A Call to Action

James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.[ For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.]

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

The Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to Mark

Jesus set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” James 2:1-10, [11-13], 14-17

The Spirit Calls Us To Action
A couple had the elderly minister over for dinner. They were in the kitchen getting the food ready. The minister and their young son were sitting at the table.

The minister asked the boy,” What are we having for dinner?” the boy replied “Goat.”

The minister, surprised, said, “Goat?”

“Yes,” the boy said, “I heard my dad say this is as good a time as any to have the old goat for dinner.”

James has a lot to say today about controlling our tongue.

The unfortunate truth is that we all at some time can say the wrong thing, and parents have more opportunities than most to excel at that.

Like: ” Now if you had listened to me this would not have happened.“

There is a time in our lives, particularly when we are teens I think, when we are not inclined to listen to anybody, and yet it seems that everybody is trying to tell us what to do – parents, teachers, our minister.

And there have been times when we know we should have listened, but we were so darn ornery that we just wouldn’t.

I can remember times when my dad gave me good advice, which to my later chagrin, I never heeded, but there were also times when my dad gave me advice based on his notion of what the world was like, and which, looking back I am glad I didn’t heed.

Imagine the father of Christopher Columbus when his son told him he intended to sail around the world. ” Chris! You are going to do what? Sail around the world? Stay home! You will fall off the edge, boy. Take my word for it, you will fall off the edge!”

So there are times to listen to advice and times to ignore it. Or as James might put it, there are times to speak and times to shut up.

If we heeded every bit of advice our parents gave us we would still be driving 1947 Fords, shaving with Gillette blades and putting Brylcreem on our hair.

Young people reach an age when they want to, and need to, find things out for themselves.
And if we have brought them up to have enquiring minds, and to weigh both sides of an argument, and have given them practice in decision-making, then they will do alright.

If, however, they have been brought up in a home where mum’s or dad’s decisions have to be obeyed unquestioningly, and have never been allowed to make a mistake, then when the time comes to make a decision, they might find it difficult.

Parents have a big responsibility in how they address, and what they say to, their children. Grown people – adults – still suffer hurt from things their parents said to them decades ago, if you can believe it.

James talks about how powerful is the tongue, of how by the spoken word, wonderful things can be accomplished but also terrible things can come about.

I think of the oratory of people like Adolf Hitler. His tongue was a sword that killed millions of people.

Then I think of the tongue of Billy Graham who has led people toward God, and helped guide many thousands, perhaps millions, to salvation.

So one person’s words can be destructive, and another’s encouraging and uplifting.

We have heard about hypocrisy in the Gospels, how people lived outwardly righteous lives, but had hatred in their hearts. There is a continuation of that theme here as James points out that blessings and curses can come from the same tongue.

You will remember that the Indians said that the white man spoke with a forked tongue. No wonder they didn’t want to kiss and make up.

Who wants to kiss someone with a forked tongue?

We would say today, that someone speaks out of both sides of their mouth.
James says that you can’t do that. A righteous blessing cannot come from an evil mouth. The same way that good fruit doesn’t come from a bad tree. Or clean water from a dirty pitcher.

Just as James has a lot to say about controlling our tongue, Jesus has a lot to say about being a follower.

He first asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Really he is asking who do they think he is. Peter says that Jesus is the Messiah, and Jesus then begins to tell the disciples how the Messiah must suffer and be killed and that three days later he will rise to life.

Peter is shocked by this, and he rebukes Jesus.

And Jesus reprimands him in those memorable words, “Get thee behind me Satan.”

Perhaps Peter should have held his tongue.

That Jesus should die is an unthinkable concept for the disciples. In their way of thinking, a victorious Messiah would provide important positions for his followers. But if he dies, then what? What would become of them?

So Jesus has to explain to them and to the crowd what being a follower really means.

It doesn’t mean thinking about yourself, or what the rewards might be.

It doesn’t mean putting yourself on a pedestal and lording it over people.

Following Jesus means putting what Jesus wants for us and the world first.

It means carrying a cross, as he says, taking on a task or sacrifice, or a concern for others and putting your own needs last.

Putting others first means putting Jesus first.

In his book `Christ is a Native American’ Achiel Perlman describes a woman named Mary who works with aboriginal people – people who have experienced sexual and physical abuse.

To Mary, Christ is an abused person. He is in the prisons, and in the homes of disrupted and dysfunctional families. He travels with those who have no shelter or roof over their heads. Christ is in all the ordinary places where people suffer and struggle to overcome painful experiences.

Christ is in the refugee camps filled with desperate people.

So, when we help someone; when we encourage someone, when we take the hand of someone who needs help, who can’t cope, who needs building up, then we are helping Our Lord.

We may receive a call to do that ….. we may be asked to provide a meal service for the homeless……do breakfast for school kids……sign a letter for an Amnesty International volunteer on behalf of a political prisoner….. sponsor a refugee family…..become a friendly parish visitor….seek out counseling for someone who can’t cope.

Responding to a call to help someone means that for a while we deny
our own wants.

That’s what Jesus wants from us. He tells us, “Don’t worry so much about your own life. If you worry about your life, you may lose it. Caring for someone else means you will gain life eternal.

If you saw the movie Titanic, then you will remember how in the chaos of people trying to get onto the lifeboats, and where women and children were to go first, a man grabbed a baby from a woman in an attempt to get a place in a lifeboat. He thought he was saving his life, but he was making darn sure he would lose it.

Your actions show where your heart really is.

Your comforting words show the love of Christ within you

Every time we encourage, assist, uplift, provide for someone else, care for someone, we show where our heart is.

Mother Teresa put it best when she said, ” I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds I feel I am nursing the Lord Himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”

The Spirit calls us to action. God graciously blesses us when we respond.

Amen.