James Chapter 2 (Part 1)

James has been hitting me over the head the past two weeks. Have you ever had that happen to you? Suddenly the one thing you’ve been procrastinating on starts appearing in every aspect of your life. I’ve had conversations with no less than five people about the book of James in the past two weeks, and not by my prompting. Coincidentally, it was also part of the lectionary reading for last week! Okay God, I get it. You want me to know something about this passage. So no more procrastinating… let’s dig into James!

James 2:1-4

This is the section that’s been bugging me the most. Favoritism. We’re all guilty of it, but we’re also all prone to say it’s not a real problem for us. Do we discriminate? No way! We’re educated, “woke”, and you might even say “better than” being discriminatory. We’d never let someone’s clothes dictate whether we allowed them into our friend circles.

Yeah, right.

Take a look around at your closest group of friends. The people in your church. Who you spend most of your time with. People you admire and respect. 

What do they look like? 

Do they look like you? Odds are, they probably do. They might even wear the exact same pair of black compression leggings, black and white stripe t-shirt, and Jerusalem Cruisers (my sister’s fond way of referring to Chaco sandals). That’s my mom uniform, and let me tell you, when I take the kids out to the museum or the park, every single mom is rocking that very same outfit. And those are the moms I talk to.

Now think about the people you aren’t talking to. The people you shrink away from. The people you make an excuse not to reach out to. “Oh they’re too busy,” “It looks like she’s got her hands full,” “I can’t speak Spanish,” “Her kids seem wild.” 

Favoritism is alive and well in our society and in our hearts, mine included.

Verses 3-4: “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Yikes.

Okay, but as it turns out, James argues that those same “poor” people you despise are actually the people who you should look to, because often they are the ones with rock-solid faith.

Verse 5: “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”

A Fun, True, and embarrassing Story:

At church one Sunday, I came across a man who was sitting in the back of the church. There were no services going on (it was Sunday School hour) and I was looking for some extra bulletins. This guy had on ripped sweatpants, walked with a limp, and to be frank, didn’t smell fresh. I honestly thought he was homeless and was coming to the church looking for assistance. 

So there I was in my Banana Republic skirt, floral blouse, and high heels alone with a guy who seemed extremely out of place. And you know what? I walked away from him.

After a few minutes (that seemed like an eternity) of the Holy Spirit nagging on me to go talk to this man and check on him, I finally made an effort to welcome him and see what he needed.

And you’re never going to believe this… he was a relative of one of our Sunday School members!!! This man, who I pre-judged as being less than me is actually a patent-holder, author, and stroke survivor. He was simply mistaken about the time our services started and was waiting for the next one. And the hilariously ironic part of this story is that he ended up joining our Sunday School class and studied the Bible with us for an entire year. 

I am exhibit A when it comes to being a Judgey McJudgerson. Thankfully, God is still working on me and he’s not done yet. Hallelujah for second (and third, and fourth, and fifth…) chances.

ANNNNDDDDD Back to James

James 2:6-7

James digs that knife in a little deeper and points out that those same people we idolize (the rich) are actually causing us harm. The Jeff Bezos of the world who race to space but don’t put their employees health and well being first. The politicians and producers who get off scot-free or with a slap on the wrist while the victims of their sexual assaults are publicly shamed and sent death threats. Yes, actually James, you have a good point there. 

James 2:8-9

These verses set up the argument James is about to make, and it’s sort of complex, so we’re going to break it down bit by bit. Verses 8 and 9 lay out that loving our neighbor = right and favoritism is sin = wrong. Simple so far.

James 2:10-11

This is a leap. Sometimes I fall flat on my face when I read stuff like this because it’s starting to sound like Philosophy 101. James is saying that  ANY error we make equates to breaking the ENTIRE law. We become “lawbreakers”. If you break a single law, you are by definition, a law-breaker. You can’t say, “well, I’m a law keeper, except for this one law that I broke”. Nope. There are no exceptions. You’re a law-breaker now. Maybe a heartbreaker, too, if you’re Pat Benatar. I digress…

40 Years Ago: Pat Benatar Breaks Through With 'Heartbreaker'

It’s interesting to me that verse 11 stresses that what we’re really doing is going against God: “For he who said…”. God makes the law, and when we break it, we’re breaking our relationship with God.

