What is the role of faith and the role of works in the Christian life. Some point to Paul and say that all we need is faith. Others, point to James and say that what we need are good works. Yet the reality is that both Paul and James would agree that the two simply go hand in hand, which is really what James is trying to say all throughout his letter. So, let us listen to what James has to teach us this morning. I will begin reading at the 14th verse. Listen now for the Word of God...
It was 9:00 when the phone rang. Anna Mae who was finishing up her morning devotions was just closing up her Bible. Now I wonder who that could be, she thought to herself as she crossed the room and picked up the receiver.
“Will Shepherd here. How are you doing this morning.”
“Oh, hi pastor. I’m doing fine. How are you?”
“I’m doing ok, today; but, I have a little bit of a problem. And, I was wondering if maybe you could help.”
“Well, if I can, I sure will give it a try.”
“Oh, that’s great Anna Mae. You know, Norma Terrlington don’t you?”
“Yes, I think I do. She was Burt and Julie’s daughter wasn’t she.
“Yes, that’s right.”
“You know Pastor, now that you mention her name, I can’t remember the last time that I have seen her. It’s probably not been since the funeral. Boy, that’s been two years ago. Whatever happened to her? She use to be so active but then she just sort of disappeared.”
“Well, that’s why I am calling you Anna Mae. You see, I have been talking with Norma, trying to encourage her to become more active again and she has been turning me down left and right.”
“Oh, I am so sorry to hear that; it would probably do her some good.”
“I was thinking that too; and, I was hoping that maybe you could talk to her.”
“Me; but, I don’t know her that well.”
“That’s true Anna Mae; but, as you’ve said, it’s been awhile and well, we’ve all pretty much lost touch with her.”
“Yes, but why do you think I should be the one to call her.”
“I just think that you might make a good mentor to her. You’ve got a good strong faith, though you have been through a lot yourself. Not to mention the fact that you put your faith into action all of the time, and I think she would benefit from seeing that, from seeing faith in action.”
“Oh, Pastor, I just don’t know. I am going to have to do some thinking and praying about this.”
“Well, Anna Mae, I have a little bit of a confession to make.”
“I already told Norma that you would be calling.”
“Please tell me you didn’t.”
“I’m sorry, I did. I was just sure you would say yes.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have much of a choice. Alright, give me her phone number.”
After she took down the number and then hung up the phone, Anna Mae began pacing back and forth on her kitchen floor. What was she supposed to say, “Hi, this is Anna Mae, calling to jump start your faith again.” No, that wasn’t the right approach. After about ten more minutes of pacing, Anna Mae decided that he approach had to be simple, with no pressure. She decided that she would invite Norma over for a cup of coffee and they could talk and get to know each other again.
She picked up the phone and dialed the number that Pastor Will had given her. After four rings, there was still no answer. Of course, she was probably at work. So, Anna Mae hung up without leaving a message. She would try again later that evening.
After dinner was over, Anna Mae, worked up her courage enough to call Norma. On the second ring the phone was answer.
“Hi, this Anna Mae Jenkins, from First Presbyterian. How are you doing tonight?”
“I’m doing fine. Are you the one pastor Will said was going to call me.”
“Yes, he called me this morning. He thought that well maybe...”
“That maybe you could straighten me out, get me back on the straight and narrow.”
“Well, no he didn’t say anything like that. It’s just that, well, I knew you parents, and he thought that maybe you and I could get to know each other a little better.”
“Yeah, well whatever.”
“I was wondering,” said Anna Mae, “if you would like to come to my house and have a cup of coffee or tea. We could just talk, and as I said, get to know each other a little better.”
“If I do this will that satisfy you and the pastor.”
“Norma, this isn’t something that you have to do, certainly not for me or for pastor Will. If you don’t want to come over, I will understand; but, I am would still like to invite you. It is completely up to you.”
“Alright, thank you. I appreciate the invitation. How about Saturday.”
“Saturday would be lovely. Let’s say two O’clock” Anna Mae gave her address to Norma before they said goodbye and hung up their phones. Anna Mae thought that she would feel better after having made the call; but, she didn’t. She succeeded in inviting Norma to come over; but, what in the world were they going to talk about. And just what was Anna Mae supposed to do. She just couldn’t force Norma to be more active in her faith, that was something that Norma had to decided to do, herself.
“Father, I just don’t know what I’m doing here. You’ve got to help me. I just don’t want to do anything that will make things worse for this girl. You need to tell me what to say; show me what to do.”
That following Saturday, when the doorbell, Anna Mae was just about as nervous as she had ever been in her life. So she took a deep breath, said another quick prayer and then opened the door.
“Oh please, call me Anna Mae. You must be Norma, come on in. I thought maybe we would sit outside on the patio. It’s such a nice day outside. I have a pot of coffee as well as a kettle of hot water, I wasn’t sure which you would like to have.”
“I’ll have some coffee.”
“I’ll be happy to fix that for you. We will go in through this way,” Anna Mae said as she led Norma through the family room and into the kitchen. On the way, Norma noticed the Bible that sat on the table next to the easy chair. The Bible was tattered, the spine was broken. A rubber band held the pages together.
