As you bide your time in the world this week may God’s presence and love and grace be palpable.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
This epistle lesson makes the case that we ought to seek to be doers of the word and not merely hearers. I think that it is fair and necessary to offer the exhortation to our generation that we be hearers of the word as well. We are plugged into channels of information and influence in so very many ways yet what are the sources of our feeds? It matters what we put into our hearts and heads. The old computer maxim "garbage in, garbage out" still rings true even though the garbage blazes in at unprecedented speeds in these modern times.
We are encouraged to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Yet the world in ever increasing data rates feeds us countless examples of people who speak more and say less. We are treated to angry, snarky sound bites (whether on TV or in the paper or on the internet). Comedy seems to spend most of the time tearing down others made in God's image. Many movies and TV shows and stand-up acts seem chock full of "sordidness and rank growth of wickedness". We would do well to "welcome with meekness the implanted word that has power to save". Gossip, libel, slander, nasty insinuations and half-truths leave us all battered and bleeding.
The comparison is made between hearing but not doing and leaving a mirror only to forget what we looked like. Unfortunately we don't even leave the mirror much anymore. We are bombarded with appeals to our vanity. Social networking sites count and display how many "friends" we have. We are constantly barraged with newest gimmick to look better. We don't even have to ask the mirror who is the fairest of them all. We know that it is us--or that it might soon be us once we go through our latest regimen of self-improvement. We hardly give ourselves a chance to forget what we look like.
God calls us to put aside these vain and self-destructive behaviors.
We are called to peer deeply into the law. When we see or hear God we are called to enter into that vision or that exhortation with our actions. We are assured that blessing is found in such choices.
We are encouraged to care for the orphans and the widows and all the others in need that we encounter. We can offer comfort in their distress. We are encouraged to strive to stay unstained by the world. When we get stained it turns out that the waters of baptism are great for cleaning off our missteps. We should remember to wash up daily and face the world renewed and invigorated.
God, draw us out of the world and into you this day. Forgive our slip-ups and give us hearts to speak slowly and love deeply. Amen.