Scripture: James 5:1-12
Sermon: “Dealing with BIG ISSUES when we feel small” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
Jesus’ half-brother, James’ congregation felt small in the face of the BIG ISSUES of their day. They tended to be day-laborers on the farms surrounding Jerusalem, who if they weren’t paid one day, the family wouldn’t eat that night. Can you imagine the kids’ question as dad walked through the door with dirt in his fingernails: Did you get paid today? Aww. At many 5 AM worship services they huddled together before work, stomachs growling, with these words on their lips, Sure hope we get paid today! But what could little people like them do about their powerful, rich and well-connected bosses? To this situation James speaks first to the oppressors,
verses 1-3… Why should the rich landowners “weep and wail?” Because God, who is bigger than the rich who dwarf their help, will set things straight. James speaks to the three types of ill-gotten gain in the ancient world: 1) corn and grain rot, 2) clothes get moth-eaten; and 3) gold and silver rust (though they don’t, but it is a powerful image of disintegrating riches).
verses 4-6… God heard the cries of the hungry, little people. And by the end of time when Christ returns, the fattened rich will go the same way as the fattened calf—to the butcher!
To the oppressed James is saying, though you are oppressed, God will make it right in the end.
verses 7-12… The theme verse, which I want you to memorize by the end of this sermon, is 7a…Be patient, therefore beloved, the Lord is on his way… Then the Holy Spirit goes on to give three examples of patience until Jesus makes it right in the end. 1) v. 7: a farmer waiting for crops to grow—you don’t dig up the potatoes after just the early rains, 2) v. 10: the prophets at times had more than tomatoes thrown at them, and yet God eventually fulfilled their promises; and lastly, 3) v. 11: Job who had everything taken away, but eventually had family and fortune restored. The message: Though you’re oppressed, be patient, God will renew all things.
So how do we deal with the BIG ISSUES of life when we feel small?
But we aren’t the oppressed, day laborers of the world, right? If anything we’re the oppressive owners! So what might God say to us on the top of the heap from a Scripture for the piled upon? Well, I bet we all feel small once in a while. By the way, you know the old story about the difference between Yiddish words, shlemiel and shlemazel? The schlemiel is the guy who spills his soup. The shlemazel is the guy who has the soup spilled on him. You may not be oppressed, but you must feel like the powerful schlemiels could keep their soup to themselves, right? Let’s take two BIG ISSUES whereupon we feel small: US spiritual decline and terrorism.
SPIRITUAL DECLINE. The oppressor has flipped in the last half-century. The church used to be the oppressor who ruled over the beliefs and morals of the nation. The church said, Wives, submit to your husbands. And they did! They stayed home from work, had a hot meal ready for their men, baked cookies, stood by her man, even if he didn’t stand by her. It was wonderful! Or, was it? Today modern secular culture is the oppressor. Women can stand on their own. Sex is liberated from marriage. Who needs marriage anyway? Out of wedlock births have increased 500%! If I feel fulfilled with her I’ll stay, if not, it’s a hook up. It’s tough to deal with a big cultural trend!
Will the church die out altogether? Will America ever be spiritually renewed again? I mean marriage isn’t what it used to be. Sunday is Pop Warner football. People talk more of karma than grace. Though we feel small, James says, Be patient, therefore beloved, the.. And we’re seeing signs of that renewal, especially in urban areas. Last week a young male visited from a Bristol, England church plant. God is expanding the kingdom in the temple of secularism
TERRORISTIC THREAT. As we’ve watched Egypt collapse, and riots spread to Yemen and Iran, we worry about renewed terrorism. After all, these revolutions are catching the US with its pants down. Isn’t it embarrassing to discover that we supported a Mubarak who wrung out his country’s riches into his own bank account? Remember Osama bin Laden does not want to fly planes into our buildings because of women’s rights, as much as because we support corrupt, oppressive dictators. Will the Muslim brotherhood bomb our subway system?
Rendered helpless by the evening news, we hear James say, Be patient, therefore… God will renew the world politically. We see signs in the baby democracy toddling in Egypt. We know it will be hard, and far beyond our puny influence, but Christ’s return sets the world right.
With James’ migrant worker-like congregation, don’t you feel small sometimes? Helpless in the face of these huge forces moving world history? Or even like a shlemazel among the schlemiels of life? Take heart. Our verse? Be patient, therefore beloved, the Lord is…
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