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Meme of the Day

 

This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus. (LCMS)

Reflection:  Joseph of Arimathea is a critical actor in the burial of Jesus.  If a congregation were to do a Passion play, the role of Joseph would be a bit part, just one or two lines. Many an actor wants of course the lead. Yet, like any part in a play, big or small, each role is crucial. Most of us will ever and only have a bit part in the life we are called to lead, yet your part is crucial, even critical in the lives of someone else.  We will flub our lines and make missteps and miss our cue.  Yet, the Lord will teach us the role we are assigned and it takes practice, the practice of discipleship and Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ disciple.  He was looking for the Kingdom of God and he buried Jesus’ Body.  When he put Jesus in his tomb, he may have not known he was entombing the reign of God.  But even the large stone in front of his new tomb could not hold the Lord of life. He is risen.  By his service to the Lord, Joseph of Arimathea, helped form  The Apostles’ Creed:  “and was buried and on the third day…”  Do not minimize nor maximize your calling in the Lord’s work. You just may have the ‘line’, the part that the Lord uses for His work of salvation.

Prayer of the Day

Merciful God, Your servant Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial with reverence and godly fear and laid Him in his own tomb. As we follow the example of Joseph, grant to us, Your faithful people, that same grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Bio:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany, he became friends with Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled Sententiae. Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529, Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious dinner guest and house guest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

The  today’s Old Testament reading is 1 Samuel 15:  10-35.  It is not the reading  for the Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr.  The Old Testament reading is about the Lord’s anger at King Saul, His anointed, for not killing King Agag after Israel conquered the Amalekites.  Saul was commanded to slay all the conquered but Saul spared Agag.  St. Augustine’s commentary on this lesson:

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17; emphasis my own). 

In the St. Augustine quote above, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did in sparing King Agag as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word is the way of too many churches these days.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world in “extending mercy” to what the Lord has commanded as wrong:  denial of doctrine, adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, virulent atheism and the like.  No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul. He was obedient to the good news of Jesus Christ as clearly confessed by the Lutheran Fathers. Luther knew this.  Robert Barnes was also compassionately committed to His King, Henry the VIII (yes, the same king who married six times and killed a few of his wives in order to have a male heir).  We read these days about many such martyrs overseas. A martyr encourages our confession of Jesus Christ,the Word made flesh and the same Word written in Scripture, Law and Promise.     It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord.   We think by our compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His Word  that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. Our calling as His Church is the same as Robert Barnes was faithful in his vocation, but Kings Saul and Henry VIII were not.

 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings
    and shall not be put to shame,
 for I find my delight in your commandments,
    which I love. (Psalm 119: 46-47)

 

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel according to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Martha was busy with much serving.   Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of saving doctrine,  results in mere activism and busy-ness as evidenced in Martha, and with it resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her: “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world.

In the Collect (Prayer) of the Day above, we pray that the might serve Jesus, “…faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus“.  Serving, learning, and hoping in Jesus Christ is our life in Him.  Lazarus represents everyone’s life without the Lord:  dead, spiritually and physically.  In the tomb, Lazarus could not really want to be alive or make “his decision for Christ”, only the Lord’s Word makes alivet and does for us.  As it is clear in the Bible, “…we were dead in our trespasses” and only Christ in His Word to Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, makes us alive, faith holding tight to Christ, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).

The Apostle Paul continued in his letter to Ephesians,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us the immeasurable riches of Christ Jesus’ grace.  A saint is a role model, not of mere moral goodness but of the Lord’s goodness, His grace toward sinful man and woman. Amen.

 

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:  On this day in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach died, thus it is for the saints in Christ, a “heavenly birthday”.   When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (Now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it.  Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that back then book were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  

Now I may not remember the professor’s numbers correctly but the impression has lasted.   Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach’s music.  One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large fraction of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (from Evening in the Palace of  Reason by James R. Gaines). That sentence sums up Bach’s understanding of music, “his” music, as he would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God.  In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  On NPR, they will have a segment that I call OMS, the obscure musical segment when the artist intros his/her work and tells us what “he is trying to do”, or what he was feeling at the time of composition.  Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel.  Bach did not listen to what people wanted, but what he heard the Lord command and promise.

