8 September 2024


Ordinary Time (Proper 18)

James 2:1-17

Faith and Works


Additional Scriptures

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23; Psalm 125;
Mark 7:24-37; Doctrine and Covenants 162:7d



Create a worship center that draws attention to the contrast of needs in the world. Today’s scripture from James begins by asking if we are willing to welcome the poor and disadvantaged into our communities. Items on display could include socks, water bottles, hygiene items, or other necessities that privileged individuals typically don’t need to worry about access to.

For the Time of Community Practice, gather strips of paper or fabric, baskets or a loom, pens or pencils. Place the baskets/loom near the worship center.



In our gathering today we focus on James 2:1-17, a scripture that calls our attention to faith and works. We are invited to be fully open to both the presence and movement of God in our lives, and the faithful responses that the holy is seeking from us in our lives.

We live in a time of compartmentalization. Our lives of faith, vocation, family, friends, hobbies, and passions are often seen as separate parts of who we are. Similarly, it is common for worship, a time to awaken to God’s presence, and mission, the invitation to tangibly respond through action, to be seen as separate endeavors.

The ongoing challenge for our worshipping community is to deepen the integration between faith and works. How do our beliefs intersect with God’s activity around us? How might we welcome those who need God’s loving embrace in every part of our lives? Let us dwell together in this challenge during this time of attention and intention.

Reading of Two Proverbs: Proverbs 22:1-2

Hymns of Welcome and Praise

 “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me"
CCS 581

OR “Weave"
CCS 327

OR “Welcome Jesus, You Are Welcome"
CCS 277

Responsive Prayer of Invocation and Invitation

Leader:            Let us pray.

In words of scripture today we are reminded that “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” [James 2:13]. Living God, we pray for deeper presence to your spirit. We long to see our neighbors through your eyes. We repent the judgment we have cast on strangers who we don’t understand, yet still bear the image of Christ.

God of the stranger, for those made in your image who we have not seen…

People:            May mercy triumph over judgment.

Leader:            God of the lonely, for those who suffer in isolation as we gather in community…

People:           May mercy triumph over judgment.

Leader:            God of the poor, for those who struggle to survive as we offer gratitude for abundance…

People:            May mercy triumph over judgment.

Leader:            God of the judged, for those who think, believe, live, or love differently and have felt unwelcome in our sanctuaries….

People:            May mercy triumph over judgment.

Leader:            God, cleanse us of our favoritism.

Open our eyes to what we fail to see.

Plant good seeds of love and acceptance in our hearts.

All:                  May mercy triumph over judgment. Amen.


Prayer for Peace

Hymn of Peaceful Preparation           

“Beauty from Brokenness”                                                                            
CCS 302

OR “We Serve the Prince of Peace”                                                             
CCS 348 

Light the Peace Candle.


God of peace,

Often, we wander through life with a narrow gaze, caught in the motions of life, living in a version of the world constructed by our own priorities, relationships, and world views.

We pray that our vision of life would become wider in scope. As we imagine friends, neighbors, strangers, and the planet, we yearn for your reality of shalom. Challenge our assumptions, guide our paths, and teach us the way of peace. Amen.

Scripture Reading: James 2:1-17

Time of Community Practice: Expanding Welcome

Supplies: Strips of paper or fabric, loom or baskets, and pens/markers.

Instructions to make a simple loom with stand: aprettyfix.com/standing-loom-adjustable-legs.

If using a loom, hand out strips of fabric and markers. If using baskets, hand out strips of paper and pens/markers, informing participants that during Disciples’ Generous Response they will be invited to bring their strips to weave into the loom, or place in the baskets that are part of the worship center.

James was a socially aware writer, sharing reminders with a wide audience about what being a follower of Christ entailed. In today’s text, attention is drawn to hypocrisy among believers who give preferential treatment to the wealthy and are dismissive to the poor and marginalized.

