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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Receive with meekness the implanted word

Sermon Summary 4th Sunday after Easter
Father Matthew Kirby

EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:17-21 (KJV)
 
Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
 
Why with meekness?
The whole letter is directed against arrogance: pride plus anger plus the comfortable worldliness of self-satisfied wealth. (e.g., And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: James 2:3. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. James 3:14, Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. James 4:4, Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.  James 13-17).

What is the solution?

Humbled, penitent faith made active in good works and especially respect for the needy (But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. James 4:6-10, Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:26).
It was not that they lacked piety or belief. They are painted in the second chapter as placing their great confidence in their belief, and saying the right thing, sounding spiritual If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:15-19). But their faith was dead or dying because it was not combined with penitence, but with the opposite. The necessary connection of penitence with faith is made by our Lord from the beginning, e.g., And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mark 1:15.
 
But one could also say that our faith must be combined with unbelief, as this epistle makes clear. Unbelief in the priority of wealth. Unbelief in worldly status. Unbelief in worldly power and the abusive use of it. Unbelief in self. It is not merely that we must trust in God. We must actively distrust everything that would make itself an idol in competition with him and his kingdom.
 
The good news is that, as harsh as this letter sounds, this very passage reminds the listeners that the word has already changed them: "Of his own will he brought us to birth by the word of truth." And he has just said before that that God gives "perfect" gifts. New life has been given definitively by his will, not our own, through the gospel-words spoken in baptism and in the Church's preaching. However, we must remain receiving, and do so in joyful and unqualified confidence in the Gift within, but humble and penitent distrust in our own powers and passions. It is this balance of boldness and meekness that is the paradox essential to Christian living by faith.

 

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