B.C.P. Easter 4 James 1:17-21
Intro : are you good at remembering specific gifts that people gave you for Christmas and Birthdays ? I'm not, my mother and Melanie can often remember several years back who bought me what.
Doesn't mean that I am not grateful to the many people who have shown their continuing love to me by buying me gifts.
Earlier in Chapter 1 James had refuted the accusation that God sends temptation. In today's reading he reminds of the many, good gifts that God has sent.
Verse 17. He says that 'every good and every perfect gift' comes from God. He calls God the 'Father of lights' reminding us that he created everything including the sun, moons, stars and planets. The sun moves across the sky, causing shadows to change direction and lengthen. But God is constant, unchangeable, and will continue to give good and perfect gifts.
Verse 18. The best gift that God can give is eternal life. This is not something that we earn or deserve. This is a new creative work of God 2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore....
It is freely given by God to those whom he chooses to reveal himself through the word of truth, Jesus. Jesus said 'I am the way the truth and the life, no-one can come to the Father except through me.' We are called to follow his way, his truth and his life in response to his gift. That is why it says we are to be the first-fruits. Christians are called to be a sign of what is to come. To show what it means to live a life lived in a right relationship with God and to follow his way. This does not mean that we will be perfect fully grown fruit straight away, that comes later.
James then spells out what this righteous living means in practice. read verses 19-21a. N.I.V. 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent
Get rid of refers to taking something off, like gardening clothes. This needs to be replaced with an alternative way of living ...
and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
This word of God needs to be accepted humbly. This word needs to be grow. Just as we can grow a seed in the right conditions, so we can grow spiritually if we devote ourselves to attending church, prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and obedience to God.
During the Thirty Years' War (1620 to 1648) the little town of Eilenburg in Saxony suffered severely. It was attacked by Austrians and Swedes. The influx of refugees brought crowding and the plague visited the town four times during the 28 years. Only one pastor survived it all and he sometimes had to conduct funerals for 50 people in one day. There was famine, too. When the news of the Peace of Westphalia came the Elector of Saxony ordered Thanksgiving Services to be held and gave the preachers throughout the land a text from Ecclesiastes 50:22, "Now bless ye the God of all, Who everywhere doeth great things, Who exalteth our days from the womb and dealeth with us according to His mercy. May he grant us joyful hearts, and may peace be in our days forever."
Pastor Martin Rinkart was struck by the power of the text and pondered it and shaped the sentiments into a hymn which has now been used in many languages and is used throughout the world. There is particular power in these lines when you remember the horrors of war the author had experienced and the close of that war which it commemorated. Rinkart's words have been translated by Catherine Winkworth into the now familiar words:
'Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands, and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices; Who from our mother's arms Hath blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.'
I am unable to remember all the presents my friends and family have given me over the years. But I am grateful for their gifts, and their love, prayers and support for me over the years.
God has given us so much that we cannot think of everything. When we think of Martin Rinkart the abundance that we have can make us seem ungrateful.
So, today, let us thank God for every good and perfect gift. Our homes, families, friends, food and water, peace, health, and especially the gift of Jesus.
Let us also receive God's word humbly and put off everything that is contrary to his perfect will, and live lives that show that we belong to him.