Summary: A Patronal festival sermon that looks at some of the qualities of James, and how we can be inspired to seek out own gifts (illustration found on http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/e/evangelism.htm)
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away.
So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn't able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument.
But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector. Kreisler made his way to the new owner's home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it had become his prized possession and he would not sell it.
Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once more before it is consigned to silence?" he asked. Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector's emotions were deeply stirred. "I have no right to keep that to myself," he exclaimed. "It's yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it."
Ambition, courage and zeal, three traits that Kreisler demonstrated in seeking to ensure that this violin kept its voice, traits that we see clearly in James who we celebrate today as one of the Benefice patron saints.
It was because of these traits we begin at the end because he paid the ultimate price for his unwavering faith in Christ, as we heard in our first reading from The Acts of apostles that Herod had him killed.
As we think about his sacrifice, I wonder whether any of us would be willing to follow in his footsteps.
Our Gospel reading this morning tells of how James’ mother made an extraordinary request on behalf of James and his brother John. ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and the other on your left in the kingdom’
On the face of it, it seems that the request is their mother’s but as we read further, we get a glimpse of what might have happened. The gospel tells us that the ten disciples were angry with the brothers, rather than their mum, which suggests that they were at the very least involved in the request being made.
Christ could have easily given them a lecture on power and how it can be abused, but instead he turned it into a challenge, ‘are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’
This wasn’t a rebuke, rather a challenge to them to see how far they would really be willing to go for the sake of the messiah.
James took this challenge to heart and followed Christ to the point where it led to his own death.
The ambition that he had may have been misplaced at that time as he and his brother replied to Jesus, ‘we are able’, and whilst this may have been seen as youthful arrogance, it didn’t detract him from faithfully following the call that had been placed on his life, and so as he matured, his ambition wasn’t removed, it was instead transformed into a positive ambition, to share the good news of Christ to others.
The word that would be used for this ambition is Zeal, something we don’t hear very often these days, because to have zeal, or to be Zealous is a 15th century English word which means ‘an eager and ardent interest in the pursuit of something.’
Just like this encounter in the Gospel, we also see glimpses of this in the same Lukan passage and others, but it comes to the fore through our reading this morning. After they had replied to the challenge, Christ prophesied that James would drink of his cup, and just 14 years later, as many scholars believe, he was the first apostle to be martyred, and the only one whose death is recorded in the New Testament.
This brings me onto another trait of James, because if we were to read all the stories about James which are found in the Bible, then it would be easy to agree with the suggestion that he was Courageous.
James travelled far and wide to preach about who Christ was, even to the point where he upset some of the Jewish leaders who were afraid of this growing group called Christians.
He didn’t falter from his commission; he pushed forward without hesitation, and taught throughout Judea, instructing many in the ways of Christ, and bringing them into a new closer relationship with God.
We hear in Luke’s Gospel of how his courage stretched even to the point of saying to Christ ‘‘Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ when a Samaritan town refused to receive Christ into their midst.