Easter Sunday 21 April

19My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James is treading on dangerous territory. The risk of judgmentalism and self-righteousness is high in verse 19 and 20. I am not sure I want to be part of a community in which people prowl around seeking out the “sins” of others so that the “sinner” might be brought back “from wandering.”

But what I can appreciate here is that James had a strong vision of community. In James’ day community was not a discretionary extra. It was an essential part of survival.

Today church community is totally optional. On the surface, we do not need each other. We are independent. We prize our individuality and cherish our privacy. We do not want to need anyone. The Bible tells us we should “love our neighbour”; but today many of us might not even recognize our neighbour.

Most of the needs that in ancient times would have been attended to by the community of the church, we assume today will be looked after by the State. We have a cradle to grave social safety net, universal health care, “free” education, and insurance plans to cover every unforeseen eventuality. Who needs any other support?

And yet, there is a price to pay for our independence. We may value our autonomy, but psychologists and sociologists talk about an “epidemic of loneliness.” Isolation is the close cousin of independence. And, experts claim that, when isolation becomes the dominant reality in peoples’ lives, we are society on the verge of serious pathology.

“The Week” reported in January 2019 that, “A 2010 study by Brigham Young University found that loneliness shortens a person’s life by 15 years, about the same impact as being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

James challenges the church today to find a new vision of what connection might mean in our atomized culture. Our future health and well-being as a society, may hinge in part upon our willingness to take up this challenge and establish new ways of forging relationship as church.

*************

Thank you to those of you who have followed along through Lent on this Journey with James. I pray that these daily meditations may have helped open our hearts to the presence of the risen Christ who draws us together across all boundaries into a community of faith that bears witness to the luminous presence of love.

God Bless you all