If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? - James 2:15-16
As a priest, I often let people know that I will keep them in my prayers. Often, this is of comfort to someone who is grieving or suffering in some way. But I admit that the many mass shootings we've suffered in our nation have made me ponder when this offer may not be as helpful as I might think. I have read and heard many angry comments from people who want to see more than just "thoughts and prayers" from their leaders, and I've realized that this is true not only for politicians. As a clergy person, people need more from me than just my thoughts and prayers, too.
Each of us will be called in unique ways to go beyond just talking the talk in our lives of faith. For me in the past year, some of the ways I've felt called to walk the walk have been organizing a candlelight vigil after the Charlottesville shooting, going to the state house to lobby for HB 1319, spending time with the residents of 100 Nights in the evenings, writing my congresspeople regularly on issues of concern, attending - and speaking when invited - at public forums like this upcoming Saturday's event for Climate, Jobs and Justice, donating regularly to the community kitchen, and devoting myself to daily prayer before work. I'm sure you could all make lists like this of your own with your own unique ways of walking the walk. Each of us needs to determine how we will choose to steward our life's resources faithfully.
I am very grateful to be serving a church that knows the importance of community ministry and of walking the walk, both as individual church members and as a body. We know the central importance of nourishing ourselves at church on Sunday mornings, but we also know that our ministry is enacted out in our community all week long - in every situation and interaction that comes our way. I am grateful that St. James strives to be a faithful church every hour of the week. Because this is not only important for us, but for our community and world.
Despite the decline in religious participation, communities of faith continue to hold one another accountable for striving to be our higher selves, rather than falling into our lesser natures. We gather to support one another in walking the walk. You may have heard a legend that is attributed by some to the Cherokees:
A wise grandfather says to his grandson: “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old man simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Participation in a community of faith feeds the better wolf. The world and all of its stresses can sometimes wear us down until we think we have no time or energy left for positive contribution. But actually, walking the walk (feeding the better wolf) is like potent fuel in itself. It gives us new energy, vision and hope, and spreads positivity into the world like ripples on a pond. Thoughts and prayers definitely have their place in this practice. Devoting our time, energy and resources to loving acts of service, sacrifice and leadership are equally important in the life of faith - and in the healing, reconciling mission of God.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. Note that in ordinary time, we are using the readings from "Track 2"