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from fathers desk

Dear Friends in Christ,

We are underway with our Message Series, Heart Matters! - a study of James. In preparation, I have been praying with the Letter of James over the past several weeks and every time I take it up, I find new wisdom and insight. It is very rich! The inspired Word of God is a mine of endless riches. Each word and phrase offers a unique wealth since it was composed by the human author, while also written by the divine author.

The rhetoric, or stylistic plan, of James appears to me as somewhat spiral. The young bishop explores a series of topics and then returns to each in greater depth. For example, in James 1:19 we read, “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” counsel related to the listening and speaking. Later, James gives an in-depth reflection on the need to take care in speech (Jas 3:1-12). In part noting, “The tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how a small fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire… but no human being can tame the tongue.” These verses are a huge help for anyone who struggles to bridle the tongue.

Likewise, in the initial sentences, James offers two pieces of advice that he further elaborates on today. First, he praised the humble or lowly man while cautioning the rich brother (Jas 1:9-10). In today’s passage (Jas 2:1-5) he elaborates on a concern where brothers and sisters, gathered for worship together, are treating the rich favorably while ignoring the poor. He asks the audience - including us - to reflect on this question: did not God choose the poor of the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom? We should hear echoes of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” (Lk 6:20).

Second, James wrote, “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you” (Jas 1:21). We might say, make a home in our hearts for the word. Or prepare our life-soil to receive the seed of God’s holy word. This notion echoes his encouragement: “Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith.” These words are our centerpiece this week. To adhere means to stick, while planted suggests a seed or seedling that has taken root in the soil. “Cling to Christ” also rings true here.

In our central phrase, “Show no partiality as you adhere to the faith,” let’s focus on two words: partiality and adhere. Regarding partiality, he may as well have said “play no favorites.” Easier said than done. We naturally gravitate toward one person or group more than another. But he adds, “As you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” It is as if that adherence to Christ, clinging to Jesus, prevents us from partiality. Or we could say that if we are partial, if we do play favorites, then we are not really adhering to the faith Jesus offers.

Was it not Jesus who counseled, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Lk 14:12-14) Our Lord expects the good from us, not because we will receive in kind from those who play the game, but he expects the good, precisely because it is the good. And clinging to Christ with hearts open to receive his treasure allows us to bring the Gospel to life in the world. As Christians we are called to become a living Gospel. Bishop James seeks for his people to receive and respond to this invitation.

Yours in Christ,
Fr. Wilson