Once again, one of the lectionary passages is from James, so I am going to continue to take this week's inspiration from this little book. The next section of James, Chapter 2, verses 1-17, is an interesting slice of the letter. Verse 14 starts the well-known "faith without works is dead" soundbite, but the message begins well before...
Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
Without the last line of this verse, I still imagine many of you now have the song "Favorite Things" stuck in your head. Each verse is like this - a litany of favorite things, comforting things, and then the phrase "these are a few of my favorite things." The bridge section is different, but still curls the thoughts of the singer, or listener, around to the favorite things once more. This song has become such a favorite itself that for several years now it is played on Christmas Music Radio stations during that holidays.
Why the emphasis on favorite things?
When we see or are presented with favorite things, items or situations we like, our eyes crinkle with happiness, our faces become animated, and we are infused with light-heartedness and joy. It may be the simple pleasures, but real, nonetheless.
James' letter exposes the demeaning underbelly of our reactions to favorites, which is favoritism. Siblings growing up know all about favoritism. It typically manifests in two ways:
each sibling knows THEY are the favorite and they don't want to hurt the feelings of their sisters and brothers, so they are determined to act with kindness so the others don't know
each sibling knows and resents that one of the others is the favorite, and act with jealousy and sycophancy
James asks us which siblings are we? Are we the jealous siblings who resent the intrusion of people who are poor and without influence? Are we the grateful siblings who want our brothers and sisters to feel the same uplifting acceptance we have experienced? Are we the siblings who with one breath attempt to curry favor and with the next heap curses on everything that does not fit our limited view of what is right and fair? Or are we the siblings that act with kindness and love, infusing our faces with joy and lightness of heart, so that everyone thinks they are the favorite, without distinction?