Feast of St. James of Jerusalem
By Michael Smith
A Reading from Acts 15:12-22
12 The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. 15 This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,
16 ‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;
from its ruins I will rebuild it,
and I will set it up,
17 so that all other peoples may seek the Lord —
even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.
Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18 known from long ago.’
19 “Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20 but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. 21 For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole Church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
Today is the feast of St. James of Jerusalem. James makes several appearances in Scripture, but my favorite is the story recorded in the 15th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles and the so-called Council of Jerusalem from today’s Eucharistic lectionary. There, James as “bishop” of Jerusalem listens to arguments, both pro and con, from leaders of the early Church about whether Gentile converts were obligated to follow all aspects of the Jewish law after becoming Christians:
“Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
Given how contentious some arguments and disagreements in the Church have been in our own day, I draw strange comfort in knowing that this has been the case from the very beginning. I pray that we, too, will find a way to make decisions based on the perspectives presented in congruence with the written Word of God.
The collect or prayer for the feast asks God that we may give ourselves “continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity” (BCP 245). Can I get an Amen?
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Guatemala (Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America)
St. David’s (Radnor) Church, Wayne, Pa.