Has your mom ever explained to you why it is important to eat your vegetables?
Maybe your mom talked with you about how the vitamins, and nutrients and fiber in the vegetables are important to keep you healthy.
And you believe your mom.
You might have even been in classes that also talked about the importance of eating vegetables in everyone's diet.
And while you are listening to the explanation, you think, "I understand, I know that eating vegetables is important for my health."
But now, there you are, fork in hand, sitting in front of your plate.
You have already eaten the chicken.
You have already eaten the potatoes.
And their they sit.
Or lima beans, or squash, or whatever your personal vegetable nemesis is.
You have heard the information about how eating vegetables is good for you, and you believe it is true.
The question now is--are you going to eat that broccoli?
You know that you should.
Now are you going to just do it?
Now adults in the room, before you get too smug about this -- you do pick the vegetables you like to eat after all--have you ever been to the doctor?
And has the doctor ever told you that you need to exercise more?
The doctor explains to you the benefits to your heart, and your emotions, and your waistline of just exercising 30 minutes a day.
An you believe your doctor.
You have read about how good even moderate exercise is for you in magazines, and in books, and websites.
Maybe you know from experience that when you exercise it makes your body feel better and puts you in a much better mood.
You have heard about it, read about it, and believe that exercise makes you feel much better.
But now you get up early in the morning, you brush your teeth, and you look inside your clothes closet.
And their they are.
Your exercise shoes.
The question now is, are you going to put on your shoes, lace them up, and go exercise?
Are you--just like Nike's slogan says--going to just do it?
The reason your doctor told you all about the benefits of exercise wasn't just so you could develop knowledge about the health benefits of exercise.
Your doctor does want you to believe that exercise will help you, but not just so that you can say that you believe exercise is a good thing.
The reason why your doctor tells you about exercise is because your doctor actually wants you to exercise.
James in the reading today is telling us that we should not just hear the word--in other words hear the Gospel of God's love--but we also have to actually do the Gospel.
And what is this Gospel--this good word--that we hear from Jesus?
The Good word is this.
God loves us, and is tender with us , and provides for us, and will do anything to be with us.
The Good word is that God loves us and wants to be with us in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.
The good word is that God will never leave us in this life or at our death.
The good word is because God loves each and every one of us, that means that everyone whom God loves is part of the same family--God's family.
And because we are part of the same family, we are supposed to love, and provide for, and be with each other--particularly those members of our family who need the most help.
But just like knowing about the nutritional value of vegetables is not enough, and just like knowing that exercise will make us healthier and put us in a better mood is not enough, just hearing and agreeing with the Good word of Jesus is not enough.
James tells us:
"Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
But those who look into the perfect law--the good word of Jesus--the law of liberty and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act--they will be blessed in their doing.
If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God , the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James tells us that we can't just hear and believe Jesus' good word, we have to do Jesus' good word.
And James tells us what doing it looks like.
Doing the good word of love for the members of God's family looks like take care of those who are the most defenseless and in pain.
In James' world in Jerusalem, widows and orphans were among the most defenseless people in that society.
Without a husband or a father, because of restrictions and prejudice against women, there were not many ways for women to support themselves that would be considered honorable.
As a result, widows and orphans were often taken advantage of, and their houses, possessions, and means of making a living were often taken away from them.
James also tells us the second part of what doing Jesus' gospel means - don't be stained by the world.
In other words, the widows and orphans are their in distress and we need to help them, but the widows and orphans are not in distress by accident.
The widows and orphans are in distress because of individual greed and economic systems of the world based on greed.
The widows and orphans are in distress because of the way of the world that says - I am all that matters and I take what I can get.
James tells us to help the defenseless and those in need, and also not ourselves be stained by the system of ego and greed that leaves the widows and orphans in distress in the first place.
So how do we as the SoCo Episcopal Community just do the Gospel in this 78704 zip code?
I don't know and I do not have the answers for us.
But you do.
My job is to help is to help everyone here figure out what is it is he or she is called by God to do both as an individual and a congregation.
I don't know what to do, but I do know that there we are sitting in a school with many low income students who need help learning to read and who need the friendship of adults.
I don't know what we should do, but I do know that thousands of people walk up and down South Congress Avenue every day looking for something to make their lives better, to pick up their spirits, to celebrate.
I don't know what we should do, but I do know there is a rehabilitation facility and nursing home down the street on Live Oak and Congress that is filled with many seniors who are far away from family and friends.
I don't know what we should do, but I do know that within half a mile from here, there is a juvenile jail where many middle school and high school age kids sit in cells without anyone to care for them on the outside and who believe that they are alone and forgotten.
Looking , I think, even if they don't know it yet, for God.
However we decide to do Jesus' Good word in this place, at this time, and with this life given to us, I know that we are not meant to do the Good word alone.
We are meant to work together with God and with one another to build a beloved community in this 78704 area.
We are building this SoCo Episcopal Community to listen and learn Jesus' good word so we can be equipped for the work that is ours to do.
We are building this SoCo Episcopal Community, and inviting people to come into this community with us, because this neighborhood needs us to bring God's help, and provision, and justice, and love.
We are building this SoCo Episcopal Community to, with God's help, have the capacity, have the power, to do and be the Good Word right here in this place and right now in our time.
With God's help, we just need to do it.
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