Rev’d Will Gibbons introduces our sermon series ‘The Book of James’.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.’ 1 Corinthians 12:27
As we begin this new series I am captivated by John Calvin’s explanation of 1 Corinthians 12:27, ‘He calls the church “Christ”.’ Bishop Lesslie Newbigin said: `Jesus Christ never wrote a book; what he did was leave behind a community: the church.’
Being a Christian has become synonymous with believing certain things, and rightly, because we know that it is by faith alone we are justified. It is by grace alone that we are saved: that means our relationship with God is not something we earn. We can never reach up to heaven by living a good enough life, instead we rejoice that heaven came to us to rescue us.
Stemming from the Protestant Reformation we have come to hold scripture over tradition, faith over works, and grace over merit.
Unfortunately this has often led to an approach towards discipleship that focuses on teaching what to believe over how to live. It can lead to a celebration of the cerebral to such an extent that what we believe never journeys to our hearts and overflows in our lives.
In the Scriptures we have a great deal of Jesus’ teaching but we also know that His approach to making disciples was to invite them to come and follow Him and then to send them out to do what He had been doing; to proclaim the Kingdom with words, signs and wonders. In His gathering of His disciples we see heart renewal taking place in community as they grow like Jesus together, and then a scattering as He sends them to go collaboratively on mission. Gathering, growing, going. It isn’t a mistake that our tag line has three participles; they speak of active faith, lived out in community.
From the beginning of May to the end of July we are going to focusing on the New Testament Epistle of James, which is all about what it means to truly follow the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, what it means to be His body, His hands and feet in the world. It will show us what genuine faith looks like in real life, it will challenge us about how real faith works hard and lives distinctively. It will encourage us to serve Jesus more wholeheartedly and radically.