Sunday, February 8, 2015

Revival 5 of 6: on Works of Mercy

•Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
With James 2:14-26
5 of 6 on Adam Hamilton’s 2014 book Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It   @kerrfunk

• There’s been a lot of buzz about the Crusades this week, after the President’s Prayer Breakfast speech. My guess, btw, is some supporters in the house and some who are counting the days until he’s gone. Regardless, Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. Criticize policies, but don’t insult, and don’t tolerate insults. May your devotion to Christ shine in your actions.
Anyway, one image that comes to mind with Crusades is the conversion at the point of a sword, as if words alone can make a Christian (or a Muslim).
Discipleship is a coin, with one side words (faith, belief, creed, confession) and the other side action (works, deeds). Neither side completely or accurately defines a Christian, and both are necessary.
“Someone might claim, ‘You have faith and I have action.’
But how can I see your faith apart from your actions?
… Faith without actions is dead.” (James 2:18, 26)
• Last week we read Ephesians 2:8-10 (recall, JW preached on it some 40 times) We are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.
For James, and for JW, faith & works are inseparable.
Two sides of same coin.
The goal of the Christian life is sanctification,
“moving on to perfection,” becoming more like Christ.
          Observation: Jesus taught AND Jesus did.
          (if knowledge, only teach; if works, only do. But both)
          Observation: earliest Christians were called?
          Followers of The Way. Follow = action. Do.
• Recall the “habits of holiness” that JW called “Means of Grace.” How do we experience God? How does God move to work in us and how do we work to experience God? Reading scripture and other inspired writings. Worship. Prayer. Communion. Fasting. Participating in study. Participating in acts of mercy. God uses these acts, these means, to invite us into grace, to justify us and make us right with God, and to grow in us. Prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying. Ordinary things that we can do where God meets us and moves in us. MOG. Positioning to receive.
• Within the MOG are specific works.
In addition to the traditional “means of grace” (prayer, Scripture reading and study, and Eucharist; public worship, preaching, and fasting – ways in which we position ourselves to receive and experience God’s grace) John Wesley modeled and taught “works of mercy” as priorities in living faith.
Seven “corporal works of mercy” (most of which come from the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Matthew 25) are: feed the hungry, provide drink for the thirsty, clothe the naked, care for the homeless, visit the sick, minister to the prisoner, and bury the dead.
Seven “spiritual works of mercy” are: instructing the ignorant, counseling those who doubted, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving others willingly, comforting the afflicted, and praying for others.
A person’s life should be changed by the grace of God. As we practice these means and these works, we should find ourselves becoming more and more like Christ, receiving God’s sanctifying grace.
Corporal and spiritual works of mercy. (sides of coin. Inward, outward.) Actions that demonstrate God’s grace within. Receive God’s grace, nurture it, these actions spring forth.
          “Wesley believed that with these acts of mercy, God is working in and through us… By intentionally helping, ministering to, and caring for others, we avail ourselves of God’s grace. Our own actions become the instrument God uses to change us.” – p. 109
• JW responded to local events, circumstances. Visit prison. Preach to miners. Educate their children. And as people responded to the preaching and teaching it was like the book of Acts – God began to add daily to their number those who were being saved.  And JW plugged people into a system (method) that facilitated discipleship.
          In 1740 the community bought an old foundry and renovated it as ministry central, became the home of Methodism for the next four decades. Microloans, basic medical care, education, daycare. Schools hospitals orphanages. Responding to local need, and what? Growing in grace.
          We love with our whole heart when we are paying attention to both sides of coin, faith and action, study and deed, worship and works of mercy. We are involved in Thy kingdom come Thy will be done.
“Christians are meant to work to close the gap between the realities of the world we live in and Christ’s vision of God’s kingdom on earth.” – p. 115
• GBCO one year ago. Result of looking around at our immediate surroundings and responding.
A response to grace and a way grace grows in us.

What needs do we see, 
and how might church respond, 
and in so doing, grow in grace?

• Read the James again.

• Hymn 444 O Young and Fearless Prophet

James 2:14-26        (Common English Bible)                               02/08/15
14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? 15 Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. 16 What if one of you said, “Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!”? What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? 17 In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.
18 Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action.
19 It’s good that you believe that God is one. Ha! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble with fear. 20 Are you so slow? Do you need to be shown that faith without actions has no value at all? 21 What about Abraham, our father? Wasn’t he shown to be righteous through his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 See, his faith was at work along with his actions.
In fact, his faith was made complete by his faithful actions. 23 So the scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and God regarded him as righteous.[Genesis 15:6] What is more, Abraham was called God’s friend. 24 So you see that a person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute shown to be righteous when she received the messengers as her guests and then sent them on by another road? 26 As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead.

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