Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; James 2:1-10, 14-17; 1st Sunday of Advent 2013

Scriptures for this Sunday: James 2:1-10, 14-17

You can read them here: NIV

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Today is the First Sunday in Advent. The Church has set this season to remember Jesus’ first coming (the First Advent) two thousand years ago and to prepare ourselves for his final return (the Final Advent) sometime in the future.

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In the last few weeks we have looked at the letter that Paul wrote to the Galatians. The letter to Galatians was written approx. 49 CE (less than 20 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected).

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Today I want us to take a look at the Epistle of James. Just like the Letter to Galatians, the Epistle of James was written around 49 CE (less than 20 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected). It is believed to be written by Jesus’ brother, who served as the head of the Church in Jerusalem at that time.

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The Letter to the Galatians and the Epistle of James give us a window into what life was like for the first Christians less than 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection; what they were struggling with and what it meant to be followers of Jesus living in a world that had beliefs and convictions different from their own. It is my hope that we will be able to draw parallels between issues that the Early Christians struggled with and issues that we face today.

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Once in a while I see a bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus.” Here is my take on it: any fool can honk. If you love Jesus, be God’s hands and feet in this world, tithe, be an agent of God’s Love and Grace. In a very simplistic way, I just paraphrased the Epistle of James.

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I understand the Epistle of James to be a concise, how-to guide on being a Christian. Sometimes this Epistle is interpreted as proof that good works play a role in our salvation, BUT this letter actually says that good works are the fruit of our salvation and will attract nonbelievers to the faith.

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We know that Paul and James met at least once. We read about that meeting in Galatians 1:18-19, “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”

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Paul never met Jesus. As a young man, Paul was trained in the prestigious seminary of the time under Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). In the beginning of his career Paul was instrumental in the stoning of Steven (Acts 8:1), and was serious about destroying the followers of Jesus because he sincerely believed that Christians were dangerous to Judaism and to the established order. All of us can relate to that; who among us has not thought at one time or another that a new idea, or a different way of doing things, or a song we sing, or a prayer that we changed is destroying our church?

For Paul it all changed on the Road to Damascus. Paul was on his way to round up Christians and to bring them to Jerusalem for trial and stoning when God revealed God-self to Paul. That story is found in Acts 9:1-9. What Paul learned about Jesus, what Paul initially understood about God’s new vision for the world, came from that revelation.

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Acts 9:1-9 NIV2010

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

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James on the other hand was exposed to Jesus for most of his life. What James knew of God’s new vision for the world came directly from Jesus’ teaching. (St. James: patron saint of vets, equestrians, furriers, tanners and pharmacists).

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Paul’s teaching focused primarily on living out our faith and devotion to God by demonstrating God’s Love and Grace (Social Justice). James’ teaching focused primarily on practical ways of putting our faith into action (Personal Holliness).

Paul’s Focus: What we do with the blessings that God has given us in order to treat one another and our neighbors with love?

James’ focus: How do we put our faith into action; what fruit does our faith produce? How does our faith show itself (or is evident) in the way we live our lives?

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Colossians 3:5-14 NIV2010

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

James 1:19-21; 2:14-18 NIV2010

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

So what’s in it for us?

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The reason we are looking at these Scriptures today, on the first Sunday of Advent, is because God is always coming into our world. God is always coming into every moment of every day of our earthly lives.

God enters every moment and every situation of our lives with a vision, with a notion, with hope and with an idea of what that moment can be and what we can become. These possibilities, this energy, these promises are God’s Grace.

We are called to respond to God’s Grace with love and with action. We are called to respond to God’s Grace by telling the story of Jesus and His Love. That story is told and retold because we hope that it will bring a change in us and in others. God’s story is not only about something that God did 2000 years ago; it is also about what Jesus is doing in our lives today, when we let God in.

The story of Advent is not something that happens to us as we passively go about living our daily lives. The story of Advent is a story in which we are invited to act with love and works as active participants. The story of Advent invites us to be God’s partners in hope as we witness to God’s presence in our world.

{Transition to the Holy Communion}

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2 responses to “Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; James 2:1-10, 14-17; 1st Sunday of Advent 2013

  1. Pingback: Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 Sunday of Advent, 2013 | Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

  2. Pingback: Approximate notes for Sunday’s Message; 2 Sunday of Advent, 2013 | Christ United Methodist Church in Chestertown, MD

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