Sunday’s New Testament Reading [JAMES 1: 17 -18.21b.22-27] holds the keys to this week’s instruction and challenge. There we find two specific locks to be opened.

ONE = “every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above … that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

We need to recognise that here we are not talking about some sort ofpresent (as in birthday or Christmas) but something permanent – that which lasts! An ENDOWMENTis something which is supposed to safeguard our future, and be USED for personal benefit and advancement.

I wonder how I shape in safeguarding and using my Christian endowment for my BENEFIT and ADVANCEMENT?

The answer to this question is provided by the second key.

TWO =“be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”As James tells us, unless we DO, we deceive ourselves. Self-deception can easily become a chronic problem for the Christian disciple.

The problem with any endowment is the temptation to sit back and believe that it will always be available to us without any sort of effort on our part. Never forget that we need to nurture the endowment.

The manner in which we handle the endowment is vital, and our manner of management is basic. The Christian disciple needs to learn and develop basic management skills. In other words we have to be constantly involved in personal management. Of course, this is a lifelong and ongoing challenge. While we all, no doubt, fall short, there is a need to have a GOAL … something for which we strive. THIS WEEK’S PSALM [15] provides us with the basic plan. To “walk without fault, do what is just, speak truth from the heart … such one shall never be shaken.”

We are easily shaken when we tend to make the practice of faith something which is focussed on outward observances – when we ‘do’ it without really ‘doing IT’, and so “leave the commandments of God, and hold fast the traditions of men.” (Recall what was said a few weeks back about ‘freezing certain forms’ and making these forms the essence?). The result of this is clearly spelt out by Jesus in THIS WEEK’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MARK 7: 1-8.14-15.21-23]. The Lord quotes the prophet Isaiah (29:13), and proclaims: “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

What always remains of paramount importance is that which “comes from within.” What comes from within is the result of what we DO. not from what we hear.

The problem of course was not new – and is not new. Sadly, it is too often repeated and prevalent in our own age, and in our own Church. THE OLD TESTAMENT READING [DEUTERONOMY 4:1-2.6-8] confirms this. Moses speaks to the people and tells them they must “give heed to the statutes and ordinances … and do them … that you may live. … keep them and do them.”DO THEM is repeated twice. It is in the doing that “such a one shall never be shaken,” as today’s Psalm tells us.

There are three words which Paul uses this week in the New Testament reading. The apostle makes reference to “the implanted word.” This implanted word is an essential part of our endowment. Now, before we entirely forget the importance of the THREE GREAT PRAYERS referred to in last week’s reflection let us see a few matters mentioned in those prayers this week. {REMEMBER THAT ALL PRAYER IS A CHALLENGE TO PERSONAL ACTION.}

“… giver of every good gift … nurture in us what is good … keep safe what you have nurtured.”{ex Opening Prayer}

“… may (it) accomplish in power …”(ex Prayer over the Gifts)

“… may (it) confirm our hearts …”{ex Prayer after Communion}

We do not need a postgraduate degree in Scripture in order to see the connection between these matters and this week’s scriptural teaching. Care for your endowment. Do the word. Keep safe what the Lord has already nurtured. Then, remember that there is still much to be nurtured.