Does it Work?

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. – James 2:18 

The people in my extended family do not, as a rule, lie around very easily. So when they go to the beach, they do not relax by lolling on a towel with this year’s summer read.  They jump in and out of waves, take vigorous hikes along the shore, and create elaborate public works projects with rocks, sand and water.

On a spring trip to the Oregon coast, my dad took a long stick down to the damp sand left by the low tide. While the rest of us offered what I’m sure were helpful suggestions from the sidelines, he drew first a cross and then a few small circles and then bigger and bigger circles until a labyrinth emerged.

A couple of young women passed by and looked carefully at the shape in the sand.

“Does it work?”  they asked my brother.  

When he assured them that it “worked” they walked the whole way in and out again, laughing with amazement.

Later, I think they meant to ask if it worked as a labyrinth should – not as a maze in which to get lost, but as a continuous path that threads into the center and then out again.  But at the time I thought they meant to ask if the labyrinth worked as an expression of faith.  In which case the answer was also yes. The labyrinth worked as sacred space, as beautiful creation, as invitational circle, as formation of community, as joy that bubbles into laughter, as holy ground.


Dear Friend – Whether our gift is faith or works, bless us we pray.  And grant that we might bless one another with beauty and hospitality and joy. Amen.

dd-brownell.pngAbout the Author
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.