Sunday, October 18, 2015

“The Wise Church Respects the Poor” (James 2:1-17)

Ten years ago, or so, I sat in an amazingly beautiful sanctuary.  I was in Cambridge, England, and the name of the church was King’s College Chapel.  I’d like to show you a picture (above). 
The ceiling is the largest vault fan ceiling in the world—all hand carved.

The stained glass is some of the finest medieval stained glass in the world.

The tour guide explained to us that it took a century to build the chapel—and several English Tudor kings, beginning with Henry VII—oversaw its completion.  What Henry VII wanted to build was a chapel that would outshine all other chapels.  Those of us sitting in the chapel were stunned.  The motivation on the part of Henry VII was one-upmanship.

Today there is a fund drive on the part of King’s College to preserve the building and restore the organ.  When college is in session there is evening worship.  Other than that it sits empty.

If we think about the story behind this chapel in Cambridge, England, and the life of Christ, we all understand that Christ wasn’t motivated by status, Christ was motivated by service.  Jesus responded to need—“help, my daughter is dying,” “help, our brother is dying,””help, my mind is sick, or my skin sick, or my arms and legs are useless,” “help, I’ve been bleeding for twelve years,” “help, I’m hungry.”

Ann Lamott reminds us in her little book Help, Thanks, Wow that help is a prayer.  We all say it.  Life can be very impossible.

What the story of King’s College Chapel teaches us is that as the church, it’s not always easy to stay grounded in the heart of Christ, the heart of service.  It can be quite difficult to stay focused on improving the lives of the poor.  In his letter to all churches (James doesn’t address his pastoral letter to just one), James addresses our weakness as congregations to need really lovely, comfortable stuff AND be impressed by wealth AND to hear the invitation to be good news to the poor but not actually DO the good news to the poor. 

The WISE church, meaning the church whose ears are attentive to the will of God, according to James, brings honor to the poor.  (James 2:6)

So I got to thinking.  Since you and I are made in the image of God, which means the church’s heart IS made up of the same stuff God’s heart is made of which is compassion (especially for the poor) ---that perhaps the church gets side-tracked by other agendas because we move too fast and work too hard and plug into too much technology or have so little faith in God’s faith in us or listen too much to the world and it’s constant invitation to own and control and impress and consume—to get in touch with what’s in our hearts—love for the poor.

So I’m asking our tech booth to share a little movie with us this morning called Tammy’s Story. It’s about 7 minutes long.  I hope you will sit back and relax, and listen—it’s a little blunt in a few places—but I think you’ll agree that it has to be because life is quite blunt.

There it is!  I can see it on your faces.  YOUR heart for the poor.  It’s not okay to leave Tammy there---
If faith is strength, faith is love.  Love is the strongest power there is.  Jesus teaches us that faith, or love, the size of a mustard seed can move mountains of poverty.  Perhaps for the first time this parable makes sense. 

Let us pray:  God of the poor, let our church be your heart.  Amen.

(This sermon was preached by Reverend Dana Keener at Central Christian Church in Billings, Montana on September 13, 2015.)

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