I have a friend with a magic bag. Every week as she arrives for lunch, before anything else, she unpacks her magic tote…. biscuits for the dogs, eggs when the chucks are laying, tomatoes when the season’s right, or it might be a pair of socks (!), or chocolate marshmallows, and today some rice I’d been unable to get. One day, I’m sure, she’ll pull out a rabbit and a pair of doves will fly up to the ceiling. Some weeks we have fish finger sandwiches with lashings of tartare sauce and sometimes it’s a pretend-macdonald’s beefburger, and today it was brunch- my favourite breakfast, fresh pears and waffles. Our Bible Study is a real treat, a chance to talk and laugh and eat and …. and then we squeeze in a bit of .. you know… well, sort of … study.
All good things come from God, including socks and waffles. We’re listening to Francis Chan’s series on the Book of James and just a couple of weeks ago we read
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.
A couple of friends are also reading James and the bloke sent me a funny email yesterday headed ‘For widows in distress’. and the email read thus;
‘Guess what book we are going through? Want to practice some pure religion. Making a takeaway run on Thursday at 5 pm. Our treat. Place your order by return email or forever hold your peace. ‘
So I did.
Now, that’s what I call practical Christianity. I wonder what ancient James, in the heat and dust of the Middle East, thousands of years before cars and email would have made of it all? Wouldn’t he have been amazed that his words, straight from God but penned by him, can still make fellow followers smile, leading us to thoughts of God and acts of love, as we sit at a computer listening to another man (who had recorded himself weeks or months ago in America) his Bible in his hand, open at the book of James…. and that a husband and wife in a stone farmhouse are poring over the verses together, while the rain lashes down outside? Lynn and Luce, Alex and Renie…. Oh, James, I think it would have blown your mind. Incomprehensible.
But here’s the thing, with all our knowledge and technology and easy lives, the words James wrote are still teaching us. Still feeding us. Still guiding and convicting (and still getting this old widow a take-away).
But that was nothing to do with James, not really. James simply wrote what the Holy Spirit prompted, he didn’t have a clue, not an inkling, of all the people those words would touch. He thought it was a letter to Jewish Christians in that region, the 12 scattered tribes. How little he knew! And how little we all know right now about the work that God is doing around us and through us. Now, today. When we are obedient and sensitive to his prompting, the world changes. The world changes. We don’t change it but God does.
The other morning, in a daily meditation, praying for COP26, the speaker referred to Hosea 4
There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.
I’m no translator, what I’m going to do now has no authority, but this is how that seems to me, so many years later; Because of man’s faithlessness and lack of love, because he is Godless, full of sin, greed and violence, there is drought and famine and flood. Because of our disobedience, animals, birds and fish are dying.
If only we were obedient. If only. God’s plan is perfect and when we are obedient the world changes.