Based on Sunday’s Epistle reading, from James 1, it looks at the Word of God as creator and savior. Also included, at no extra charge, how to talk about living righteously – without becoming a Pelagian. All this, and more, after the jump.
The Word of God created you. When everything was dark, the Lord said, let there be light. The word was with God and the word was God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing has been made that was made.
James writes in the Epistle reading: Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. In the fall, that image was lost. We who were once in perfect union with God, separated ourselves from him. The corruption of sin is so strong, that nothing good remained in you. Even all these generations later, the corruption is still there. You are, from the moment of your conception, sinful. You deserve nothing but death in this world, and eternal suffering in the world to come.
And yet, God would not have the sinner die. So he sent the word into the world, to become flesh and dwell among us. To live and die for you.
And now, he has given you the salvation that you could never get yourself. Hebrews tells us that the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword. The same word that was made flesh for you is now living and active to bring you salvation.
James says that we are to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. Receive with meekness the implanted word. The same word that was made flesh, is now implanted in you, to save you. The word, that is, Jesus, is given to you so that you would believe the word. So that you would hear and look to your salvation – Jesus Christ. The implanted word is not merely a sound, a syllable, a few letters on a page. And believing the word is not just a disposition or attitude of the mind toward those letters. The Word is Jesus Christ, the same one who was crucified. The word – Jesus is implanted in you when you hear the Gospel, when the water is poured, when you come here to take eat and take drink. Then you receive Jesus Christ himself. And that word grows in you, giving you a new life. Not a life of this world, not a life that lasts a few years and then declines until it finally stops breathing, and is laid to rest forever. The life you are given in Christ is a new life already in this world. That is why Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Not just a life later, but a new life now, living in the truth of the one who is the word, and walking in the way of the one who is the truth. This isn’t just some pie in the sky thing, not some philosophical reflection that theologians do in their spare time. James brings it down to earth.
“let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness…”
Why? Because the word Jesus Christ now lives in you. He was dead but has been raised, and now you who were dead in your sins have given new life in him through the waters of holy baptism. How can we, who died to sin, live in it any longer? The anger, the lust, the greed, the pride, all of these are incompatible with the life of Jesus. And so, Luther says, by daily contrition and repentance we must put to death the old Adam in us, he must die and a new man, a life given by Jesus, must come forth and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. This is what being a Christian is. Forgiven for sins, and every day growing and maturing in the faith you have been given in Jesus. Every day continuing to hear that word, to repent of sin, the be born anew in your baptism. TO come here and take eat and take drink and so be strengthened in your faith, to hear the word and to let that word grow in you throughout your life. Continually putting to death the sinful flesh. Continually being born anew in Jesus Christ.
And this work of salvation is not yours. It does not mean that Christianity is some sort of self-improvement project, and that if you just try hard enough eventually you get there. You never get there in this life, because you are always a sinner. You never achieve the perfection needed.. Indeed, as you grow and mature in the faith you will become more and more conscious of your sin, more and more aware of how much you need the salvation Jesus offers. That is why you never outgrow the need for a savior. Because you can’t do it on your own. He is the one who saves you. The Word. The same one who was made flesh and died and rose for you. The same one who was implanted in you in Baptism, the same word that is given you tonight in the hearing, and in the eating and drinking. The implanted word who is able to save your soul.
Grant this Lord, unto us all.