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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Church news, 9/20: "Stop the Warring Madness!"

Our Sunday homily focused closely on James 4:1-10:
What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace; therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.
   Fr. David pointed out that these verses apply to dissension within the body of believers. James addresses 'you' in the plural meaning among you all. James states strongly that dissensions come from people's desires for self-gratification and self-interest rather than from dedication to do the will of God. He uses language that's sometimes shocking, such as "you desire and do not have; so you kill," not to infer that Christians were necessarily committing murder, but that they were angry with their brothers and sisters -- a meaning along the lines of Jesus' admonition recorded in Matthew 5:21-22   "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.'  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment".
   Conflicts, fightings, and wars in our relationships (especially within the church) are because we desire and covet and don't obtain what we want. He states that we don't have... because we do not ask, meaning that we do not ask God in prayer. Furthermore our asking is amiss because we ask with self-interest and in self-centeredness ("to spend it on your passions") for the sake of self-gratification.

   James tells the scattered Jewish Christians that they absolutely have to choose between the world's way and God's way; that they can't be "doubleminded", trying to be friends both of God and of the world. In strong language once again, we are told that we end up as "adulterers and adultresses" and "enemies of God" when we become friends of the world (enculturated and co-opted into a 'me-first' world).

   The Word of the Lord in James helps us to realize that we must learn how to 'stop the warring madness' by submitting ourselves (entrusting ourselves) to God in humble faith. Seeking His holy will and cooperating with Him in true conversion through faith  will lift us from the perversions brought on by our self-centeredness. Ask Him in prayer... seeking His will (not our own), "resist the devil and he will flee from you", "draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

May we become singleminded desirers of God's will. As we do this, the Lord will exalt us and the warring madness among us will subside.

   We continued our consideration of these verses in our after-service discussion. It's no accident that dissension can arise during times of the greatest opportunity for growth and service. So we reminded ourselves of our priorities, to make sure that God's will and ministries are always our first focus, over and above our own personal interests. To God be the glory!

NOTES: The special offering for Shane Gormley, our seminarian at Nashotah House in Wisconsin, continues through the end of the month. We also give thanks for the use of the Chapel and meeting room at Reformation Lutheran Church, and for the loving hospitality extended to us by their congregation and staff.

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