This Sunday we begin the summer season of Kingdom Time. We are going next week to confront the White House, delivering in person the message to the President from families in cities across the country.
But our focus in this season is in ‘Growing stronger”, growing more organized, growing in our faith. We call it Kingdom Time because we focus on living as if we were in the Kingdom of God: Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
In the Bible, Jesus says that some who receive the word about the Kingdom, about how to live in the Kingdom in our lives, take it to heart but can’t live by it, because he has no roots. Others receive it, but they are so preoccupied with the worries and distractions around them they forget about it. Some, however, receive the word in the soil of a strong faith and they produce a crop that multiplies in great numbers.
The scripture we read to learn about Kingdom living is the letter from James, James, the brother of Jesus who was left in charge after Jesus was crucified. It is only a few pages but it is the most direct teaching in the Bible and I pray that all of us will spend time reading and discussing and thinking about what it says in the next few weeks.
As a church, we are building three organizations: Familia Latina Unida, La Fuerza Juventud and La Fuerza peewees. We want to see strong organizations of faith and action that each generation can grow up in, graduating to the next level as they grow older, an organizational involvement that will keep them in touch with who they are, who their people are and who their God is.
At the same time, we are fighting for our right as a people to keep our families together, to work hard and get a decent wage so that we can raise our children and so that our young people can grow up and realize their full God given potential. To win those rights we need to be strong – and to be strong we need to learn the power of Kingdom living.
Trials and Temptations: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We have a tendency to complain and whine about our lives and things that happen to us. We constantly surround ourselves with drama. We make ourselves the center of attention when we talk. We act like victims.
Many of us are victims of injustice –real injustice like our brother who faces deportation this week and separation from his family – or like the mother who lost her 18 year old son to a hate shooting this week. And if we are not victims of injustice, we act like we are. We make ourselves victims of each other, of gossip, and we make ourselves the center of little dramas. But James, the Brother of the Lord, says we should welcome trials and difficulties because they are tests of our faith that will develop perseverance – and perseverance will make you complete, it will perfect you as a person who lives in the Kingdom of God.
James says, Perseverance must do it’s work to make you complete. That is a different point of view than most of us have. Most of us come up against difficulty and immediately begin to complain, to cry and to whine. We make ourselves the center of attention. But James says, “Don’t let injustice or difficulty make you weak – let it make you strong. Concentrate on meeting difficulty with determination and it will make you stronger.
If we stop to think about it we want to be strong. We just get caught up in being weak. We admire people who are strong. We admire people who persevere, who keep their head and don’t give up. We know they are growing as people when they persevere and we admire what they are becoming. But the culture, the television, the soap operas, the reality shows, they make us forget what we admire and we become what they want us to become: weak, surrounded by stupid drama, victims without any defense. That is not the way of the Kingdom of God. If you put God first, if you know God, you know courage and strength and if you persevere you will grow in that strength.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
If you don’t know what to do when you are faced with difficulties, with danger, with problems, then James says ask God and he will give you wisdom. But he says you have to believe without doubt or you will receive nothing.
You get wisdom from your relationship with God – but only if you come to God with no doubts. We are not saying that you have to believe without doubt that God exists – or believe that God will help you. We are talking about knowing God. If you know love, then you know God. If you know honesty and sincerity, then you know God. If you know justice, then you know God – for God is the source of these things, of love and honesty and justice. But if you are not committed in your heart to justice and love and honesty – if you are willing to accept less than these things, if you are willing to accept hypocritical versions of justice and love and honesty, then you are “double minded” and you will not receive the wisdom that God offers.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
When you see one person who is completely concerned with their own selfish desires and then you see someone who is completely dedicated to help his or her people, which one do you respect?
Now some of you respect the one – but say, that’s not for me. I don’t want be totally selfish, but I am not willing to give – or live – my life for my people. O.K. – but don’t you want to begin to become more like the person you respect?
You see the world around you says, be like the rich, enjoy what the rich enjoy, have the security the rich have, be free of the worries the rich of free of. But that is not the truth about this world. James says, don’t wait until you have one foot in the grave to know the truth about what is true and important about the life you are given to live. Begin to do it now.
