St. James tells us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers. Good example of people who are just hearers and not doers? Those Old Testament folks. The Lord saved them from Egypt and was bringing them to the Promised Land. He promised to be their God and told them how to live and behave. They HEARD His Word. But did they do it? Nope. They kept turning to false gods. They grumbled and complained and spoke about the Lord as if He didn't care for them at all. They HEARD the Word but instead of clinging the Lord's promises and trusting in Him, they let it go in one ear and out the other. They kept hearing but not doing and finally the Lord sent snakes to punish them. But there was a way out, a way to be saved from the snakes, a way to be rescued from this punishment of death. Look to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses.
Be doers of the Word and not just hearers. You know who else is hearers and not doers? You. Me. We come in to church to hear and the Word goes in our ears: Love God. Love your neighbor. We don't. The Lord isn't first in our lives, all kinds of other things are. If you don't believe me, just think about the last time you were grumbling and complaining that things weren't going your way. Is that trust in the Lord? That sort of worry and complaining is just plain unbelief! Or how about your neighbor? Do you love others more than yourself? No. We put ourselves ahead of our kids. We don't honor our parents. We try to one up the people around us and take whatever angle works things out best for us and not for others. James' words cut us to the heart because we don't practice pure religion at all! We all too easily let ourselves become filthied up by the world in what we watch, and what we look at on the internet and the company we keep. Oh, we might do good or something for someone else if there's something in it for us. But the fact is that we, just like the Israelites, are good at letting God's Word go in one ear and out the other. So what to do if we don't want to be consumed by our sins like being bitten by snakes? Look to the one lifted up to save us!
Jesus tells His disciples that because He is going to the Father, they can ask the Father anything in His name and the Father will grant it. All right! Time for that new sports car! A winning scratch off ticket! For that person we don't like to get transferred somewhere else. Um, no. Did we not just hear what James said? James reminds us what it is we need to ask of the Father in Jesus' name. We need to pray to be doers of the Word and not just hearers! Think about what we prayed earlier in the Collect: that God would make us "think the things that are right and accomplish them." Our problem is that, on our own, we don't even know what is right and good to do. That's where the Lord's Word comes in. It's the Word that directs us to the One who is lifted up to take away our sins. It is the Lord's Word that saves us by teaching us the right way to think and believe in the Lord and His promises.
That's why Jesus goes to the cross. Because we are hearers but not doers. Jesus HEARS the Father's command to save sinners and He DOES it. He humbles Himself and is born of the virgin and spends His life hearing and doing the Word. He cares for the widow by making her His Bride and He cares for the orpan by giving us a heavenly Father. And Jesus remains unspotted by this world and yet when the time comes, He is filthy and covered with the sins of the world. All your idolatry, adultery, murder, lust, coveting, lying, deceiving, Word despising, hearing-but-not-doing is answered for by your Savior on the cross of Calvary. And He does it so that we have a Father who hears and answers prayers in the Name of His Son. You see, our sins would have kept us from daring to ask anything of our heavenly Father. So we go through the One who has taken our sins and taken them away. When we pray, our Father hears us because in the Name of Jesus, there are no sins to see. THAT is what makes us able to go straight to our heavenly Father and ask away: His Son Jesus who has opened the way to the Father's heart and throne.
So the answer to our being hearers and not doers is the same as the Israelites being bitten by snakes: look up to the One lifted up to save us. The Israelites needed to look to a snake to be saved from the snakes. So we look to a sinner to be saved from our sins: Jesus, not Himself a sinner bu, the bearer of our sins, nailed to the cross for us. The answer is not going to be found in our trying harder, but in having more Jesus. More of your Baptism every day. More absolution for your sins. More hearing the Word by which the Spirit promises to be at work in you. More Body and Blood to keep you in the faith. The fact of the matter is, as long as we've got Old Adam hanging around, it is a battle and struggle to be doers and not just hearers of God's Word. So the answer to our conflict is found in Christ, who has won this battle for us. So cry out to the Father every day! Cry out that you want Him to make you a DOER and not just a hearer. When the sting of God's Law reminds you that you are hearing God's Word and not doing, then confess it! Ask the Father in Jesus' Name to forgive you and work by the Spirit in you to be one who glorifies Him and loves your neighbor in all that you do. And because our Lord Jesus has gone to the cross and through death to life again, have no doubt that your heavenly Father will hear and answer, just as Jesus says He will. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.