October 21, 2011

Saturday after the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.37:25-41 1 Kings 17:17, James 1:1-11
Evening - Ps. 145, Job 21:1-10, Mt. 13:31-52

Commentary
James 1:1-11

James, the brother of our Lord, gave us the earliest of the New Testament writings, dating from around the year 48 A.D. Its audience is clearly Jewish and its purpose is to instruct Jewish Christians who fled Jerusalem during the persecution that followed the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1 (Jas. 1:1). Because he grew up in the same house as Christ, and became a believer after the Resurrection, James was an influential leader in the early Church (Acts 15:13). The earliest liturgy of the Church in Jerusalem bears the title, "The Divine Liturgy of James, the Holy Apostle and Brother of the Lord."

Today's reading encourages Christians to remain faithful, even under persecution, and gives a critically important picture of what God is doing in the lives of His people. God is not trying to give us lives of ease: He is forming us into new people, new beings who are being renewed in every aspect of our being. He is sanctifying us, and preparing us to dwell in Heaven with Him forever. In this process He is weaning us from earth and leading us to value, love, and trust Him more and more. Rather than delivering us from our trials and hardships, He uses them to draw us to Himself and to teach us to trust in Him.

In short, His purpose is to develop Godliness in us. As James wrote, He is working to make us "perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (1:4). Our trials are often the tools He uses to increase us in Godliness. Every trial is a temptation to desert God and return to sin. Every temptation is an opportunity to choose God over self; to choose to follow Him in faith, or to run back to sin. Thus, in temptation, our faith is exercised. It is tried, it is tested, it is made stronger as the body is made stronger with physical exercise. Perseverance, or, endurance, is the kind of patience this trying of faith produces in us. And those who persevere become more faithful and more Godly. Paul may have been thinking of this passage in James when he wrote Romans 5:1-4. The pattern in both passages is the same: tribulation works patience, patience produces experience, and experience produces hope. The end result of faithfulness in trouble is Godliness, and Godliness is the goal of God for His people.

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