In recent weeks we have seen James turn to the teachings of wisdom in the Old Testament to describe the relationship between faith and action. We heard James appeal to the wisdom of Proverbs to show us what living a wise faith looks like. A wise faith leads to wise action—action that reveals the promise of God’s reign through a ministry that puts the needs of others above our own needs. We heard James appeal to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to remind us of the importance of living our faith today—not putting off our work for tomorrow and not putting our own agenda above God’s will.
In the passage for this week, James appeals to the wisdom of Job. Job was an upright and blameless man who lost everything—he lost his wealth, his family, and his health—through no fault of his own [it was the result of a wager between God and Satan, but we can talk about the implications of that another day]. James reminds us to remember the endurance of Job. Job endured physical and emotional hardships. He endured the ridicule of neighbors and accusations of friends. Through it all Job remained confident that if God would hear his case, Job would be judged faithful. In the end Job’s situation is resolved when God appears to Job in a whirlwind. And although it is really Job who hears God’s case, God recreates Job in all his health, wealth, and prosperity.
The presence of God is a powerful thing. God created us to dwell in God’s presence. Yet it can be difficult to recognize God’s presence in the midst of pain and suffering that grips our lives. It can be difficult to perceive God’s presence when we face persecution, prejudice and oppression. James wants us to remember the prophets, priests, and kings who are part the story of our faith community. He wants us to see their example of patience and endurance and remember that the presence of God is worth the wait.
God’s people are called to live out our lives of faith in community. It is in the life of the community of faith that the experience of God’s presence is most complete. As the Body of Christ works together to minister to the needs of others—putting the needs of our neighbors above our own—we come to know the presence of God, at least in part, even as we know that the fullness of God’s presence is yet to come. The blessing for us in the life of the church is that we can experience this hint of the presence of God in the community of faith while we patiently wait for the fullness of God’s presence to be fulfilled.
Grace & Peace, Pastor Rik