When you sail on the ocean there is something called a rogue wave that you have to be aware of. Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves and even perfect waves) are relatively large and spontaneous ocean surface waves that occur far out at sea, and are a threat even to large ships and ocean liners. They are not necessarily the largest waves on the ocean but they are those that are at least twice as high as the average waves you encounter. Why is that a problem? Well if you are going along and things are going good, suddenly as you turn to change direction a rogue wave hits you broad side and over you go. I enjoy sailing and I even owned a small day sailer at one point in my life. I would take it out on the Ohio when the other small craft were coming in because it was too windy. I didn't have to worry about rogue waves so much as the wake from the Bell or one of the heavy barges that roll up and down the river. I would sail up river at first with the wind. Coming back I would have to sail into the wind, back and forth across the river to return to the dock. Hitting one of those waves when I was turning would really spook me that I might capsize.
We started off today talking about Rogue waves which can in some circles be called perfect waves because all of the circumstances that go into the creation of a wave come together at just the right time, in just the right circumstances, in just the right proportions, in just the right .... well everything. It just seems that we are not usually prepared to handle such perfection.
The book of James brings up several questions about who wrote it, why was it written, to whom it was written, what is it relevant to us today, among others. As we enter into our study over the next 10 weeks we are going to address these questions and others. Some of the topics we will look at together will be: perfection, the source of wisdom, controlling our speech, being a doer, Humility, Works v Salvation (now there's a big one), the price of being a teacher, passion, the Rich v The Poor, prayer, and seeking out Erring Christians. I am so looking forward to this.
When I was commissioned and when I was ordained I was asked by the Bishop if I was actively seeking perfection and if I believed I would find perfection in this lifetime. I had to answer yes to each of these questions. I had a difficult time during the commissioning part of this process because I was hung up on the human ideal of perfection. I was thinking that I was going to have to lose weight, start lifting weights again, get all my scars hidden, start leading the perfect life. I felt like I was lying to the Bishop when I said yes. I wasn't but I hadn't figured that out yet. It was not the human ideal I needed to be concerned with but the Holy ideal of perfection. It is the perfection of my relationship with our God that I needed to be concerned with. It is something I will be striving for time and time again. That means that I can reach perfection and lose it in a matter of moments. I guess the easiest way for me to define God's desire for perfection is this. When our love for God, and God's love for us completely fills our heart. Then at that moment there is no room for sin and we are in perfect communion with God. You may have experienced this as a mountain top experience, or that feeling in worship where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God stepped in and took control, not like my children's moment a few weeks ago where I had no control, but when the feeling of contentment, of being so loved, of having no doubt that God was here, that type of control. When we get that type of feeling, and I believe we, or at least of number of us felt that not too long ago here, it soon starts to dissipate as we step out of here, or when we again come into contact with the world we live in. The feeling starts to change when the pressures of the real world, as opposed to the spiritual world, creeps in and starts competing with this space in our hearts.
There is not a lot of mention of Jesus in the book of James. That is the strongest objection some have to its inclusion in the Bible, and to it having any value to us as we struggle to maintain that Holy connection with our God that I am calling perfection.
Reaching perfection in our relationship with God is not an easy thing for us to do. It requires patience and endurance. Patience is one thing I am not sure how we go about obtaining. I do know that if we ask God for patience we will probably get something that will help us with the endurance. Patience and endurance are not the same thing. Endurance is what you develop when you do something that pushed you physically or mentally. I suppose in this case spiritually as well. Patience is what you get when you are working on your endurance. It is being able to wait without being antsy, or fidgety while you are expecting something to happen, to arrive, or to be finished. During the ordination process we had to submit our materials on or by January 8th each year. How we submitted it changed is a very few years. At first we had to mail everything and it had to be post marked by that date. We had to have thirteen copies of all our stuff. Each copy was over 100 pages of paper and a copy of a vcr tape. Then we were able to submit a dvd instead of a vcr then it progressed to electronically submitting the paperwork to one address and now everything is submitted electronically. Much less expensive, and much easier. Despite all the fuss we had to go through, there was still a wait until the interviews in March before we heard anything. We would go through the interviews usually on a Monday and Tuesday and then have to wait until the next Monday before we heard anything. This was an exercise in patience.
Back to working on our relationship. In order for us to perfect our relationship we really need to be proactive in how we do that. If we just say ok God here we are, and then do nothing else, our relationship will not grow and in truth it will probably grow colder. That is however the first step in building this perfect relationship. I have a key chain with a whole string of letters on it, HCYAWJWDIYDKWHD. How can you ask what Jesus would do if you don't know what he did? Reading the Bible is a great place to start. Getting involved in a church or a small group would be great as well. There are many, many spiritual disciplines that you can use to work on perfecting your relationship with God. We can talk about those more later. The thing is, if you are doing nothing then you are getting nothing. You must spend time between Sundays reading, doing devotionals, serving others, spending time with other Christians, belong to an accountability group, a small group, anything. You will find as you spend time in the Word, practicing whatever spiritual discipline you adopt, that the tough times that happen will be easier to deal with. This is the endurance James is talking about here.
Spending time with God will help you to keep the main thing the main thing. The world has too many distractions and they can divide our attention and loyalties. When that happens neither one gets the attention they deserve. God does not reward divided loyalty. Divided loyalty is like the rogue wave out on the sea. It comes crashing onto you and overturns that which is keeping you afloat. It will obscure your relationship with God.
Start your day with God. Thank him for giving you another day. Call on Him throughout your day as you need. God wants nothing more than to have a perfect relationship with you. He is willing to spend as much time with you as you are willing to with Him. God will never tell you that He is busy with something else, He is waiting for you to come to Him with your joys, your troubles, those things that make you happy and those things that make you sad. In the book of Matthew, the 11th chapter, starting with verse 28, Here these words of invitation, "Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." The invitation to a perfect relationship is there, it is open to all. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, now is a good time to start one. Come on down, kneel with me at the altar and let us confess together and ask God to forgive us and welcome us into the family of God. As we stand and sing the altar is open to all who have need of prayer. Amen.