A sermon on a passage from James

This one comes from Andrea Bell, a grade 10 student at St Mary’s Academy and a relative newcomer to saint benedict’s table.  Prepared for in May 2008 for her school bible class, it seemed well worth sharing a bit more widely.

A reading from the book of James.


his letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”-Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waiver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them.

They will fade away like a little flower in the field. The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

The word of the Lord

Thanks be to God.

*     *     *     *     *

On November 26, 2007 it was a regular school day, and I came home from volleyball practice.

My Mom was in Toronto on business and my Dad was at my brother’s hockey game.

When I got home I decided to make myself and my dog Bridget something to eat.  I went down stairs and grabbed some food for the dog, and then to get some chicken fingers out of our chest freezer.  You know those huge freezers with the very heavy lids.

On top of the freezer was a Costco box my Mom was saving for Christmas.  But to lift the freezer I had to slide the box to the side, onto the top of our basement stove.   When I closed the lid I did not put the box back on top of the freezer.

The stove was an old style electrical stove, with the dials for the elements that just smoothly turn.  Not the new ones that you have to push in and click/click.

I guess when I pushed the box on top of the stove, I accidentally turned one of the elements on.

And remember I didn’t put the box back.

I went back upstairs to make and eat my dinner and twenty minutes later there was thick black smoke flooding through our houses ventilation system, and I was starting to panic.  The smoke alarm attached to the security system went off which even scared me more.   I turned off the alarm and tried to call my parents and my grandparents but there was no dial tone on the phone line, our security system was already working.

I dropped everything that I was doing and was trying to look for something that might have caught on fire. I checked the microwave, stove, oven in the kitchen, nothing.

Then I opened basement door and the smoke just flew out and I could see the flickers of the fire from the top of the stairs, so I shut the door, grabbed my dog, and ran out of my house to the neighbor’s house.

Soon there were 3 fire trucks and 2 police cars at my home.  Our home sustained extensive fire damage to the basement and smoke damage to the remainder of the house.  All my parents could say was, “At least Andrea and Bridget are safe”.

We didn’t live in our home for 9 months, we lived with my Grandparents while the house was being renovated.

The reading says…….”… when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.”

Well I can tell you that this whole experience didn’t feel like great joy at the time, and I still thought the fire was all my fault.

Through the weeks that followed, everyone kept telling me – “it was an accident that could have happened to anyone” – and I soon believed it and forgave myself.

Somehow, my brother and I never complained.

We were sleeping on air mattresses in my grand parents unfinished basement with walls made of bed sheets (might I add that it was really cold), but we never complained.

We only had some of our clothing and possessions, but we never complained.

We had to spent hours and hours itemizing our possessions that were too smoke damaged or burned to be recovered, but somehow we never complained.

During this time, somehow I felt forgiven and blessed, despite what had happened to our family.

And then the blessings started.

After a year long search, I found my horse Troy.

The church we’d been at all my life wasn’t meeting our family’s needs and somehow God led us to our new church – St. Benedict’s Table.

I had applied to many high schools, and really wanted to get into St. Mary’s Academy,  but I was rejected at first…. and then received late admission.

The reading says… “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Despite all the pain, work and suffering the fire caused our family, we celebrate the many blessings in our life.

Things could have been much worse, but we are all safe, healthy and happy.

During this time we grew stronger as a family, laughed about things no one else would laugh about, and celebrated all of Gods unexpected blessings.

Our family expected nothing, but as usual, God granted us peace.

As the scripture says you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing”.

And we are.

3 Responses to A sermon on a passage from James

  1. Lydia Surasky Matte says:

    Andrea…You did a wonderful job on your speech. It is not often or common that someone is able to draw parallels as clearly as you have. Blessings to you, your Mom, Dad and brother.

  2. Brenda Smith says:

    Andrea, you did an amazing job on your speech. It’s great to see how God works in such mysterious ways and how you have kept your strong faith in him. Austin has to do his speech in church next year. If he needs help, I know who he can call.

  3. Bev Bell says:

    Beautifully done. Andrea is my granddaughter and I am so proud of her – I have watched her grow up into a beautiful, gracious young lady. I also saw her family’s pain after the fire – they are a very close family and appreciate all the blessings they have been given.

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