With a Word

James 1:16-27

(Watch the video here.)

With a word,
our lives changed: coronavirus.

With a lack of words,
our world shrinks in size.

With a dearth of words,
our souls ache with hunger;
if only we could listen, watch,
think, scroll, read our way to satiation.

We thirst for words.
Immersed in an ocean, we long still.
We draw cupfuls of words
to name our desperation.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The shallow drip of our words barely conveys
the truth that lives in our souls.

The truth is: sometimes we don’t feel alive and breathing.
Sometimes exhaustion and loneliness sweep us away.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The steady drip of mediocrity
drums into our life like an unwanted rain.

Help!
We need something different.

Help!
We need better words.

Dear God, give us the good word!


With a word,
God spoke you into existence.

With a word,
God declared you are good.

With a word,
you buzzed with aliveness!


With a word …
With the Word …

The pun here is that “The Word” means Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, we read,
In the beginning was the Word …
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

That word was Jesus.

What kind of word is Jesus?

What kind of word does Jesus speak into your life?

Vulnerability
Empathy
Stretching
Practice
U-turn
Flexibility
Single-mindedness

The Word birthed us.

James writes,
God willingly gave birth to us
with a word spoken in truth.

God whispers this word to our fleshy souls,
that part of us that is like the soft nutmeat inside of a hickory nut.

That vulnerable nutmeat is hidden by two layers of shells:
an outer husk and an inner nutshell.

God came to us as a word made flesh,
not as a shell, a husk, or an invincible robot.

God shed the husk of militarism
and cracked the shell of selfishness.

God removed the cover
that the nice double-shell of
smugness and impenetrability offers.

The Word came to us as flesh.
The Word came to us as the inner nutmeat of humanity,
with no defense,
that God might birth our own inner softness
as a mother would do.

James writes,
God willed to give us birth
by the word of truth.


A gift.

All good and perfect gifts come from God,
who never changes.

What never changes is God’s promise to us,
God’s word to us, God’s word planted in us.

James continues,
Humbly welcome the word which has been planted in you,
because it has power to save you.


God wills for us to live.

We are good.
Born good.
Made good.
Given a good word.

The word to us is Yes,
if we are alive and breathing.

When you need encouragement or support,
start with that. God wanted you, said yes,
and implanted in you a word that was good.

This gift from above cannot be revoked.


James continues,
But act on this word—because if all you do is listen to it,
you’re deceiving yourselves.
Those who listen to God’s word but don’t put it into practice
are like those who look into mirrors at their own faces;
they look at themselves, then go off and promptly forget
what they looked like.

The Word acts as a mirror.

You forget what you look like, James emphasizes.

Remember the Word.
Look in the mirror of the Word.
See yourself as the Word sees you.

This is the key to goodness.

It gives you the ability to live as
a new and forgiven people.

The Word made you.
The Word embraces you as
a husk embraces the nutshell
which tenderly cocoons the vulnerable center.

The Word reminds you.

It is the seed of life.
It is the mirror of life.

Look closer.

See yourself as God sees you.
You can be good.

Don’t forget.

Consider it carefully.

Steadily.

This mirror reflection of yourself
is like the mirror of ERISED
in the Harry Potter series.

(ERISED is desire spelled backward.)

In Harry Potter, the mirror of ERISED
shows you your deepest desire.

However, in this case,
the mirror of the Word
shows God’s desires for us.

Look at the mirror!

God desires for you fullness of life.


James writes,
But those who look steadily at the perfect law of freedom and make it their habit—not listening and then forgetting, but actively putting it into practice—will be blessed in all that they do.

Look steadily.
Check the mirror of the Word as you walk by.
Make it your habit.

For James declares,
Pure, unspoiled religion in the eyes of God, the Creator, is this:
coming to the aid of widows and orphans when they are in need.

That mirror of the word shapes not only our view of ourselves
but also our view of others.

We learn and relearn who is our neighbor.
What is God’s desire for our neighbor?

Neighbor is not just a general idea.
It’s a widow. An orphan. A refugee.
It’s you. It’s me.

Part of cracking the hickory nut
is that you keep going through all
the multiple layers to get to the heart.

Don’t just stay on the outside with good ideas
get to the textured center which is real and touchable.
Get into the gritty mess of nutcracking.

The hard shell of the world keeps
deterring us, yet God sent a Word made flesh,
that we would see the richness of the inner nutmeat of humanity.

Keep cracking the shell.
Your own and others.

Don’t be satisfied until you reach the center
where the seed lives
that gives you life.

Amen.

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