July 25th  St James                    8th Sunday of Trinity.




PRAYER

Merciful God,

whose holy apostle Saint James,

leaving his father and all that he had,

was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ

and followed him even to death:

help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world,

to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

 

FIRST READING:  Acts 11.27-12.3

In those days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit, that there should be great dearth throughout all the world; which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.

 

SECOND READING:  2 Corinthians 4: 7-15

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. .But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

 

GOSPEL READING: St. Matthew 20.20-28

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptised with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptised with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

REFLECTION

‘See where they end up!’ I was startled and woke up.  It was a dream. The dream was about James the Apostle.  I had read about him and meditated on his life before I went to bed. I was surprised that my mind was still working through the story in my sleep. 

 

We know more about James the Apostle than about most of Jesus’ other disciples.  We know this James had a younger brother called John and that their father’s name was Zebedee.  They were fishermen.  Jesus called the brothers while they were mending a net with their father. They immediately left their father and followed Jesus.  From then they seem never to have left Jesus’ side.  They were with Him when he cured Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1: 29-31). Jesus brought James, John and Peter with him when he came to raise Jairus’ daughter.  These three men were the only disciples present at the Transfiguration and at Gethsemane. We know that James seems to have had a fiery temper.  When a Samaritan settlement refused to receive Jesus and his disciples, the Sons of Zebedee wanted to command fire from Heaven to smite the inhospitable villagers (John 9: 54-56).  Possibly these sons are remembered best because of their mother who brought her two sons to Jesus, knelt down before Him, and asked Him to declare that her two sons would sit one on each side of Jesus in his Kingdom.  This was worse than when a mother requests that her son play Joseph in the school Nativity play.  Perhaps we should not be surprised. James, John and their family recognized Jesus as the Messiah the Jews had expected. So the brothers gave up their livelihood to follow Him, and naturally their mother wanted to book the prominent positions for her sons.  This was where the voice in my dream comes in: see where they end up.  James was the first of the disciples to be martyred, beheaded at Jerusalem by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12: 1-2). 

 

The voice in my dream is a very contemporary voice. It bespeaks a familiar understanding of life.  Why should I follow Jesus? What could I get out of it? Maybe that was also what James and his family thought at first – following the true Messiah and making something out for themselves.  But when Crucifixion and Resurrection established Salvation, achieved by Jesus’ self-giving sacrificial deed, brought something new and incomparably important to the world, then the lives of the disciples, included James, were changed utterly from anything they could have expected.  Christ had not come to restore the throne of David, but to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.  For James particularly, his life’s achievement was no longer to sit at the right hand of a Jewish king, but to receive and spread God’s word, to be a participant in the Kingdom.  For that he would give up his earthly life. 

 

In James, martyrdom is not merely giving one’s life for a cause in which one believes passionately.  He and his fellow disciples pursued a course marked out by Jesus through his death and Resurrection, a mission to change the world and humanity with it.  Jesus’ sacrifice broke the grip of death on humanity and His resurrection inaugurated a new life. That is crucial for us today.  Something not dissimilar figures in the secular aspects of life now. We face an existential challenge in climate change: our life, our lifestyles and our death can be a force that will drive mankind’s destiny in one or the other direction.  So it was and is with Christ’s mission. James gave his life because he was part of Christ’s redeeming power.  Following Christ should make us partakers of the same task.  ‘Where they end up’ is a place where we would ‘end up’, a place where a seed falls to the ground and, because it falls, it bears a hundred fold of grains; and where a candle burns to give light to others. 

 

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION  

God Almighty, we thank you for calling out disciples to follow you, especially for the example of the life and death of James. Grant us, we pray, that we may, like the disciple, hear your call and follow you wherever you lead.

 

We pray for your Church, which is the body of Christ.  Lord, send down your Holy Spirit on your people, constantly to inspire us to be the light of the world.  We pray for our own church here at St Mary’s, as many of us struggle to cope with the uncertainty of the pandemic situation. Lord, be our strengthen and comfort. May you bless your church richly.

 

We pray for our nation, and especially the leaders of the nation. Grant them hearts and minds to consider the well-being of the whole nation rather than any particular concern. May your blessing rest on them and inspire them.

 

We bring the trouble of the world before you. Have mercy on the nations which at this moment are suffering from natural disasters: the fires in Canada and the USA, the severe floods in central Europe and in China; May your blessing rest on each nation and all its people.

 

Father Almighty, we remember before you our families and friends: for those who have to face special problems today; for those who have heavy burdens to carry; for the lonely, the sick, the depressed; we especially bring before you …

May your blessing rest on each person and place, to renew and transform them.

 

God, our Father, we remember those who have departed this life and are now dwelling with all saints in heaven. Grant us, with all who have known you in their hearts, a share in your eternal kingdom.

 

Merciful father accept these prayers in the name of your son our saviour Jesus Christ.

 

Almighty God, who on the day of Pentecost sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame, filled them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel: by the power of the same Spirit strengthen us to witness your truth and to draw everyone to the fir of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

As our Saviour taught us so we pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

 

BLESSING

The Peace of God,

which passes all understanding,

keep your hearts and minds

in the knowledge and love of God,

and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,

and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit

be among you and remain with you always. 

Amen.