2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 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,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
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? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Faith and Deeds
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
The Sermon Text:
Inger B. Hanson
Year B / Pentecost 16
Shepherd of the Mountains, Jackson, WY
September 9, 2018
On James 2:1-17 Christ in Bright Yellow: S, M, L, XL, and XXL.
When it comes to matters of dress,
I don’t think the community James lived in
was quite like Jackson Hole.
While our county has the dubious distinction
of having the highest income inequality in the United States,
with the 1% earning 132 times more than everyone else,
it isn’t always expressed in fine clothes.
A billionaire here might be found in worn jeans and a flannel.
Or yesterday, sporting an Old Bill’s running shirt and shorts.
There’s a beauty to our style, or lack thereof,
that I think James would have approved of.
While here in Jackson we certainly have other status indicators,
this major one is muted.
We have to get to know someone
in order to make the distinctions we might want to make,
to put a person in whatever box.
And when we get to know someone,
when we build a relationship with a person,
we are far more likely to see a neighbor instead of a type.
The formal clothing we use in worship wants to do something similar.
Albs, the lovely roomy robe the assisting minister and I
usually wear at the second service,
were not originally intended to set us apart from the assembly.
They cover the leaders’ normal wardrobes,
be they high priced or threadbare,
focusing attention on worship
rather than what the leaders can afford or how trendy they are.
Further, albs are worn in solidarity and unity:
they are a simple derivative of the long linen tunic used by Romans. Rather than something only for special occasions,
back in the day they were rather ordinary first-century clothing.
The color has gained significance:
the white is meant to remind you of your own white garment traditionally presented or worn at your baptism.
But, it must be admitted, albs aren’t a staple in the JH wardrobe.
Because while you might envy me a little for the extra layer in winter, they’re a bit stifling mid-summer.
And as an everyday garment?
I imagine there’s a bit too much fabric for biking,
and a bit too much airflow for skiing.
However impractical, and however much I love the historical richness
of the alb, I feel the loss of that visible connection to everyday life.
Theologian David Lose once reflected that rather than being
the big event or game day of a Christian’s week,
worship should be the locker room gathering
before going out to live the Christian life.
For first-century believers, albs used to be a reminder of that.
So what would the alb of the 21st century be?
I think a front runner would be a t-shirt –
something you can wear outside of these walls
as you go about this Christian life.
Maybe not a white one:
on a practical level, white really doesn’t seem to stay white very long,
and we have way cooler dyes now than the Romans did.
Maybe a yellow one, because after all,
according to one color psychology website,
“it’s a truly joyous and radiant color,
exuding warmth, inspiration and vitality.”
It carries with it a looking “forward to the future,”
a “cheerful spirit and an expectation of greater happiness.”
Appropriate associations, I think,
for the new life gifted to us in baptism.
Appropriate sentiments for those
who look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
So this Sunday, Christ comes in bright yellow – S, M, L, XL, or XXL.
And this yellow shirt, even as it comes in different sizes,
expresses our unity:
visibly bonding us together, like our baptisms, as a congregation.
It also bonds us to congregations all over the country today
as we celebrate being the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – “one church, freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor …
a church that boldly does God’s work
of restoring and reconciling our communities.”
And not just on this one Sunday.
This is a shirt for any day.
Showing God’s love to your neighbors and helping make your community a better place is work you do, in your own way, every day, as part of exploring and doing faith.
Ultimately, it’s not about white linen or bright yellow cotton.
We put on this clothing to remind ourselves that in baptism,
as Paul says, we put on Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27). Distinctions like Gentile or Jew, slave or free, male or female –
or whatever our modern distinctions might be – fall away.
We are all one in Christ Jesus.
Colossians gets more specific
about what this putting on Christ might mean:
we clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love (Colossians 3:12-14).
These are active words.
They need relationship to be real, to be true.
So today we put on bright yellow.
May this shirt remind you that every day we put on Christ,
lifting our voices and our hands for our neighbor’s needs.
And every day, signaled by yellow shirt or not,
may we be open to hearing Christ in our neighbor’s voices
and seeing Christ in their hands.
 From God’s Work Our Hands 2018 Toolkit blurbs.