By David Baumann

A Reading from James 5:7-12, 19-20

7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10 As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

12 Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “Yes” be yes and your “No” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

19 My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Meditation

In my nearly 50 years of my ministry, I have known thousands of Christians. Of those, my guess is that three of them were what we would call real, actual saints. Though not officially canonized, they were Christians who, I believe, were close to finishing on earth the Lord’s call to complete discipleship and formation. One was a man named Charlie. He died in his late 60s after suffering from two or three serious illnesses in his last decade. He finally succumbed to leukemia. Every time he had to go into the hospital, he would tell me, “If this is my time, Father, I’m ready!” I must have heard that from him half a dozen times. His tone was one almost of excitement.

James’s lesson for today urges believers to “be patient until the Lord’s coming… The Judge is standing at the door.” In those early days of the Church, they probably believed that Jesus’ second coming was imminent, and James is probably writing about that. But the lesson applies just as well to the “particular judgment” that comes to all at the time of death. After James’s urgent and demanding call to uncompromising discipleship in this week’s earlier lessons, he closes with the call to determined patience. The image of the farmer waiting for his land to yield a valuable crop in the spring and autumn rains is apt. The rains are sure and certain to come, but the value of the crop depends on other factors as well, such as daily care. Perseverance “in the face of suffering” is one sign of such daily care. So is the call to each believer to help others who may wander from the truth. The coming of the Lord in glory has never been predictable, but that we will face our own “particular judgment” is undeniable. James teaches us, and Charlie shows us, with the saints throughout time, how to do it.

David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Christ Church, Tyler, Texas
The Diocese of Ely (Church of England)