Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

The Liquor Ads

September 2nd:

The Liquor Ads
September 2, 2012
Potsdam and WS
Call:           Psalm 45        (795)
Text:           James 1: 22-25

                                The Liquor Ads

This October, in this building,
I will be teaching an advanced lay speaking class bearing the title
"Reading and Preaching The Prophets."

It will be the sixth lay speaking class that I have taught since I have been serving in the North Country.

I am excited to be teaching it
        Not only because this is a brand new class that I created
But also because teaching lay speaking classes is important to me

They have been important to me since I took my first class in early 1993,

It was a moving experience
So moving, in fact, that it was a part of my call to the pulpit.

I will always be indebted to the UMC for offering such classes

I mention that this morning because
today's text from James takes me back to that first lay speaking class - 19 years ago

For toward the end of the six weeks of classes,
We were asked which book of the Bible was our favorite
And two of the other six students chose "James."

I was floored.

You see I had never read James
I knew virtually nothing about the book
I am not confident that I would have included it
If I had been asked to write down as many of the books of the Bible as I could.

And yet one third of my classmates liked it best!

Later I would learn that there were dissenting opinions about James

 Martin Luther and others
        Thought the letter should not be in the canon
        Because of its seeming accent on works.

Luther and those others believed that that accent
        Was in conflict with,           or would undercut
the church's position   (obtained a great deal from Paul's writings)
                That we are justified (saved)
by grace through faith
                        And not by our works or our deeds.

In short, the church asserted - and we still assert -
That we are saved by God's freely offered and given grace
        Because we have faith in God

And that we are not saved by anything we have done
For nothing we have done would or could earn us salvation

This is important
        Or else we can fall into the trap of saying to God
"Look at what I did.  You have to let me in."

Therefore, with the criticism of James ringing in my mind
I was apprehensive when I set out to acquaint myself with this NT letter.

What,   I wondered,     if I found that I liked James?
Would I be abandoning Paul?
Would I be moving to a works oriented theology
        Rather than a faith and grace oriented theology?

And so, despite my introduction to this letter by two very enthusiastic lay speaking classmates, I had to wonder,
        Could I allow myself to like James?

It took me a while      and it took some effort   to get over this fear
        And to be able to look at and reflect on James
with the openness required for the letter to enrich my faith

However, as the years have gone on, I have become more and more convinced
        That my fear or anxiety was misplaced.

For while the two letters have accents that differ.
As I read them, I think that
not only are the writings of Paul and James compatible,
        But they actually make each other better.

For I do not read James as a    "saved by works" theology.

Listen, to some of what he wrote in his first chapter.  [1: 22-25]

The key sentence of this chapter
- actually the key sentence of James' entire letter
        [And also I would note: The sentence that got Luther upset.]
                "Be doers of the word
                Not merely believers who deceive themselves."

Paul, Luther, and the church assert
        That belief - that is faith - as opposed to deeds
is what is important.

And here is James telling us that we must be doers
        Not merely believers.

But this is not contradictory
For James is not saying that deeds are more important than faith/belief
        All he is saying is
The way to tell that faith is real and lasting
Is if it produces good deeds

For good deeds not only logically follow,
They necessarily and inevitably follow  from a faith that is true
James is not saying that good deeds are the reason we receive God's love and protection
        - Our faith is the reason -
        But that                what we do      is evidence of that faith
                And of the strength and endurance of that faith

James position is that if one does have faith,
        If our faith is real,   It will be reflected in good deeds.

Otherwise it is merely a transitory and fleeting thought or observation
        Like an image in a mirror.

The thief on the cross acknowledged Christ's lordship
And Christ responded, "Today you will be with me in heaven."

The thief did not have the opportunity to become a doer of the word.
But     You and I do.

Believe it or not, I like to think of James' letter
as being similar to an ad for a particular brand of scotch whiskey.
Although I never bought the whiskey     I did love reading their ads.

The brand name was spelled      "D e w a r ' s"
        And pronounced "doers."

Taking advantage of that, their ads showed
a photograph of a person who was a "doer"
and below the picture in a resume-like manner set out:
        home town:, age:, profession:, accomplishments:, quote:
concluding with "scotch: Dewars."
As a younger man I thought it would be neat to be profiled in such an ad

Today, I think I would much prefer Christ to prepare a similar profile
        Concluding with a category      "Response to Faith:     Doer."

I wonder what Martin Luther would say about that.
But I am not certain that I really care.