“How can we be so small but so special”. That’s an age-old question. Most of us ask it at various stages. We answer it in different ways.
For some, we humans are just small and not so special – just chemicals and cells and no different, grander or more beautiful than any other life form, including cockroaches!
For others we are so special that nothing else is regarded as special as we dominate and industrialise our way through life, consuming everything in sight at great damage to everything and everyone.
But for people who have been chosen, loved and called to love this planet and this people by the One who created this magnificent planet and all its creatures; yes, even cockroaches, we know our smallness compared to God, and yet we know our specialness to him too.
Isn’t this especially when we ponder that Christ-child in the shed sent to live and die and rise for us? A small present of large consequence for all of us in all our smallness before him.
But we small and special people of Jesus are like the wise astrologers on their long desert journey West. The journey is long and has its risks and our patience in living as chosen loved people in the small things and large is still tested.
We can lose patience in the things of God and give up on his Son, his Words, his gifts, his promises, because following his star is just too far and it takes too long, and is just too risky.
James talks straight about that.
Losing patience in God’s promises and ways is being what James calls ‘arrogant’
Arrogance is the opposite of patience here. Your impatience in trusting and living in God’s promises leads you to cut corners, go for the quick fix, centre on yourself above God and others….. Arrogance is turning away from this Christmas Saviours presence, his healing, his teaching, his words, his wisdom his hope in his resurrection life now and at the end, his justice, his calling to love.
James gets more detailed and direct on this. Arrogance for James is specifically living like we can control our prosperous future (James 4:13,16).
Being ‘arrogant’ is also trying to control our affluent present (5:4-5) even at the expense of others.
So, James, in true truth-telling style, points out that rather than being in control of our future, our whole lives are small – like a transient puff of smoke that is about to be made to disappear (4:14b).
Likewise, we and any wealth we accumulate (large or small) by any exploitative and fraudulent practices in the present are destined for retribution in God’s end game (5:1-5)
Strong words indeed. But our arrogance can give way to something truly gracious and good. Here comes words of family support from our God of love
“Therefore brothers and sisters”. We are still in the family! James will call us this beautiful title seventeen times in his letter – ‘Brothers”, “Sisters”, ‘adelphoi’.
Everything he is saying come from te firm trust that whatever happens and however we get arrogant before the Lord at times, we are still the family of God, the community of God, valued members of the Body.
So, ‘brothers and sisters’ in this Saviour’s family, the church,
Even if you have been on the end of unjust treatment by the arrogant person or the rich uncaring powerful person, be patient because the Lord Jesus is coming.
Like waiting for the movie to start, like waiting for the homecoming of that loved one, like waiting for this flood to be over or waiting for a new chapter in your life to finally begin, this life following Jesus takes patience.
James says, be like the people working the land – Practice the patience of a farmer knowing that that seed in the ground and is growing, those leafless vines are sprouting, those little lambs in the paddock are reaching their maturity, fulfilling their purpose, coming to their completeness, just like you are as God’s man; God’s woman; God’s child, God’s church community.
Yes, it is still a risky business, this waiting, this patience. Things threaten the crop. Things derail the progress. Disaster can strike and damage it all.
The longer the waiting, the higher the stress levels and the more prone you and I are to be like those people of Israel in their tough desert wandering and ‘grumble’. Not just a mild complaining but a serious questioning about the meaning and purpose of it all and God’s promises for them in it all.
Like farmers in the Depression of the 1920’s, we are tempted to walk off the farm and just leave it to someone else.
People are doing this in droves, when it come to Christianity, we know. They are leaving the communal faith, the gathered community of praise, the organised religious shape of the Christian faith.
Like wise men on camels just turning those ‘ships of the desert around’ and going back to what they know, or just ‘anywhere but here’, so many have done and are practicing impatience with God and his people and giving up him and taking up themselves.
Some must have been doing this in James’ community as well.
So he writes;
“Be patient. The Lord is coming, people of Jesus”.
Therein lies the key to patient living as a Christian. Jesus is always arriving, coming to us, engaging with us.
James is not saying that we need to patiently hang on now until some distant last day when Jesus turns up again – as if Jesus is not present now; that he has been distant and absent all our lives until he turns up at the end. No, he says “Jesus is coming – now….and then”.
Jesus is always arriving in your life. He is always coming toward you and with you.
So, we live in a never-ending, always new presence of the Saviour Jesus, who is always arriving and staying.
Like those beautiful words from the Old Testament song writers, – “his mercies are new every single morning”. So, we can wait patiently for him, after all.
That means we can stay patient daily. We can leave any arrogance of going for broke for ourselves as we see fit. We can resist mumbling and grumbling about God and each other, or the world or all the ‘bad’ people and troubling things we experience.
We can ‘stand firm’ in the face of easy money, easy sex, quick fix, the temptation to quit.
Why? Because the judge is standing at our door. He is the same person who took all the judgement of a holy God into his body and rose in triumph over all our arrogance and unfairness.
He is never arrogant or unfair. He is love and he is always there.
Receive the patient love of the Saviour as we head into Christmas and consider our new year coming.
Approach your life, work, family, community with that humility and trust in this Saviour coming to us again. Don’t panic and turn the camels around or walk off the farm. Things are still growing and Jesus’ kingdom is still turning.
We small and special people of God do indeed say everyday, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live’.
Friends, continue to live here and stand together; the small and the tall, the strong and the weak; with one faith and one voice as sheep of the Shepherd, the fruit of the Vine, all family members of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit always coming to us.
Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.