My growing-up seems old-fashioned these days. We had a simple black & white TV that drew four or five stations with an antenna. There was a nob on the console that you switched to turn it on and adjust the volume. It usually took awhile to warm up, and when you wanted to change channels you had to get up and turn the dial on the set.
Then came remote controls. The first person I remember with one was my grandfather in Topeka. His remote had four buttons on it: one to turn the volume up, one to turn it down, and one to change the channel up, and one to change it down. It was a much later evolution that brought us the mute button, which was a wonderful invention. It allowed you to mute out the commercials, among other things.
Sometimes when you get in a rough spot it can feel like there’s a mute button in play. You can feel like your voice just doesn’t make a difference. You can feel powerless compared to all the power-brokers out there who are able to get things done. Sometimes you can even wonder if God is really listening.
James 5:4 was a resonant verse for Labor Day. It reads as follows: “You have not paid any wages to the men who work in your fields. Listen to their complaints! The cries of those who gather in your crops have reached the ears of God, the Lord, Almighty.” The text suggests that hard-working people have frustrations and complaints, and so they cry out. Sometimes there are people who aren’t inclined to listen, but the Bible emphasizes here that God is hearing these cries even if there are people who choose to use a mute button.
This verse comes as part of a larger warning against various kinds of arrogance. It begins back in chapter four. In James 4:1-6 the writer addresses Christians who have been fighting, and he challenges them to look within rather than point fingers at each other. He gives a strongly-worded call to repentance in 4:7-10, and then he attacks these areas of arrogance, seeming to imply that changes in these areas will be fruits of repentance…
And this is true because we live as followers of Jesus. Jesus stands in contrast to how the rest of the world operates. I’m thinking right now of another middle-eastern religious leader as an example of contrast. By the time he died in 632 A.D. he had been married thirteen times. Throughout his life he spent his time gaining wealth and political power. He was a successful business and military leader. He died in complete control over Saudi Arabian peninsula.
But Jesus was different. He was a Jewish carpenter. He spent his time healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and teaching people of a kingdom that’s better than any kingdom world has to offer. He taught a gospel of love, grace, and forgiveness. He spent more time around prostitutes and lepers than he did the rich and powerful. He believed in a path of blessedness that’s much different from how the world understands it. He never ruled over the great economic or military power structures, but instead was seized by them and put to a violent yet atoning death. And then He rose from the grave, was seen by men and women, and ascended into heaven. He lives forevermore, and He will return to both judge and deliver. And this is the one we follow. This is the one in whose name we pray -- and we know that the good Lord has not hit the mute button on us because of Him.
God bless you,
Andrew McHenry, Pastor
First Congregational Church
The blog of Andrew McHenry, Pastor of First Congregational Church of Emporia, Kansas.