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Archive for July 25th, 2018

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.  He equips the apostolic Church 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.

There was a TV show called “Fame” about a performing arts high school in New York City with the show’s title theme song and this lyric:

Fame! 
I’m gonna live forever, 
Baby remember my name…
source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/tvthemes/famelyrics.html

We live in an age in which we want to have glory and fame, wealth and power and the guarantee of such  is “mammon” (Matthew 6:24).  We want to be number 1,even in the churches.  We lust to be the successful, vibrant congregation(s) and like the world, the church wants fame. The Church gave up a good reputation for fame.  So many churches sacrificed doctrine and morality to be “relevant”, to be popular, that  is, fame. The petition from the Collect of the Day is especially poignant in these days: 

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.

We want fame so that we will be forever remembered, that is eternal.  This is as old as Babel: build the great skyscraper and we will make a name for ourselves and have eternal security (Genesis 11: 4). False gods have no memory since they are not real. A false god can not give eternal life. We remember James as he was faithful servant of Jesus Christ and Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. We name our sons James, not Herod.  The LORD remembers His people (Psalm 105:42)

James and his brother John were especially susceptible to that lust for glory 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  asked the Lord, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (today’s Gospel reading). This verse maybe is the first example of the false, “name it and claim it”  practice of magically using prayer to get what I want. The disciple can not demand of His Lord what the Lord gives only by His command and grace. They also  asked Him to sit on His right and left hand when He came in glory.  At the beginning, during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was a rough start for James! We all have these moments! The prayer of repentance that these moments do not become a lifetime of habit. We pray for faithful preachers and teachers and parents to call us back to the Lord.

James and John did  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. Jesus was and is number 1 and He took the lowest place:  a cross for all the sons of thunder.  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 and who taught us Christ. James no longer sought his own fame, but proclaimed the Name above all names that at the name of Jesus every knew will bow (see Philippians 2)  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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