Welcome to DAY 1 of our online Bible study on James!
— Read: James 1:1 —
From the end seat on the front row, I watch a woman push long-stemmed red roses into wet floral sponge next to the altar as a trio of girls play instruments and practice worship songs. While admiring the vast wall of stained glass windows, the Vicar crouches down beside me, leans in and asks, “You are an author but is there anything else I should say when I introduce you? Is it accurate to say you are the founder of the Sabbath Society?”
“Well, if you enter my name into the search bar on the Amazon website,” I tell him jokingly, “the bio my editor wrote will tell you I am a Sabbath-mentor. But just tell them that I am living in England because of a Macedonian call to London.”
His eyebrows arch in response and an easy smile slides into sudden speculation. “For both you and H?” I realize he assumed I’d followed my husband’s ministry call to England.
“Yes, we each experienced an equally strong heart tug toward the people of London for about fifteen years before we landed.”
Macedonian call – those two simple words, I’ve learned, say much without specificity. Being concise can demolish presuppositions in the same way, James, the brother of Jesus, calls himself the bond servant of God in his letter to the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion.”
James doesn’t assert Jesus’ name or family affiliation to garner attention, build an audience, or open doors for influence. He identifies himself as God’s slave in a letter addressing Christian Jews who have been scattered because of persecution.
In the same way that I need my audience to know I empathize with their weariness before I tell them how to make rest realistic, James is telling his readers, in a few simple words: I know you, I see you, I understand your pain.
During a time of historical upheaval, James encourages Christians to believe God is good, even after Stephen is stoned to death. To believe in God’s sovereignty despite persecution by trusted leaders. Two years ago, I left home, possessions, my daughter, accepted an 80% pay cut and believed God to work all things together for my good.
When we choose to believe in the unseen and the not yet, people tend to lean in and listen.
In these uncertain times, James’ letter to persecuted Christians is still relevant for us too – the lonely, lost, disappointed, confused, heartsick, fearful, and poverty-stricken. James uses two words – bond servant – to introduce himself before encouraging Christians to practice their faith.
And perhaps God is using two simple words to demolish our best-case scenarios and pre-suppositions about the future. Two words that should sober us into listening more and talking less.
Like James, it’s not enough to know we are servants of God, we must also know what we believe and discern who it is God is asking us to influence for the Kingdom.
From the stage, standing next to a floral masterpiece, I behold a vast sea of faces as diverse as the colors in the stained-glass windows and echo the words of James through the microphone, “Greetings . . . from the people of St. Barnabas Church in Kensington.”
Greetings from the Greek word chairein meaning, “joy be to you.” Joy? Is it possible to find joy in the midst of trauma, tragedy, and the actions of tenacious leaders like Paul who make truth seem trite and untimely?
Jesus asks, “Believe me?”
May your answer be concise.
— Diving Deeper —
When you meet someone for the first time, how do you introduce yourself?
What is the first thing you want people to know about you?
Introduce yourself in the comments!