Wednesday Wondering - November 1, 2023
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
James 2: 14 – 17
14What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
Matthew 25: 34 – 40
34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.
I don’t’ usually use three pieces of scripture, but I thought that these three together illustrated an important point for us. I have been doing a lot of thinking about this thing that we call faith. What really is our faith? We often look to our faith as a set of beliefs that we hold tight too. Then we gather together with those of similar beliefs to worship God. I believe that this is how many of us view our faith and yet I wonder if this is really what our faith should be about. There are a number of Christian traditions where they expect that one will accept Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Saviour and in doing so we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. There are other faith traditions who worship Jesus, Mary, the saints, as God. But again is this what our faith is supposed to be about?
Yes, I believe that we are called to enter into relationship with Jesus, but as an example of how we are to live a Godly life in this world. Jesus always spoke of God as the one deserving of worship and to engage in true worship of God, we must follow Jesus, follow Jesus’ example. I don’t think that Jesus asked us to believe anything, other than to believe in God. What Jesus asked us to do was to follow his example and become people of action. Jesus calls us to do, not to believe. The scriptures I picked are also all about action. Micah says that what God requires from us is to “do” justice, to “walk” humbly with God. In the scripture from James this is brought to action as we are challenged to work to supply the needs of those who are less fortunate. Finally in Matthew, chapter 25 we hear that what we do for those who are hungry, naked, sick, in prison, we do for God. The scriptures are full of examples of what we are to do. We are called to be put our faith in action, not just sit comfortably within a belief system not doing anything to change the world. Jesus spend much of his time either with those who were marginalized, or critiquing the religious authorities of the day and their rules and regulations.
I don’t recall Jesus ever asking anyone to build a church. What Jesus did ask was that people follow him and do as he did. I am not saying that churches are bad. It is good to get together with like-minded people and in doing so we might pool our resources and are better able to change the world. The challenge is that there are many who have retreated into their faith, their systems of belief, and truly believe that that is what following God is about, existing solely within their system of beliefs and not moving out into the world. The late Archbishop Oscar Romero, one of the driving forces behind Liberation Theology, speaks to this idea of a faith in action in the following way, “A church that doesn’t provoke any crisis, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a Word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, what kind of gospel is that? Preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed do not light up the world.” Our faith calls us to action and sometimes that action can be uncomfortable. But God, through Jesus, has called us to action. God calls us to action now so that we might change the world, so that we might bring God’s mercy, compassion, justice, and love to a world that is hurting and has been hurting for millennia. It is who we are supposed to be, people of action, people who are working to change the world. So let us be those people.
God who calls us to action, let us open our ears, our hearts, our minds, and our souls, so that we might truly hear your call. Give us the courage to move beyond the comfort of our beliefs to places of action where those who are marginalized are seen, heard, loved, so that we might work to bring your kingdom to this world. Give us the wisdom to see that you never asked us to build complicated belief systems, rather you just asked us to follow. Help us to once again hear that call and answer as best as we can. We ask this in the name of the one who came to show us the way, your son, Jesus. Amen.