James 1:19-27; Jeremiah 7:1, 5-11
September 6, 2015
by Rev. Laurie Williams
Nick Vujicic, born in Australia in 1982, is an inspirational speaker and what he calls a “world-wide evangelist”. There is something very unique about Nick—he has no arms or legs. He was born that way. He was very blessed to have a family and many friends who encouraged him to be more than he thought he could be. When he was a youth, he prayed to Jesus to help him and he clearly got back the message to read and reflect on John chapter 9 about Jesus healing a blind man who was born blind.
Nick thought: ‘Wait a minute! “This is perfect.” The blind man was born that way.’ He went on to read that Jesus said the man was born that way so the amazing works of God would be revealed through him. We could debate the literalism of those verses, but that isn’t my point here. John’s message so spoke to him that from then on, he looked for ways to motivate others through his faith and ‘call’ from God.
Eventually, he started to get calls from youth groups at churches and other church gatherings, and also from high schools.
As he was speaking at one high school, a girl with tears streaming down her face raised her hand and he called on her. She asked for forgiveness for interrupting him but could she please come up and give him a hug. While doing so she said to him—and I’m paraphrasing—“No one has ever told me they loved me before or that I am beautiful just the way I am.” Nick said there was barely a dry eye in that high school auditorium after that. He was moved further by how his words, his courage and his faith affected her.
After that, Nick started an international group called Life Without Limbs Ministry, which has inspired thousands of people in various places around the world. He proclaims that he wants everyone in the world, seven billion people, to hear his message. He and his ministry are striking out to do just that, in whatever way afforded them. If you want to see a clip he put together about him and his ministry, go to the Free Wheelchair Mission website (www.freewheelchairmission.org). They have the link to his clip.
Folks, Nick is a doer of God’s Word even without any limbs. He could have curled up in his depression and loneliness because of his unique state of being. But he didn’t. He loves God so much that he will let nothing get in the way of him being God’s doer in the world. His hopes are large-scale while most people’s are on a much smaller scale. Nonetheless, we are to follow through on them, as we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world–doers according to James and much of scripture.
When I initially read our letter of James passage for my message, the first thing that came into my head was ‘do be, do be, doers!’ “To be is to do” proclaimed the ancient philosopher, Socrates. “To do is to be” stated Jean-Paul Sartre, the 20th century French philosopher, playwright, novelist, and political activist. “Do be do be do” crooned 20th century singer Frank Sinatra.
Therefore, I say, Do be, do be, Doers… of the Word of God, again- Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus states many “do not” phrases that lead to “do” works. Here are some examples:
- “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” In other words, do help those in need.
- “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” In other word, do love all people, even if you may not like them or even abhor what they
- And–, “whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites” (who love to show their piety before all). In other words, do pray in all humility.
- “I tell you, do not worry about your life.” In other words, God has our backs so don’t waste your time fearing.
- “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” In other words — well— what I just said…
- And, finally, in the Gospels we read Jesus saying, “do this in remembrance of me”, we often say during communion.
The theologian, speaker, author and ordained Presbyterian minister, Frederick Buechner, says this in his book Beyond Words (the ABC’s of Faith): “When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost.” He goes on, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom,” the good thief said from the cross (in Luke’s Gospel). Rev. Buechner concludes the section on the word remember this way, “There are perhaps no more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well” (as remember me.)
People of God, praying is doing. Remembering Jesus Christ and what he taught, then living it out in our lives is doing. Do be, do be, doers!
Throughout God’s Word we read of the Lord’s covenant with us. Again from Beuchner, “Old Testament means “old Covenant,” which means the old agreement that was arrived at between God and Israel at Mt. Sinai with Moses presiding (stating that) if you obey God’s commandments, then God will love you. New Testament means “new Covenant,” which means the new agreement that was arrived at by God alone in an upstairs room in Jerusalem with Jesus presiding. Like Moses, Jesus believed that if you obey God, God will love you, but here he is saying something beyond that. He is saying if you don’t obey God, that doesn’t mean that God won’t love you. It means simply that God’s love becomes a suffering love… because it is not reciprocated.” (end quote) Armed with the knowledge that God loves us just because God loves us, the Lord’s covenant with us on down through today and far beyond, we can go out and live, or do, our gracious God’s calling in our lives.
Even though Jesus’ new covenant doesn’t add the disclaimer of “if you obey”, we are motivated by our love for God, in Jesus Christ, to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. We do so with our actions and words, at all times, not only when we are participating in church activities, programs, and missions. We do way beyond these church doors. Do be, do be, doers!
Derek Hill, in his article Doers of the Faith: 6 Tips to Living Out Your Faith and for today’s purposes, doing your faith, explains as the 4th tip: “We cannot possibly have a faith worth anything if we don’t put our beliefs in action. There is always (at least) one role that you can play in your church, whether it is serving communion (or the) offering, greeting people at the doors, or taking a head count to see how many attended the services.” Hill continues, “You have been given skills and talents by God, so use them. If you are a people person, being a greeter would be awesome for you. If you are great with electronics and computers, being on the audio/video tech team would be a perfect fit for you. Romans 12:6a sums it up when it says, ‘Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.’ God has blessed (us) with a skill set and it is important to use it for the good of the church.”
Do be, do be, doers!
Why, you may ask, are we motivated to do what Jesus taught and what God’s Word, in its contexts, teaches. Scripture itself explains that quite wonderfully:
- From Romans chapter 1 and Ephesians chapter 2- I am greatly loved by God.
- From 1 Corinthians chapter 6- I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own.
- The New Testament letter to the Colossians proclaims- I am strengthened with all might according to (God’s) glorious power.
- And from the 2nd Letter to Timothy—and my final scriptural reference for this point of why we want to do God’s will and Jesus’ teachings in the world—“For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
As it was for those ancient authors, so it is for us: God first loves us, Jesus’ teaches us, and the Holy Spirit strengthens us and provides us with a sound mind. Again, we do Christ’s work by the way we act, the things we do, and what we say all in love and without fear because God has first loved and consequently, saved us from our sin, our wrong-doing.
Now, I could go on in this message to explain what we ought to do, but I won’t, at least not this morning. I and Rodger have often talked about how we are to behave as Christians, countless times including a couple examples in our James passage, “be quick to listen and slow to anger,” in dozens upon dozens of sermons. And, of course, we will again because reminders are necessary for our human condition! I also count on God to guide us all as the Lord calls us each to do and to be.
Therefore, do be, do be, doers! Alleluia! Amen.