Boasting About Tomorrow

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Todays reading is James 4Open Link in New Window: 13-17

Here is today’s reflection by Helen.

We’re moving on this morning through the letter of James. It was most likely written to members of the early Jewish Christian church who had been scattered throughout the region after the stoning of Stephen. We know from the book of Acts that James was a leader in the Jerusalem Council. And the historian Josephus records that in AD 62, he was martyred.

For those of you who have been following the talks on this letter, we know that it challenges us to walk the walk in the Christian life. Persevere in your faith, be slow to anger, watch your tongue, help the needy, be a peace-maker, seek the true wisdom which comes from God. Today we’re talking about plans. A topical issue as I am sure that over the last 3 months we have experienced the frustration of many cancelled plans.

Today’s passage is addressed to travelling merchants who travelled round the region, their camels laden with goods to buy and sell. And the letter implies that they are doing pretty well, financially.

Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. We have to make plans. It’s good to make plans.

But James points to the problem in verses 15-16. “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will do this or that’ As it is, you boast and brag”. James is rebuking the kind of heart which lives and makes its plans apart from an awareness and acknowledge God. And an arrogance of heart which says ‘I’m in control, I do it my way’

In Luke 12Open Link in New Window Jesus tell us about a rich man with a great retirement plan. In verse 18, we read: “This is what I’ll do. I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy—eat, drink and be merry”. But God said to him: “You fool. This very night your soul will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself. This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God”.

What a contrast to Abraham and Moses who were ready to listen and let their plans be changed by God, for his purpose and glory.

I’m not Moses and I don’t think I will be called to lead 2 million people out of oppression. Sometimes in my life, I have not been sure what God’s plans are for me. And sometimes I slip into wanting to leave God out of the equation. I am tempted to set my plans in the concrete of my won strength rather than in the more rubbery openness to the Holy Spirit. So I’m being reminded here to bring my day with its plans before God, to acknowledge his sovereignty in my life and to be willing to be used for his glory and not my own. To pray each day that I would be a faithful servant of Christ even if that means disruption of my plans. Brother Andrew said this: The real calling is not to a certain place or career, but to everyday obedience, and that call is extended to every Christian, not a select few.

So back to 14. A reminder that life is 100% terminal. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. We don’t like to think about death, so we? The author Ernest Becker wrote a book called The Denial of Death. His thesis was that the idea of death , the fear of it haunts the human animal like nothing else. He said that we arrange our lives around ignoring or avoiding or repressing the most irrefutable fact in the world, which is that we are going to die. The desire to deny death is the reason for our workaholism and obsession with security. Becker’s book was published in 1974 to great acclaim. That year he won the Pulitzer prize and became famous. That year he also found out he had cancer and that year he turned to God. That year he died.

One day, when Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died, Jesus showed up at Mary and Martha’s request, but he was 4 days late. And Mary through her tears said what is so often said when death has come ’If only…’ ‘if only you had come sooner my brother would not have died. Jesus said to her ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies… Do you believe this? A staggering claim—I think it has lost some of it’s shock value through being intoned meaninglessly at gravesides in TV dramas when someone has died, well usually been murdered. I am the resurrection and the life. No religious leader has ever made such a claim—ever. Jesus insisted that death would be have the last word. He stood at Lazarus’ tomb, and he said ‘take away the stone… Lazarus, come out—and Lazarus did’.

A short while afterwards Jesus went to Jerusalem. The authorities tried him, whipped him beat him, mocked him, hung him on a cross to die and threw him into a tomb to rot like every other dead body. And they said—OK folks, that’s all, show over, time to go home. But they were so wrong.

I am the resurrection and the life… do you believe this? It’s a question for all of us. My answer is yes. It’s a glorious truth. The truth that a man who claimed to be god walked out of a tomb 2,000 years ago, proving that he was who he claimed to be. Many years ago, after a lot of soul searching and examining the evidence, I knelt by my bed in my university hall of residence a long time ago, and the truth of it hit me like wave in a way it never had before. And through life’s ups and downs and through my walk with Jesus which is sometimes a hesitant and stumbling one, I know that He has been with me ever since and I have an assurance that one day I will go home and spend eternity with him. Let’s end with a prayer.

I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this? Yes, Lord we believe. We ask that we may commit all our plans to you day by day and live in the light of your glorious eternity.

Helen

There will be a video version of the service and a podcast of the sermon.

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