Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Proper of the Day: St. James the Apostle

Today we commemorate the major feast of St. James the Apostle, not to be confused with St. James of Jerusalem. This James is the brother of John, and both were fishermen, the "sons of Zebedee." Peter, this James, and John his brother were the disciples' "inner circle" that were granted the vision of the Transfiguration and who waited with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. James the Apostle is first apostle to be executed, in Jerusalem by Herod. The only martyrdom of an apostle recorded in the NT is that of James, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles 11:27-12:3. There's a tradition that James' body was carried to Spain, but there is no real evidence of that.

It's intriguing to me that both Offices and the Eucharist for this day include readings from Jeremiah. Jeremiah, of course, had a hard life as a prophet, and was eventually killed in Egypt. He preached during the last days before Jerusalem was conquered by Nebuchednezzar. I wonder about the implications of associating James with Jeremiah. Dieing for the Word is one obvious example, of course, but James did not apparently have a long ministry - it's calculated he was executed in about AD 42, perhaps nine or so years after the Ascension. Jeremiah, if the superscript of his book is correct, lived through the reigns of sev eral different kings of the Southern Kingdom before it fell. Still, there's some interesting ideas in those passages worth further exploring.

It's James and his brother John, who ask, through their mother, for thrones on the right and left of Jesus, prompting him to remind all the disciples, and us today, that true Gospel leadership is self-giving, not self-serving. Worth a thought in these days of what seems to be a lot of self-aggrandizement on the part of the seperatist factions within the Anglican Communion.

O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


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