Scripture: James 4:11-17
Sermon: “You’re Sitting in My Chair” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
It was the best seat in the house. There in the living room, all plush and comfy, with a footstool. It was pink, which didn’t do anything for me, but this was the 70s when this sanctuary was mauve and deep purple. It also had the best view, looking far down the road. Though not supposed to, I’d sneak a seat, until Dad came home and said, Hey, you’re sitting in my chair.
This was the heyday of All in the Family which featured Archie’s chair. As devoted viewers, we teased dad when he’d say, You’re sitting in my chair, by replying, Ok, Archie.
However, since then, guess who has a chair at our house? This is one of my kid’s elementary drawings of me in my chair. And guess what I’ve been known to say when someone sits there? Hey, you’re sitting in my chair. To which Natsuko replies, Excuse me, it’s our chair.
The entire story of the Bible can be told about a chair, actually a throne in Bible-speak. God created the universe by edicts from his throne, Let there be light… Let there be humans in my image. In the Garden of Eden, God got off his throne and visited in the cool of the day. But one day the serpent slithered, Why did God say you cannot eat of the Tree? It’s because the Lord God does not want you to be a god [i.e., sit in his chair]. So Eve reached and Adam ate, and God came down for his evening stroll, by which time Adam had already snuck into God’s chair.
Tim Keller p. 177 here…
So God removed them from the premises: Hey, you’re in my chair! It’s become THE historic battle fought in every human heart over who sits on the throne of all made in God’s image.
So James applies human pride, our desire to sit in God’s chair, to relationships and planning. He begins with relationships with these words… Who then are you to judge your neighbor—echoes of, You’re sitting in my chair. Judging isn’t wrong just because it hurts folk, it’s wrong because then we are usurping God’s place. We label people from our narrow point of view. We shape things according to our limited self-interest. We gossip, ignore, discriminate.
Take this proposed mosque in Bridgewater. Whether true or not, a Courier News editorial comments, Let’s be honest—the fervent opposition to a proposed mosque…is being fueled …by racism… One resident said the mosque “represents a coming in and taking over an entire community by the Islamic World.”… We’ve seen this kind of resistance before in Central Jersey…the Hindu Temple. Now it may very well be that the opposition is only about mosque logistics. A staff reporter in another article states the overwhelming concern [is] about the intensity of the development in a residential zone. Even though the 400+ folks that showed for the meeting were the most in Mayor Flannery’s memory, a leader states, we were very clear that we do not promote any kind of religious intolerance. But knowing myself, I surmise at least a little tendency to judge Muslims as scary. That’s how difference looks from where I too often sit
We need more conversations across cultures like this cartoon on page 2 of the bulletin.
God says, When you judge others, you’re sitting in my chair.
And then there’s planning. There’s a picture here: When the Romans wanted to start a new city, they had to recruit citizens. The Jews were offered free citizenship because wherever they went, trade and money followed (because the Dutch weren’t on the scene yet). So the picture is of a Jew looking at the map of a newly founded city to say, Ok, I’ll go there for a year, make my money, and come home. But James replies, Yet, you don’t even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Another planning picture embedded here. How did the ancients know to start planning a funeral? Could the sick fog up a mirror? But as quickly as the fog dissipates, the breath is gone. So plan, but commit your plans to God, who may have a greater plan that you do not understand. Often when I plan I hold on to it too tightly. Then God says, You’re sitting in my chair.
So, if we cannot sit on the throne of our lives, then where is our place? Or, how do we put away pride and become humble? Well, humility is not about thinking less of yourself, it’s simply thinking of yourself less. The way to do that is to give God the chair, and seek wisdom:
Lord, how do I deal with my feelings about that person, or those people?
Jesus, be the senior partner in my business so I do things your way, and consult you on it all.
On President’s weekend I’m remember Lincoln’s humility with Stanton. Bitter rivals for the 1860 Republican nomination, Stanton became an admirer. One day Stanton refused to obey Lincoln’s order. An angry congressman who stood to benefit from the order complained that not only did Stanton countermand his order, but he called Lincoln, “a damned fool.” To which Honest Abe smiled, If Stanton said I was a damned fool, then I must be a damned fool, for he is nearly always right… I will step over and see him. And so it was that this leader humble in plan and relationships was paid this compliment at his death by Stanton, Now he belongs to the ages.
On the Last Day, I imagine that I will stand before God’s throne. The piercing eyes that see through me will remind me of all the judgmental words I said, all of the plans I made without consulting Him, and I will feel naked. The majesty of that throne will make me feel puny. When my name is called I may experience a shudder of dread. But if so, only for a moment. Because One will step between me and the Judge to say, Father, I received your judgment upon Todd. He is forgiven. And a sense of relief will wash over me. Then Jesus will turn to me with eyes so kind that infinite love will flood me. And it will take all of eternity for me to sing my gratitude before that throne. And I will never, ever, ever wish to usurp His place again.
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