Posts Tagged ‘Epistle of James’

'Trainers - Practicing Tai Chi 6-6-09 2' photo (c) 2009, Steven Depolo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/The Revised Common Lectionary is moving into a series of lessons from James.  Here is a sermon from my 2006 archives on James’ theme that faith must be lived out in action.

Practicing Our Faith

A Sermon on James 1:17-27, 2:14-26

With Allusions to Genesis 12 1-5a and Matthew 7:24-29

Although Jesus often had crowds around him, as Matthew 7:28 reports, not everyone was a true disciple, a true follower.  Some just liked to listen.  Some were curious about him.  Some wanted healing, and indeed, they came to the right place, and Jesus did help.  Some came to Jesus because they wanted to argue with him.  A few, like certain religious professionals, were out to catch him doing or saying something wrong.

Not everybody was there to actually be a follower of Jesus, and he knew it.  Some would put his teaching into practice, and many wouldn’t.  Nevertheless, Jesus was clear: he expected people to do what he said.  He ended the Sermon on the Mount with a bang, a parable of two builders.  People who hear my word and do it, he said, are like a wise builder who builds on a rock foundation.  Then when rain, and floods and wind batter the house, it doesn’t fall, because he built it on rock.

Those who hear my word, and don’t put it into practice are like a foolish builder, who set his house on sand.  Disaster strikes, and that house falls, and great is its fall!  The wise hear and do.  The foolish merely hear.

This is what integrity is: what you do matches what you think and say.  You walk the Christian walk and well as talk the Christian talk.  Christian integrity means being doers of the word, and not hearers only.

That’s how James puts it.  Yes, he later saw the need to make Jesus’ point yet again.  Even in the early church—which we often think of as a golden age—not everybody who called him-or-herself a Christian actually practiced discipleship.  Some thought it was enough to subscribe to the right beliefs and adhere to the right doctrines.  It’s enough to have the right knowledge.  Some thought that was faith.

Not James.  Be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves, he warns.  And here’s how he reinforces his point: Those who don’t act on the word are like a person who looks in a mirror, and then doesn’t do anything about what he sees there.  Indeed, he walks away and forgets.

How you speak and act matters, James says.  Genuine religion is about compassionate care for widows and orphans.  It’s about being different from the world.

What’s more, James declares in chapter 2, faith without action isn’t genuine faith at all.  Faith must be lived out in action.  No, it’s not enough to think right thoughts and say the right words.  Faith without works is dead! (more…)

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