Implants That Show
By Rev Steven R Mitchell
Mountain View United, Aurora, CO 9/2/2012
Based on James 1:17-27 & Mark 7:1-23
Words are marvelous invention that helps us communicate what we are thinking. Most words convey specific images and meanings, however a constant usage of a word that varies from its root meaning eventually overrides the original meaning. For instance, when I was a child there was a commercial on T.V. that I thought rather cleaver, for it challenged a cultural stereo type of the word “drink.” In this commercial you see this person walking up to his neighbor’s fence. The neighbor seeing his visitor gives a friendly gesture with his hands that says, “Come on over” and being a good host invites the neighbor to have a drink with him. The neighbor declines by responding, “Thank you but no. I don’t drink.” The host say’s, “I was referring to a glass of iced tea.” The generic understanding that most people have of the word “drink” refers to some type of alcoholic beverage. Yet the basic meaning of the word “drink” speaks to a necessary act of replenishing fluids to the body.
Another word that gives a similar type of response is the word “implants.” When I hear this word, I immediately think of another word, “silicone.” Yet there are all sorts of implants: there are dental implants, cornea implants, tissue implants. There are implants for contraception and there are implants for fertilization. When you place a fence post into the ground, that post has been implanted. So the word “implant” can lead our minds in an emotional response ranging from cool, to warm, or even hot and bothered.
Yet “implants” are not always visible. In this morning” Epistle, James tells us of the implant that God has for each of us. “Welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your soul.”James 1:21b James says that this implant is, “the word of truth,” which “ …give us birth” or life. We are told in the Hebrew Bible that we were wonderfully knitted together at God’s own hand and the thread God used is God’s word of truth, it has been implanted in each and every person. All we have to do is recognize it and chose to develop it. For it is through this recognition, this welcoming the “implanted word” that gives us what we need for growth and maturing into our relationship with God.
This letter by James was written to those who were following Jesus’ teaching only 40 years after his death, yet his advice still holds true with Christians today. It seems that the early church has some behavioral issues that we still struggle with. One of those focus around the ability to communicate, for James says be slow to speak, but quick to listen. One of the largest issues in most church disputes centers around this principle. Many a church dispute comes when people are not being heard. Whatever the conversation is about, we all need to make sure that we are truly listening to each other. In letting someone say what is on their mind and heart is only the first step in communicating, but there is no communication until the one listening actually opens their mind enough to truly hear what is being said. Too often we are busy thinking of responses instead of stepping back and taking time to hear what is being voiced.
Another issue the early faithful struggled with was how they experienced their faith through their actions. It was James’ understanding that you cannot call yourself a true person of the light, without it showing through your deeds and in your speech. Although this relates to what we classify under the umbrella of Social Justice awareness and activism, as well as how we use our speech to either tear someone down or build them up, I believe James is also speaking about how we exhibit God’s light in our worship. Do we follow a formula and just hear the word of God through music, prayer, and the spoken word, or do we feel the word of God?
Two years ago I had the opportunity to attend the official acceptance of the Kenyan Fellowship (that worships once a month in our sanctuary), when it became an official chapter of the National Kenyan Christian Fellowship of America organization. What an amazing time of worship I experienced there. Some of the songs were in English, others were in Swahili. During those songs in Swahili, various people at my table would lean over and tell me the English hymn it was taken from, which was helpful because many times there were musical variations making it difficult for me to recognize. During that worship, much time was spent praising God and Jesus. These were words that could only be spoken from a heart that was “implanted” with God’s spirit. Through that “implanted word” I was feeling apart of the gathering, not just a white man being tolerated, but as a brother in Christ.
James directs us to be dutiful to the widow and orphans who are in need. This is a mandate to care for those who are less fortunate, those who are in need, and those who do not have a voice. When we take on Social Justice issues, are we doing it solely out of duty, or possibly out of guilt, or do we take up these opportunities with the understanding and joy that these actions represent the gift of God, hearts motivated through God’s word of truth? For it is through this word of truth that gives life and this life is experienced through the gift of hope!
James names two types of people of God. One is the hearer only of God’s word, the other is the one who hears but also is a doer of God’s word. Those who are hearer of the word only are like those, “who look at themselves in the mirror and then after walking away, forget what they look like.” In other words, we can hear the word of God on Sunday morning, leaving here feeling good, but come Monday have forgotten what we had experienced on Sunday.
We too often complain about the absence of the millennium generation, yet I think what James is telling us resonates with the millennial. The millennial generation is a generation of people who are relational. They want to be in community with others, they also want to be doers. By this I mean they wish to go out and do projects that will benefit others. As a generation they seem to understand James when he says, “Every generous act of giving,… is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” They understand that what they do comes from what is in their heart.
There is wondrousness in the implant that God gives to us. Our challenge is to “welcome this implanted word from God,” and to take action, not just listen, for it is through action that we will bring life and salvation to a world that is stained in forgetfulness, selfishness, and egocentric. From this day forth, let us proudly bear God’s implants that make a difference. Amen