Festival of St. James the Elder, Apostle
The Lord be with you
Today we remember James the Elder (or Great). He was born in Galilee and was, like his father Zebedee and his brother John and the apostles Peter and Andrew, a fisherman. His mother was Salome (Matthew 27:56). His is believed to have been older than his brother John because his name is almost always put before John’s in the biblical lists of the apostles, hence his title “the elder.” (In fact the lists almost always go: “Peter, James, John …,” probably reflecting that these three held positions of leadership among the twelve.) Shortly after calling Andrew and Peter from their fishing to be disciples, Jesus saw the sons of Zebedee in a boat with their father, mending nets. He called them, and they left their father and followed him. James and his brother were called Boanerges, “sons of thunder,” (Mark 3:17), presumably because of their impetuous spirit and flashing temper (Luke 9:49, 54; Mark 10:37).
Incidents in St. James’ life are recorded in all four Gospels and in the book of Acts. As a member with Peter and John of the privileged “inner circle” of the disciples, he witnessed the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39) and the raising of the daughter of Jairas (Mark 5:37), and was with Jesus at the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and at his suffering in Gethsemane on the night of his arrest (Matthew 26:36-37).
James was apparently an active leader in the early church, although there is no reliable information on where he preached or what he did. He was the first of the apostles to die a martyr’s death and the only apostle whose death is recorded in the Bible. He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2) just before Passover in 43 or 44 AD. He is said to have been buried in Jerusalem. The Western date of his commemoration seems to derive from the burial of his supposed relics in the great Church of Santiago de Compostella, July 25, 816. (The Easter churches remember him on dates closer to Passover.)
James traditional symbol is the scallop shell.
James the Elder should not be confused with James the Less (or “younger”), the son of Alphaeus, who is commemorated on May 1 with Philip, or with James of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus and Martyr, who wrote the book of James.
Prayer: 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. Amen.
Other appropriate prayers:
• For the gift of generosity and self-sacrifice
• For courage and faith to gladly follow Christ
• For the spirit of service
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert