The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
Merciful God, whose holy apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, was obedient to the calling of your Son Jesus Christ and followed him even to death: help us, forsaking the false attractions of the world, to be ready at all times to answer your call without delay; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Acts 11.27 – 12.2
At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword.
The mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’
But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’
When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’
Post Communion Prayer
All-powerful God, through our sharing in this holy feast in honour of your holy Apostle Saint James, make us worthy of a place at the heavenly banquet; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
St James – 2021
The former Bishop of Sheffield, Jack Nicholls, tells a story about his visit to one of the Greek Orthodox Monasteries on Mount Athos in Northern Greece.
On the first morning he had to get up at four o’clock to attend the first service. He had been told not to wear his clerical collar, he had also been told he could not to sit inside the church but only in the cloisters adjacent to the church where the service was to take place.
As he sat on a stone slab in the cold of the early morning he very soon began to feel dissatisfied. He thought to himself that Christianity was about inclusion and equality, not exclusion, and anyway, did they not know he was the Bishop of Sheffield?
After a while a monk happened by and asked him why he was sitting there. He explained that he was acting as instructed. The monk suggested that he might like to sit on the wooden bench by the outer door as the service could be heard from there. So Bishop Jack moved, finding the wooden seat considerably less chilly than the stone one, and also finding that he could hear the music.
As he sat there straining to listen a monk happened by and asked him why he was sitting there. Bishop Jack explained once more that he was doing as he had been told. The monk suggested that he might like to move into the porch of the church as there was also a bench there, and he might catch glimpses of the service.
So Bishop Jack moved into the porch. As he was sitting there, straining round to see in, a monk happened by and asked him what he was doing there. ‘Ah’, thought Bishop Jack, ‘I know the system now’, and he explained once more that he was doing as he had been told.
This third monk suggested that he might like to sit just inside the door of the church, from where he could see and hear everything. The monk went off to get a chair, but returned with two and explained that the second chair was for himself. ‘If you can not go in’, said the monk,’ then neither shall I, and I will sit here with you’.
Bishop Jack reflected as he sat there next to that monk, ‘this monk could go into the service, but he is choosing to sit here with me, this is what being a Christian is about’.
As Jesus said in our gospel, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”
Bishop Jack ended his story with an illustration of the Orthodox church’s understanding of evangelism, the illustration is this, if you are sitting on the sunny side of the street, and the person opposite is sitting in the cold of the shade, do not tell him that he has got it wrong, but go and sit with him until he suggests that you both go over to the sunny side.
The world in which we live attempts to bring about change through power and status, and sadly sometimes this is the way the Church tries to work too. Christianity brings about change through the laying down of power and status, and thankfully sometimes this is the way the Church tries to work too.
In our gospel story it is easy to see the mistake of the two disciples, James and John, and of their pushy mother, as they ask for power and status in the Kingdom of God. Ambition is an unforgiving master, most of us are seduced by it in our youth as we imagine to what heights we may climb, and many are scourged by ambition in our mid life as they realise they have merely scaled the foothills and the mountains lay impossibly beyond them.
Ambition also plays a merry dance with self esteem, contorting our self image as we dance to the tune of how we perceive others see us, rather than dancing with Christ, embraced by the immeasurable, unconditional, eternal love of God. The gospel of Christ is challenging. Christ calls each of us to take his hand and follow him into the challenging life of the gospel, after-all, that is where the real joy is to be found.
Christ came and sat with us, so that at the end, we may sit and eat with him in his Kingdom.
In accepting Jesus as Lord we are called to lay down our desire to lord it over others and to accept instead the unconditional love of God as a basis for our self worth. In acknowledging our own brokenness the mystery is that God can start to make us whole. In acknowledging our own weakness the mystery is that God’s grace flows through us and powerfully touches the world.
When the mother of James and John said to Jesus, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom”, he replied, ‘to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”
Who do you think you can see sat around the throne of Christ in the Kingdom of Heaven? For whom has God our Father prepared places of honour, for Emperors, for Bishops, for celebrities – ‘A listers’ perhaps?
Around the throne of Christ in glory are those whom society devalues, those who are ignored, and those who are pushed to the back. The destitute, the abused, those who count themselves as worthless, those who serve others but are not recognised or rewarded, those who are rejected by authority, those who bear scars from wounds inflicted on them, those who have been reborn to new life in Christ.
All we have to do is to accept his life-giving, soul-transforming, hard-won, wounded embrace.