James 2:12

So what does this mean, “the law that gives freedom”? Surely, James can’t be talking about all those Levitical laws? The truth is, that the law – the entire law as found in the Bible – is freeing. The law isn’t there to just bust our chops. It’s there to protect us from a lot of negative consequences. Things that can harm ourselves and others. It’s also there to show us that we need a savior, because perfection is out of our reach on our own merit. Jesus himself says, in Matthew 5:17-20, that He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.

James 2:13

As a result of the mercy we have been shown, we ought to show mercy to others. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

There’s a lot to unpack in James, so I’m going to tackle the rest of chapter 2 in another post. Hope you have a great week!

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SoDu Farmer’s Market

SoDu Farmer's Market

This year, since I’m not growing as much food as I normally would in our garden, I’ve been trying out different farmer’s markets in the area. Can I just say, I love farmer’s markets?! Let me count the ways!

  1. Supporting local growers and producers keeps resources here and promotes the local economy.
  2. By supporting local, I can also avoid shipping costs and reduce my carbon footprint.
  3. Avoiding excess packaging is better for the earth. I can bring my own bag to the market and buy loose veggies and fruits instead of items wrapped in plastic wrap. Less trash is a win in my book!
  4. I can choose to support organic and sustainable farmers who are committed to preserving the land and local ecosystems. Plus I don’t have to worry about anything sprayed on my food.
  5. I can meet the people who grow my food and hear their stories, get great ideas for recipes, get gardening tips, and learn about other community resources (places that do U-pick, local artisans, etc).
  6. I get to try varieties I can’t find in the grocery store.
  7. This is helping me meet one of my annual goals!

This week, I checked out a small farmer’s market that was new to me – the South Durham (or SoDu) Farmer’s Market. I must be living under a rock, because I just found out about this market and it’s just up the road from us! 

This market is a hidden gem! I love that it’s a small market, parking is easy peasey, and it still has everything I could possible need – baked goods, seafood, handmade soaps, ciders, cheeses, meats, and produce. They even have a homemade pasta vendor! It’s held in a parking lot that also contains a DMV license plate office, which I ironically had to visit just a few weeks ago. Let’s just say, I’d much rather be shopping than waiting in line at the DMV.

 

Is it just me or do you ever feel intimidated by farmer’s markets? I frequently get flustered and overwhelmed by all the variety and abundance around me and often just end up purchasing whatever catches my eye. Usually, that means I come home with whatever vegetables or fruits are front and center in the displays.

What I really enjoyed about this farmer’s market was that many of the vendors had chalkboards out front with a list of their offerings. That gave me a better idea of what was for sale and lessened the pressure/feeling guilted into buying something just because I approached a booth. This week, I challenged myself to get something other than fruits and vegetables, so here’s what I got. I was super pleased!

 

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms from Haw River Mushrooms

Lions Mane Mushroom

Lions Mane Mushroom (picture from https://ramblecreekfarm.com/store/product/lions-mane-mushroom-fresh)

I know what you’re thinking… that mushroom looks alien. That’s what I thought, too! At the suggestion of their super friendly employee, Fran, I tried these because she said they taste like crab meat. Jonah is a huge crab cake fan but hates mushrooms, so I did the ol’ switcheroo to see if he could tell the difference. Guess what? He couldn’t! I used this recipe from Aubrey’s Kitchen and they turned out great! Also, I had a lovely conversation with Fran about her time living in Washington state and found out that we have a mutual love of Mt. Ranier National Park.

Chopped Lion's Mane Mushroom

Chopped up it doesn’t look so bad, does it?

 

Peaches fromKen Chappell’s Peaches and Apples

Hallelujer! Fresh peach season is here. There’s really no point in eating peaches out of season. These are so delicious and perfectly ripe right now.

Hallelujer Madea

Peaches

 

“Field of Creams” Goat Cheese fromProdigal Farm

I love the mission of this local goat dairy. They really treat their animals well. They have a punchcard program for $10 of free cheese once you get 10 punches (one punch for every $10 spent). For this dairy lover, that’s a pretty great deal. Plus, I give them extra points for creativity in naming their cheeses!

