Artist: Audrey Assad
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
For the first thirteen or so years of my life I lived on a little street called Knodishall Dr. It was a decent enough street, long and straight, with a big downhill right in middle. As you might imagine, this created a bit of a problem: cars would fly down our street.
So, the people responsible for the safety of our community took action. First, there was the stop sign at the top of the hill. Then, there was the stop light. But finally, they called in the big guns…the rumble strips.
I was just a kid. I’ve got no idea if they were effective. But I do know they were loud. Every few yards the sound of cars bumping over those rumble strips. It was almost rhythmic. B-bump, b-bump, b-bump.
Reading through James’ letter reminds a bit of that street from my childhood. Seems like every few sentences you’re running over the same bump: the way we talk matters. Every couple of yards, rumble strip. A warning – pay attention to what you say. He cares an awful lot about how Christians talk and how that talk affects the community.
Just before our reading today, James has challenged his readers not to make oaths (5:12). Have integrity in your speech – plain talk. Let your yes…be yes. Think about it – typically, it’s when you’ve broken trust or lacked integrity that your speech is full of oaths. I swear I’ll never… Or, I promise I won’t… Rumble strip.
Just before that bit on oaths? James says stay away from grumbling against each other (5:9). B-bump. Before that? Careful with boasting (4:16). B-bump. Before that? Don’t speak evil against others (4:11). B-bump. Before that? Quarrelsome and selfish chat (4:1-3). B-bump. Before that? Boasting (again) and falsehood (3:14). Before that? The tongue and hellish flames, deadly poison, and cursing (3:8-10). Before that? You get the idea.
All of it divisive, corrosive, and destructive to the Christian community.
And then we hit this passage in James 5: Pray, sing, confess. A different kind of chat. An entirely different mode of…talking. And this kind of chat? It takes suffering and sickness and sin…and somehow works life and healing and salvation.
So today, as you E.A.T. (Exalt, Ask, & Thank), know that what you’re doing in that moment…it matters. It makes a difference. It takes suffering and sickness and sin and invites God to work life and healing and salvation. Bon appetit!