Summary: A sermon about living the "lifestyle" of Christ.
“It is GOOD News”
A friend of mine was telling me a story this past week about a time, right after a Sunday morning worship service, when he was greeting people as they were going out the door.
He said that one particular woman came up to him and said, “Pastor, I want you to know that I was feeling really horrible and sad before I came to church this morning.
Now, after listening to your sermon I feel a lot worse.”
My friend said that this was a watershed moment for him, and that he was actually thankful for the woman’s honesty.
So, as to not make the same mistake again, he immediately went to his office, got a piece of paper and taped it onto the top of the pulpit.
On it, he wrote a reminder to himself, “Remember, stupid, it’s GOOD News!”
This way, in the future, he wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
This was several years ago, and a couple months down the line the congregation found out the Bishop was planning to come visit their church.
So they got real excited about the Bishop’s visit.
They cleaned the church up real good.
And the morning the Bishop was their they sang their hearts out, had special music and all kinds of things.
Then it was time for the Bishop to get up into the pulpit and speak, and my friend’s heart sank when he remembered that he had left that piece of paper with those words taped to the top of the pulpit.
“Remember, stupid, it’s GOOD News!”
In our Scripture Passage for this morning James reminds us that, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to lift one another up.
We are called to live lives which are outwardly focused, not inwardly focused.
We are to be peacemakers, not makers of war.
We are to be "gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair and genuine."
And we are called to "sow the seeds of justice by [our] peaceful acts."
James, the blood-brother of Jesus Christ Himself, tells us that living this kind of "lifestyle" is "true wisdom."
It's a "humble" way of being and it comes directly from God.
It is, as James puts it, "the wisdom that comes down from above."
But, there is another kind of "wisdom" which James speaks of.
And it is not really "wisdom at all."
James says that "it is from the earth," and it is "demonic."
And the fruit of this "demonic wisdom" is "bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and everything that is evil."
It provokes, "fights, war" and "murder."
And boy, isn't there enough of this going on in our world?
In verse 4 of Chapter 4 where James says, "You unfaithful people! Don't you know that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God," James is not calling for some kind of monastic life...
...he isn't telling us to shun other people.
He is calling for us to be salt and light in a world of war and fighting.
He is calling us to be peacemakers in a world where, in a sense, the ultimate argument includes a fist...
...or a boot.
Or a gun.
Or a bomb.
Christians are not to be friends of violence, force, power, manipulation.
We are to be friends of God and of people instead!!!
We are to sow peace.
We are to help lift folks out of the misery of hatred and strife, through loving action.
We are to bring warring factions together, whether these factions be religious, political or whatever--not join in the fight!!!
A colleague recently made a statement that others in the room agreed with: "Christian fundamentalists are just as dangerous as Muslim fundamentalists."
And what that person is talking about is the danger of a closed mind.
The danger of a way of thinking that says, "My way or the highway."
The danger of a lifestyle where people may smile and appear to be friendly and civilized; open and generous; but if you happen to think differently on a subject than they...
...if you challenge their cherished assumptions--you automatically become the enemy.
You go from friend to foe in a nano-second.
And after-all, wasn't it Pharisaic Fundamentalism that put Jesus on the Cross?
In his sermon entitled, "The Character of a Methodist" John Wesley, the Founder of the Methodist Church wrote the following, "When I was young I was sure of everything.
In a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times...
...I am hardly sure of anything...
[As] Methodists we believe Christ to be the eternal, supreme God...
But as to all opinions which do not strike at the root of Christianity, we think and let think."
There is nothing more scary, nothing more dangerous, and perhaps...nothing more demonic than a mind which is closed.