Sunday, September 9, 2018

Faith Equals Action - James 2:1-17 - Mark 7: 24-37

Faith Equals Action
Tony E Dillon Hansen
9 September 2018

A reflection based upon Proverbs 22: 2,9 • Psalm 125 • James 2:1-17  • Mark 7: 24-37
Link to Scriptures

Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.  Amen.

Our Gospel features some interesting people. We have a mother, daughter, and a deaf person specifically. I want us to consider the mother in this story because I believe she can help us understand how we talk to God and how we show our faith.

There is text from another lesson in our lectionary that can augment this lesson too. From James: “What good is it, … if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If [someone] is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and 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? 17faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

The Mother of Tyre

So lets talk about the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Tyre. The woman begs and even argues with Jesus to help her daughter.  You may ask why would anyone want to argue with Jesus?

I would ask you, When your prayers go unanswered or when they don’t go the way you thought they should, what do you do?

Do you argue with God (or maybe be angry) about not getting what you want?  I have done this plenty of times!

Yet, the woman’s faith in this story led her to ask for help. Her experience as a mother has increased her faith to the ultimate and led her willingness to pour out her heart. Ask any parent  if they worry about their child.

Some think that pointing out that Jesus was on retreat (you know vacation) and that this mother is daring cultural norms by talking to Jesus. She is daring and willing to pour out her heart.

Really this boils down to a question of what do you do when you have pain or need help?  Is it better to hold onto pain or to ask for help? I cannot solve all of your pains. Yet if you need help, do you stay silent?

Do you have what it takes to talk to a stranger? Do you have faith to ask for help; that you will be helped? Are you willing to pour out your heart? What does your faith look like?

Goals and RYE

For years, I have worked and studied and worked and worked to reach goals. It is good have goals and targets, but we can take them to extremes. (In fact, I am not entirely sure what that original goal was.) Somewhere along the line, I forgot how to have fun because I was so concentrated upon the goals.

Then, I spent some time with some youth from Urbandale UCC outside of church, outside of class, and just being there at the local RYE event this summer. For my own, I remember in my youth, my family didn’t have money for bible camps and trips like this. I prayed that someday I would get to go to one of these camps.  I didn’t realize that God would wait a couple decades to answer that prayer.

So this was kind of a whole new experience for me as much as it was for some of the youth. I did not know what to expect.

I saw how the youth would have fun with a ball made from saran wrap they named Dr Phil. I was amazed that a ball of plastic wrap could inspire so much “fun.” Then, it dawned on me that I had forgotten something so simple as God’s work doesn’t have to be just serious work. We will come back to this.

As I said we were attending the local RYE event. The theme of the event was based upon James 2:17 “17faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” or in other words “faith equals action.” That sounds like some slogan that one might put on the back of shirt or a bumper sticker ( I guess there are worse things that I read on people’s mobile car libraries.) What does this mean, “faith equals action?”

What does your faith look like

Think about our Gospel story again. Jesus is on retreat in this area, perhaps a vacation. The mother’s love for her child and her faith led her to cross cultures and to ask for help. She had no guarantees, but she just hoped this would work. She pours out her heart and lets herself be humble.

What does your faith look like?

Proverbs reminds us the generous are blessed and we are called to share our bread. Why should I share anything?

Ah that is a good question because why do you ask God to share blessings with you?
If your faith is selfish and withholding, do you think God should share with you?

Are you generous with your presence and welcome?
Do your actions exhibit good faith?
Are you willing to pour out your heart?
Do you reach out and to be a little fun?
What does your faith look like?

If you don’t get what you want, do you pout about and get angry with God?
Do you barter with God?
If you grant me this prayer, I will …

That is not how this works.
Besides, Is God really just a personal, spiritual vending machine?

Our lessons ask us to dig deeper to express your faith in action.

While grace may be freely given, as Paul tells us,
James asks us to demonstrate our faith.
Mark tells us to go all in and pour out your heart.

Yes come to worship, sing good hymns, and do good.
Do the work that we have been asked, and be like children.
Even take a lesson from the youth.
Have a little fun with it.

Something simple and easy.
Tell your friends “I am glad you are here.”
When was the last time you said that to your neighbor?
Just imagine how goofy that could be:
A room full of people with Jesus in their hearts.
How goofy is that?

Think about this a bit and let it soak in:
a room full of people talking to each other.

Let me tell you:
I am glad you are here.
Let that warm you up a little.

So that when you go before Jesus,
you can say that you made someone’s day a little warmer.
Be willing to pour out your hearts.
Express your faith.
Be like the youth.

Let us take a lesson from the youth.
Find some fun where you are.
Find the goofy things of our lives.
Be with your friends in this moment.
Be God’s wonderful expression of faith through your heart:
Faith that equals action.
and let’s see that beautiful heart of yours in action!

Thanks Be to God.