 In an episode of M*A*S*H, Radar falls for a nurse who is quite cultured and loves classical music.  He goes to Hawkeye and Trapper for lessons in classical music.  Hawkeye gives Radar the names of some composers and then says, “…then if she mentions Bach, just say, ‘Ahhh, Bach’”.

 

He has been called, after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the 5th evangelist.  In his day, he was not known beyond Germany.  After his death,  his music was rediscovered.  His output for 27 years in Leipzig for 4 churches was massive.  St. Augustine said that singing is praying twice: with the words and with the music.  Bach’s texts usually were the Bible and he put the Scripture to music.

Bach in the age of the Enlightenment was already becoming a ‘has-been’ and not well-received.  Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time.  But the word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to the greater glory of our Lord.

Pr. Paul McCain wrote about Bach: 

People grow increasingly uncomfortably the more specifically Christian the talk gets. But Bach’s great church music was all about Christ. They can’t help but tell us that when they feature the popular chorale from Bach’s Cantata 147,  Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspiration to all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Luther on Music:

I would certainly like to praise music with all my heart as the excellent gift of God which it is and to commend it to everyone…. Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions—to pass over the animals—which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate—and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find? The Holy Ghost himself honors her as an instrument for his proper work when in his Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her his gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha [II Kings 3:15]. On the other hand, she serves to cast out Satan, the instigator of all sins, as is shown in Saul, the king of Israel (1 Sam. 16-23)

Thus it was not without reason that the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated as closely with the Word of God as music. Therefore, we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music join to move the listener’s soul, while in other living beings and [sounding] bodies music remains a language without words. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

 

Sermon Text:  St. Matthew 13:  44-52 and in particular these verses:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

 One of the perennial outdoors children games is “Hide and Go Seek”.  One child is “it” and counts to certain number, and everyone goes and hides, then “it” seeks after all those who are hiding.  There was always a certain excitement in hiding of both not wanting to be found and then actually being found.  After awhile, if I hid too well, it felt like it was taking forever and then I wanted to be found because hiding was both boring and scary.  Scary because there could be the kid who hid too well:   “Where’s Billy? Everyone else is has been found.” “Let’s play ball!”   “Oh, let’s leave him!” “We just can’t leave him!” “Billy!!!”  

The Bible begins with Hide and Go Seek.  After Genesis chapters 1 and 2, all about the creation of the heavens and the earth and plants and cattle and people, the Lord God gives to the man a garden. The Lord tells the first husband and wife that they may eat of all the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for on that day, you will die.  In chapter 3, the woman is tempted by the serpent and so eats of that one tree, not trusting in the Lord above all things, and so does her husband. Remember what happened?  The Lord God was walking in the cool of the day, calls out to the man, Where are you?  Adam responded, I was afraid so I hid.  Hide and Go Seek but this was no game.  Adam was found out. 

In the game, the child who is “it” is kind of like God, powerful, in so far as “it” is the only one free to go searching but the Lord is all powerful and all knowing, He knew where Adam was hid.  The Lord’s question was and is the probing question of the Law:  Where are you?  Where are you in life?  Where are you this day?  People think they can hide in plain sight but from the Lord no secrets are hid.  We know the Lord’s question that day was one of the Law because of Adam’s answer: I was afraid and so I hid, because he was naked before the living God. Adam was looking only now to himself as the serpent’s false promise duped him: you will be like God.  Adam’s faith was now in himself, not the Lord, looking to Him alone. 

 It is scary, say after gossiping and lying, to be found out.  Too many think just being found out is bad, no, it is the deed of gossiping and lying that is bad, and though seemingly a peccadillo,  a small sin, it can lead serpentine like to greater temptations and sin. Yet the Lord’s question was also one of grace as He allowed the crown of His creation the dignity to answer and confess.  I was afraid and so I hid.  Yes, the Lord punished Adam and his wife, Eve but He also clothed them.  Adam and Eve had made clothes for themselves out of fig leaves but what we do to cover up is insufficient for any wrong we think, say or do.  All the self-made pious and religious works of man will not cover-up wrong. Later the Lord Himself made clothes for them, not of plants but of  skins. Only the Lord can cover us,

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Finding us in the nakedness of wrong, He has clothed us in the garments of righteousness, of our baptism in into Christ, His death and resurrection, found, hidden and bought. 

