MARK 7: 1-9 & 14-15
JAMES 1: 19-27

June 30, 2019 – A Healing Sunday

Click here for INSERT WEEK 3

There was a word I was very familiar with growing up because if dad mentioned the word it meant we were going to hit the road and drive south of Buffalo to this special place overlooking Lake Erie.  The place was THE LAKEVIEW, which described what one could see but the magic was in the Swedish word that followed SMORGASBORD.

I can just see my brother Mark’s giddy smile and sparkle coming from behind the thick lens of his eyeglasses if dad said we were going to the LAKEVIEW and for Mark; ok and for me it was all about the SMORGASBORD.  An all you can eat delight of what I remember as food prepared perfectly, tasting delicious while we sat at tables adorned in white linen.  A place where we were set free to fill our plates again and again.  Choices made easy because it was all before us.

In thinking about this ‘’all you can eat experience’ I did a little research and discovered that during my younger days the Sunday lunch time meal at the LAKEVIEW was referred to as the Matinee.  And, it cost my dad $3.00 for each one of us to enjoy the Matinee meal with a view.  And, what a meal … we could choose everything and choose it more than once.  RESERVATIONS required! And, it was special because that was a lot of money to dad.

I also remember the media night when CHORUS LINE debuted at the Claridge Casino Hotel in Atlantic City because my mother-in-law and father-in-law were allowed to join us for both the show and the meal afterwards that was reserved exclusively for members of the working press.  Now, Donna and I were used to being with this group of reporters and talk show hosts but my father-in-law, Paul, came up to me with this shocked look on his face saying, ‘I just saw two women dumping shrimp from the buffet into their purses.”  I knew right away who the women were and assured him that they had plastic bags in their purses to protect the things ladies might always have in their pocketbooks.  But amidst all the delicious food their choice was to sneak out more … I can’t even begin to think what a purse-packed-bag of shrimp would taste like the next day but such is the world of choosing when every option is available to you.

So here we are in week 3 of our study of James, FAITH and ACTIONS, and its clear that the book of JAMES provides ‘food for thought.’  You and I  face a literal smorgasbord world of choices but when the day ends we can only choose God or reject God to gain the world.  Attempting to embrace both is like eating a plate of food piled high on one side with spicy Chinese delicacies and the other covered with gravy laden Italian pasta. It just doesn’t work and the only benefit would be to to those who make TUMS.

It may be as simple as Who do you choose versus who do you want to choose but I want to remind you this morning that for this life; this very short one and for the eternal one that follows there is just one choice for us.  And, that choice is proven in how we live our lives.  You can’t fake or talk your way into a choice you haven’t made.

Throughout the Gospels we are presented with examples of choices to be made.  Jesus taught that God calls on true believers to make choices through and with love.  We know the story of the Good Samaritan where the religious leader chose to walk quickly past the man beaten on the road and the Levite, a man of wealth and power, made sure he didn’t get close to the one who was bleeding and suffering but the Good Samaritan stopped.  Jesus told the expert in the law questioning Him that this was what God meant when God said the second commandment is to love your neighbor.  It takes crossing the road to care for those the powerful and the religious might reject or ignore.  It’s in Luke 10, if you need to reflect on that Jesus lesson in these times when we are being told to ignore the hurting by those with power and the religious celebrities of our time.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus is once again being challenged because His disciples were eating a meal without having their hands purified the way the rule setting Pharisees insisted was the required way of the law.   The disciples made a choice running counter to the Pharisees rules but Jesus replied to those leaders by quoting the prophet’s message from God, “People who honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me,  their worship is empty since they teach instructions that are human words.”  Jesus continues by saying, “You ignore God’s commandment while holding onto rules created by humans and handed down to you. Clearly you are experts at rejecting Gods commandment in order to establish these rules.”

Choices … James writes about choices, “If those who claim devotion to God don’t control what they say … their devotion is worthless.  True devotion the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father … to keep the world from contaminating us.”

