Written by Terri C Pilarski
Oh James, James, James. What can one say about you, on this, your designated feast day? That you are called “The Great”, not because you were greater than the other apostle James (the Less) but because you may have been taller? That you and your brother John were early followers of Jesus, leaving your father Zebedee on the boat? That your mother, Salome, may have been at the foot of the cross as Jesus died and she may have also asked for you to sit at the right hand of Jesus in the royal kingdom? Or maybe that was you who asked this of Jesus? Regardless, Jesus had some words to say about that, reminding us what it really means to follow and proclaim the Good News of God’s love in Christ. That all of us, every one of us, is equally loved and valued in the eyes of God.
Oh James, who with your brother John, became known as “Sons of Thunder” for your hot headed temperament. This because apparently you had a strong reaction to some Samaritans when they rejected Jesus. I wonder if you changed your mind about the Samaritans after Jesus had that long conversation with the woman at the well, the one about living water? Or, were you so busy “storming” that you missed her running off to proclaim her message of hope and Good News to the Samaritans in her village?
Oh James, you were allegedly beheaded, and thus became known as the first apostle martyred after the death of Jesus. Now you are known as the Patron Saint of Spain, Chile, and Nicaragua. People pray to you to intercede on their behalf for relief from rheumatism. Laborers pray to you to help them through their work. People ask for you to use your fiery temperament to intercede with God, on their behalf. I imagine you are storming heaven, thundering the prayers of those who look to you for help.
James, Oh James. What was it like for you to be on the mountain top in that moment of transformation, when the world as you knew it was pointed toward a transfiguration of radical love? Were you, like Peter, thinking it was best to contain it, to keep it on the mountain? How long did it take you to embrace Jesus’ desire to come down off the mountain and spread the Good News? The rest of your life, perhaps? Isn’t that how it is for us, mere humans that we are, trying to contain and define God’s love in our terms?
So here we are, nearly 2000 years later, in an era when fiery temperaments are rampant, when the desire to contain and limit God’s love in small self serving ways is prevalent, when humankind longs to hang on to the notion that some deserve, are in fact entitled, to be held up higher, more privileged than others. When the efforts to dismantle the values and beliefs of patriarchal ideology, and efforts to dismantle other systems of oppression, are causing a reflux of angry bile to rise up in our society. And yet, Jesus reminds us, as he told James, the cup of salvation is a brew that will taste bitter to some and sweet to others. Bitter to those who think that this living water is meant for a few select privileged people, while others will be denied. Sweet to those who know that the living water of God’s love poured out in Jesus, brings new life to all, nourishing all people equally.