When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” -Mark 10-47-48
They told him to be quiet. I understand why. Imagine you’re a follower of Jesus and someone comes and starts yelling and causing a scene. Wouldn’t your impulse be to protect Jesus, get the noise maker out of there? Of course the issue is that we see the world and people differently than Jesus does. Jesus sees every person as a person, not as a problem or an issue. I wonder how much our society would change if we learned how to see every person as an individual loved by God? What does it look like to see people as people and not problems?
“Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” -Jesus
We read that line a lot in the church. Whenever we install anyone to an official position from pastor to lay Professional, to council or Sunday school teacher. When we send someone on a mission trip we say these words of Jesus. We have this value as Christians that we serve each other, that we treat others as higher than ourselves. We need constant reminding because it is so easy to think we are owed thanks, recognition or respect in exchange for our service. We think we are owed or should be paid in some way because that is the way of the world. Jesus said it to his disciples; that among the Gentiles those who are rulers “lord it over them.” I think about myself when I read those words of Jesus and wonder if I ever give anything to anyone without some thought of what I might get in return. I have a long way to go to learn how to be a Christian. How about you?
Jesus flat out turns to the disciples and calls them children. Now perhaps this is endearing in how he is speaking to them, but maybe it’s not. I’m sure it is frustrating for them too, they have left what they had and are following Jesus, trying to live as he asks them, watching him embrace the people on the margins and break the earthly rules that they have always been taught to live by, and now he is telling them that it still not possible for them to enter into eternal life without even more emptying of all that they have.
How disconcerting to think that nothing they will do is enough for them to get into heaven. Probably the most famous line in this text comes from verse 27, Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
The comfort of this verse is that God is with us too, that God is the way to eternal life, that our promise of joining the heavenly kingdom doesn’t come from the rules that we live by or the tasks that we complete but by the love and grace of God. This text presents us with more things that we are asked to give up, the question I have to ask myself is not what am I going to lose by giving up things that I might be accustomed to or that bring me comfort, but what are others going to gain by using what I have for good?
Jesus certainly surprised his disciples in many of his teachings, interactions, and expectations. Over the next few weeks, we will be looking more deeply into Job and Mark 10 exploring the teachings of Jesus and what they tell us about relationships, wealth and trying to get ahead. I always marvel and how the questions of 2000 years ago are still relevant today. The questions that we struggle with are often the same and what Jesus prescribes in how we journey through those times of struggles and disbelief carries us through today too.
While we go through this series, we hope that you will look at the places in your life where you have found Jesus speaking to you in unexpected ways. Jesus works in ways that sometimes we do not understand and often ends up leading us to do better and to be better as we come through situations and circumstances of our own doing. I encourage you to look for the ways that Jesus is speaking to you through the scriptures and stories in the coming weeks. What are the unexpected stories of your own life and where do you find Jesus in them?
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16
This is the last text in our sermon series “Faith that Works”. It comes down to prayer in this last text, prayer that is life-giving, saving, healing, truth-telling, revealing. James declares that “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” It made me wonder, how do we know that our prayer is powerful or effective? It’s not that I don’t believe that to be true, it’s that I want to know how that manifests itself in our daily lives. Do we see the power of prayer in action through the way we behave, the way that we speak, the ways that we care for others? In a faith that works, prayer is an essential piece of our relationship with God, it’s the piece that connects on a personal level that opens us up to express our brokenness and our joys in ways that reveal our deeper connectedness to a God whose faith works for us.
This text describes the prayer of faith as one that we both receive and one that we share. When I read these verses, I have also come to understand that sickness is not just a physical ailment, but it perhaps how we can identify sin, that sin in and of itself is a sickness. When we come before God to pray, we should know that this is our faith in action. We need an active faith to save the sick and bring forgiveness to the broken, to the sinners. Forgiveness itself, not a free pass or solely an act of grace, but God’s mercy on us as we confess our sins. The author says, “confess your sins to one another,” and pray for one another. It is in our confession, coupled with prayer that is our faith in action and brings us to the healing mercies of Jesus Christ.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4: 7
Whew. Just those first few verses of this text have left me a little exasperated. I have never given much thought to negativity being a direct connection to the devil. Think about how easy it is to slip into negative thoughts which so often turn into negative words or actions. It makes me wonder what can we do to negate that, how do we choose to keep Christ on our hearts, in our ears and from our mouths. Some of it might just be some sense of awareness and self-reflection, to remind oneself that Christ would not talk this way or do these things.
I saw a meme recently that makes me chuckle, a subtle reminder of our life situation..
James offers us many reminders of the good that Christ intends for us and that we need to keep those at the forefront of all that we do. It’s the last few verses of the text that bring us the good news. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Remember that to resist the devil is to embrace our identity as children of God, made in the image of God, and called to live like Christ. If we humble ourselves surely the devil will be put on the run.
“The tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:6
I’m not fully sure I understand this verse from James, but it paints a vivid picture. What we say matters, and the words we use can cause immeasurable harm. How many of us still remember the sting of harsh words said to us by family or friends or teachers or bosses? Our words can linger in someone’s memory and shape their identity for decades and lifetimes. Now with social media our words typed in anger or thoughtlessness can hurt strangers around the world over and over again long after we’ve forgotten that we even said them. It’s no wonder James spent so much time urging us to tame our tongues and be self-controlled in our speech. Because the opposite is true of our words too. They can save lives and lift spirits and change the world for the better when used in concert with the Word of God.
“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;… But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” -James 1: 19 & 22
This is some sage advice. I wish I was better at taking advice. The whole passage from James is one that directs on how to live, and I think how to live a good life worthy of God who loves us. How many times in just this past week have I jumped in before someone could even finish a thought to either defend myself, offer an excuse, or suggest something different. I wonder what it is that I’m missing when I don’t actually take the time to hear what others are saying and am only getting ready for the next thing that I want to say? What do we miss in doing that?
These verses also steer me, to the idea of not just listening, but actually doing. What does it look like to be a doer of the word? Really, if we hear the good word, but we have no accompanying action how are we living out the gospel truth. For the next several weeks we are going to listen to the sermon series “faith that works” and examine how our faith drives our daily lives. Where are the places that we need to listen more closely, speak with intentionality and thought, and live the gospel in both word and action. I hope that you too will dive into the book of James with us and we all seek to deepen our faith together.
“I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is with you…” 2 Timothy 1:6
I remember stumbling over this passage with Pastor Carrie when we were trying to figure out a theme for the capital campaign to fund the renovation of the Peel House. The word “Rekindle” jumped off that page. That’s exactly what we wanted to do with with the Peel House. We understood it as a gift from God that just needed to be fanned back into full flame and use. The gift of this historic home has been rekindled and now we get to see all the ways God will use it in the life of this congregation and a gift to the city. It’s also a good time to look at our own faith as a gift of God that needs to be nurtured and rekindled. What can we do to make ourselves more ready to be used by God as a gift to the congregation and the community?
“But I say to you that listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” -Jesus (Luke 6:27)
We are finishing up the “Copy That” series on learning to imitate Jesus. This last lesson is the most counter cultural and should be the thing that sets Christians apart from the ways of the rest of the world. Love you enemies and do good to those who hate you. We’ll talk about the first part this Sunday, but what really strikes me is that last part. Do good to those who hate you. Who hates you? Who thinks you are a terrible person? Who wants you to fail? Who is actively working against you trying to make you look bad, bring you down, make your life harder? Jesus calls us to do good to them. Help them. Speak well of them. Honor and respect them. Try to make their lives better. Serve them. This is what it looks like to follow Jesus. Woah!