This Sunday we begin a short 3-week series entitled Generation to Generation that looks at the beginnings of some of our most vibrant ministries, and how these ministries set a foundation for how future PB UMC members might continue in service to the community of Pacific Beach.
The author of the book of James is well known for encouraging his readers to live what has been taught to them, noting that “faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.” (2:17 CEB). While the verse below precedes James’ bold statement, we can see that he is building to it (see v22). James also prescribes the foundations for being able to carry out such faithful activity.
James 1:17-27 (CEB)
17Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. 18He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.
19Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry. 20This is because an angry person doesn’t produce God’s righteousness. 21Therefore, with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you—the very word that is able to save you.
22You must be doers of the word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. 23Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. 24They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like. 25But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.
26If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say, they mislead themselves. Their devotion is worthless. 27True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.
Consider these questions:
- What kinds of practices do you personally undertake to enable you to live your faith actively and outwardly?
- What kinds of practices has this congregation undertaken to enable future ministries of outward and active faith?
- Do you find these kinds of practices important? Why or why not?
Post-Sermon Update on 9/4
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
Sunday’s message highlighted some of the important ways members of this congregation have built a foundation of service to persons in our immediate community and beyond. Some of these are ministries for persons here in Pacific Beach, and some are ministries focused in other parts of San Diego, Guatemala, and in school food programs in developing countries.
As members lived out a passion for serving others, programs and ministries were established through which members could participate and connect with the community. These important acts also established a culture of service that is a core part of our congregational identity. The audience James wrote to in this epistle did this same work, laying foundations on which future Christians could build. James writes, “we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.” In doing so, these faithful Christians – both in James’ time and in our congregation’s history – gave us a base on which to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
Consider these questions:
- Take a moment to think about a person (or people) who have helped you to become the person of faith you are today. How did this person (or people) help you? What might have been different if you did not receive this help?
- Consider some of these early ministries of PB UMC as described during the sermon. What are some things we do today that are only possible because of the earlier ministries? What do you think this church/congregation would be like if these early ministries hadn’t taken place?
- What do you dream for future members of this congregation? What can we do today to build the foundation necessary to achieve this dream?
I am so moved by each sentence in this passage from James.
It occurs to me that I believe we are to incarnate God’s presence/word/gifts and that this incarnating makes us “doers of the word.’
i have just finished a project I was able to set before myself: reading every word of the magisterial dual work, John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus and his Early Christianity.
Due to the as-yet-unexamined and unreflected-upon influence of this two-volume work, it seems to me that we follow Jesus by doing what he so ably did: incarnated God’s presence/word/gifts–God’s call for justice and love in this world so to make it more heaven-like.