Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Be Doers of the Word

I don't normally do this
but today, after reading the news, I thought I would just post/share most of my sermon for this morning

Blessings on all of you
Those who agree, and those who don't

Today I want to talk about the verse of scripture from the Letter of James that says, "But be doers of the word, and ……..
Anyone want to finish that?

Be doers of the word, not only hearers, deluding your own selves."
I think we could add something to that, especially in this day and age…

Be doers of the word, not only speakers!

Though it's not quite the same, this passage reminds me of the adage that goes: "Say what you'll do, then do what you say." I heard that a lot when I was growing up. "Say what you'll do, then do what you say." Make your words and deeds one and the same. Or, as some would say, "Talk the walk, then walk the talk." In terms of faith, be who you're called to be – a child of God, a Christian, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do you think we are doing today in America?  Lots of people, including me, are not so sure we are doing very well

I keep thinking about this quote from Colbert

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.”

OK, you don’t want to think about the words of a TV comedian?  How about a theologian?

“Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness.”  -Walter Brueggemann

OK let me offer you another quote, from Jim Wallis of Sojourners.
"To restrict faith to only a few issues of mostly personal morality is to leave wealth, power, and violence unchallenged. Religion becomes a political support for injustice and for those who defend the status quo." - Jim Wallis

We will never change the world by going to church
We will only change the world by being the church

We will not change the world by hearing or speaking “the Word”
We will only change the world by living “the Word”

So what are the biggest issues facing Christians in today’s world
Where is it that we are most challenged in terms of living the Word?
Not as just as individuals, but corporately, as the church, as a nation

OK, I know this can be a tricky question

Here are some of the possibilities

Food Stamps
Issues related to sexuality
Affordable Care Act (not Obamacare, that perpetuates bias)
Minimum Wage
Growing economic inequity
Injustice (the weak and poor and minorities not having equal rights)

To me, and this is only my opinion, the big winner is economic justice
Followed closely by “justice”

If we think about the Bible, economic justice is everywhere, perhaps more than almost any other topic.

There are hundreds of scripture passages that talk about economic justice; about lifting up the poor and oppressed; about reining in the excesses of the rich. In fact, there probably is nothing God talks about more in the bible than this topic. God spoke through virtually all of the prophets of the Old Testament about selfishness and economic inequality. For instance, the prophet Amos said:

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!   Amos 5:24

The book of Amos is about a society similar to our own in which the profits produced by the work of the people were going, not back to the people who created them, but rather to the rich landowners. Amos called for economic justice and righteousness.

One of the few verses in the bible repeated verbatim is this one:

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
Psalm 140:12 and Proverbs 13:23

Later in Proverbs we read:  The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.  Proverbs 29:7

When Jesus began his public ministry, he said:     The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.      Luke 4:18-19 (quoting from Isaiah 61)

Later, in the Beatitudes (Luke 6), Jesus said:  Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God....But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.   Luke 6:20; 24

Here's another passage relevant to economic justice from the gospels:   A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother." "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said.  When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."  When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."   Luke 18:18-23

For the past 40 years, as income disparity has increased.  As with any such issues, Christians must think about what approach best reflects Christian (i.e. gospel) values: individual wealth creation (hoarding?) or promotion of the common good (sharing)?

This is what I believe.  If we really believe the gospel, then we will believe in the things Jesus believed in. We will live Jesus' values. Those values are all about loving God; loving (and treating) one's neighbor (and enemy) as ourselves; sharing what we have with others; and generally promoting a better, more just, righteous, and unselfish world -- for all of God's children.  Which means everyone.  Everyone!

I suppose maybe that sounds liberal or even like something a Democrat or "Occupy Wall Streeter" would say. If so, then so be it.

But this is where I think the Gospel comes down…
This is what the Bible says
And somehow, we as the church, need to find not only our voice…
We need to find a way to live this out… by how we live, how we speak, how we think about others, and who we admire and affiliate ourselves with.

It is something to think about.

I am going to close with  a little poem I put on my blog.  I’ll put this out there, as what it means to be “doers of the word”.  The inspiration was the words of John Wesley.

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

Christian ethics are pretty simple really

Love God
Love the people around you

Not some of the people
All of the people

Love them no matter what color they are
Or what they believe
Love them whether they are rich or poor

Love them when they are strong and productive
Love them when they are wounded
And hurting

Love them when
For whatever reason
You can’t like them

Just love them
Love them with loving speech
Love them through compassion
Love them with your actions
Love them with your attitude
Love them with your time
Love them with your giving

Love them by forgiving
And accepting
By seeing the seed of the sacred
No matter how twisted or blurred
Or hidden
The divine image might seem to you

That person in front of you
Is inherently precious
A child of God
A prince or princess
A child of the Ruler of All

So just love them
love them with all
the love (God)
that is in you
just love

Now, this may seem a bit like law
Perhaps a bit like shaming….. I don’t mean it to be…
Because this I also believe

That as God’s children, who have connected with God, and have experienced the movement of the Spirit
We can do this.
We can do this, when perhaps, no one else can
or will

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