Quick, Slow, and Slower Still

September 04, 2012

Quick, Slow, and Slower Still

It is no secret that I am a Doctor Who fan. After all, it is the best show on television. It has everything: explosions, aliens, time travel, and the message of the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary season, the preview of which was a cowboy staring down a cyborg, with a quick shot of the doctor on a space ship fighting dinosaurs, with a voice-over reciting the Lord’s Prayer—when was the last time you saw that on television? Throughout the years The Doctor has fought some really nasty villains, but the most interesting of late, is a religious order called, “The Silence.” “The Silence” use amnesia as their weapon. The moment you turn away, you forget that they were ever there. Maybe Stephan Moffet, Doctor Who producer who created “The Silence” had James 1:24 in mind, which reads, “For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like,” or in the parting words of Mufasa to Simba in the Lion King, “Remember who you are . . . remember.”

As providence would have it, all three Disciple classes here at Broadmoor are all reading the first few chapters of Genesis at the same time. It’s a fine place to start for any Bible study because it helps us to remember who we are and who God is. God creates all that is seen and unseen and God says that it is good. It is very good. The author of James writes, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Goodness comes from God because God is our measure of goodness. It is not that God does good things. It is that what God does is good. A lawyer approached Jesus and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life,” to which Jesus replies, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” You see, God’s job is to look at creation and pronounce, “It is good,” and it is our job to look to God and say, “You are so good,” to which God answers, “I love you too.”

But sometimes we forget. Sometimes we get this backwards. Sometimes we think we are the measure of goodness and righteousness. James writes, “In fulfillment of God’s own purpose God gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” We are a kind of first fruits of his creatures, which is a way of saying that we are an offering to the Kingdom of God. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce, then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Paul writes in Romans 11, “If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump.” We are first fruits. As we say when we gather around the table, “In remembrance of these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, as a holy and living sacrifice in union with Christ’s offering for us.

What does this offering look like? The letter of James is a hands-on, practical epistle, so James offers simple advice. He writes, “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,” or as my mother would say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” We are to be quick listeners, and this is difficult for the OMG generation, especially when we share our simplest of thoughts via facebook or twitter or my space or foursquare or linkedIn. What would have been of the world if creation wasn’t listening for God’s “Let there be?” We are to be quick listeners. It is the best kind of consumerism because we are creating space and time to take in others hopes and fears and dreams and nightmares.

As first fruits we are to be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to anger. It doesn’t say that we should never be angry. At times I think we should be filled with a holy anger. We should overturn the tables when we see money-changers abusing the poor. We should cry out “You brood of vipers,” when we hear religious leaders and politicians filling the air with careless words. Yet, anger is only one letter away from danger. Anger is a slippery slope, which is why we are to be slow and discerning and patient when it comes to wielding the prophet’s pruning fork. Only after we have abundantly listened and offered careful words are we given permission to be angry.

James is quite wise to not have ended his letter here. He continues saying, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” After we have listened and after we have carefully spoken, when we have that angst festering within us we should put our hands to doing good work for the kingdom. We have listened to their need. We have offered words of hope. Tomorrow we will put our hands to doing as we assemble cleaning buckets for our brothers and sisters who were in Isaac’s path. It is what first fruits do. It is what “Caring people, sharing Christ’s love with all” do when people are in need. James writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows (and residents of South Louisiana) in their distress.”

It is what Christ has done for us. In our distress Christ offered himself, and when we gather around the Lord’s Table, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are united to Christ so that we might be filled with his grace and love, so that we can be nourished and strengthened to listen and speak and serve. When we gather around the table we remember Christ so when we look into the mirror we do not forget that what should be peering back at us is the Christ living within us. Let us be holy and living sacrifices in union with Christ’s offering for us. Let us be the first fruits of God, born by the word of truth, so the world will know that every generous and perfect gift is truly from our loving and graceful God. Amen.