Epistle of Strawolution 4

Posted: November 25, 2018 by Ty in Brunch & Bible, Spirituality
Tags: , , ,

There are different types of epistles (letters) within the Christian Testament. There are those that came before the Canonical Gospels, so where the early teaching documents; then the ones that came after that became cover sheets if you will for other texts; and showed a structuring church. The later epistles also may or may not be written by those that tradition claims, as a writing style of the time was to use someone’s name if you were a student or admirer. But again that is more of the brain work out, while we continue our time with Brother James and his words while living under the Oppression to Religious Zealotism; and new Empire Oppression and decimation upon the horizon. As noted his letter pre-dates the earliest Canonical Gospel Mark (which is believed to be written by John Mark, whose family owned the Upper Room, as dictated most likely by the Apostle Peter).

We now enter the portion of the letter that proved most historically disastrous for how theologians and preachers looked at James as an Epistle of Straw:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

-Epistle of James 2:14-26 (English Standard Version)

But wait. Replace faith and work, with I don’t know– sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46). It is not about liturgical or fundamental hoops to jump through. For that is what James, and this reflected teaching of Jesus of Nazareth are speaking out against. The falsity and hypocrisy that existed within the Emperor Cults and Religious Oppressors of the time. How they could coat so much of what they did in religious and “holy” language no matter the atrocity or injustice. It really shows James using a Hebrew Bible Prophetic voice at this point in his writing/teaching. The prophetic voice of the Hebrew Bible was not about future, but rather about the change needed here and now to not wind up in desolation.

That is very much this writing. As one travels through burnout or PTSD in human services. It is easy to side with faith. That is, do the self-care, create “professional distance”, etc of all the catch phrases. Yet the works portion is about doing the work, but at the same time acknowledging that one’s belief system has led them to service, and if they continue to live out of and serve out of that conviction it becomes very difficult to bring a person down to a code, or a file, for it is still the person before you. And consciously knowing the choices made at a legal to policy to front line level impact the daily life of the individual. It is a heart burden to bear, but it is necessary or we simply dissolve into cogs within the machine.

The cogs of the machine is what happens when one blindly lives into indoctrination. That is the challenge of the piece of straw that gets into your boot and burrs at you. Like the challenge of seeing one’s faith in the works they do. Or as Francis of Assisi stated “preach the gospel everywhere you go, if you must use words.” For we are serving, caring and loving ourselves and the connective Holy Mystery in the love we live out for another.

It is the deep values question. If one were to look at the life lived, and the actions taken…

What story is written about you?




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