“That sure is an old Bible,” Norma said.
“Oh, yes, that use to be my mother’s. I had had one of my own, of corse, since I was a little girl; but, when she died, I started using hers, just a small way of remembering her I suppose.”
“Do you read it often?”
“The Bible? Yes, I read it just about every morning.”
“Well, you know, I don’t have to read the Bible every morning to prove that I’m a Christian,” Norma said.
“That’s true,” Anna Mae replied as she kept on walking towards the kitchen.
“And, I don’t have to pray everyday to prove that I’m a Christian either.”
“No, I don’t suppose you do. Um, if you want to go this way, we will go out through the kitchen onto the back porch. Would you like cream and sugar in your coffee.”
As the two women took their seats outside, the conversation came in spurts, intermingled with large doses of silence. Once the pleasantries of small talk were taken care of and out of the way, they talked about Norma’s parents for awhile and Anna Mae shared stories of loved ones that she had lost. They both agreed that there was no getting rid of the pain, at least not completely. After about an hour and a half, both women realized that they were glad that they had spent the afternoon together, talking and getting to know each other a little more. When it came time for Norma to leave, they agreed to get together the following Saturday. This time it was going to be Norma’s turn to treat, though Norma confessed to not knowing how to brew a pot of coffee. Instead, she was going to take Anna Mae, to a coffee house just around the corner.
At two o’clock the following Saturday, the two women were heading down the road on the way to the coffee shop. They came to a stop light and when it turned green, Norma let her foot off of the brake and began heading straight, suddenly a car turned left right in front of her. Norma slammed her hand on the horn and she turned to look at Anna Mae.
“Did you see what that man did.” She punched the gas peddle all the way down to the floor.
“Norma what are you doing.”
“I’m going to give that man a piece of my mind.”
“Norma, just forget about it, it’s not worth it. He could have a gun or something. Oh God please, please protect us. And if you’re not going to protect her, then please protect me. What am I saying, please protect us both.” About a mile down the road they came to another stop light. Norma slammed her gear shift into park and jumped out. She ran up and began banging on the window of the car in front of her. I can’t tell you what she actually said. For, his part, the man in the car was smart enough not to turn and look, and he had enough sense not to roll down the window. Of course, it may have been the screaming lunatic standing on the other side may have had something to do with that. As the light changed, Norma stormed back to the car and got in.
“I can’t believe he cut me off like that.”
“Norma dear, you just have to let stuff like that go. He is just not worth it.”
“Oh, I suppose you would have been nice and just forgiven him or something.”
“I hope that I would have handled it a little differently.”
“Well, I don’t have to be nice to that guy to prove that I’m a Christian.”
“Now Norma I never said anything like that, it’s just that I think that there might have been a better way to handle that.”
“Hmm!” As you can imagine, the rest of the ride to the coffee house was done in silence and their wasn’t much conversation as the two woman drank their cups of coffee. Norma was still upset about being cut off by the other driver. Anna Mae was still trying to figure out why it had been so difficult to order a plain cup of coffee. After about ten minutes, the two women finished up.
“Before I take you home, would you mind, if I stopped in a store just a couple of doors down.”
“Oh, that would be fine.” So, the two of them left the coffee house and walked down the side walk. As they were going alone, Anna Mae spotted a man, half asleep, leaning against the wall. Anna Mae reached into her purse and took out some money, then she bent down and placed it in the man’s hands. He opened his eyes and looked at her. Then he smiled and gave a nod of thanks. Anna Mae smiled back as she stood up and continued walking with Norma.
“Why did you do that,” Norma asked as they reached their destination.
“Well, he looked like he might have been hungry.”
“Well, I don’t have to give money to a homeless man to prove that I’m a Christian.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Anna Mae said. “Is this where we are going in?” Anna Mae walked into the store while Norma held the door open.
The two ladies continued getting together each Saturday for their weekly cup of coffee and conversation; and, over the weeks, the two began grew closer to one another. They were becoming good friends; so much so, that after about six weeks, when Norma was getting up to leave, Anna Mae asked the question that had been on her mind for some time.
“Could I pick you up for church in the morning,” Anna Mae asked?
“I was wondering when that was going to come up.”
“It was just an invitation; and, I won’t be upset if you say no; but, I wanted to invite you nonetheless.”
“You know, I don’t have to be a Christian to go to church.”
“I know,” said Anna Mae. Norma turned and walked out the front door and just as she got to the top step of the porch she turned back around.
“Why do you do it,” Norma asked. “Why do you read your Bible every day. Why do you pray all the time. I’ve noticed. I’ve seen you praying when you don’t think I’m looking. Why do you do it? Why are you nice to everybody? Why do you go to church every Sunday? Why do you give homeless people your money? It’s like you go out of your way to be good. I mean what are you trying to prove?”
“I’m not trying to prove anything dear. You keep saying that you don’t have to do these things to prove that you’re a Christian. Well, I don’t do these things to prove that I’m a Christian, I just do them because I am a Christian.