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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | James 5:7-20

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest. My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (NRSV)

Today we encounter the concluding words of the epistle/sermon of James. The author’s list of exhortations is uncomfortably close to home. Three specific admonitions resonated with me.

“Be patient.” This has never been a characteristic that I have readily cultivated. I am grateful for colleagues in the household of faith who help counter my instinctive impatience.

“Do not grumble.” Gulp. I struggle to keep my grumbling to myself, yet I know it can wear on those closest to me. Grumbling also distracts me from the grateful outlook to which I feel called in faith.

“Let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no.” It is my experience that ambivalence can get us into trouble. When I respond to a request with a tentative “yes,” my followthrough is compromised. I get in my own way, and my neighbor’s, limiting my contributions in God’s service. And an uncertain “no” plagues me with indecisiveness.

As believers in a God of mercy, compassion, justice, and peace, we are in it for the long haul. We are guided by a vision of the inbreaking realm of God, glimpsing the way ahead at the leading of the Spirit, seeking to follow Jesus, our brother and our Savior. James left us a challenging agenda. Let’s get to work!

Gracious and demanding God, I pray that I may live out my trust in you, through reflective words and grateful actions, in witness to your compassion, justice, and peace, following Christ our Lord. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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