Today's Reading: Acts 11:27-12:5
Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Acts 12:1-2)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Remember James? He was John's brother. Those were the two guys Jesus named "sons of thunder." They were the ones who called "shotgun" by asking to sit at Jesus' right and left in His glory (not knowing those spots were reserved for two thieves!) They were the ones whom Jesus said would suffer and die for Him. So James did. He was killed by wicked King Herod and it made the Jews happy!
Why did James have to die? He died because He preached Jesus who died and rose to save sinners. And many sinners who thought they were righteous and didn't need a Savior wanted to shut James up. So they killed him. After all that James did as one of Jesus "inner three" apostles, you'd think he'd have a bit better fate than that.
Which reminds us, then, that celebrating the festival of St. James isn't really about James. No eulogies or compliments or sad stories about James. He did what Jesus gave him to do: he preached Christ and died for the name of Jesus.
It's never about the man who preaches. It's about the Gospel that is preached. And that Gospel is Jesus--crucified for our sins and risen from the dead. It is that victory over sin and death which Jesus won that saved St. James, even when he died at the hands of a wicked king. It is the same Good News that saves you.
You have been baptized into the same Church in which St. James preached Jesus. Gathered by the Lord around the same Body and Blood of Jesus by which Jesus dwells in you and dwelt in St. James. You have been made a part of that Church and body of Christ of which St. James, now at rest, is also a part. We celebrate St. James, not because of himself, but because the Lord used even that rowdy Son of Thunder to accomplish the spreading of the Gospel and by his death to give one last witness and testimony of Christ. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
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, LSB 518:21)