We were having some audio issues with the streamed service last Sunday. My apologies for that. Below is roughly what I was saying based on James 3-4. And at the bottom you will find the video of Greta Thunberg's speech.
This week, the fourth in our series with the epistle of James, we are right at the heart of the matter for James. We’re diving down deep into the message that he is trying to communicate to his listeners and readers.
I’m a wee bit of a film buff. I love movies. I try not to be a film snob either – only liking the “good” movies because there is so much to enjoy about what used to be called the “B movie”. Indeed, I always try to keep in mind, even when watching something that is objectively pretty terrible that for the people making it at that time this was everything – they were putting their hearts and souls into it – it gives you quite a different perspective!
And, in that vein, I love to hear the background information and stories about how the film was made. A month or so ago we watched a few of the classic Hitchcock films including The Birds. It was fascinating to find out just how much Hitchcock and his team were pushing the technology to make that film possible. Watching the accompanying documentary lets you behind the doors, to see how the magic happens. For some that might take away from the enjoyment, for me it makes me even more appreciative of all that went into making the film.
I remember an elder in the church I grew up in who was something of a hymnologist had a real love of the composer John Bacchus Dykes, J.B. Dykes, who wrote tunes like Nicaea (Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty) or Melita (Eternal Father, strong to save) amongst many others. At lunch after the Sunday service one weekend when we had sung a J.B. Dykes tune, he said to my father, who was the organist at St Columba’s in London, “That J.B. Dykes – he never wrote a bad tune!”
To which my father, quick as a flash, replied, “You never saw his wastebasket!”
Every so often with the recorded sermons that we’ve been making over the last year and a half we’ve shown you a little behind the scenes – just to keep us humble, to give a glimpse of what goes into the making of those. The veil pulled back!
Today’s section of James’ epistle feels like that. He is pulling into the open air what makes the church tick. He is clarifying for everyone reading what he thinks is needed for a healthy faith community, one which is following God’s will. He is revealing what is needed behind the scenes, in our own hearts.
James has taken us through considerations of just how important our actions are, that they match our words; he has spent time warning us of how our tongues and the words we use can have incredible power (for good and for ill); and in today’s section he is connecting this to what motivates us.
This is about our inner desires: are we motivated by envious thoughts, by ambition to succeed no matter the cost, or is our inner motivation one that models God’s loving-kindness, that seeks to grow a harvest of good fruit on the soil of gentleness, peace, equality and honesty?
James is calling on Jesus’ followers to live with these values and principles embedded in our hearts, guiding all we then say and do.
But God is not trapped within the church. Over the last three years I have been profoundly moved and encouraged by young voices like Greta Thunberg’s, the Swedish student, now 18, who has become a prophetic voice calling out into the political wilderness of inaction in the face of climate change. She has been horrifyingly ridiculed and shamed by people as powerful as President Trump, but she persists. She combines lamentation, an outpouring of pain and hurt and anger, with the hope that things can change. This has strong parallels with many of the psalms and other works of lamentation in the Bible.
This week Greta was addressing the pre-COP26 Youth4Climate conference in Milan. You may have seen a snippet or two of what she said, but a snippet or two is not enough. For she gets it, as did James, that words on their own are not enough, that actions are what counts more, and all of this reveals what is in our hearts.
Enough words from me. Let’s hear another voice as she pulls back the veil on what is really going on in the world, revealing the truth. Greta Thunberg, speaking on Tuesday: