August 16, 2020

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Faith Without Works Is Dead
James 2:14-26

Read this article as a Word Document
An ABS Reproducible is available for this session here.

I am tempted to be overwhelmed by all the hard things the people of the world are facing: the deadly explosion in Beirut, the suffering in nursing homes hit hard by the coronavirus in the United States, the anger in Bolivia over rising death tolls related to COVID-19, the plane crash that killed 17 in India, the suppression of pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, the deaths of Somalian civilians in Pentagon bombing campaigns against terrorist groups.

I am tempted to see division everywhere as people choose their camps, solidify their camps, and spend elaborate energy vilifying anyone not in their camp.

I am tempted to let out a groan, to despair.

So, amid this temptation, I am grateful for Gordon Matties’s response to James 2 this week. As Matties helps us see, James is a book of fullness; of insistence on wholeness, hope, and actionable faith—not despair. As Matties describes, James’s examples of Abraham and Rahab—one the esteemed patriarch of Israel and the other his seeming opposite: a woman, a prostitute, a Canaanite—reinforce the radical call to be “faith-doers.” This call eclipses the division we might see in our world, our nation, our communities, even our churches. As Matties puts it, we are called “not to reduce faith to contemplative spirituality or social justice activism, denominational confessions of faith or spiritual disciplines, Bible knowledge or theological awareness. Putting it that way insinuates binary categories that, for James, simply don’t exist” (ABS, p. 67).

I wonder:

  • How have we tried to put the work of Jesus into a camp of our own making?
  • What have we prioritized about the work? What have we neglected?

To not only live with all the hard things but to practice actionable faith to restore life amid the hard things, we need to leave our camps and pursue the fullness of the call of Jesus.

—Kerry Hasler-Brooks,

© 2020

1. John Lewis, “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation,” New York Times, July 30, 2020.

Kerry Hasler-Brooks is a professor of American Literature at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania. She researches and teaches at the intersections of race, gender, literature, and vocation and has written on diverse American women writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Ruiz de Burton, Katherine Anne Porter, Toni Morrison, and Edwidge Danticat. She lives on an organic vegetable farm run by her husband, Nathan; loves to explore in the fields and woods with their two young children; and recently joined the 300-year-old community at Salford Mennonite Church, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, where she is learning to hear and practice anew the call of Jesus to radical peace, love, and welcome.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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