In our time of practice we will reflect on who we welcome into community and who we don’t, both consciously and unconsciously. The purpose of this practice isn’t to self-critique. We are invited to feel gratitude for the ways we offer welcome while also expanding the scope of how we imagine Christlike hospitality in our community.

For the next several minutes, you are invited to be present to the following questions.

Print or project questions for all to see. Omit or add questions based on the journey of your community.

  • What makes you feel most welcome in this community?
  • Who have you invited to be part of this community? Who do you feel most comfortable inviting? Who do you feel uncomfortable inviting?
  • Who have you noticed is missing in this community, or in the relational fabric of your own life?
  • Who most needs welcome in the community around us?
  • What practices and shared values would lead us to be more welcoming in our ministry?
  • How does Christlike welcome call us beyond ministry within this space?

Consider having soft music playing. When you feel ready, write down what stirs in you. It might be someone you feel called to welcome. It might be a shift in behavior you hope to model. Later in our service, we will combine these stirrings, committing ourselves to this holy work of expanding welcome.

For the next several minutes, you are invited to take deep breaths, and settle into this time of personal practice.

Hymn of Reflection and Preparation

“Bear Each Other’s Burdens"
CCS 374

OR “Brothers and Sisters of Mine"
CCS 616 


Based on James 2:1-17

OR Small Group Sharing: “Who is My Neighbor?”

            Invite small groups to reflect on these questions. Print or project for all to see.

  • What kind of experience did you have engaging with the Expanding Welcome practice?
  • How might this practice affect your personal discipleship?
  • How might this practice affect this community?

Disciples’ Generous Response

Scripture Reading: Doctrine and Covenants 162:7d


During this time of Disciples’ Generous Response, we focus on aligning our hearts with God’s heart. Our offerings are more than meeting budgets or funding mission. Through our offerings, we tangibly express our gratitude to God, who is the giver of all.

As we share our mission tithes either by placing money in the plates or through eTithing, use this time to thank God for the many gifts received in life. Our hearts grow aligned with God’s when we gratefully receive and faithfully respond by living Christ’s mission.

As the offering is received, you are invited to bring forward your reflections from our Time of Community Practice. Make provision for those who cannot come forward. Depending on which approach is taken during community practice, invite community to place strips in basket or weave them into loom.

If your congregation is meeting online, remind participants they can give through CofChrist.org/give or through eTithing.org (consider showing these URLs on screen).

Blessing and Receiving of Local and Worldwide Mission Tithes

Hymn of Sending Forth                                                       

“Christ Has Calls Us to New Visions"
CCS 566

OR “Go Now Forth into the World"
CCS 646

OR “This Is a Day of New Beginning"
CCS 495

Sending Forth

Go forward from this place with renewed commitment to Christ’s way of love.

Be guided in this week’s walk by our shared belief in the Worth of All Persons.

Look deep within on the path to expanding a vision of holy welcome.

May we share with the world the sanctuary we encounter each time we meet.






Year B—Letters

Ordinary Time (Proper 18)

James 2:1–17

Exploring the Scripture

            James 2:1–13 is the first of three passionate discourses about problems in the Christian community. James highlights discrimination against the poor and favoritism toward the wealthy in this text. Most early Christians were poor people who found new hope and dignity in Jesus’ proclamation of an inclusive kingdom of God. But some Christians still discriminated against the poor, and some wealthy followers still expected preferential treatment. Today’s passage opens with a greeter providing privileged seating to wealthy Christians and directing poor ones to stand or sit at the feet of the wealthy.

            For James, God is the God who chooses the poor. Therefore, true Christians cannot show partiality to the wealthy. James confronts rich oppressors in chapter 5, verses 1 and 5 with direct condemnation: “Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. … You have lived on the earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”

James reminds readers of injustices against them. In ancient times, if a person met a debtor on the street, he was permitted to arrest the debtor and drag him to court for payment. Wealthy Christians claimed this privilege, and James labeled such behavior blasphemy against the name of Christ, “the excellent name that was invoked” in baptism (v. 7). Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ meant dying to the old life and rising to live anew, welcoming all into the inclusive kingdom of God.

