As was the case last week, a technical glitch led to the erasure of this week’s sermon audio. Here’s a brief recap of the week’s message, which is the second in a five-part series on the letter of James.
The second chapter of James calls us to consider the ways in which our actions match (or fail to match) the profession of our faith in Christ. This is one of the major problems that besets Christianity in the North American context – there is a widespread perception (that is, unfortunately, often matched by reality) that Christians do not live a life that is significantly different from those who don’t profess faith in Christ. The disconnect between our sacred writings and the lives we live harms our witness to the gospel, and has real consequences for our society and world.
This isn’t a new problem. In fact, Jesus’ speech toward a woman of Syrophoenician (Gentile) origin in today’s gospel reading is a shocking example of speech that doesn’t match up with what we expect. This reading presents Jesus at perhaps his most human, but it also shows Jesus’ capacity for self-awareness, surprise, and movement toward God’s will for the world.
Martin Luther despised the words “faith without works is dead,” because they seem to undercut his major theological premise – that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Grace, however, is what gives us the opportunity to grow and change, to see the error of our ways, to try again to be more compassionate, more faithful, more loving, more courageous in living out our faith in word and deed. These are gifts to us in Christ, and they are God’s will for us and for our world. Living in response to the gracious gifts of God is the whole goal of the Christian life, and we are blessed to be given grace every morning to try again and again. Thanks be to God!