For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for[a] those who make peace. – James 3:16-18
Meeting together for worship as a church community is always important, and there are many ways the experience touches our souls. Great music helps a lot, being around people we love is always impactful, then – first Sunday of the month – the communion service communicates so much of God’s grace. But ultimately, at the heart of gathering together, it is always about hearing the Word. That is where we are fed, and encouraged, and equipped, and sent out.
Sunday – the first Sunday of 2019 – was both amazingly busy and exceptionally wonderful in many ways. But it was receiving, grasping, and hopefully living into the message from James that really got my attention (you can find it – and hear my song – on the FaceBook Live feed here).
Lots Going on:
For me the morning involved more details than I typically need to attend to. First, I sang at both services (just me and my guitar doing James Taylor’s interpretation of In the Bleak Midwinter); then I had a roomful for my adult ed class; finally, I served as worship leader and liturgist at 11:15.
I enjoyed sitting with Rebekah behind the pulpit and having a different view of the congregation. The church was comfortably full both services and it was a treat to look out at their faces.
The singing thing is always interesting for me. I can carry a tune, and I play guitar fairly well – but I’m certainly no virtuoso at either. Yet it always seems to work. I believe – and this is a commentary on faith in general – that me singing in church works because, when it comes to leading worship, authenticity is more effective than technical adroitness.
It’s certainly something I enjoy. I am relaxed enough that I simply sing and play without much thought that several hundred people are there watching and listening.
Hearing the Word:
Rebekah’s sermon was a deeply personal response to the scriptures. It was a message for the new year, full with promise and purpose. Here’s a section from her conclusion.
A visitor told me last month, “I’m looking for an alternative.”
“An alternative to what?” I asked.
“Just an alternative,” he responded.
Our whole world is looking for such a thing. And James speaks so clearly about that alternative. It is found in Christ, who provides us with the ability to recognize it, and gives the courage to claim the wisdom that is from above, which the Letter of James reminds us “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”
Do we want an alternative? Christ actually died for us, by giving himself completely at the Cross… providing the bridge that brings us over to God… that puts our lives back together. How can we walk away from a gift like that, Paul says to the Colossi Church? “Stay grounded and steady in that bond of faith… constantly tuned in to the gospel message.”
This is what our world is hungry for!
This is why both of us (Rebekah in her preaching and me in my writing) will continue to share the beauty and the healing and the promise that is the invitation of Jesus!
There is no other way if we want to move forward as whole people living with purpose in a world hungry for Good News.
Happy Monday! It’s going to be a great week – Derek
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.