September 5th, 2021 – 15th Sunday after Pentecost
UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF: Sept 6th – Sept 12th
Monday: ……………… Labor Day
Tuesday……………… First Day of Preschool
7:00pm Elder’s Meeting
Thursday: ……………… 10:00am Bible Study
Sunday: …………………. 10:00am Worship
11:00am Bible Study
PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION
James is an odd little book, but it might not be so odd if we categorized it right. The Bible has a lot of genres in it. There are historical narratives and biographies. There are poems and hymns and prophetic oracles including apocalyptic ones. There are letters and something called wisdom literature. And that is where I think some of the confusion sets in. Most of the New Testament is apostolic letters. James itself looks superficially like a letter. But we try to read James as if he is doing the same things as Paul. Paul is preaching and correcting and encouraging people he usually knows. Romans is the exception, but even in Romans, paul imagines a specific congregation and a specific purpose. He wants their support for his missionary work and the letter is sharing what Paul preaches. James is wisdom literature, like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. James is an apostle and relative of Jesus sharing his best advice. He is the head apostle of the Jewish church in Jerusalem sharing sanctified wisdom won through long experience. As such, maybe it doesn’t always apply. That is part of wisdom, discerning when things truly are different. The race is normally to the swift and the battle to the strong, but occasionally the tortoise beats the hare. James is about normally.
Normally we are desirous of status and money. Money isn’t always status, but it is usually a floor. Even the church is not immune to such things (surprise!). James’ sanctified wisdom is to fight against that normal pull. “Show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (James 2:1).” And in this case James gives his reasoning. The world of the gospel is topsy-turvy. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith (James 2:5)?” Is that always the case? No. Even Jesus would say “with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27)” in response to the same thought. But there is something about the rich not needing Jesus quite as much. Picture the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. So much so that even the thought of needing something outside himself, as the gospel is proclaimed to us from outside of ourselves, often invites persecution. “Are the rich not the ones who oppress you, and drag you into court, and blaspheme the name (James 2:6-7).”
And then that topic is put down and another picked up. In our reading today (James 2:1-18) that topic is the connection between faith and works. Paul and the entire Reformation is about preaching “grace alone through faith alone, so that no one can boast.” Our salvation is never our work and James would agree with that. But his wisdom is still that works are necessary. The Reformers would agree. From the Book of Concord, the Lutheran confessional documents, “Good works certainly and without a doubt follow truth faith, if it is not a dead but a living faith, just as fruit grows on a good tree. (Formula of Concord IV p. 6.).” And also, “We also believe, teach and confess that all people, but especially those who are born again and renewed by the Holy Spirit, are obligated to do good works (FC IVp8).” James’ wisdom? That faith which does not produce works willingly is a dead tree. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:17).”
Wisdom literature can serve as law. Looking in the mirror of James, am I a dead tree? This is probably how it normally is taken as we compare ourselves to “normally.” Wisdom literature can also be gospel. “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it (James 2:10).” And we have all fallen short, yet God has not abandoned us.
- Thurs 10am: We are going to read the letters of John, new start, good time to join!
- Confirmation: Tentatively starting Sept 15th
- Life Application Fellowship (LAF): Returning – Huddling after service today to talk?
- Sunday Morning: Study will be at 11:15ish, after worship, Walking through the Gospel of Mark
- Catechism Moment: We will continue the sacraments, sorry about this week.