It is definitely after midnight. I am home from youth group, my “due at mid-night” homework is in my professors inbox…and finally I had time for my prayers. My United Methodist History class requires me to pray for thirty minutes six days a week. The blogging is not required, but I am hoping it will help with the paper I need to write (I hope writing is good for my soul too of course!) After a long day…with many twists and turns I finally have a moment to pray with the Scriptures.
Questions for the text:
Why do these two translations sound so different? What does the original Greek really say?
My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.
Why did Elijah pray for no rain for 3 1/2 years? Does James talk about Elijah in other places? Can we sing if we are suffering? Can we pray if we are cheerful? When James said to call the elders, did he mean a man with an MDiv degree, ordained, with a church under his care? Or did he simply mean the elders of the church? The ones not afraid of our illness and willing to pray even over the sickest because they’ve already seen it all?
I wonder about the ancient people who read this letter. A few weeks ago when I started reading James, it sounded so harsh. Mean at moments. But as I listen and study more, I think we need some of this. We…all of us…churchy, non-religious, anti-religious, devout ..we all need to learn how to live in community. John Wesley’s small group met 3 to 4 days a week!!!! Seriously! Maybe the people that James wrote this letter too had some of the same “distracted with life, don’t know how to live in community” moments just like us. (And very much unlike John Wesley apparently.)
The last line of the text brought with it an image of people, an unimaginable number of them, wandering away from God. Not really wandering away from God but more specifically wandering away from the Church. Along with the image is the question “why?”
God of all Grace, as I step into my future with you, as I choose again and again, to walk with you, to live my life with you, please help me remember…remind me…that I am here, I am doing this because of Grace. In the days, months, and years ahead help me stay rooted in your Grace.
I see Grace…
I see Grace…in the people I talk to, the people I walk by, the people I hug, the people I live with, the person in the mirror.
I see Grace…everywhere.
But I worry. I worry that one day those people leaving the Church in mass will be my concern and I am afraid that in that moment, I will forget to stay grounded in your Grace. In that moment, I will be the one wandering away from you. Help me love the way you ask me to love and don’t let me forget that I love because you first loved me. I do what I do because I see Grace.
So, apparently Martin Luther did not like the letter from James very much. I guess to Martin Luther it sounded as if James thought you must earn salvation, especially when James said “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (2:24). But according to the introduction to the Book of James found in the Discipleship Study Bible, James is not requiring works for salvation. James in fact is not really addressing salvation but instead he is addressing how we live in community, how we respond to God’s Grace in our lives.
So, when I listen to James as a teacher, someone who is teaching me how to live in community, I hear that relationships aren’t always easy…but in response to God’s Grace I should continue to work do the hard work of getting alone with others.
You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. (3:18, The Message)
I like reading the text, I enjoy allowing it to wash over me, shape me, form me, live in me. But really, I like asking it questions. From brainstorming questions to studying academic essay’s on a text…that is just as fun. It’s interesting…I allow the text to shape me and I get to take it apart verse by verse!
When was James written? Who is the author? Why does the lectionary skip James 4:4-6? Why was the author so mad? Who was he writing to? “You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder.” Ouch…that’s harsh! Do pastors still need to do this today? If so how? “Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind” does this mean that anywhere there is disorder and wickedness that there is envy and selfish ambition? Did the community change after this letter? What were they fighting over in the first place anyway? Where else is wisdom used in the Bible? Where does is talk about earthly wisdom and wisdom from above? Is wisdom “Sophia“?
The image I see as I listen to this text is first an image of total chaos. Maybe a group of people fighting over control, everyone going after what they want, ignoring the needs of others…maybe a “National Lampoon” family dinner or a board meeting gone awry. You know…Chaos!
But in this line…”Say A Quite Yes to God”…I see hope. In the midst of the chaos, I see a spot of quite…calm…peace…a place to rest. The thing is…that spot is always there. Always. No matter how noisy the chaos, how all-encompassing the chaos is…peace is always present.
Spirit of God, I see the chaos. How could I miss it. I “yell a loud no to the devil” all the time. Please help me remember that you God are present in the quite yes. Thanks be to God.