Song of Songs 2:8-13. I keep planning to preach a whole sermon series on the Song of Songs, as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and a great many others greater than I have done. How marvelous, that the Bible contains erotic (but not pornographic) love poetry! What a glorious gift of God – and what a vivid image of what life with God might be, what it has been for saints through history.
Dare the preacher speak of human intimacy, as Scripture does? And to suggest that our relationship with God might be similar, or even better?
James 1:17-27. I love preaching on James. So practical. So un-Lutheran! To contemplate that these words were written by the brother of Jesus? What greater testimony might there be to the wonder of Christianity than that Jesus’ siblings, who’d shared meals and play space and chores with him might believe, and preach?
James 1 is such an elegant, preaching-rich text. “Do not be deceived.” Deception is everywhere, spin, ideology, versions of truth, or the virtual absence of truth. “Do not be deceived” implies we might be, but we need not be! Truth is a real thing.
Notice the repetition. It’s not merely Good from God, or gifts from God. Words pile up to be sure we get God’s extravagance. God’s gifts aren’t merely good but “perfect.” The Greek teleios doesn’t mean squeaky clean, but mature, complete, the fulness of what is needed. Such perfect gifting is “from above.” The Greek, anothen, is identical to what Jesus said to his nocturnal guest, Nicodemus. Being born “again,” or “from on high” (anothen).
Seems unnecessary to declare God as “unchanging,” but given the moody temperaments of ancient deities, capricious at best, to declare we have a God who is trustworthy, consistent, reliable, steady.
James climactically urges us to become “doers” of the Word, not just hearers. The Greek ginomai implies we are to “become” doers. It takes some time, it’s a life process; it’s something you do, but it’s something you become a doer of. Doing God’s will – something we speculate about! I love Francis of Assisi’s daily prayer. “Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart, and give me, Lord, correct faith, firm hope, perfect charity, wisdom and perception, that I may do what is truly your most holy will.” Do. Very James-ish.
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. Not Jesus’ most preachable moment… Concerns for purity seem noble, but confuse us, and isolate us from God and others. It becomes avoidance, keeping our distance from people and things, keeping our hands clean – when, as Bonhoeffer reminds us, God asks us to get our hands dirty for God.