September 26, 2021
We’ve made it to the final chapter of James, and the final message in this series called Faith Works. James has urged us to avoid showing favoritism to the rich, he’s admonished us to be slow to speak, but quick to listen, and he’s given us further instruction on taming our tongues. Last week, James compared heavenly wisdom to earthly wisdom, encouraging us to lean into wisdom that comes from God. We can recognize that kind of wisdom as “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruit, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17), and the result of cultivating this kind of wisdom is “a harvest of righteousness.” (3:18)
When James compares heavenly wisdom to earthly wisdom, something else becomes clear, and it’s the underlying lesson James has been trying to teach us throughout this letter: wisdom from God focuses our attention on the needs of others, while earthly wisdom focuses our attention on ourselves. This whole letter is about how to behave toward one another, so our lives will reflect faith at work in us. Because when we work our faith, we develop a faith that really works. One place we can really see our faith growing is in the practice of prayer. You might think James is going to focus on how prayer connects us to God, but James knows the way prayer really helps our faith grow is in our prayers for each other.
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
July 5, 2020
Watch on Vimeo.
It’s been good to visit with a few of you this week, to learn what is on your heart as we begin the work of interim ministry together. You may remember a video that appeared on the church website a few months ago, where I explained the developmental tasks this congregation will need to address during this season.
Over the next several weeks, I will be explaining each of these tasks in greater detail, so that we can begin this important and urgent work with full understanding. The first task is to come to terms with your past. This might be the most difficult task of all, but the other steps of the process depend on getting this one right, so it’s a good place to begin. Continue reading
Within the past 48 hours, tragic death has touched three members of my far-extended family. These weren’t people I know, for my relationship to them is very tangential – a cousin-in-law’s step-daughter’s cousin, for example – but their deaths on or near Thanksgiving Day are stark reminders that life itself is something to be cherished, something for which to thank God.
Death doesn’t ever wait for a convenient time, and the number of tragedies connected to holiday celebrations seems to climb each year. Or maybe I just notice them more as I grow older. But this connection between joy and sorrow is nothing new. The Psalmist often combined lament and sorrow with praise and thanksgiving. The paradoxical connection between expressing personal pain and giving glory to God in all circumstances weaves its way throughout the biblical narrative. Grief and rejoicing are not such strange bedfellows. This is why a New Orleans funeral dirge turns into an amazingly joyful Dixieland dance when the saints go marching in.
As your holiday weekend draws to a close, as the shopping spree ends and the turkey leftovers move into smaller containers in the refrigerator, please take a moment to look around the room at those who share your day-in, day-out routines, and thank God for them. Show them how much you love them. Show them how much God loves them. Take nothing for granted. Life is precious. Thanks be to God.