This past Sunday I preached at Chapelwood (2nd time in a month, crazy). Over the next several days I’ll post parts of that sermon. (So as not to be cruel to the readers attention span…trust me its more entertaining when I’m making facial expressions)
When Peter asked me to preach the Sunday before a holiday I joked if you don’t have an asscosiate or an intern, the youth leader would just have to do. Then I looked at the lectionary readings… Word of advice to aspiring preachers: Never say yes before you look at the readings. I’m kidding (mostly), I know it could have been a lot worse.
Actually our reading today from James isn’t difficult. It just has so much going on: gifts, and filth and seeds and laws and devotion (whew!) In the midst of all that, I think James is essentially saying: (1) Don’t fixate solely on self examination; (2) Be who God created you to be because (3) when you are you can change the world, As 1 was preparing this week, I found myself drawn to the image of the mirror and being doers of the word. It’s verses 22-25.
You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
I’m betting all of us use a mirror almost daily. You probably spent time in front of one this morning. It’s a routine.; you may hardly even notice it. But there are times in every life when we have to settle in and take a hard look at ourselves…I speak of course of, dating.
Seriously, do you know what it’s like to date. How much time does that take in front of a mirror ? Do you remember what it’s like to go on a first date? I know for some of you its been awhile, but think back.
There’s all that preparation. You have to pick a place times time and an outfit. Another person usually helps. Then you have to actually get ready, take a shower and do your hair. Girls get a lot of flack for this, but I Know at least 2 men who take longer than I do. Maybe you were the kind of person who used the mirror to psych yourself up. (I won’t ask for a show of hands.) But you kind talk to the mirror to burn off nerves. Even if you’re a “Ready, fire, aim” kind of person, you needed a little time just to brush your teeth…
But what would happen if you never left the mirror?
You cold get every hair in place, plan out every pithy remark. You can get your image perfect. But unless you step away… You’ll miss the best part of the date.
Everything worth doing takes preparation, but we can’t get stuck there. Just as devotion and self reflection are important, but they are not the sum total of the Christian Life. They aren’t even the best part.
This is why James tells us to be both hearers AND doers of the word.
Now, over the centuries, James has taken heat for this idea. Eusebius, one of the first church historians, wondered if the Letter of James even belonged in the Bible. Martin Luther famously called James “an epistle of straw” There is a long standing tendency to think being a “doer” of the word is at odds with Paul’s salvation by faith.
That’s not really fair. James does not as us to do instead of hear. The author simply recognizes that when we come before God there is a temptation to stay; to keep listen and listening and listening and never get to the best part of faith