These two  parables of the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price are about hide and go seek. The treasure and the pearl were hid, lost and now found.  It is funny in the game that children will purposely go hide, in a sense, to get lost for awhile.  But when it is not a game, when a man or a woman purposely hides, they are lost, in a sense not wanting to found, as in the children’s game, but also wanting ever so to be found.  The kingdom of heaven is a like a man who finds a buried treasure and a pearl of great price.  In both parables, the man sells all that he has to buy it. 

These two short and yet crazy, wild parables someone finds a pearl or a hidden treasure and sells all he has to buy it.  Can you imagine one of these guys getting home?  “Hi, dear.”

“What’s new”, asks his wife.

“I bought this perfect pearl,” he says with a smile that won’t quit.  

“That’s nice, dear, how did you pay for it?”

“I sold everything we have to buy it! The house is not ours!”

I do not think dinner that night would be pleasant…at least Jack’s magic beans were eventually fruitful.

The man finding the treasure calls up his wife:

“Hi Hon…Where am I?  Oh, the Simpson farm…What am I doing here?  I bought it…Yup, all 1,280 acres…Why?  I found buried treasure on the farm, so I covered up again and bought the field so I can have it…Yes, that’s how much I wanted the buried treasure…yes, honey, I sold everything we have…No, I don’t need a psychiatrist.”   And in the hidden treasure parable the guy “in his joy” literally bought the field, he bought the farm,  to have the treasure. 

One interpretation of the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the treasure and the pearl represent God’s grace in Jesus Christ His mercy is priceless, in terms of worldly treasure, a pearl of great price, etc.  So the disciple needs and seeks God’s grace.  No doubt about that but that is not what the parable is about.  It’s worth our all, everything. It’s true. So sell all that you have to buy God’s grace?!?  Can we buy His grace, His mercy?  You better start coughing up the money now. Now there’s a new stewardship campaign. Sadly it would work to bring in money, gilt with guilt, but it does not work in terms of God’s grace in His Son. Grace which is gift. We cannot buy God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  In fact, the only way I am downright joyful in buying something is when I can get it a half-price! Not an exorbitant price. Anyone visiting in the Middle East knows about haggling in the suqs (marketplaces),  you try to get the price down and the men in the parables do not haggle.   No half-price sale in these parables. What’s going on here? 

Another interpretation:  The Lord said of Israel that they are his “treasured possession”, out of all the peoples on the earth.  Why did He choose them?  Because they were the fewest of the peoples on the earth.  He loved them.  He found them. He freed them out of Egypt. The Lord keeps covenant with them.  In His parables about the reign of heaven it is about the reign of heaven in and with His beloved Son Jesus Christ.  He goes seeking,  searching and finding, as in another parable like a shepherd in search of his lost sheep.  The hidden treasure and the pearl are His disciples:  you.  Treasured. Remember that at this time of the Gospel narrative, things are going against Jesus and the 12. He tells them:  I found you. You did not choose Me, but chose you that you go out and bear much fruit.   With joy I brought you to Myself.  I dug you out.  Then we hear of joy in a parable about the lost sheep.  There is more joy in heaven over one sinner repenting than 99 who do not.  The shepherd carried the 300 pound smelly sheep home to himself. The shepherd just could not leave the one sheep behind, he could not leave Billy.  What was of great value, one life, is found, paid for, dug out.  Notice that the Lord’s currency exchange is not the same as the United States or any country for that matter.  In the first parable, the man bought the farm to have the hidden treasure he found. In the parable of the wheat and weeds, Jesus said  that the field  is the world.   “He bought the farm” is a grim saying about dying.  Jesus bought the farm, the world, He so loved,  to have us, not with silver or gold, but His own precious blood. Priceless.  So is the price of one life: yours and your neighbor’s life.  He is risen!  “Oh wondrous thought, He found me when I sought Him not!”  He catches the fish in His net and yes some will be unclean and unrepentant. As if He is saying:  “Fear not, again as in the parable of the wheat and the weed, I will sort it out.  I have caught you alive because you were buried and My will and My word is to catch others alive.  Spread the net. I take care of the birds of air, and are you not worth more than they?  I paid salvation’s price for you out of  My love which does not die, but is alive as I am the resurrection and the life.”  

