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James: Practical Faith in Community

We have settled into Summer, with its resultant High pressure heat domes over the Midwest, vacations and time off, and a closer look at New Testament writings. For the next four Sundays, we will closely read the Pastoral letter known as “James.”

You’ll note that this work is not referred to as an “Epistle,” but a Pastoral letter. Other sources may refer to this letter as “general,” or “catholic.” Other than a greeting, this work shares none of the attributes of epistolary writing, as found in the majority of the New Testament. Also, it isn’t addressed to a specific community, nor does it talk about a specific issue within a community.

In fact, it may be more accurate to classify James as wisdom literature in that it is a collection of exhortations. Of the 108 verses, 59 contain exhortations for life. It is also Theocentric (centered of God), rather than Christocentric (centered on Christ). James is concerned with the morality of life in the community. Hence, there is no discussion of God’s grace or Christ’s salvific work. Martin Luther famously referred to James as the “Epistle of Straw” precisely because of its emphasis on works. James is much more concerned with the community rather than the individual.

For James, God is absolute in a world of relativism. Contrast that to God being relative in post-modern reality. James, and consequently our work together the next four weeks, will be concerned with the “Rubber Hitting the Road.” What does it mean to be under the sovereignty of God? What does it mean to grow up and assume moral agency for life? What’s at stake by remaining perpetual spiritual adolescents? James has much to say. We would do well to listen, particularly in a world where personal moral agency no longer seems to have currency.

See you Sunday,


PS—Thoughts and prayers go to Highland Park, IL, as well as Philadelphia. That seems to be all we have to give these days. We’re so busy “thinking” about mass shooting victims that we don’t have any energy to concern ourselves with folks being shot 60 times by police a la Akron, OH. I guess my prayer is one of thanksgiving in that I haven’t been a victim. But ask anybody, they’ll tell you it couldn’t happen here….

To respond directly to Pastor Paul, email him at, or contact him at 816-724-0080

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