It’s July 25th, you know what that means! No, no “Christmas In July”… it’s Saint James’ Day, I warned you this was coming! One of the “inner three” of Christ’s apostles, James’ story comes to an abrupt end in Acts 12. Let’s start with prayer though:
O gracious God, your servant and apostle James was first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ: Pour upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service, by which they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Though he tends to get less press than a few of the other apostles, James is one of the ones we know the most about from the New Testament. This is reflected in several of the Scripture readings appointed for today. The special reading for this feast day in Morning Prayer is from Mark 1, where we see the call of James with his brother John, sons of Zebedee. At the Communion today the Gospel (from Matthew 20) has Jesus’ subtle prediction of James’ death, and the reading from Acts 11 & 12 (in the place of the Epistle) accounts for James’ death directly.
If you chose to make use of the Midday Lectionary provided by this Customary, you’ll also read from 2 Kings 1 today – a curious story in which the prophet Elijah calls down fire from heaven upon multiple groups of soldiers until a group entreats him with the honor due his office as a Prophet. This sets the Old Testament background and precedent for another story of James (and John) in Luke 9, wherein they ask Jesus if they should call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that rejected Jesus’ teaching. One can see that St. James was indeed a zealous disciple of our Lord!
So, as the Collect of the Day, how about taking a little time today to pray for pastors, deacons, priests, bishops, that they might be ready, like St. James, to lay down their life for you and those whom else they serve in the name of the Lord?