She was a hopeless case, I would just shake my head and sigh more times than not. She came from an impoverished neighborhood with a few strikes already against her. But it wasn’t that but her insistence to just fight with me, about everything and anything she could think of. God, faith, Jesus, church, life, family, relationships, oh the list went on and on. After almost every conversation, I would turn around and roll my eyes; I was so close to simply writing that young lady off. Then I went out of state for a few years, came back for a visit, and ran into her. She still loved a good fight, but she was also different as well, growing into her own, more certain. She was working for a local church then and life was going well. God’s work was evident in her life. I’ve kept loose contact over the years and I’ve seen as she has grown, has children of her own and is serving the church professionally. This young lady that I was in my exasperation ready to write off has become an outspoken leader for the Christian faith, and I’m sure God isn’t done with her yet!
Just imagine from our Gospel reading (Mark 6:1-13) today. James the half brother of Jesus had heard that his brother Jesus was back home from his wanderings across the region, he couldn’t help it; he rolled his eyes at the very mention of his brother, he was so close to simply writing him off. Who did Jesus think he was anyways! He was the local handyman, son of a carpenter and now he’s been going around talking about the kingdom of God, He never even went to Rabbinical school! But that wasn’t the worse of it; he was actually confronting the Rabbis, speaking with authority like He owned the place and like He knew the Torah better than them. Now lo and behold he was back home, preaching and “curing-people,” James simply couldn’t believe what the people were saying about him, he was His brother after all, nothing more and certainly, lately a lot less. James was simply ready to write Jesus off, but God wasn’t done with James yet.
It wouldn’t be to many years later, after the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples, that James would write these words in his letter to the Christian churches scattered across the region: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” James would become a pillar of strength as the Bishop of the Jerusalem church that sent out witnesses of Jesus to every corner of the known world. He would later be known through titles such as: James the Just, James the Righteous, and James of Jerusalem. At the end of His life, he was thrown down a cliff because of His clear testimony of the Savior Jesus and while he was being stoned to death James prayed, echoing the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” God brought James to be with Him eternally, because of His half-brother that James was almost too quick to write off but came to faith in him instead.
Speaking from personal experience, how easy it is to write people and situations off. The people in our life can be rude, insolent, hard to deal with, faithless, disagreeable and sinful. The situations that we face in life, personally, as a church family, as a community, as a country, can seem to be discouraging and hopeless, pointless and frustrating to the point of raising our hands, saying I’m done with all of this, I’m out of here, I’m writing it all off as a lost cause. But not surprisingly, when we’re honest, from time to time in our own lives, some of these same words could have been said of us as well; how true is that; but God wasn’t done with us yet and God is not done with the people and situations in our life yet either.
There is this oft used passage in Romans 8:28, “that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purposes.” God isn’t done with us yet, but He is taking all things: from the moment of creation and the Earth surfing around the sun to the words of hope and assurance spoken today from God’s Word, God is taking all things and unfolding the great drama of creation forward to bring healing and hope to us, both in the grand scale and in the individual dramas of the lives of my friend, of James the Just, of you and me, and the people and situations around us.
As we apply this to our own lives, to remember first that in the good work God is doing through Jesus, God still isn’t done with us yet, God isn’t done with you yet; with that comes encouragement, but also a warning.
God never wrote us off, as a people called humanity or you and me today, he didn’t simply write us off as a lost cause and start over again. We can look to our past, our own failings and brokenness and know that not only has God in Jesus forgiven that past but is moving us forward to the people God is transforming us into. God isn’t done with you yet, there is still hope, when you are weak God is strong and strengthens you. As the days pass it is God who heals and moves you forward.
But with that hope, comes a warning, now is not the time to sit on our haunches and twiddle our thumbs and forgot about the life God has called us to live. Yes, God is moving all things forward for His good purposes, but you can still jump off the plane and wave goodbye to those good purposes as you go hurtling to your own place apart from God. This hope is not a hope that lets us sit back and relax in our brokenness and just assume everything is going to work out in the end, rather God’s word, cries out, “now is the right time, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2) Now is the time to respond to the love of God working in you, each day, while it is still called today!
We take that same patience that God has shown towards us, never writing us off, and reflect that in our faith to the people and situations in our life, respond to them with a hopeful patience as well. Doing this knowing that God’s timetable is not our timetable, and those that we would write off as a lost cause, God is actually working on them as well and someday they may become a man named James the Just who once wrote off Jesus but then died with His Savior’s name on His lips. We can only see what is happening on the outside and speak to that, not what is happening in the spirit. So we speak warning and we speak love, we speak God’s law and God’s Good News, for all, never writing someone off but showing a hopeful patience with the same kind of love that God has shown us.
Because God isn’t done with us yet, Amen.