This week’s speaker, Dana Smothers, concludes our Summer Guest Speaker Series. Dana is a wonderfully calm and soothing soul, who’s words seem to flow like a mountain spring across rounded and sun-warmed stones. I love to hear Dana speak for more than her melodious voice though. Her wisdom, gently delivered, speaks poignantly to the heart of the matter. Thank you Dana for closing out our summer!
Last week I saw a bumper sticker on the can in from of me that read, “walk the talk”. That is basically the sentiment of this week’s scripture from the book of James. According to the scripture, if you call yourself a Christian (“talk”), then this is how you need to live your life (“walk”) to be like a Christian. James was an early pastor writing not to one particular community, but all Christians in general. Scholars believe this book ask written about 10 years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and that the James that wrote this may have been Jesus’ brother. James’ voice is straight to the point, practical, direct and wastes no words or time in communicating his message (a Greek style of writing called parenesis meaning “advice or counsel”). The book of James reads like a Christian playbook, as if coaching those that identify as Christians and yet are human, make mistakes, and get distracted.
James gives blunt directions. Developmentally the early church was similar to a young child who needs clear directions and boundaries (“don’t touch, that is hot, sit down”). As Christians we are all at different stages of our faith journey, and may appreciate clear instructions on how to live out our faith. I also wonder if the power of this passage for us may be understood from a step back, from a more general perspective that allows for our individual interpretation. Rather than “don’t speak out of turn, don’t get angry quickly, care for the homeless” into “listen, be humble, reach out to the other” a more general perspective may seem more approachable and applicable to us. Moving from a literal directive to applying what we know moves us to a higher developmental level in our faith. I believe God allows us to talk into account our won individual unique ways of being in the world and asks us to live out the larger themes James is talking about of “listening, humility, etc..”. Our individuality is like rays of the sun streaming through a beautiful stained glass window, we are everywhere and we are different and we are breath-taking.
I am fascinated by the concept of living your faith, or in other words, how does you life reflect your faith? What would someone surmise about your spirituality or your core beliefs by their observation of the way you live your life, the words you say, you actions, what is important to you, your spirit, how you treat others. Isn’t this what we as Christians strive to attain, integration of our faith and our everyday living, as if metals melding together so one cannot tell where once begins and the other ends. What must that kind of peace feel like? Parker Palmer refers to the disconnect between our faith and how we live our lives as a “divided life”. The integration and transformation of the two is something we are all capable of and helping us figure out ways of doing that within uniquely who we are is one way our church community can support our Christian growth. We are on a journey of Christian development, certainly not alone, we have God and our practice but we also have a Christian community to love and nurture our spiritual growth. As we increase the number of times when our spirituality and that way we live our lives align, we are most able to be the light God envisioned us to be in this world.
James 1: 17-27 (NIV)
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.
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.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
“Preach the Gospel at all times, use words in necessary.” – St. Francis of Assisi
“What good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it?” – Eugene Peterson
“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny, but what we put into it is ours.” – Dag Hammarskjold
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” -Rumi
“Where is the knowledge that is lost in information? Where is the wisdom that is lost in knowledge?” – T.S. Elliot
How does your faith align with how you live your life?
What are your unique gifts that illuminate the way your live out your faith?
Where are the area in you life right now what you cold life out your “faith in action” more?
What are you grateful for today?