"Field of Creams" Goat Cheese from Prodigal Farm

“Field of Creams” Goat Cheese from Prodigal Farm

Field of Dreams Meme - if you build it the memes will come.

 

Pastries fromNinth Street Bakery

Ummm, I didn’t get pictures of these because Jonah, the kids, and I demolished them! We really enjoy this great, local bakery. This time, we got two cinnamon rolls, a morning bun, and a bear claw. YUM! Here’s a drool-worthy picture of them from their website. 

Cinnamon Rolls from Ninth Street Bakery

Cinnamon Rolls from Ninth Street Bakery

I really enjoyed my visit to the SoDu Farmer’s Market and plan to go back soon to get some seafood, eggs, and meat! Do you have a recommendation of other farmer’s markets I should try? Drop it below in the comments so I can visit and report back.

SoDu Farmer's Market

SoDu Farmer’s Market is located at Greenwood Commons Shopping Center: 5410 NC-55, Durham, NC 27713. Open 8am-12pm every Saturday, year round.

 

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Wild Card Wednesday!

It’s Wild Card Wednesday(WCW)! What is WCW? It’s the best day of the week, is what!

On Wild Card Wednesdays, I’m going to bring you something I find truly hilarious, poignant, or just can’t keep to myself because it’s that good.

Today you’re in for a treat! The best slapstick humor of all time from one of my favorite shows, Parks & Rec. Enjoy!

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Why So Much Garden Imagery in the Bible?

Have you ever noticed that the Bible is chock-full of gardens? Well, maybe you didn’t, but now you’re not going to be able to unsee it! 

 

  • The Bible both starts AND ends in a garden. 
  • The tabernacle & later the temple are modeled after Eden
  • Old Testament prophets frequently use planting parables to explain coming judgment and deliverance (Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21, Psalm 80:8-16, Isaiah 37:30, Isaiah 65:21-22, Jeremiah 29:5 & 28, Ezekiel 28:26, Amos 9:14).
  • Old Testament wisdom books use garden metaphors to explain prosperity and disaster.
  • Jesus tells parables about fields and gardens non-stop. 
  • Jesus goes to Gethsemane (another garden) before he is betrayed by Judas Iscariot to the Jewish leaders. 
  • Jesus tells the criminal next to him on the cross that today he’ll be with Him in paradise (translated “garden”).
  • Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener after He is resurrected. 

… and that’s just scratching the surface.

 

Heck, you can even buy a green-letter Bible that highlights all of the instances of God’s care and concern for creation. I’m not making this up! I’m intrigued by this (and might have to get myself a copy sometime!).

 

(this is an Amazon Affiliate link)

 

So why so much garden imagery in the Bible?

 

That’s a good question. In searching around I found a few different ideas:

 

  • Gardens and agriculture were kind of a big deal in Ancient Near-Eastern Culture.

It wasn’t just the Israelites who were into their gardens. Sumerians (ancient Mesopotamians) believed in a creation story (Enki & Ninhursag) that focused on a garden. Plus, both cultures were positioned in the Fertile Crescent, an area known for the birth of agriculture / the cradle of civilization. Ancient hearers and readers would have understood a garden metaphor pretty well because they lived it (tilling the land) everyday.

 

  • Gardens were kind of a big deal in mythologies of other cultures worldwide. 

Check out this interesting video from Crash Course Mythology to see how pervasive they are (Crash Course’s other video are great, too, by the way):

 

  • Tending a garden is a great metaphor for creating order out of chaos.

We see this in the story of the Garden of Eden. Everything is pretty soupy and primordial, and then becomes more ordered as God creates.

 

  • Gardens are a great metaphor for spiritual growth and growing the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls God a gardener and compares us and/or the Kingdom of God to plants/vines/weeds

 

  • Everyone can understand gardens as a symbol, because everyone has probably experienced a garden in some way. 

 

As it turns out, there are many possible explanations as to why gardens are mentioned so frequently in the Bible. Some of these explanations have a lot of research and backing, and some are speculative. The truth is, we just don’t know 100% why God reveals His word to us in garden form! 

Or maybe, just maybe, God likes to garden. 

I think that’s the explanation that I’m going with. I’m just sayin’!

 

Coming up:

Wednesday: Weedling vs. Seedling – How to Tell the Difference

Next Sunday: 2021 Goal Check-In

 

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