Hebrews 11:1-10 & James 2:14-23
The other day I was considering my own mortality while driving the car [not just because people do stupid things on the road]. But on this occasion I was travelling to Prince of Wales hospital to visit a friend who I’d known since school – now dying of cancer at age 54.
I was also listening to ABC radio. The presenter was talking with a guest who was regretting the fact that while she was going to begin this glorious new life when she retired, the reality was that replacement hips, knees, high blood pressure, arthritis and chronic disease meant that her new beginning was also something of a new ending.
Things are beyond our control whether we like it or not.
For men in particular we like to, or at least sometimes, to feel it is our role to be Mr. Fix-it, and to try to do things in our own strength. When we can’t we feel somewhat let down by ourselves or sometimes let down even by God.
But, our two readings today talk about two sides of life – which is described as what is seen and what is unseen or put another way what is under our control and what needs to be surrendered or in yet another way, life is about living in saying and doing.
The old Frank Sinatra song – Love and Marriage – says ‘You can’t have one without the other.’
The first of our readings this morning is a letter – maybe from Paul or another early leader of the church to the Hebrew Christians.
These Christians were facing their own challenges in life – many were being ostracized by their communities, while others were facing persecution and death from the very Romans who crucified Jesus.
This community too, had to be reminded that faith is the surety of the glorious future, not necessarily rooted in just the present with all its ups and downs. Our faith also reminds us that Christ is with us in the present, working with and for us. Thus we never accomplish things totally in our own strength.
But God’s leading also makes us act not just for our own sakes, but for the sakes of others
It is why Noah was in charge of stewarding a new world after the flood and why Abraham was chosen to bring birth to a new nation of people.
So it is with the guys from the Men’s Shed. They give to each other and to the community at large, their mateship, their time, their effort, their skills, their friendship, their laughter and their tears, and their care.
Think of it this way, when we give a birthday card to someone, the piece of cardboard is what is seen – but the gift is so much more – it is the intangible gift behind the card – the gift of love, care and concern.
It is like faith, it is something within, not seen in itself, but seen through acts of love for others.
In fact, the letter of St. James to the early Christians has much to say about this. In this section of the letter entitled ‘Faith in Action, James is reminding us that because our faith actions are primarily for the ‘other’ – the ‘end result’ of our labours may not be seen but God will make the finished ‘revelation’ in his time.
We are called to do what we can and then ‘Let Go and Let God’ do the rest.
We may be there for the ‘alpha’ moment like Bob Bone or Bill Parker but not there for the ‘omega’ fulfilment moment. The flicking forward of the domino is not the important part – it is the mighty, sometimes tedious work that goes into the setting up that makes all the difference – even though our video today didn’t show that behind the scenes part. For all ‘omega’ moments are created in the process that is often unseen.
Jesus, started a movement that didn’t come to fruition during his earthly life. Indeed he too, had to surrender to God in order for his actions to bear fruit for others – as indeed it is for us today.
That Jesus spark lives on all around us. I see it every Tuesday and Thursday in the Men’s Shed – whether the men realize it or not.
I believe our Lord in Heaven looks down upon our men and again says those wonderful words he inspired Matthew to write in chapter 25 of his gospel. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me’. Amen.