James quotes the “royal law…. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself‘”  (v. 8). Both Jewish and pagan converts knew the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ “Great Commandment” (or “royal law”), which summarized the intent of the Torah. They would also have compared the practical, hierarchical Roman law to the inclusive Jewish laws, including the “royal law.” James upholds the unity of the law, affirming that to break one portion of it is to violate the whole law. Those who show partiality to the wealthy have broken the law and will be held accountable. Those who show no mercy to others will receive no mercy from God.

The second speech begins with verse 14: “What good is it…if you say you have faith but do not have works.” Although James is often presented as upholding works over faith, he unites them by writing about faith shown through works. Paul wrote about faith as a gift of grace from God, which allowed one entry into the community of the kingdom.

James wrote to those already in the community. He challenged complacent disciples to show their faith by living both the moral law and the law of love. James insisted faith and discipleship were inseparable. Telling a person to stay warm without providing the means fails to live the law of love. The verses that follow today’s lectionary passage identify two kinds of faith (2:18–26):  a faith brought to completion by action; and faith like a body without a spirit. James urges his listeners to do works of obedience and compassion because of their unswerving faith.      


Central Ideas

  1. Today’s lectionary passage challenges complacency, partiality, and “cheap grace” that ignores the underlying issues of poverty and oppression. 
  1. God favors the poor and oppressed. Christians are called to also show favor to the poor.
  2. Once you have received God’s gift of grace, you express your commitment and discipleship through acts of love and compassion.
  3. Faith and works go together on the path of the disciple. The gospel principles are expressed in deeds of compassion to the bruised and broken-hearted.


Questions for the Speaker

  1. How would you feel if a group of homeless people stood outside your church singing “Let Justice Roll Like a River”?
  2. How is preferential treatment of the rich still apparent in the church? In your congregation? In your community?
  3. Where do we, in the developed nations, stand with a God who has chosen the poor? What rationalizations and fears control our attitudes?
  4. When were you or your congregation part of an organization that was “in the forefront” helping the poor?



Year B—Letters

Ordinary Time (Proper 18)

James 2:1–17




Ordinary Time is the period in the Christian calendar from Pentecost to Advent. This period is without major festivals or holy days. During Ordinary Time we focus on our discipleship as individuals and a faith community.

Prayer for Peace

Ring a bell or chime three times slowly.

Light the peace candle.

Today’s Prayer for Peace is inspired by the hymn, “O for a World,” Community of Christ Sings 379, by Miriam Therese Winter.

We welcome one world family and struggle with each choice,
that opens us to unity and gives our vision voice.

God of dreamers, thank you for hopes and dreams. It is a challenge to hope and dream; it is scary and requires us to be vulnerable. But as long as we dream of peace and what that means for our world, we can move! We can make those dreams happen! Thank you for those among us with peaceful, prophetic visions. Give them courage to call us into those visions. Give us courage to respond.

Each day, each choice is an opportunity to choose joy, hope, love, and peace. May our leaders be discerning in decisions, guiding us closer to shalom. May we, too, be thoughtful as we join in dreaming and restoring a world of peace.

In the name of Jesus, the Vision of the visionaries. Amen.

Spiritual Practice

Dwelling in the Word

Today we will experience Dwelling in the Word as we focus on the Enduring Principle of Continuing Revelation.

I will read a scripture aloud. As you hear it, allow words, images, or phrases to come to your mind. Try not to focus on them. Let them rest in you. After a moment of silence, I will read the excerpt a second time. As you hear the words again, listen for how God’s Spirit is nudging you or catching your attention.

Read Exodus 3:13–15 NRSV:

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

Pause. Read the passage a second time. Pause again.

Invite group members to share responses to these questions:

  1. What words, phrases or images came to mind?
  2. How do you sense God’s presence in this passage?
  3. How is God revealing divine purpose in your life?

