Today’s Readings are 1 Kings 22 and James 5:13-20
“Elijah was a man just like us?”. If only I could be more like him!
Welcome to the world of Jesus’ brother James. Always thoughtful, always bold, always challenging and always practical.
He asks, “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? They should call the elders of the church to pray over them…“(13-14). As James concludes his letter, he speaks of a genuine community of believers. A transparent community of faith. One where people are willing to confess their sins to each other and to pray for each other. Here some say, we see James’ true passion shared. A passion for true spiritual community.
Often when I read these words my heart and mind goes to what could be, not what has been or what is. I picture the scene, it is Sunday morning, people are gathered after church and they talking to each other, sharing their weekly struggles and asking the person with whom they have shared, to pray for them. Conversation after conversation is like this. There are tears and laughter. A new person looks on and is stunned, fascinated, confused and most of all simple awestruck. Why? Because they have never witnessed such openness. They themselves are guarded and cannot believe that people in church, in order to avoid the sins of conflict, arrogance and self-sufficiency are demonstrating such public vulnerability and openness. They thought that this only happened in the Bible!
Yet this is the world that James encouraged us to establish. A place where confession of wrongs committed against brothers and sisters could be dealt with to ensure that healing could occur.
Of course there is never a good time for anyone to try this. Especially in our culture of playing our cards close to our chest and keeping people at a distance. We are more concerned at what people think of us if we shared our weaknesses and our struggles.
Through James, God calls us to push through our fears and to do all we can to create such a community. A community of grace.
It is Sunday morning, I am in a conversation with another member and I share the burden of leadership and the fact that sometimes it can be overwhelming and when I look around my thoughts are still yet to be captured by Christ. He listens and simply says, “Brother let me pray for you”. Another new person has been listening, and she is stunned that even the pastor needs prayer and confesses that he has still got a way to go in his own walk with Christ.
As she drives out of the church she stops and says to the person who is walking by, this is the church for me!