Yesterday in the life of the church we celebrated the only “red letter” saint of the month of July, St. James the Apostle. The “red letter” part indicates that the vestments and altar hangings for services yesterday were to be red, the color the church uses to symbolize both the presence of the Holy Spirit and to indicate when someone has died as a martyr. For St. James, I believe red is the appropriate color for both of the reasons I just mentioned.
St. James is recorded as being one of the very first to leave his nets and follow Jesus. The brother of St. John, his fellow “Son of Thunder,” St. James is said to have had a fiery temper. His fiery temper undoubtedly came from both of his parents–his father Zebedee was known to be boisterous and gruff and his mother, in the gospel reading assigned to the Feast of St. James, brazenly asks Jesus for special treatment for her sons when Jesus comes into his kingdom.
The fiery-tempered St. James is also the patron saint of Spain. Tradition says he was preaching the gospel in Spain around the year 40 A.D. before returning to Judea. This fire inside James may have lead to his death at the hands of King Herod, as recorded in Acts 12:1-2.
In the gospel passage from Matthew for James’ feast day, Jesus asks the two brothers, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” The two brothers simply reply, “We are able.” (Matthew 20:22b) I wonder if they had known what Jesus was talking about, they would still have answered in the same self-assured way. I wonder if they had truly know they would both die for their belief, their love of Jesus, they would still have answered, “We are able.”
From what cup are we willing to drink? For what would we give up for our faith? Would we, like monastics, give up our livelihood? Would we give up our lives for Christ?
Mercifully, I do not believe that many–OK, probably not ANY–of us will be persecuted for our faith and die as James did. However, I wonder what we are called to offer up to God for the sake of our belief in Christ? Do we offer a portion of our time, as we participate in one of the feeding ministries here at St. Alban’s? Do we give of our talent by being a Greeter who welcomes those who are new or visiting our church, welcoming them in the name of Christ? Do we give of our treasure, giving back to God joyfully out of our abundance? Perhaps these are small sips out of the cup of Christ. And they count, especially when they are done with the same joyful love that the saints had for Jesus.
What are the ways in which we take small sips out of the cup? Where could those sips become gulps?