The Parish Church of Connersville, Indiana

The Fourth Sunday after Easter 2024

Sermon Date: April 28, 2024

Passage: James 1

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is not variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).
It is an easy thing to feel lost in the middle of a world trying to deconstruct itself before our eyes. To build something requires the hard work of humbly joining ourselves to the Creator as we use His precious gifts to bring order and structure to those building blocks of reality longing to be shaped and formed by the divine image which makes us human. Even evil people must bend their cruel visions to the inescapable facts of a universe held in check by the God who made nature. The Nazi war machine of the 1940s, propped up by the most educated people the world had ever known, failed to stamp out Christian civilization in England because of a strip of water only 20 miles wide. But, Germany’s towering achievements in science and industry, even in their abominable misuse, still relied upon the idea of building and creating: we all have electronic fuel injection in our cars because Messerschmitt fighter planes needed to maneuver more aggressively than the older gravity fed carburetors would allow. Even in their moral barbarity, the gifts of nature were formed into something which has benefited millions of people.

The same cannot be said for the people who succeeded in destroying Christian civilization in England. Over the last seventy years our great and subtle enemy quite wisely moved from the difficult business of making evil empires into the much easier task of making empires evil. It is how we went from jailing Nazi abortionists at Nuremberg in 1945 to deciding in our own time that abortion is the only way to make heaven on earth. States all over our land are enshrining in utero slaughter in their constitutions, as if these pieces of bloody paper could bind nature to our wills or assuage the wrath of the God who knits children together in their mothers’ wombs.

At the heart of this self-destruction is the mad ungratefulness of rotten, spoiled children: men and women, who in their confusion and lust and rage, gleefully smash the good gifts passed down to them and call the mangled product of their madness a better world. James, in his epistle, has taken on the difficult task of dragging us away from our inward-looking obsessions—our rotting piles of grievances and legions of insatiable desires—to force us to look up into the night sky, teeming and swirling with grand celestial bodies, to look up and know the glory of being alive. James moves back and forth between the evidence of God’s glory, which shines above us every day and night, to the intimate, divine delivery of everything we have to each and every creature blessed enough to live and love and die on this planet gifted to us.

The apostle is very much reflecting the teachings of Christ, ‘Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:27-32). And our Lord provides these good things to us even though we, in contrast to Him who gives all good things, are the source of all evil in the world. As Jesus says, ‘…what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?’ (Matthew 7:9-11). The evil of our world is a direct consequence of the concrete human selfishness and cruelty to which we all play a part. We must understand that it is God alone who holds back the tide of death we would unleash upon ourselves absent His Fatherly care.

And so, it is this loving, Almighty Father who reaches through time and space to meet our needs, who moves heaven and earth to find and know us in the most inescapably intimate terms; it is this Father who also is the Father of all light. The 19th century Anglican bishop and poet, Christopher Wordsworth has this to say about the title James gives the living God: ‘God is the Father of all lights—the light of the natural world, the sun, the moon, and stars, shining in the heavens; the light of reason and conscience; the light of His Law; the light of prophecy, shining in a dark place; the light of the gospel shining throughout the world; the light of apostles, confessors, martyrs, bishops, and priests, preaching that gospel to all nations; the light of the Holy Ghost shining in our hearts; the light of the heavenly city; God is the Father of them all. He is the everlasting Father of the everlasting Son, who is the Light of the world.’ We are bathed in this light whether we are grateful or not; whether we rise each day and thank God for all He has given us. or if we deny Him His rightful praise and madly pretend we struck the match which first lit the Sun.

We are right to look to the stars to try and capture some basic understanding of the greatness of the gifts of God, for as much as we might love someone, we could never gift them the moon; God shows His love for us in giving us a beautiful universe drawing us upward and out of ourselves and our pain; however, James wants us to look at the planets and comets in their beautiful God ordained patterns of movement, patterns which include the majestic eclipse we all just witnessed weeks ago, to see in these patterns the hand of God, but also the great difference between them and God. For unlike the moon and the stars, God does not change. As God spoke through Malachi; ‘For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed’ (Malachi 3:6). So much of our society’s self-destruction has been aided and abetted by cowardly Christians hearing this verse and calling God a liar. The heathen have no reason to trust in the unchanging nature of God, but it has been the legions of men and women who call themselves Christians, who couldn’t wait to sell their birthright for the chance to be loved by the world and receive their own personal rusty crowns, it is them for whom we should have that holy combination of pity and anger. Whenever you hear a supposed Christian say something like, ‘Well that is just an old-fashioned belief; we’ve moved beyond that,’ know you are simply hearing the great serpentine snare: ‘Did God really say?’ The first Adam nodded his head to this evil nonsense; the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, died so you would never have to say, ‘Yes,’ to this mass suicide note ever again. This gift is God’s greatest gift.

In fact, it is this supreme gift of our regeneration which shines brighter than any star. For we were not made for the stars; the stars were made for us. And the God who made them, the God who never changes, the God who always keeps His promises, has remade His reborn children of grace into vessels fit to explore and enjoy the heavens. God displays the utter goodness of His will in saving undeserving creatures who will fill the new Heaven and new Earth, the new Mars and the new Alpha Centauri. The closer the Word of truth is to our hearts, the closer we are to these bright, undiscovered countries. The Resurrected Son of God has already shown that death itself is not strong enough to stop the light, not strong enough to contain the good and perfect gift of everlasting life. We will need it, for you and I have so much to do, so much to accomplish on the bright shores of eternity. We will build and create and love and feast surrounded by the fruit born of surviving even the darkest moments of this fallen world’s rebellion. We are the fruit of His harvest and glory beckons. May we never fail to answer the call.