Look at what the Lord values…I have heard many times in the news that in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States spent much in terms of, “blood and treasure”. It is true, but it is blood that is our treasure.  Christ’s blood is our treasure that buys us, not finally with silver or gold, but with everything He had.  The Father treasures His Son’s blood.  We want a bargain in using our treasure and rightly so.  Yet, if you want a good idea of what the old Adam treasures:  see TV commercials, see e-bay. He found us but not at a bargain. 

Truly, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” 

This verse is unique in all the 4 Gospels.  Some have suggested that Matthew included it because it described him to a tee, the former tax collector now a scribe in the reign of heaven.  Matthew brought out new and old, both testaments, all of Scripture, Law and Promise is the Lord’s treasured Word to us all. When we grow up we realize that our parents’ commands were good because they loved us.  Golden rules are His Law. His golden Rule is in and through Jesus Christ reigns in our life by His forgiveness, by grace alone.  Without mistake and without mistakes in His Word in the Scriptures toward us so that we believe and live in Him.  Found.  Nothing in all creation can take us away from the One Who has found us and dug us out and made us alive. God’s law finds us out.   His Gospel has found us.  We live as found people, conformed to the image of His Son, looking like Jesus because He first loved us.  In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

 

 

Prayer of the Day

O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Readings

Acts 11: 27-12: 5  Psalm 56   Romans 8: 28-39   St. Mark 10: 35-45

About:  St. James and his brother John, sons of Zebedee and Salome (see Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40), were fishermen in the Sea of Galilee who were called with Peter and his brother Andrew to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22). In the Gospel lists of Jesus’ disciples, James is listed following Peter and preceding John. Together these three appear as leaders of the Twelve. Because James precedes John, it is reasoned that James is the elder of the brothers. The Book of Acts records that James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I, probably between AD 42 and 44 (Acts 12:1-2). Thus James is the first of the Twelve to die a martyr and the only apostolic martyrdom recorded in the Bible. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Reflection:  Our Lord equipped His apostles for suffering. See Matthew 10:17-19.  Matthew 10 is the Lord’s sermon to the Apostles after He called them.  They would be equipped with the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the redemption Jesus would win for us all upon the Cross.  James the Elder (or Greater) was the first apostolic martyr.  We live in an age in which we want to witness glory and fame, wealth and power, especially in our lives, and the guarantee of such  is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  We want to be number 1,even in the Faith.  James and his brother John were especially susceptible to that lust as they wanted to sit on Jesus’ right and left hand when He came in power (see today’s Gospel reading).  Jesus named James and his brother John “Boanerges”, that is the “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17_, possibly because of their impetuous nature and temperament.  James and John even asked the Lord, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (today’s Gospel reading).They asked Him to sit on His right and left hand when He came in glory.  James and John did in a sense sit on His left and right hand:  in martyrdom. They were baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and preached Christ.  As Jesus taught them that in the reign of God it is not about being number 1, lording it over others, but serving each other under the Lord.  For as Jesus taught, the Lord Himself, “… came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (vs. 45).  As Americans we crave to be number 1 but whom we remember in our lives are those who gave of their lives for us.  He gave His life for us and for our salvation and John the Elder preached Jesus Christ.

O Lord, for James we praise You, Who fell to Herod’s sword;  He drank the cup of suff’ring And thus fulfilled Your Word.  

Lord, curb our vain impatience For glory and for fame.  Equip us for such suff-rings As glorify Your Name. (“By All Your Saints in Warfare, Lutheran Service Book, #518, stanza 21)

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