Sharing Around the Table

James 2:1–17 NRSVUE

My brothers and sisters, do not claim the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory while showing partiality. For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here in a good place, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor person. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into the courts? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Surely that faith cannot save, can it? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Unlike some other New Testament letters, James is very down-to-earth and deals with matters of daily life. In verses 1–4, James highlights discrimination against the poor and favoritism toward the wealthy. Most early Christians were poor people who found new hope and dignity in Jesus’s proclamation of an inclusive kingdom of God. But some Christians still discriminated against the poor, and some wealthy followers expected preferential treatment.

Believers are advised to reject partiality, favoritism, and discrimination. Readers are reminded in verse that God has chosen the poor to inherit the kingdom. True disciples, wealthy or poor, must insist on the equality of all persons as children of God.

James then quotes the royal law, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Both Jewish and pagan converts knew the Ten Commandments and Jesus’s “Great Commandment” (or “royal law”), which summarized the intent of the Torah. They also would have compared the practical, hierarchical Roman law to the inclusive Jewish laws, including the “royal law.”

James upholds the unity of the law, affirming that to break one portion of it, including neglecting the poor, is to violate the whole law. Those who show partiality to the wealthy have broken the law and will be held accountable. Those who show no mercy to others will receive no mercy from God.

In the last section of the chapter, James asks questions about the relationship of faith and works. Does faith have meaning if it isn’t put into practice? By itself, can faith save you? Some people have determined that Paul and James have incompatible answers to these questions, as Paul claimed that we are justified by faith (“a person is justified by faith apart from works” Romans 3:28 NRSV), and James wrote in verse 17 that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”

They are speaking about different issues, from different contexts. When Paul speaks about works, he is concerned about the need for Gentiles to observe Jewish ritual observances, e.g., circumcisions and food laws. James is referring to good deeds in a more general sense, e.g., taking care of orphans, widows, and the poor. They are using the word works differently.

They also think of faith differently. Paul sees it as trust and loyalty, as shown by Jesus for God and disciples toward Christ. James emphasizes faith as belief. He wants readers to know that believing in God is not the same as doing good in the world. Paul asserts that faith in Christ is enough to put a person right with God; obedience to Torah law is unnecessary for Gentiles seeking church admission.

The issue for James is whether Christian commitment changes the way you live.


  1. How would you feel if a group of homeless people pitched tents in a park in your neighborhood? On your church parking lot?
  2. Is preferential treatment of the rich still apparent in Christianity? In your congregation? In your community?
  3. How does the precept that “faith without works is dead” inform your life of faith?


Statement of Generosity

Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed.

—Doctrine and Covenants 165:6a

The offering basket is available if you would like to support ongoing, small-group ministries as part of your generous response.

The offering prayer is adapted from A Disciple’s Generous Response:

Discipling God, as we navigate our world of debt and consumerism, help us save wisely, spend responsibly, and give generously. In this way may we prepare for the future and create a better tomorrow for our families, friends, the mission of Christ, and the world. Amen.

Invitation to Next Meeting

Closing Hymn

Community of Christ Sings 296, “Companion of the Poor”

Closing Prayer

Optional Additions Depending on Group

  • Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
  • Thoughts for Children


Thoughts for Children

You will need:

  • posterboard or flip-chart paper
  • markers

Before the service, have a posterboard or piece of flip-chart paper ready with

“Love your ________________ neighbor” written on it multiple times (make sure to have at least enough for each person).

Say: In today’s scripture we are reminded to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we say neighbor in this context, we don’t mean just the people who live next door. Our neighbor can be anyone. Sometimes loving our neighbors is really easy, because they are people we like or get along with. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult.

I want you to think of a type of neighbor you might struggle to love. We aren’t going to use anyone’s name, but you each will be invited to write a description word of that neighbor on the blank line on our poster board. For example, on the first blank line I might write, “Love your angry neighbor,” because I have a hard time sharing love with people when they are angry.

Invite participants to add their adjective to a blank line. Offer suggestions and help as needed.

Once everyone has added to the paper, offer a prayer, asking that we all be better at loving all our neighbors no matter what!


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