And the Jesus, amen
I dislike it when a pastor preaches on a single verse…or worse…a single chunk of a verse! But, alas, that is exactly what I’m going to do! Chris and I talked it over and we found a phrase we liked…we agreed that this is a strong tiny chunk of a passage.
“Therefore, prove yourself doers of the word…”
So, BEFORE I break my own rule…I want to discuss the whole book in general…we are in James.
First, the book of James
It’s considered New Testament wisdom literature, which means it operates like Hebrews, or in the old testament, like Proverbs…it’s not story, it’s closer to well-thought out advice, theology even…as in…if we believe THIS, then we must also do THAT…we honestly aren’t sure WHICH James wrote it. Strong scholarship that is could be James of James and John, or a guy named James the Less, or even Jesus own brother, but as is true of so much of the Bible, we need to read to discover the authors intention, and let the exact identity remain a touch hazy.
James, whoever he is, is strong on explaining how a Christian might … or should … act! Not as in, how you should ‘behave’ but how you should ‘do.’ It makes a deep and worthy argument regarding your deeds…that they are important! …that a faith without works is…well…dead.
Luther didn’t like it…because he was afraid it would lead to people thinking that salvation could be earned.
Salvation (work yours out for yourself says Paul) but, as we agree, it hinges on believing in and trusting Jesus…not works! You cannot work your way to glory! Our works are comparable to filthy rags…Filthy rags? Remember, that is Isaiah’s comparison as regards how good God is, and how God sees works…as regards that your works aren’t the thing that connects you to God…GOD connects you to God, in Isiah, and now… Jesus is the go-between. What is our responsibly?…it’s a penitent heart, a willing soul, a humble spirit, and the craziest claim I’ve ever heard ever? That the creator of the universe actually lives in me? All from an effort of my own will? We have to separate the works from the salvation, but no scripture ever suggests that we shouldn’t do works, in a real sense we are mandated to!
James suggests that works are a kind of proof of our faith…that a faith without works is a dead faith.
Luther didn’t like it for one reason, but others don’t like it…because it’s impossible
Next, the Text
James greatest hits! Listen to some of this impossible brilliance.
Finally, our tiny chunk of text!
Be Doers of the word. A number of the translations “prove yourselves doers of the word.”
Let’s look at the words first, and their definitions. Playing with the definitions can often lead us to deeper understanding
The word, “be” is complicated in Greek as well…become doers, be fulfilled as doers, be married to the idea of being a doer, in a sense, prove yourself doers of the word.
Next the “the Word.”
I googled it…I laughed out loud when I saw that a definition of “the word” had two meanings, and was literally the words.
The Bible and Jesus
Let’s plug that in? Allow me a little poetry?
“Be doers of the bible, not just hearers…doers”…what if we got up everything morning and said, “Today, I will be a doer of the bible?” Remember, not just do the parts that we like…but…doers of the whole bible. Luther comes back here…because he was trying to sort out if this book should be an appendix…or if it was canonical. But that raises the point doesn’t it? What IS the bible…and what is involved in “doing” it.
What would it mean to be a “doer” not just a “hearer” of the bible?
The word? Second definition? Jesus
Even better, be doers of the Jesus,
Here’s a short sermon…ready? Be doers of the Jesus…and you know how! Just do it! And then walk off!
What if our prayer, every morning, was, Dear Jesus, just for today, let me be a Doer of the Jesus.
How might that happen? Let’s play with the word ‘doer’
Now, for the fun part!
If we look at Strong’s concordance, we find three different uses of the Greek word for do-ers. poyaytace
A maker A maker of the Jesus.….Producers of the Word…Producer of the Jesus
1001 worship communities.
1001 new worshiping communities is a movement happening in the PCUSA. God is raising up leaders in churches and presbyteries who are creating new worshiping communities. They are taking on new and varied forms of church for our changing culture. Primarily they are seeking to make and form new disciples of Jesus Christ, to change and transform the world.
And they are doing in ways that honor the church, but not the budling…That’s why there is a community in Kansas city centered around family Whiffle Ball, a church that meets on Saturday night around dinner, and it is packed! A pastor that has a church especially for those who don’t like church!
Our Jewish theological ancestors said, “Thank God for the law.” It give us parameters. Boundaries. Remember that line from ghostbusters “It’s more a guideline than a rule” funny, but nope! Thou shalt not kill, love your neighbor as yourself, love your enemy, feed my sheep, if you have something against your brother, go to him, forgive, etc. etc. etc. These are not suggestions. The bible never ever says, “if you feel like it…do this?”
Obey-ers of the Bible, obey-er’s of the Jesus
The last definition is “Poet” a doer is a poet.
Can I suggest a future 1001?
I am blessed enough to own a Harley. And I have a cousin who is a brilliant mechanic.
This holy ground! So, I ask for your prayers that one day it might be a reality? How poetic could you get? A men’s ministry, built around motorcycles, where comfort and safety and challenge and support…and motorcycles…all live under one roof.
Last example? And I’ll close.
Frontera film Of the Jesus
I’m an atheist…what are you doing here?
He’s a doer of the Jesus….even though he may not know it.
So…what are we left with? A paraphrase? “Prove yourself doers of the word…so that your faith, the thing people see, the way they know we are loving, isn’t a dead…but a living, vibrant, animated, energetic, loving, caring, vibrating, obvious…faith!”