Rich and poor

Martin Luther is well known not to have like James’ epistle very much — he considered it a “right straw-y epistle” comparing its importance in the canon to the importance of the straw in the manger in the Incarnation. James’ epistle insists on the value of “works” with which Luther and all readers of scripture post-Luther have such difficulty.

It is clear in reading James that the righteousness in view is a corporate righteouness, not an individual righteousness, which is what vexed Luther so. We are the assembly, “over which the noble name has been invoked,” and we had better behave worthily of that name. If we show partiality, we have become double minded, both individually and as a community, making evil distinctions. What gives most of us fits in reading James is that it is not in the least sentimental, but gets right down to brass tacks.

Which christian community doesn’t make distinctions on the basis of who pledges what (especially when starting a capital campaign!)? It’s not clear in this passage whether the person in fine clothes and golden rings, and the poor person in dirty clothes are members of the assembly, or new-comers, and it doesn’t matter. We make distinctions anyway.

If we can be permitted t0 link the poor person in James to the voiceless and speechless boy in Mark, it makes sense that this kind come out only by prayer. As a community, we have to be exceedingly careful in our prayer to make sure we seat the beggar exactly as high as the benefactor. Only prayer will take us out of the world of influence into the world of the royal law of love of neighbor without partiality.

2 thoughts on “Rich and poor”

  1. We hear so much nowadays a about “community”. We are all part of the community at Advent, we are members of the Episcopal community in Missouri and the United States, and we are members of the world wide Anglican community. Yet right now I feel that as an Episcopalian that my community is somehow under attack. I fell like if I support the decision of blessing the unions of gays and lesbians then I’ll be attacked by the conservatives in the community, if I want to sit back and see where this leads us then the liberal side of the community will think I’m not supporting them. Then I read where ECUSA is being critisized by parts the the Anglican Church as a whole and now even by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
    There was a recent article in the Interim on Line which talked about a new organization in the Episcopal church called the Episcopal Majority (episcopalmajority.blogspot.com). I won’t go in to the details but I recommend that we read what they are about. Historically there has been plenty of other “fights” within the community over the years – pacifism, abortion rights, women priests, etc. These issues lead to plenty of discussions, lots of prayer, but a resolution seemed to be found. As Rt Rev G. Wayne Smith said, there is a vast middle ground out there that needs to be heard.
    I feel a tremendous closenees in my community of Advent. There is a role for the “conservatives and liberal” in the ECUSA community. Each one of us has a unique gift to offer. But we ALL need to stop and listen to each other.

  2. O.k., Bill, now you’ve left off preaching and taken up meddling. What would James think about making distinctions based on “liberal” and “conservative”? I’ve always thought it unique that what held the Episcopal Church (and the Anglican Communion) together was a book of “common prayer,” not a statement of dogma or a confession or a legal entity. I guess this is where prayer gets costly. How do we pray so that everyone gets heard?

    There was just a meeting in New York among bishops who have requested alternative primatial oversight, our PB and PB elect, and a representative of the ABC. No resolution was reached, but they said in the press release afterwards, that perhaps for the first time, they had really heard one another. Now, how do we get folks besides bishops in on the conversation? Surely not everyone in the Diocese of Pittsburg or the Diocese of Colorado wants alternative primatial oversight. How do we keep Dioceses, let alone Churches together?

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