Readings for Sunday September 2
In two more days I will be participating in the single most important athletic fundraising event of my year.
On Saturday September 8, I will be down in San Diego to participate in the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb. The event is a tribute to the men and women who responded to the twin towers attack on September 11, 2001 and died in the line of duty. Men and women who gave their all; a generous act of giving through serving. The money raised by climbers like myself and many professional Firefighters, including the chiefs of San Diego City Fire Department will go to a most noble cause. As the website for the event says
"Funds raised will benefit The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and FirefighterAid (formerly the San Diego Firefighters’ Benevolent Fund,) the 501(c)(3) charity which cares for Firefighters and families through sickness, distress, and death."This event is a great demonstration of how to live out the commands presented in the opening of the Epsitle of James, a most hotly contested passage among ancients and early reformation theologians. It seems that the reformers didn't particularly like James' letter because the Roman Catholic Hierarchy could use this passage to defend some highly questionable practices...Indulgences being the all round disfavored child of spiritual practices.
This passage from the Epistle (Greek for "letter") of James delivers thought provoking reminders to the followers of Jesus Christi that our religion is not a private affair. On the contrary, James made it clear that the on giving, social engagement, care and compassion for the widows and orphans was imperative to the way of Jesus Christ.
Here it is all marked up:
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.
I think this must be one of the richest passages in terms of the "New Testament way of life". The richness is so vast that I hardly know what to do.
And yet, I know EXACTLY what to do.
DO that which will provide care and concern for the widows and orphans.
I know that everyone cannot give large sums of money. But each of us can give something.
Now, if you happen to be someone who really only likes to read the red letters of the Bible, I hope you will
focus on those lines above and consider, what does Jesus have to say to me in these sentences.
Do you have difficult controlling your temper? Is your tongue your worst feature for your inability tame it? Does that explain why you find yourself so at odds within any form of community? Can you even honestly reflect on the red letter passages or are you arguing with me even as you read this passage?
The Christian life is not easy, and those who follow the path of Christianity cannot in honesty claim any complete perfection early on in their life. But the way of Christianity does provide a place for honest self assessment and opportunity for personal growth and transformation by the Grace and power of God.
Sending up prayers that you find your own community, a place to grow into the likeness of goodness and wholeness.