+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: James 1:21
Theme: The Implanted Word
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God cannot be unnerved. The Spirit cannot be spooked. The Son cannot be rattled. There is always urgency for the mission of gospel. But it is not a panic. God is orderly. His orderliness establishes stability. The chaos and disorder caused by sin is reversed only as creation is restored and reordered in the Son. Christ is not merely a signpost pointing to God’s kingdom; He is the foundation, the scaffolding, the framework and the capstone. He is the centre and the substance of the saints gathered together as the one holy, Christian and apostolic church. He calls us and places us within His order.
Today, as we assemble again to hear the Spirit speak, we are called to consider the wisdom of the apostle James. Each time we gather on the Lord’s Day the state of the world, the condition of our souls, and the mission of the church lay before us. Today James talks about those who immediately ‘forget’ God’s truth. The retention of the truth is always our first priority for from God’s holy word and its power flow life, and grace, and every blessing. It is only when grounded in His truth that we have anything meaningful to say to the world. May God grant us a sense of urgency in this regard.
There is a fable which tells of three apprentice demons who were being sent to earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and to ruin people. The first said, "I will tell them that there is no God." Satan said, "That will not delude many, for most know in their heart that there is a God." The second said, "I will tell them that there is no hell." Satan answered, "You might not do much better; many people still know even today that there is a hell for sinners." The third said, "I will tell them that there is no hurry." "Go," said Satan, "and you will ruin people in countless numbers."
One of the most dangerous (and prevalent) of all delusions is that there is plenty of time. Our society might be described as being asset rich but time poor. We are blessed with abundant material wealth but we can’t seem to find time even to have regular meals with our families. Work, family, sport and recreation- how can there still be time for God and church? But if we are honest with ourselves we know it is a matter of priority. We have no more and no less time than the people of ages past. But how much our time is spent pursuing our own agendas at the expense of God’s kingdom and the spiritual well-being of others! How much are we involved in the establishment of human society that is cut adrift from the anchor of our souls?
Christ warns today about those who have “let go of the commands of God and are holding to the traditions of men.”1 Dear friends, the greatest ‘tradition’ of men is the effort to eliminate the place of God in human destiny. This tradition is marked by continual efforts to displace, replace, unseat, usurp, supplant, and supersede God in order to elevate human ideals and pursuits above the Almighty. This tradition reaches right back to the initial disobedience. It is underscored by high profile rebellion requiring judgment involving events like Noah’s flood, the tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the exile into Babylon, and the destruction of the temple. This tradition is characterized spiritually by the arrogance that believes human beings have righteousness and virtue of their own making.
It is a tradition in which people become impatient with God when He doesn’t meet their needs or condone their opinions. It is a tradition in which people block their ears to shut out God’s truth and shout at the top of their lungs desperate to be heard. No wonder James says today, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent.”2 A penitent is God’s most effective tool in leading others to repentance.
Repentance is not an end in itself but the avenue to continually access the forgiveness of God. The word is our interface with His life-giving grace. James reminds us, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.”3 He says, “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”4 Speaking to believers, he is not telling them to believe the word for the first time but to keep returning to it and grasping it more fully- inscribing it on their hearts. Every Trinitarian invocation is a remembrance of your baptism. Every reception of Christ’s body and blood is a remembrance of His sacrificial death. In these things we return again and again to the Divine Word.
This Word gives true life. How? The Holy Spirit says through James, “the perfect law (word) gives freedom.”5 What is true liberty? What is freedom that far outstrips the privilege to live where we please, express opinions that others don’t hold, arrange our schedules with flexibility or democratically elect our leaders? It is the freedom the baptized have in Christ- that which we possess through the implanted word. It is freedom from the accusing conscience; freedom from the doubting the mind; freedom from the unhappy will. Where will you find freedom to look back over your life with gratitude rather than complaint?
From a human perspective we always have regrets. There are things that bother us, gnaw at us- things we would do differently. We are sinners. We are frail. We miscalculate and misrepresent. But Christ has borne our burdens all the way to the cross. The apostle says, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”6 It is finally freedom from Satan’s deception, hell’s torment and death’s power. It is freedom to rest in the eternal protection of the Great Shepherd. It is freedom to face mortality with the complete confidence that death is just the prelude to the great and glorious resurrection of the body.
The Word gives us freedom to serve without fear. It frees us for the calling of advancing His truth in the mission to the world through careful planning, committed resourcing, and courageous action. We are frail vessels but He is a mighty fortress. He leaves nothing unattended. Is there any sin left unaddressed? The One who hung upon the cross said, “It is finished”7 All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Our Christ is risen! He lives! He reigns! Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
2 September 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Mark 7:18
2 James 1:19-21
3 James 1:18
4 James 1:21
5 James 1:25
6 Romans 8:1-2
7 John 19:30