Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Word for Christian Living - September 27, 2015 - Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) - Text: James 5:(1-12)13-20
In our text for this morning, as we reach the end of our walk through his epistle, James makes three related points as he comes to the end of his letter. James encourages us to focus our life, not on the things of this world, but on the world to come, that is eternal life in heaven. James encourages us to be patient in times of suffering and he points to the example of Job and his suffering as well as the Lord’s reward, if you will, to Job after all was said and done. James writes to encourage us to encourage and build each other up as brothers and sisters in Christ. And we must remind ourselves as we begin looking here at the end of James letter, that James begins with Jesus. James encourages and exhorts us as a response of faith, not for works righteousness.
Getting to James’ first point, he encourages us in our life’s focus. We begin at verse one, “1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you” (v. 1-6).
James warns us that our earthly treasures will rot. He warns us to not get mixed up in attempting simply to gain treasures for this world, especially to the neglect of the world to come. Perhaps we would do well to constantly remind ourselves that what we are born with and what we take with us when we die is what is truly ours anyway. Which is another way of saying that nothing really is ours. What we have while we live on this earth is merely on loan to us from our Lord, to use while we are on this earth. After we pass away, what we have amassed will be passed on to the next generation and as the preacher of Ecclesiastes suggests, it will be passed on to those who have not earned it to waste it in any way they wish. Thus, we are encouraged to be good stewards of what our Lord first gives to us and we are encouraged to spend our time, not amassing treasures of this world, but treasure for heaven.
James also warns that dishonest gain is a sin and so he encourages us to work at an honest job and not steal in any way. The example he uses is that of his ancestors who kept back wages from the workers. For us today, James simply encourages us to be honest in our labors.
These words from James encourage us to focus our attention and our life, not so much on this world and amassing what will be passed on to the next generation and have no affect on our lives in the world to come, and instead we are to focus our attention on the world to come. We are to focus our attention on our faith and our relationship with Jesus who has secured our lot in heaven. Again, we are reminded that James’ words of encouragement are words of a response of faith.
Moving on to the second point that James makes this morning. He encourages us in our suffering, especially that we are to be patient. We pick up at verse seven, “7Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. 12But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.)” (v. 7-12)
James encourages us to be patient and to look forward, in faith, to the day the Lord will return. Unfortunately, too many people, even too many Christians do not believe the Lord will return during their own life time. Yet, He could come any day and any time. And, the fact of the matter is that none of us knows when we will die, so we all need to be ready to meet the Lord each and every day. James reminds us that this world is truly fast and fleeting. Our time in this world is but a breath, even a moment compared to our life in heaven which is for eternity, so we would do well not to dwell so much on the sufferings of this present world, instead, we would do well to focus our attention on heaven. James encourages us not to grumble against each other, instead we are to be patient with each other. And, notice that James says nothing about striving for success in this world, instead he encourages us to remain steadfast, that is to be faithful. James gives us the example of Job who lost everything and yet in the end because of his faithfulness the Lord blessed him with double. Here again, the encouragement to focus our attention on heaven and being faithful.
And James gives a bit of a warning about honesty. He says to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”. In our world today, as truth has, at least for some, become relative, there is a tendency to want to make sure people believe what we say and the way many do this is by adding something to their word. As children we add, “cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye,” and so forth. As adults we might add, “I swear to God,” or “to be honest with you,” or any other statement to emphasize we are saying what is true. James urges us simply to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” and to let our honesty attest to our word. And again, we would remind ourselves that James continues to speak in the context of a response of faith.
In the last point of our text, James encourages us to encourage each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. We pick up at verse thirteen, “13Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (v. 13-20).
James encourages us in our prayer life. We certainly understand that our prayer is our part in our conversation with God. He speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him in prayer. As part of our conversation with God, as part of our prayers, James encourages us to pray for ourselves. We are to pray prayers of thanks as well as petitions for healing and the like. Also we are encouraged to pray for others, especially those who are ill. And we are encouraged to be persistent and patient in our prayers. James gives us the example of Elijah who prayed for three and a half years that it would not rain and then he prayed that it would rain and it did.
Not only are we to pray, we are also exhorted to confess our sins so we might be given forgiveness. Every Sunday morning we confess our sins and we hear our Lord’s most beautiful words of forgiveness. Forgiveness is so important. We might remember that very often the first thing Jesus did when He met someone or healed someone was to forgive them their sins. Forgiveness is our most basic need and with forgiveness we know that we also have life and salvation.
Finally, we are to encourage each other, and especially, in love, share the truth with others, rebuking and admonishing where necessary. We are to encourage our brothers and sisters who stray from the faith. We are to share our faith with others so they too might have a part in God’s kingdom. What wonderful words of encouragement we are given by James this morning. And once more, these words of James are words of encouragement in our response of faith, faith given by God.
So we ask, “What Does This Mean?” In the Old Testament lesson for this morning we see the discontent of the Children of Israel. They grumbled and complained. They exaggerated what they believed to be their condition in Egypt, “they ate fish that cost nothing? They ate cucumbers, melons, leek, onions and garlic that cost nothing?” How quickly they forgot their cry to be delivered from slavery. Yet, their discontent is very much like our discontent. How often we forget what our Lord has done, does and continues to do for us as we continue to ask for more? Yes, even our Old Testament lesson reminds us of our need to keep our focus heavenward. Notice how the discontent of the Israelites is contrasted with Moses’ contentment even that everyone would be full of the Spirit. Quit a lesson to us in our contentment and rejoicing in others and how the Lord blesses them.
In the Gospel reading Jesus warns against sin, even little sins. He also warns that those who are not against Him are for Him, in other words, although we may have doctrinal disagreements with other denominations which keep us from fellowship, unless they are blatantly teaching and believing false doctrine, we would do well to not condemn them. At the same time, this does not negate the fact that we will want to encourage them to get their doctrine right.
Finally, James ties these words together in the last words of his epistle in which he encourages Christians to be content in all things, remembering that this world is fast and fleeting, that we are to be patient in suffering which, as Paul tells us, ultimately produces hope and certainty of heaven, and that we are to build up and encourage each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. And we do this with the Lord’s help, alone and only as a response of faith already given.
Of course, the last question we might ask this morning is, “Where is Jesus?” And we have to answer that He is there as the prime mover. As we read through James we must continue to remind ourselves that James begins with Jesus. James brings words of encouragement that are not apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus. We cannot do any of what James encourages and exhorts us to do. We cannot do the good works of faith, which flow from faith, except that we have faith. Again, James begins with Jesus. Jesus has already done all that James here encourages us to do. Jesus is God in flesh. Jesus is perfect and holy. Jesus never sinned. Jesus suffered all the temptations we will ever face and more and never sinned. And in His great love for us, Jesus took our sin and paid the price for our sin. The depth of the Gospel is that Jesus lived for us and Jesus gave His life for ours. Now Jesus sends the Holy Spirit who works in and through us to be the people he would have us to be, to be the people James encourages us to be. Where is Jesus? He is the beginning, the middle and the end. And we say, thanks be to God and to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.