Archives: James 1:17-27

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

Listen to these three quotes and tell me which one is the most familiar to you.

“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.”

“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.”

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

I’m guessing that in that order, those quotes go from least familiar, to somewhat familiar, to very familiar.

That’s right, in order of importance, or at least exposure, a Disney movie takes number one, followed by the First Letter to the Corinthians, and then our text appointed for today, the Letter of James.

That verse from James captured my attention this week, and I’ve thought a lot about mirrors.

Human beings have always longed to know what they look like, how others see them.  The seeming magic of being able to see one’s reflection has led to myths connecting mirrors to the soul.

Different cultures have attached different superstitions to mirrors, for example that breaking one creates seven years of bad luck, or that all the mirrors in the house must be covered when someone dies so that the departing soul doesn’t get trapped in one by the Devil.  Vampires, the undead, supposedly lack a reflection in a mirror.

The ancient Greek myth of Narcissus tells the story of a beautiful youth who, upon glimpsing his own likeness in water, falls in love with his own reflection and wastes away to death.

Narcissus is where we get the modern psychological concept of narcissism, which is all too relevant in our current social and political climate. The ancient Greeks, as much as both they and the Romans loved mirrors, saw their dangers. Continue reading

God’s Love Is Not Really Like You Think It Is

Margery Kempe, the great medieval English mystic, experienced God saying to her: “More pleasing to me than all your prayers, works, and penances is that you would believe I love you.”

That is what our scriptures are about today, exemplified first in our text from Song of Solomon, which is most frequently used at weddings.

This is only time in the entire 3-year cycle of the lectionary that we read the Song of Solomon in worship, the book of the Bible that’s basically an ode to erotic love.

It’s a text about raw passion for the Beloved, and it may seem somewhat distant from how we experience God.

But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The dual forces of Western puritanism and modern scientific cold skepticism have driven out much of the spectrum of love in our relationship with God.

We are only allowed to glimpse a formal, distant, dignified love for standing up in church, and maybe a little hint of the love of a parent for a child.

It turns out there’s a lot more to it than that. Continue reading