Waiting Together for God   2 comments

READING THE GENERAL EPISTLES, PART VI

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James 5:1-20

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The apocalyptic element held the theological imaginations and the psyches of many in the early Church.

That element continues to grasp many psyches and theological imaginations.  I confess, however, that the apocalyptic element grasps neither my psyche nor my theological imagination.  I am a detail-oriented student of the Bible and religious history.  I know too much to believe some doctrines.  I know that the end of the world, according to some canonical Hebrew prophets, was supposed to end centuries prior to the advent of Jesus.  I know that the Second Coming of Jesus, according to certain books of the New Testament, was supposed to happen nearly 2000 years ago.  I know that, according to many people over nearly 2000 years, until the recent past, the Second Coming of Christ was supposed to have have happened already.  The list of alleged Antichrists, the vast majority of them deceased by now, is long.  I leave all details of eschatology to God and place no stock in any human predictions thereof.

Nevertheless, the author of the Epistle of James believed that he lived during the End Times.  How long were the End Times supposed to last?

The function of the apocalyptic element that is of moral usefulness is the confrontation of evil and other forms of injustice.  In so doing, one confronts that which one should confront and tells the enablers there that they fell short of God’s standard.  That is part of what we read in James 5.  Divine judgment of the oppressors is inseparable from divine deliverance of the oppressed.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

In the meantime (however long that will be), members of Christian faith community must model mutuality.  The swearing mentioned in 5:12, in the context of oppression, expressed bitterness and impatience.  Yet, in the meantime, patience is essential.  People ought to pray for themselves and each other.  And members of Christian faith community ought to bring each other to repentance and restoration.

The necessity of writing this advice in James 5 indicates spiritual failings in some early congregations.

A perhaps-apocryphal story fits this post thematically.

St. John the Evangelist, elderly and frail, visited a house church.  The members, excited, gathered.  Men carried the apostle in on a chair and set him down in front of the congregation.  St. John said:

My children, love one another.

Then the apostle motioned to his helpers, who carried him out.  One member of the congregation chased after St. John and asked the equivalent of

That’s it?

St. John replied:

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

If more members of the original audience of the Epistle of James had loved one another, that text would be much shorter or would not exist.

Sadly, loving one another remains challenging for many Christians.

In 2000 or so, Dr. Donald S. Armentrout (1939-2013), a Lutheran minister, spoke at a Lay Ministries Conference in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.  I was present.  Armentrout, at one point, said that if the Epistle of James was one’s favorite book of the Bible, one was

easily pleased.

Contrary to that typically-Lutheran evaluation, I count James as one of my favorite books of the Bible.  This epistle lives where the spiritual rubber meets the road.  Due to the failings of human nature, the Epistle of James remains relevant.  Circumstances change, but timeless principles remain fixed.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through the Epistle of James.  I invite you to remain by my side as I set my course for the First Epistle of Peter.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNA ELLISON BUTLER ALEXANDER, AFRICAN-AMERICAN DEACONESS IN GEORGIA, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY HART MILMAN, ANGLICAN DEAN, TRANSLATOR, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUVENAL OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR IN ALASKA, AND FIRST ORTHODOX MARTYR IN THE AMERICAS, 1796

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER THE ALEUT, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MARTYR IN SAN FRANCISCO, 1815

THE FEAST OF SAINT SILOUAN OF MOUNT ATHOS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MONK AND POET

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2 responses to “Waiting Together for God

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  1. Such an excellent post and such excellent advice….Let us love one another!

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