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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, November 30, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | James 2:1–13

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (NRSV)

I was recently directing a guest choir when during a rehearsal one of the basses lamented that he heard some wrong notes in a recent worship service (out of the several thousand correct ones). Being the Music Director, of course I care about getting as many right notes as possible, but I have learned over time that there is so much more to singing together than simply getting the right notes. My response to the choir when the bass commented on the wrong notes was “But there were so many moments of great beauty that I know touched many people, because they told me after the service was over. Besides, even if we sang a wrong note, the world will keep spinning, the sun will come up again tomorrow. There are more important matters to be concerned about than just a couple wrong notes. We are all human and all doing our very best; that is what matters more than some wrong notes.”

I don’t know if the bass was convinced, but I remain confident that if you believe in a choir, or actually anyone—if you truly love and respect them for all that they are, all that they bring—then an outpouring of gifts will occur, far more gifts than you could ever hope for if you focus on the negative, focus just on what we got wrong or how awful everything is. Have hope, show mercy, believe in possibility, share your gifts, and help others share their gifts. This is how the divine gifts of the Holy Spirit can flow through us and into a world that so desperately needs those gifts.

“For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Loving God, thank you for the mercy and love you share with each of us every day. Help me to share that love and mercy with those I meet today. Amen.

Written by John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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