Sunday, January 3, 2021
SCRIPTURE: Indeed, we call blessed those who showed endurance. James 5:11 (NRSV)
This past year has certainly given us many opportunities to show endurance. The obvious opportunity was during the pandemic lockdown. After a sudden closure of everything, including St. John’s, in March, we were ordered to stay home. In a few weeks, a weekly worship service resumed but had to be watched on television, computer or phone. In person worship began in July, but it was nothing like the “old normal” Sunday. We needed to endure these major changes in our Christian life while also managing school closures, job layoffs, takeout meals and a shortage of toilet paper. We learned to endure masks and face shields. This “new normal” is still evolving.
Then, there was Tropical Storm Isaias on a Tuesday on August 4th. The high winds and rain caused many trees to fall, often into power lines. PECO, our local power company, had 307,000 outages. Five days after the storm, when St. John’s met for worship, there were still over 1400 in the dark. One member of our church had to endure a three night hotel stay after the storm damaged a neighbor’s home.
James, author of the text, above, was the leader of the original Christian church in Jerusalem. When followers of Christ were driven out of Jerusalem, they settled elsewhere in the Roman Empire and formed small congregations. The five chapter book by James was written to deal with the problems of misbelief and misbehavior in those congregations under his leadership. James pointed out that complaints, profanity, and self-centeredness were unacceptable. In a modern sense, he urged talking the talk and walking the walk of faith in Jesus.
The Message translation of James’ book substitutes “stay the course” for the word “endurance.” This usage is more relevant to a secondary definition of endurance as an adjective referring to a physical task like a long race. To complete an endurance race requires preparation and practice to build muscles and stamina. Likewise, achieving Christian endurance – particularly when faced with difficulties, change, unpleasantness or temptation -requires practice through prayer, scripture reading, and good works.
PRAYER: Lord, help us to remain faithful to you whenever we encounter an unpleasant or difficult situation in life. Help us keep our focus on You. As the Hebrews author states, “let us run the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith.” Amen.