Ah, the world … fitting in … being popular … or perhaps choosing to avoid being unpopular or condemned since its so easy to either say and do nothing or to mouth the words and chants created by humans and handed down by those who are experts at rejecting God’s commandments.  WHO DO YOU CHOOSE … WHO DO YOU WANT TO CHOOSE.

Jesus promises us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Jesus fed the 5000 with two barley loaves and five fish.  Scriptures says the people were well fed but the LAKEVIEW used to have all these incredible delicious pies and a cutting station where the roast beef was sliced … pike from Lake Erie … mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy … even salads although Mark and I chose to skip that area … oh wait, that meal was rather temporary wasn’t it?  Bloated stomachs and the need for a nap … Jesus gives us more … God’s love through Jesus gives us eternal life …. WHO ARE YOU CHOOSING on your Monday morning’s and your Tuesday nights?  When you hear of the hurting in this world … the hurting in our nation … do you blame them? Do you call them names? Or do you find a way to cross the road to care for them or perhaps would that cause others to dislike you or call you names?

You may have looked at today’s insert already with the child perched on shoulders amidst a crowd.  When I spotted her at a rally I was hoping to get just the right look in my camera’s view finder and I did.  I don’t know her name … like the children who are aching and hurting this morning her name is not what matters but the question is how are people of faith making choices.  Who will lift the hurting children up onto their shoulders?   James writes, “True devotion, the kind that is pure before God is to care for the orphans in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.”

Coincidental with the world today?  I chose today’s Scripture lesson more than a month ago but now across this nation there are plans for Friday July 12th when millions of people will gather together and light candles for the children; for the orphans … and James wrote, “to keep the world from contaminating us” which occurs when we become doers of the Word not mere hearers because making that choice of doing activates our energies, our minds, our souls for our faith … for our God … for Jesus and by no longer sitting back but instead being invigorated by God and Jesus Christ we will be focused on the cross not on the world.  When we walk in the Light of Christ … even when it counters and angers the powers in the world … we give ourselves the opportunity to keep the world from contaminating us while also growing in faith. We shine Christ’s light.

Friends … there is religion and there is faith.  Jesus faced religious leaders and in fact they are the ones who made sure Jesus was nailed to the cross.  But, their choices were about them not about God.  But Scripture teaches about the doers too … Paul writes about Priscilla and Aquila, two women whom he describes as his “helpers in Jesus Christ.”  Open up Colossians to chapter 4 to read about those in Laodicea and Nymphas and Epaphras who has worked hard for those living in Colossae. There was Apphia and Archippus … so many others who lived out their lives.  Martyrs like Stephen who gave up their lives because choosing Christ mattered.  For me to live is Christ to die is gain. Their choice when they could have made other choices.

Faith and actions … choosing Christ … recognizing that the God of Creation is deserving of devotion not rejection.  James is very specific … people of faith are slow to anger perhaps because our faith is built on love.  People of faith choose to set aside the filth of the world and welcome the Holy Spirit who has planted God’s word deep inside of us … you know it, I know it … the VERY WORD James writes that is able to SAVE US but …

Dear friends but … when you choose the world you are rejecting THE WORD.  When you decide that the call of Christ goes against your personal viewpoints then that WORD will not be saving you.  Those who only hear the word James reminds us mislead themselves.  Jesus in Matthew 25 tells a large group of people who claimed they were believers but whose actions ran counter to what God expects that they didn’t belong to Him … His words of punishment are severe for those who said the right things but didn’t step up to do what God calls us to do.

We all have choices to make … James teaches us “with humility, set aside all moral filth and welcome the Word planted deep inside you – the very word that is able to save you.  You must be doers of the Word and not only hearers who mislead themselves. True devotion that is pure and faultless before God is to care for the orphans and widows in their difficulties AND to keep the world from contaminating us.”

WHO DO YOU CHOOSE … WHAT DO YOU CHOOSE … WHO YOU WANT TO CHOOSE?  The choices are yours … life’s SMORGASBORD is before us but God and Christ are always with us.  Heal your soul … let today be the day you again choose God and Christ so that tomorrow and the next day your life is filled with actions shining Jesus Light to those you meet.


© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