Going Deeper 08.26.2021

The second reading for Pentecost 14... James 1:17-27

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

One commentator on this text wrote: There is a gap between knowledge (knowing in my mind ideas about God) and wisdom (living and acting from the soul what I know of and about God in my mind). It was a critical gap in James’ religious community nearly two thousand years ago. And it is a critical gap now in so many of our religious communities.

Well stated.  But challenging to address.  This underscores the emphasis of yesterday's devotion.  It is not simply about imputing information ("Christian Education") and ideas about God into our brains but connecting ourselves more and more fully with God in heart and spirit.  It is about nurturing a heart-and-mind-and-spirit-and-life changing relationship with a very real and present Being.

Perhaps another way of reflecting this is to understand ourselves as not being religious people, but rather children of God.  Or here is another way of saying the same thing: I no longer want to identify myself as a "Christian" but, rather, as a "follower of Jesus."  Following Jesus is what inspires and empowers me "to care for orphans and widows ‚Äč(and others) in their distress."  Following Jesus is what motivates me to seek His help in trying to keep myself "unstained by the world."

In many ways, religions have done more harm than good throughout history, to this very day.  It is the followers of Jesus that change the world (starting with themselves) for good.

Following with You,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"