Our Common Life…

Writing in a blog setting seems to be about putting into words what one is passionate about, or in my experience, what’s on your mind at the time the deadline is about an hour and a half away. So, in sort of a random way, this is what I’ve been thinking about. Yesterday morning it was my turn to lead worship at the local nursing home followed by a service at the Senior Living apartment complex. We also have a casual worship service here at the UCC each Wednesday evening.  So for most of yesterday, I thought and talked about one of the passages from the lectionary for this week from James, chapter 1:17-27. Now, first of all I have to tell you, this stuff will preach! It’s got advice about anger and listening and of course I found myself reminding my little audiences that the followers of Christ are to be doers of the word and not merely hearers.

Here is a little of Eugene Petersen’s version, The Message …

Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Nuggets of wisdom in this regard abound:

  • walk the walk (which is almost always said in combination with “talk the talk”)
  • actions speak louder than words
  • talk is cheap
  • practice what you preach
  • I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day
  • and everyone’s heard, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words” from St. Franci

In the days of the early church, the theologian, Tertullian reported that there were some outside the Christian community who were very impressed and even amazed by how those Christians “love one another.” The quote goes:

“Look,” they say, “how they love one another” (for they themselves hate one another); “and how they are ready to die for each other” (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).

In other words, Tertullian says, what outsiders noticed about Christians was not how exceptional their beliefs were, but how exceptional their actions were. See how they love one another… 

The lesson is so simple… the world will see our faith because of what we do (or don’t do), or the world will see our lack of faith for… well, what we do (or don’t do). When we criticize one another, refuse to trust each other, and fight with one another, it shows the world something about what it means to be a Christian. When we focus on nothing but doctrine and belief and ignore the needs of the world, like equality, food, shelter, healthcare, we are telling the world what it means to be a Christian.

If we want to show people Christianity, we don’t need words to tell them. We simply need to do what real Christians do. See how they love one another … 

Rev Joel Love, Board of Director and Pastor of Reinbeck Union Congregational UCC

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