love the One who loves you…
September 9, 2018
Scripture: Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23, James 2:1-10, 14-17
There is so much wise counsel in the words of our reading from James…so much to sort through that seeks to guide us in how it is that we are to act and to be observed by others in the practice and living out of our faith. There is the warning about being so careful not to make false distinctions among those who come into our circle of faith…not to judge others by their appearance or by the consideration of what they might be able to contribute to our life together.
And then there is the very much related question that insists on being pondered regarding who is truly ‘worthy’ among us? Who is worthy of our attention or our generosity, of our time or consideration? Is it just anyone? Or is there any way it might possibly be everyone? And where is the place that worthiness is supposed to be judged anyway? Is it solely within our hearts and minds or is true worthiness only God’s call?
And what do we do with the possibility that this is not a simple question at all…with the possibility that no one and somehow everyone is worthy within the sight of our Lord? For truly, no one, in and of themselves is worthy of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that the Lord extends because, given the opportunity, each and every one of us tends on occasion to act so very human! And yet somehow, due to the unconditional love of our Creator God, every one of us is in fact worthy in the Lord’s sight. Every one of God’s children…is just that…one of God’s beloved…one who is eminently and forever worthy and capable of being a critical part of a glorious and gracious future day of freedom and promise.
And after those opening questions, James gets into the whole issue of faith and works…the question of whether or not we truly are living into our faith if it is not accompanied by, or perhaps even to some extent defined by acts of grace and sacrifice for the sake of others. As James calls it, this ‘royal law’, the one in which our Lord calls us to love our neighbor as we love and care for our self is one of those things that are not always so easy to follow…one of those things we may occasionally wish was more of a suggestion rather than a command!
And that is because it goes to the heart of our feelings of security and comfort. The command to truly live out our faith by practicing works of compassion and charity forces us to look hard at what we have, at what we wish we had, and at how giving or generous we feel…and not just at appropriate times, or at times of our own choosing, but all of the time…even when we feel we have given enough or, when we are tired of extending ourselves, or when we just want to take a break from constantly being on call to care for others.
Truly James challenges us to live faithfully in the image of and in the same ways we see Jesus living throughout his ministry…truly he is asking for us to consider things we may not be comfortable thinking about. Taking James’ words to heart we are asked to consider questions we might rather disregard. Questions such as, ‘do you see that which is in your gathered treasure as simply the results of your hard efforts or those of someone before you or beside you’? Or do you see also the deep blessing of God that enabled the gathering of those resources, those life sustaining elements earned or received? Or, do you worry or fear that your resources are or could become insufficient at some point? Do you fear not having enough at some future point in your life? And especially if you are reckless enough to give to or to care for every Tom, Dick, or Harry that may come along? Or is it perhaps not reckless at all if those three were specifically sent to you by the Lord?
James leads us within our reading to ponder the most basic of issues…the deepest concern we have…the question of whether or not the Lord might possibly love us as well or even better than those who first loved us at our birth. Have you, or can you find your way to believing that the Lord is intent on watching over you even down to the smallest details of your life? Or do you resist that notion because there may have been times or instances in your life when you felt as if the Lord did not answer in a way you so desperately needed? Are you willing to step into a place of truly trusting that God is always there, always watching, always listening, always loving you?
Truly, what role does God play in the circumstances of your life, in your coming and in your going, in the dreams you still dream and in the dreams you feel sure will go unfulfilled? Is God present in a real way to you? When you get to that place of calling out to God is it mostly out of desperation or perhaps mainly in times of great crisis when it seems as though there truly is no other place to turn to? Or are you, or could you become comfortable with the notion that indeed our Lord of love, our Lord and our Christ, our precious and guiding Spirit of grace does in fact desire to be in an intimate relationship with you, does in fact want to be the one you wake up to in the morning and go to sleep with at nightfall?
And just as importantly, are you willing to listen…are you willing to set aside the noise and scurry of life, are you willing to sit quietly for a time in order to hear the soft words deep within you speaking of love, speaking of ways in which you could be more free or more happy…words intended to patiently guide and correct your path, to temper or soften your words, or your thoughts when they wander off in ways that might be injurious to yourself or to others?
Are you willing to look for, to search out once again those first feelings of being loved and protected? Are you willing to seek those same feelings of being cherished and securely held that you once felt as a young child…those feelings of being secure and watched over, that simple and uncomplicated comfort you knew before the world came crashing in around you later on with responsibility, with fears, and with questions that just seemed to have no answers?
My friends, is it possible that the Lord loves you this much? Are you willing to trust that the words of promise and assurance found all throughout the scriptures are indeed a song of invitation from our Lord being offered specifically to you? Is it possible that the Spirit is searching out your heart…seeking to find you and call you into a place of trusting fully, into a place of constant companionship, and into the assurance that somewhere, somehow, and at some point, everything in your life and in the lives around you will be not only just alright, but even wondrous and beautiful? Will you turn to this One who is ever whispering in your ear words of life and love…and yes, of challenge as well?
There is a very definite purpose to the workings of our Lord through the action of the Spirit all around us each day. There is energy being applied towards the realization of a new day, a better day, a day of promise and a day of freedom for all God’s children. An energy being spent not only by the Spirit directly into and onto the world as it seeks to move the hearts and minds of all humanity towards greater kindness and generosity, but also within the hearts of every soul who is willing to allow the Spirit to become an ‘informing presence’ within their heart. We may think we have a choice here…and in some way I suppose we do…but the choice between love, peace, freedom, and true security, and, darkness and chaos doesn’t seem like much of a choice. For as much as the Spirit reaches out to us in invitation, to the same degree that Spirit has long been laying the ground and preparing the soil to receive the seed of our willingness to grow into all that the Lord envisions for each one of us. For as Paul tells us in the words he wrote to the Church in Philippi in Chapter 2 and verse 13 where he noted, ‘It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.’ We can resist, we can take our time, we can even run if we feel the need…but the Spirit of love is always there…always hovering just next to our consciousness, waiting on the smallest opening into our soul to begin the process of transforming our heart into a vessel of true holiness…and true usefulness in the plans and purposes of our God.
James says that ‘faith without works is dead’, that a faith of words alone, absent demonstrated love and willing sacrifice is just so much empty words and worthless thoughts. But in that warning he also shows us the way to a life of fullness and goodness in words that echo our Lord’s own… ‘love one another’…truly love one another…and show it…for goodness sake!