Be doers of the word.
Such a simple statement. Be doers of the word. This really shouldn’t be something that needs to be preached upon. But from pulpits all over the world today, preachers will be extolling their congregations to not just be hearers of the word, but to be doers of the word.
This should be the thing that we are about. We should be about living out our faith in the world. All who claim the title of Christian should be living out their faith just because of who they are. The past week at work we have been surrounded by people dressed in green and white and living out the live of an MSU student. I jokingly commented about a Michigan State shirt, that of course Michigan was a state and that the woman was standing in the state. And this woman looked at me like I was a nut! For these people, being a Spartan was just who they were and just a natural expression of their being. To be otherwise would just be weird.
So too, for us Christians, our faith should just be so much of us that we cannot help but live out the word. Not that we need to be wearing tee shirts emblazoned with Christian slogans all the time. But we should be putting the teachings we have learned through our faith into action in our lives.
Now, lest we get confused, we need to make sure we get the order of events correct. Again, I will use the MSU people as an example. You would all find it kind of odd if I were to tell you that getting accepted to MSU was dependent upon how much MSU clothing you could wear, right? You would find it silly to think that if you totally tattooed yourself green and white that you would get the top scholarships, right? That just seems silly to say. But some still believe that the teachings we find in the book of James is the rule book on how to get salvation. Some believe that we have to DO all of this stuff before we can finally be accepted.
Well, that is not the case.
The folks that are arrayed in green and white are so proudly displaying the school colors because they have ALREADY been accepted! They are part of the group! So they display the colors as a means of spreading their excitement. In the same manner, we do not live the word in the world to earn Christ’s salvation, we have been assured of that salvation in Christ’s death and resurrection, and we have further been assured of that salvation in our baptism. Our salvation is a given. Christ is not going to take it back! So when we are called to go out and be doers of the word, we do it to share with the world the joy that we have found!
So, if we are to be doers of the word in the world, what would that look like? James gives us some ways. We are to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, [and] slow to anger.” That is some good advice. We are to bridle our tongues and be sure that when we speak, that we are to be careful of our words. You know, if we could all just do that, the world would be so much better. So often we are so very quick to become angry and then to speak. We are so quick to speak without listening to what the other is saying.
But whether we like it or not, when we claim the title of Christian, we are also claiming to be the voice of God in the world. When we claim the title of Christian, we are claiming to be the heart of God in the world. When we claim the title of Christian, we are claiming to be the arms of God, reaching out to send the unending love of God into the world.
When the world encounters us, what does it find? What does it find about Christianity as a whole? Is this the image that Christ would have been proud to die for? Is the worlds view of Christianity that of love or that of intolerance? When the world encounters the Episcopal Church, does it find love, care, and joy or does it find judgment and oppression? How ‘bout us as a congregation? What does the world think about us? What do visitors think about us? What does Swampland think about us? A difficult question would be, “Does Swampland even know we exist?” If not, they why not? How can we as a community built in the love of Christ be doers of the word? We don’t need to be a megachurch to be a mighty church. We have been promised God’s love and care in our actions. But we need to be more than just hearers. We have done great things, we have helped families in need, but can we be doing more? And finally, each of us; we need to ask ourselves, “What are we doing to be doers of the word?” Are we content to just sit and listen, or are we willing to be out in the world. Are we willing to be doers of the word?
I often feel bad doing sermons like this. I feel bad because I am not able to give you a clear cut, three point plan on how to be doers of the word. It would be nice if I could, but I don’t think it really is my place to tell you. You see, we each have our own unique talents and gifts. We each have our own unique way of living the word and doing the word. We each have our own special way and our own special voice.
And as a congregation, we each have an important part to give. We are all inspired by the Spirit to reach out. What I find sad is that so often we forget that our inspiration most often IS from God and that we can act boldly upon it! We begin to second-guess our actions and then fall into inaction. We go from being doers to being listeners. When we are generous in giving, and when we are generous in love, James tells us that we can trust that that impulse is coming from God. We can trust that we are being grown into the first fruits. Or to use more modern language, God is forming us into the best we can possibly be.
We are the beloved, accepted, redeemed children of God. That is something that will not be taken from us. The love of God surrounds us, fills us, and sustains us. And it is through this love that we go out and be doers of the word in the world. My prayer is that you feel this love of God so strongly that, like the MSU students, you cannot keep it to yourselves; you just have to let it out! And when you feel that urge, DO IT! Let the love of Christ show throughout your life!