Max Lucado writes: “For some, Jesus is a good luck charm. The ‘Rabbit’s
Foot Redeemer.’ Pocket-sized. Handy. Easily packaged. Easily
You can put his picture on your wall or you can stick it in your wallet as
insurance. You can frame him. Dangle him from your rear - view mirror or
glue him to your dashboard.”
Then there’s the internet
There’s the company which advertises “a huggable, washable, and talking
Jesus plush doll.” The doll sells for only $15.95. Sporting fuzzy dreadlocks
and a soft beard, Talking Jesus is said to recite “actual Scripture verses to
introduce children of all ages to the wisdom of the Bible”.
Then, there is the Jesus bobble-head doll and the Jesus Action Figure with
broad shoulders and hands rolled into a fist. There are the Jesus figurines
which have Jesus playing soccer, basketball, hockey and even Jesus
dancing with ballerina girls.
In this culture of micro marketing, in some cases Jesus has become
another commodity. Society has reduced him down to a comfortable,
huggable Jesus who soothes us, a Santa Claus god who gives us what we
want, or a god who plays golf with us in heaven. This is a god with few
demands and no challenges. There is no need for sacrifice or commitment.
Have you seen the Staples commercial with the easy button? Just press
the button and get everything you need. No work, no effort, just push the
button. That’s the kind of faith many are looking for.
There is a new techno-evangelist in Norway. He calls his innovation
On the internet, every Wednesday the mission opens its teledoors for what
is called the ‘Miracle Corner.’ Those who desire healing can press 0 on
their phone. Diseases like cancer and arthritis are a few of those mentioned
for the service. The telechurch also offers salvation at the press of a
button.” The service costs $15.00.
How about a push-button Jesus. Need to be saved? Need a problem
solved? Need a blessing or a favor? That was easy! No effort. No work.
Need some sins forgiven before you die? Just shoot up a quick prayer
before you go, and you’ll be fishin’ with Jesus on a heavenly pond before
you know it.
This is a part of Christianity that some have come to know and love. But is
it Christianity at all? Does it even resemble who Jesus is and what he said?
Are we simply seeing Jesus as a quick fix to our immediate earthly
Being a follower of Jesus requires effort. It requires us to hear what is said
in scripture, focus on others and not forget who we are.
Are we allowing his words to penetrate any farther than our ear drums? Are
we willing to really hear the words of Jesus and allow his words to truly
There is a great difference between simply hearing the words of Jesus and
setting them aside as charming, but irrelevant, and allowing it to transform
Are we like the man or women who, like in this morning’s Epistle reading
looks at themselves in the mirror, and soon forgets about what they heard
and who they really are and just go about the day?
Our readings this morning, from Mark and James suggests that those
Jewish Christians 2000 years ago had a few things to work on to the fact
that their outward doings should reflect their whole being.
In other words, what we do, our actions, is what we are.
The Gospel of Mark talks about evil being;
fornication, theft, murder, adultery, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness,
envy, slander, pride. All these evil things come from within, and they defile
What James tells his readers ,who were Jewish Christians, but not
necessarily living in Jerusalem definitely applies to us too.
James talks about the untamed tongue, moral filth and evil among them.
If James were to send a letter to us here at St. David’s, what do you think
he would be bringing to our attention?
Are we like the mirror that James talks about? When we look into it,
moments later, we forget that we are children of God, going out into the
world and being no different than those of little to no faith?
Again, what do you think the Holy Spirit would be calling our attention to in
this day and age?
Is the Holy Spirit saying the same thing to us; as He did when He inspired
James to write to those Jewish Christians, some 2000 years ago?
James did not only tell those Christians at that time their problem; he also
gave them a solution; they should be doers of the word of God.
In other words, James was telling them that they were seemingly fine
Christians in that they spent time worshiping the Lord through songs,
prayers and the reading of the scriptures.
But when it came to practical holiness, they had room to grow.
Because after hearing God’s word, quickly forgot.
James illustrated a way for them and us to relate to what he was trying to
He said “ For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a
man observing his natural face in a mirror, for he observes himself, goes
away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was”.
Jesus was telling them, and us, not to get caught up in rituals, and outward
ways, like the Jews of that time did and many do today, but to focus on our
spiritual selves, our relationship to God and others, which leads us to a
purity of which God seeks in us.
Put in, context, we may say, they and we are good churchy Christians- they
and we have wonderful worship time, powerful prayer time, listened to
scripture, and may have even listened to decent sermons and things like
But when it came to practical holiness- spending time to let theirs and our
lives touch people outside family and friends; there maybe room to grow.
James’s concluding words to them, in today’s passage were:
‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care
for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by
Is James making the same conclusion to us today? Is he telling us that it is
good to be churchy Christians but it is better if we are both churchy and
touching the lives of those outside our immediate circle?
I believe God wants our being to equate to our doing all the time and not
only in the church- our lives adequately touching the lives of people around
Our lives should tenderly and passionately touch those outside our circle-
praying for them and physically helping them in whatever way we can.
It is very easy for us to be perfectionists in churchy things;
Some of our church rituals of prayer (the way and how we pray), our
inspirational way of singing, our nice Christian expressions in the way we
say things, like - ‘how are you brother? Oh, praise the Lord!’ ‘Stay blessed
my sister’, etc, etc. Good mannerisms.
But in the words of Jesus to the Pharisees and Scribes (in today’s Gospel)
we must however lay emphasis on the things that relate to avoiding bad
human relationships which Jesus catalogued as: ‘fornication, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, covetousness, materialism, wickedness, deceit,
licentiousness envy, slander, pride.
May God make us doers of His word; so that our lives will touch all around
Here’s a true story that I can relate to:
About 9 years ago, Bishop Scrutton asked if I would be a part of the
committee for new Missions & Churches.
My first “assignment” was to Great Barrington. A church that a few years
earlier, was destoyed by weather. One of the walls of the church fell in and
they were no longer able to worship in that space.
Coupled with another small church in Lee, who was struggling to stay
afloat, decided to worship differently. Each Sunday – they rented a bar!
Yes, a bar, for worship space.
So, I and a couple others went to the service at the bar, which afterwards
we met with the vestry, who explained why they wanted to take the two
churches, and make them one and stay at the bar.
As we sat and listened to their journey, I can remember one thing said:
“ Before the wall fell down at the church, each vestry meeting we spent half
our meeting talking about the boiler, roof, snow removal, etc. We really
never took, nor had the time to spend on service to others”.
“ Now that we meet here in the bar, we no longer need to talk about the
building anymore, and we can focus on ministry outside our “four walls”,
like helping the homeless, the hungry, young mothers needing help, our
elderly, our shut ins”.
They moved from being – to Doing….
They remembered the face in the mirror.
This congregation prior to the wall tumbling down, I am sure was “churchy”,
saying the right prayers, bowing at all the right times and all the other stuff
we do to feel the part.
I’m not suggesting we knock our walls down, but I am saying , maybe we
can look farther than our inner walls.
It took the congregation in Great Barrington a wall to fall down, to jump start
some programs of service. And then – they became DOERS.
What an example they provide for us, how people need to be DOERS.
So, tomorrow morning, when getting ready for the day, looking at your
beautiful face in the mirror, don’t forget who you are.
You’re a child of God, to spread God’s word, lend a helping hand to those
Don’t walk away and forget!
Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan