This post will include the sermon and one song from worship at one of the churches. I also recorded the sermon for the first time (outside of requirements) and have attached that at the bottom of the post. It is from the 2nd service.
The opening song we sang at Flintstone UMC was "New Wine" by Hillsong:
“Live Out Your Faith”
James 2:1-17 (MSG)
September 9, 2018 (16th Sunday after Pentecost)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC
James 2:1-17 (MSG)
1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?
8-11 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.
Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD.
THANKS BE TO GOD.
I chose the Message for today’s reading because often it helps us to hear and read the Scriptures in a version different than the one we read daily. If you read the Message translation daily, it wasn’t different for you today and you might consider reading today’s passage in the NLT or CEB later.
The lectionary passage allows us to omit verses 11-13, however, by doing that we don’t have the flow, so I chose to keep it.
The author begins in verse 1 by saying, “My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out your glorious, Christ-originated faith.” That statement by itself could take an entire sermon. How often do we allow others to influence how we are living out our glorious, Christ-originated faith? May God help each of us to live out our faith under the sole influence of Christ. Amen?
The next several verses go on to give us a scenario in a church setting where there is the possibility of showing favoritism or partiality. If we are honest with God and ourselves, then those verses can help us see inside our motives and actions.
In verse 5, we hear/see that God operates quite differently. This is a very good thing. If it were up to us, we would likely live inside our comfort zones, but we are reminded that the kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. The Royal Rule of Scripture is: “Love others as you love yourself.”
In verses 8-11, we are reminded that we contradict that Royal Rule if we give precedence to others or if we are influenced by others in our faith instead of by Christ. Verses 12-13 exhort us on how we are to live:
12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.
What does this mean for us as followers of Christ who are seeking to grow as disciples of Christ, to be transformed so that we can make other disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world?
It means that as we love others as ourselves, we are set free. It means that kindness, compassion, and love win. Kind mercy wins.
It takes quite a bit of energy to allow kindness, compassion, and love at times, especially when we are tired or hungry. Have you seen those Snickers commercials where the people just aren’t themselves and they are given a Snickers bar and they become themselves again? When we need to show kindness, compassion, and love to others, we need to make sure that we are spending time in spiritual practices that are filling us up—prayer, reading Scripture, silence, solitude, fasting, worship, Holy Communion, and other practices such as spending time in creation, journaling, prayer walking, play, rest. If we are not allowing ourselves to receive kindness, compassion, and love from ourselves or God, then we will not be able to offer it to others. As we receive and give, there is freedom.
Verses 12-13 remind me of one of my favorite verses, Micah 6:8. It has been a life verse for many years. I first memorized it in an older NIV: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” On a church sign in Red Bank that I pass several times a week after PT (physical therapy), they have two of the three commandments: “act justly, love mercy”. There wasn’t room for the third: walk humbly with God. Just as the greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself sum up how we are to live, so does Micah 6:8.
In verses 14-17 of today’s passage, if we haven’t felt the conviction yet, we do here.
It begins: “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?”
That is one of those moments that is either an “ouch” or an “amen” moment, depending on where you are at the time.
One of my colleagues posted a quote this week that caused me to reflect on James and putting our faith into action.
"I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please."(Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty, 1979)
Sometimes we want just enough of God to get by. How do we break out of that to live more abundantly, to live into the freedom that God has for us?
It comes as we live out our God-talk with God-acts.
As we love God, love people, and live like Jesus, our faith becomes action.
As we reflect on today’s passage, may we be the kinds of people who are influenced by Christ and not others as we seek to grow as individuals and as a church.
May we not stop at what we’ve already done to put our faith into action, but rather daily seek opportunities to love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
May we, as individuals and as a church body, be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit to help us be people who keep growing in our relationships with God and one another.
May it be so.
If you'd like to hear a recording of the sermon, you can click here (.wav) or here (.mp3).
Because I mention the Snickers commercials, I thought I would put one here. There are many to choose from and finding one to go here wasn't that easy. I chose to go with one of the more recent ones with Elton John attempting to rap.
|Church sign in Red Bank, TN that has 2/3 of Micah 6:8|
Thanks to Steve McDaniel for converting my .wav file to .mp3. Community working together to make things happen for the good of all and the glory of God is a beautiful thing.
Maybe there will be something that meets you in this post where you are on your journey and encourages you.
Blessings on your journey,