Here are my notes and questions from Sunday. It was very interactive so may be hard to follow the text. I'll insert what I can in the way of pictures.
SLIDE- 1 Jerusalem
SLIDE -2 & 3 Text on screen.
Ask: how do you feel after hearing this scripture?
Ask: them to list negatives.
SLIDE 4 - Write on 2nd page.
SLIDE 5 - Then list positives.
We can see why we feel scolded.
So what do we do with passages that seem to scold us? Our options:
Redact - black marker, or TV scissors..
Guess which we will do?
James takes time in this book to delve into all the ways we humans can fall short. First he outlines his points in the first chapter, then he goes into detail in the chapters that follow.
For instance, READ ch1:17-18
SLIDE 6 verses on which this passage in chapter is developed.
17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. 18 He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.
Discuss in pew groups: (turn to neighbor, lean over pew and share)
Let’s crowd source this point before we go back to our text to make sense of James’ list.
SLIDE 7 - ASK: The good and perfect gift. What is it? What is the good and perfect gift or (if easily identified) how do you know if/when someone has received this gift?
Last Sunday you heard 4 preachers deal with doubt. James is different than the gospels. For James, doubt isn’t intellectual questioning, it’s mixed up loyalty to the world. (1)
James calls it double mindedness.
He says humans are prone to ‘double-talk, double-face, double-vision’.(2) What’s is double-ness?
- It’s a place where cultural values are seen and taught as religion.
- Where the true values of God are confused, mis-understood, and co-opted to benefit a few.
(Sound like a world we’ve seen?)
James’ position Should be clear (thanks to our list).
There are two ways of living:(3) “See the difference, Know the truth, Make a decision!”
But it isn’t easy for everyone to decide. WHY?
ASK: Why is it hard for some people to decide for Christ or to make a decision about Christianity?
JAMES we tell you with b&w clarity what the problem is (coming up next in ch. 4)
What is the source of your disputes? Don’t they come from your cravings that are at war in your own lives? 2 You long for something you don’t have, so you commit murder.
You are jealous for something you can’t get, so you struggle and fight.
You don’t have because you don’t ask.
3 You ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.
and … we feel scolded again.
We can realize that James writes in a time and way that includes paranesis and diatribe. (4)
Paranesis - text that strings together admonitions of general ethical content.
Diatribe - carefully designed argument against an implied opponent
In James we have both - strings of warnings about our conduct and pretty strong arguments against invisible but constant EVIL.
I want to make a case today for hearing this book in a new light - I want us to find it’s wisdom even when it’s deeply imbedded in harsh lists and warnings -
Let’s take a Step back: Look deeper at this whole book. Scholars have disagreed about who actually wrote it and whether or not it was James, the brother of Jesus.
SLIDE - 8 (not an actual picture of James)
I read many theories this week. The one that seems to make the most sense has these pieces.
- James, Jesus’ brother, not 1 of 12, but later becomes a leader in Christian church -which is centered in Jerusalem. (and is mostly jewish)
- By the end of the 1st century Before CE, (AD) and again After destruction of temple late 60’s, Jewish population scatters. (see map this slide-(5) (MIGRATIONS CALLED diaspora)
- Likely the traditions from the church in Jerusalem; including those that James knew, went out into other countries and became more familiar with Greek language.
- Those early GROUPS had PRE-gospel material. We know about Q (a likely compilation of sayings) and scholars posit a M source which would be the oral collection of stories, parables, teachings found in Matthew.
- ESPECIALLY one particular sermon of Jesus. ASK?
- Sermon on the Mount
- If these scholars are correct, those closest to Jesus; who had listened to James, who had told and retold the stories of Jesus that would later be written into Matthew’s gospel, took these traditions (---JAMES traditions) from Jerusalem - SLIDE 9 - with them.
- At some point these key points, teachings, are written in the style of the day, as the book of James. (6)
- IN James, We likely have the words of the people who first collected all the sayings and stories that would later make up the gospels.
- Behind this book we have the tradition of Jesus’ brother and leadership of the early church,
- the very first re-telling of key Sermons, and the
- sayings that will be the gospels -
- I think we have a VERY special writing in James that comes as close to Jesus’ own words and teaching as one could get.
ASK: If we hear James the way we hear the Sermon on Mount, do we listen differently?
I am saying, that When we read James, WE are experiencing a post easter appearance of Jesus himself!
Even more so - when we are blessed with an encounter with those who have received this gift from above.
When we ourselves leave double-mindedness behind and walk the Jesus way, each person we encounter, experiences the Risen Lord in us!
If that seems too optimistic for you , consider this story from Brethren history.
The wise farmer…
-Wanted to buy a parcel of land.
-Told that neighbor of this parcel had contested the property line so bitterly that the former owner moved.
-Farmer buys land and meets neighbor who immediately comes to tell him that the fence between their properties must to be moved.
Farmer asked, “Where should the line be?” and then insists that the new fence line be set to the neighbor’s advantage.
“The value of the little strip of land was minor compared to good relations with his neighbor.”
Seeing how fair the farmer was, the disgruntled neighbor said, ‘we’ll leave the fence where it is.”
But that wasn’t the end.
Another day the farmer’s cattle broke into the neighbor’s cornfield and damaged the crop. The neighbor flew into a rage and declared he would sue.
Calmly the farmer explained that this would not be necessary. He was ready to pay in full. To avoid extra court costs, he suggested they engage a 3rd party to settle on a suitable amount.
Seeing the peaceful nature and honesty of the farmer the neighbor asked, “Why choose others to arbitrate? We can settle. There are no damages. “The matter is settled.”
“I never before met a man like you. No on can quarrel with you.” (7)
What wisdom, from above, awaits us - each time we embody the Risen One in the manner of OUR living?
Or what peace from above is visited on the earth when the Risen Christ appears in us?
1)David Young James - Covenant Bible Study (Elgin:Brethren Press, 1992)46
2) Frances Taylor Gench Hebrews & James (Louis:WJK,1996)113
4) John Painter Interpretation Journal - Catholic Epistles Vol 60 Number 3, July 2006, 254
6) John Painter Interpretation Journal - Catholic Epistles Vol 60 Number 3, July 2006, 251
7) David Young James - Covenant Bible Study (Elgin:Brethren Press, 1992)47