Summary: Monologue, as if the speaker were James, illustrating points by incidents in the life of Jesus. Truth comes with compassion, it does its own convicting, and must be backed with a life of integrity.
One of the peculiarities of the letter of James is that it has so very little direct reference to the life of Jesus. If it was written, as has traditionally been believed, by the James who was the brother of our Lord and who became prominent in the Jerusalem church, then it does seem odd that he would not salt his writing with anecdotes and reminiscences. We'd be only too delighted to have that kind of writing today, wouldn't we? We are very eager for kiss and tell writers, for the folks who were next door to history to tell us all they know. There is a continuing market for books about Upstairs at Buckingham Palace or Downstairs at the White House or the real truth about this sports figure or that movie star. Poor old James really missed a fortune by not telling us what it was like to grow up in the same household as Jesus!
But if James is short on incidents from the life of Jesus, he is at least strong on teachings from the lips of Jesus. In any number of places he repeats, almost word for word, things that we do know that Jesus taught. And I like to think that these teachings and perhaps even others in his letter are his very personal intimate distillation of what his older brother was about. James may still be able to give us his own personal view of Jesus and may be able to focus some things for us in a very special way.
May I ask you to use your imaginations this morning as we do our best to enter into the heart and mind of James the son of Joseph and Mary, James of Nazareth, and let his insights, partly from what we can read in the Scriptures, partly from a consecrated imagination, teach .us something about this important theme, "How To Tell the Truth"
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Do you know me? Probably not. I don't even carry a Judean Express Card. My face is not all that familiar, and my name is a very common one, a problem I hold in common with that pastor of yours. It does not distinguish me from all the others who carry it. And although I have become influential in the company of believers, still not many know me or understand fully what I have been through.
First, my name and my origin. I am Yakov ben Yoseph, James the son of Joseph. My mother was Miriam; you know her better as Mary. I grew up with my parents in the town of Nazareth in the region known as Galilee, working around my father’s carpenter shop, attending lessons and daily prayers at the synagogue, learning the traditions and laws of my people from the rabbis and from my parents, and, most of all, elbowing for room in a crowded household with all my brothers and sisters. We were by no means wealthy, and it was crowded, very crowded. I had several sisters, and you know how much room girls use up and how noisy their chatter is; and as for my brothers, well, most of them were younger than I and so at least I could maintain something of an upper hand with them. But one brother was older, and let me tell you, he is the one who made things really crowded.
Now you must understand that in recent years I have undergone a change of heart about this elder brother of mine. But I must also tell you what it felt like when we were growing up. You must understand what it meant to be Number Two, trying harder all the time, when you had this number one to reach for.
In the first place, there was the matter of his birth. My parents did not say a whole lot about it, but every now and again, especially when I just did some typically younger brother pranks -- every now and then they would remind me that I dare not treat this one lightly or roughly, that he had come from the Most High and that his birth was very, very special.
Frankly I never quite knew what to make of all that and was glad that most of the time my mother kept all these things and just thought about them inside. It's hard enough to be the younger brother, trying to measure up to all the things your big brother can do without having to think of him as somehow endowed of the Lord, God’s gift to Nazareth.
And then there was this manner he had. So inquisitive, so penetrating, so provocative. He would say and do the strangest things. Why, I remember that when he was twelve and I was just a couple of years younger, my parents took him up to Jerusalem to the Temple for his bar mitzvah. And do you know the rascal just walked off and disappeared, kept us waiting around and scouring the place for several days. I told my father that all this sitting around was boring, boring; that we should just up and leave him. And in fact we almost did, but Mother found him deep in conversation with the priests and teachers at the temple. They thought it was just wonderful that he could ask all those confusing questions. As for me, I really thought it was kind of impertinent, kind of uncool. I mean, kids are not supposed to show intellectual curiosity. You can get tagged as a square, as a nerd, that way.