intended audience includes Jewish followers of The Way who have fled from Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen. Christianity was in its early stages; it was still considered a Jewish sect. Continue reading