When you read this letter from James, you will see that James is hard on the rich. He doesn’t hold out much hope for them in the Kingdom of God. But James has a particular message. He teaches us that God makes himself known, makes truth and justice and love known, through the poor and through those who are oppressed and treated unjustly by rich and arrogant, selfish people.
God just doesn’t love you and choose you because you are the victims of injustice and unfairness, he chooses you when you stand up against injustice and selfishness you make justice and unselfish love become present in the world through your resistance – and that is what God wants, that is what God does.
The more you know God, the more you know in your heart that God has a purpose for you. The more you fight for your people, the more you fight for the families they are trying to separate, the more you fight against their attempt to stop the growth of the Latino majority in this country, the more you will feel God’s purpose and your place in that purpose. For God is calling you to change this nation and to stop the suffering this empire causes throughout the world.
When you come to accept that God has given you a purpose you will begin to become the person you respect and to reject a life of selfishness and meaningless pursuits.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Some religious people say “God is testing me with difficulty.” But James says God doesn’t tempt us – but we are tempted by our desires and are enticed by the world. What James is telling us is that the world doesn’t make us weak – we make ourselves weak because we give into desires and to temptations which the world puts in front of us.
God gives us a law to live by: it should guide our conduct, our relationships, our actions. It says we shouldn’t get involved in casual relationships with people who don’t know what their purpose is, who aren’t trying to live the Kingdom life. But we do – and we pay the consequences by getting involved in endless stupid drama.
The law says we should be faithful and respectful inour relationships. But we give in to desires and cheat and that creates a cycle of distrust and jealousy. The law says we should hnor faither and mother, meaning we should carry on the tradition and history of our people, but we give into the temptations of the world and turn our backs on them.
The law says we should not kill – but young men get involved in the street and kill their own blood and spend their lives in the criminal justice system – trying to live the lives of the rich.
God doesn’t test us – we make ourselves weak because we don’t live by the good rules of life that God gives us – and that has beg consequences.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
James says if you look into the perfect law that gives freedom, you will see who you really are, it will remind you of who you really are. James also says you must act on the word to see yourself in this mirror.
Sometimes a parent looks at one of their children who has grown up –or a peson looks at an old and trusted friend or even lover that they haven’t seen for a while and they say to themselves, “I don’t know this person anymore. They have become someone else.” That is because human beings tend to try to act like someone else, someone they are not, like trying on a new set of clothes. They do it out of curiousity, or envy or just because they can. But James says when we commit ourselves to living according to the perfect law, to living with God who is the source of truth, justice and love – then it is like looking in a mirror and seeing who we really are.
I don’t care how attractive some image, some personality may seem – there is nothing better than being and knowing who you are. Fantasy never beats the real thing – because fantasy isn’t real.
When you live according to the perfect law, when you live with God who is the source of Truth and Justice and Love, then you will begin to grow into someone you really respect, perseverance in the face of difficulty will perfect you, God who is the source of truth, justice and love will give you the Wisdom you need, you will discover the purpose God has for you and you will not give into temptations that make your life foolish.
Jesus says that some receive the Word about the Kingdom life but have not roots and lose track of it. Others receive it but get busy with the worries of the world and forget the word that was given to them. But some …some have the faith to receive it and grow it.
We are building our three organizations so that generations can grow up and become complete, knowing where they come from and where they are going – so they will have the roots to hold on to the Kingdom of God.
We are building our organizations so that we can be strong enough to change the broken law and make Obama use the power we gave him to stop the deportations and separation of families.
We will be as strong as our faith is strong. There are people here, and people we know who are throwing away their lives because they do foolish things and don’t live in the perfect law. There are people here who face the power of a hypocritical government that ant to destroy their lives and their families this week. There are people here fighting for their lives because this racist system will not give them the medical care they should have a right to. To overcome these things which the world, not God, is doing to us – we have to get strong and keep strong and get stronger.
To defeat injustice and unfairness, we have to work on ourselves, commit ourselves to knowing God, to living with God – we have to know that the world may treat us like we are small but God has made us giants, members of His Kingdom, chosen us – we can make people respect us if we are willing to let life in the law and perseverance make us into people we can respect.
Let the Kingdom Come! Accept your possibility! Be what God can make you! Amen… Amen…Amen…