St. James

Last fall, many in our congregation were excited to see a film called The Way, which traced the adventures of four strangers who had decided (for reasons they did not fully understand) to hike the pilgrim way to Santiago de Compostella, the reputed last resting place of St. James the Apostle. A few chose the walk with deliberation and care. At least one, a doctor, kind of fell into it, as a type of inheritance from his dead son. None of them, no matter how careful their preparations, knew what they were getting into, any more than the doctor knew what parenthood would ask of him when his son was born.

The Scriptural record suggests that St. James, whom the church remembers today, had no idea either. He was sitting in his fishing-boat, mending the nets with his brother and father, when Jesus walked by and called him, it must have been by name. James probably thought Jesus was going to ask him directions, or stroll for  a bit on the beach; instead, he found the love of his life, the crazy love of God that would not let him go.

I don’t suppose any of us really know what love will ask. Even three years later, as they were approaching Jerusalem, James was so naive that he came to Jesus with his brother John and his mother, and asked for positions of power in God’s kingdom. And Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (meaning, his death). And they said, “We are able” — not knowing what they meant.

But the strange thing is, they were right. When the time came, they were ready. They could lift the cup of faithfulness; they could pour out their lives for love; by God’s grace, they could follow Jesus all the way.

And that same grace is given to you and to me. We do not know what love will ask. But we know that Jesus shows us the answer to the question: love for the ones we cherish in this world, and love for our God who gave us this world. And when the final knock comes on our door, still, we will be able to answer it, somehow.

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