“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.”
For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.” (Psalms 122:6-9)
I missed by one day, because I only realized this morning, that yesterday, Sun Dec 1, was the first Sunday of Advent. With Adventing come so quickly on the heels of Thanksgiving, it is sometimes hard to “shift gears”, moving from giving thanks to waiting in ancipation. We waited all November long for Thanksgiving, and now we wait again.
But if we consider these verses day, in conjunction with the admonition to tend to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we would do well. The prayer of peace in goes beyond simply words because verse nine says, “I will seek your good.” I hope and pray gentle reader that you have sought the good of your brothers and sisters this day.
Next Sunday I will pick another verse from the Revised Common Lectionary for Advent Year A.
“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:15-17 from James 2:14-26)
If we applied the same sort of exegesis to the letter from James that we did for Paul’s letter [discovering the character of the believers by what the writer of the letter feels they need to be told] what type of Christian do you thing James is addressing? So far we know that they may judge people according to outward appearances and give preference to those who are affluent and well placed in society. Today we here that those who are in need would get little practical help for these believers and only minimal encouragement. And I doubt they would be in right relationship – most probably in no relationship at all. As for justice? Justice does not come with banal sentiments. And as to shalom? I suspect only the merest of circumstances.
Or maybe I am all wrong on this. The letter from James is addressed to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” It may be just a general letter summing up a lot of good advice, targeting no one particular group but wisdom that is good for all people to remember. But if this is the case, gentle reader, it does not lessen the impact and importance of this letter. In fact, it makes it even more important because it is a standard we should all meet, and not just one particular group. For in we trace our spiritual heritage from our biblical forefathers and foremothers, it is actually addressed to us! Scattered as we are throughout the world.
Therefore (borrowing the import of the word from Paul) let us look within ourselves to see if we are treating people equally and as we would want to be treated. Are we only giving minimal encouragement to those in need or are we investing ourselves in the welfare of others? Is our faith DOA because it lacks the commitment of works? Only you and God would know this gentle reader.
May you keep your faith alive by working towards right relationship, and justice & shalom for all. Selah! And shalom for all of us this day.