September 23rd: “Two Cities”

How do our cravings for things we can see, touch, smell, or taste interfere with placing complete trust in God alone as our Lord and Savior?

This Week’s Passage: James 4:1-10

I. Establish the text

C. Other texts for Year B for Sunday, September 23rdin Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 – – Our external conflicts reflect our internal issues. Consider the preceding passage about how envy and selfishness spark disorder.

2 – – How do we commit murder over our possessions? Does poverty wages from third world countries count? Does ignoring the economic impact of finding the low price leader count? How do current geopolitical cravings result in war? What do Hezbollah and Al-Queda crave? What do we crave? To simply say “Oil” seems too easy and war only decreases the supply.

3 – – How then are we to ask? [This is another weakness in James. He is quick to find fault but slow to offer solutions.] The John passage suggests that we need to be concerned more about what to ask for (the bread of heaven and cup of salvation).

4 – – Those who worship at the grand temple to materialism (a.k.a. the Mall) are friends of the world. Compare the size of the Mall with the size of the area churches. Compare the traffic on Sunday morning going to Wal-Mart with those going to church.

5 – – The in-dwelling-spirit, of which God yearns, separates people from mere animals. Yet where do we invest it? With whom do we entrust its care? The temple of materialism or the fellowship with God?

7 – – c.f. Opportunity knocks, but temptation pounds on the door until you answer. I have experienced the devil not as a roaring lion, but as a snake that lurks in the shadows, waiting to find a human flaw in which to drive its fangs, until I cry out that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

8 –10 – Each day we must ask anew, how can I best serve God in this time and in this place? And in doing so, we will receive what we truly need to be satisfied, and our cravings will abate, and conflicts and disputes will cease.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • In chapter 3, James built from our works matter, to our words matter, to our thoughts matter. Here he points that our cravings matter.
  • The remainder of chapter 4 reprises the spirituality of our speech with respect to judging others and concludes by recommending how to plan future actions.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

V. 1 – “members” may infer either internal conflicts or interpersonal conflicts.

V. 2 – R.A. Martin suggests that “you kill” may be a scribal error for “you are envious.”

V. 5 – Luke T. Johnson (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “James”) argues that this verse should be translated: “Does the scripture speak in vain? Is the spirit God made to dwell in us for envy?”

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: What we desire matters not only to God, but it affects our neighbors and all of life.
  • Music: “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Cravings at war within.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Luke T. Johnson (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “James”) notes that this passage “reminds us that conversion is a continual process and an essential element in spiritual transformation.” He notes that this passage is singularly “pertinent to contemporary North American culture, which is virtually based on the logic of envy.” He notes “how the language of advertising creates a world of values in which “to be” means “to have,” and to have more means to be more, a mechanism that is aimed directly at generating ‘a certain sorrow’ when someone has something that one does not, together with the desire to do anything to acquire that which is sought.” He illustrates James indictment of murder derived from envy with school yard murders committed over sport shoes or an athletic jacket.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Materialism v. trusting God alone as the author and giver of life.

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