I have mentioned before in sermons and Sunday School classes that my musical tastes have taken a lifetime to develop. As a child, I listened to whatever my parents had playing on the stereo (Mickey Finn, Pete Fountain, The Music Man, Oklahoma, to name a few.) In my teenage years (technically 1973 – 1979) I turned most of my attention to two schools of rock: Detroit and Southern. And in my adult years I have found that along with some newer music, I often allow tunes from the recesses of my mind and soul to emerge at will.
Somewhere in my pilgrimage there was a country song called “Do You Believe This Town.” And a line from that song went something like this:
“The Deacon Jones preaches brotherly love every Sunday, and forecloses loans on widow’s homes every Monday. …. Do you believe this town?”
The words from James chapter 1 (verses 26-27) seemed to reverberate with this song from somewhere in the sixties.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
I know that James was speaking here about the tongue, but I want to save my extended reflections on that subject until we come to the third chapter of his letter. Here I want to ponder “religion” and the proper treatment of “widows” (and “orphans”).
The scriptures implore God’s people to direct their love and acts of compassion toward the marginalized. And the group that is often lifted up for our concern is “widows and orphans.” And if we try to dedicate any part of our lives to religious pursuits, we had better not simply place our bodies in the pews on Sunday, or stick our noses in “The Good Book” six other days a week. We must also make sure that we apply the love of God that we hear about in sermons and read about in the Bible to our daily interactions with the powerless widows and poor orphans.
Today’s another day to try religiously to live “religious” live.
God of love and compassion, help me to direct the grace and mercy that I have received from You toward every person I encounter this day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.