The final verses 13-20 of Chapter 5 of James’ Epistle, are I believe, some of the best in his letter. Verses 13-16 give us practical things to do to help those in need and they can form a template of behaviour for all the baptised and especially all the ordained:
“13 Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. 14Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16
This advice can be summed up as:
Pray when you are suffering
Give thanks joyfully when you are happy and don’t forget to do so
Ask others to pray for you when you are ill
Always pray for those ill and suffering
Minister to each other in word and deed -anointing when appropriate
Share your burdens and doubts with each other
Remember you are a sinner and always seek God’s forgiveness
This list includes two of the seven Sacraments - Confession or better termed the Ministry of Reconciliation (to God) and Anointing; those who are sick, in need or who may be dying. The list also charges all of us to pray daily for the needs of each other and the world. Verses 13-16 can serve as a good template for a Christian life for although unwritten or said James’ words are shot through with Jesus’ charge to all of us to love God and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. (The Golden Rule) Jesus does not charge us to love in any soppy or sentimental way but to love in ways that are pro-active, all encompassing and challenging of the status quo. Love that makes us and demands us to look beyond our selves and our individual needs to the needs of others as we reach out to them in ministry and prayer.
These three verses seem to me to sum up the whole epistle that we have read over the last few weeks, for they call us to express our faith not in mere words alone but in our actions as well. Faith without works is a dead faith. Long live an active, working faith for as James concludes; a living, vibrant faith that seeks to love and reach out to others will cover a multitude of our own sins.