Archive for October 23rd, 2017

“When the Festival of the Reformation shall come and shall wake no throb of joy in (the Church’s) bosom, her life will have fled. For if the Reformation lives through her, she also lives by it.”

-Charles Porterfield Krauth, (1823-1863), The Conservative Reformation

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Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

James  was witness to the Resurrection and then James believed and the Scripture is clear that before the Resurrection, James did not believe.  James wrote later in his epistle that the implanted Word can save your soul.  Implanted into the womb of James’ mother, Mary.  James would have heard the narrative of the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to his Mother from his Mother!  He was part of the family we call holy. This begs the question:  How could James not believe, growing up in such a pious house?  Many parents wonder about that in their own families regarding their own children.  Even a true,pious, Christian home may have sons and daughters not believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scripture does not tell us the reason James and his brothers did not believe and to speculate is fruitless as it is also fruitless for Christian mothers and fathers also to speculate about their unbelieving children.  I would guess that Mary and Joseph prayed daily for all their children. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”, Romans 10: 17.  The Old Adam won’t listen on his own until Christ Jesus reveals Himself, and even then the Old Adam is obstinate as a mule.  Yet, in the Lord’s time, He can have His way of grace and peace for us all who are also obstinate.  He implants His Word through the preaching of the Word. 

Not only did James believe the Word but his Brother called him into the holy ministry as servant of the Word. October 31st is the Feast of the Reformation thanking the Lord for 500 years of rediscovery of the centrality of the Word of God. The blessed Reformers were very much concerned with the preaching and teaching Office of Pastor.   Priests at the time were beating congregations down with the Law, both God’s Law and man made churchly rules, regulations and human traditions that by them we can attain heaven.  It was a curse.  Pastors are called as ordained Servants of the Word so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His single-Handed salvation of us all be preached for the increase of saving faith. James was called also as servant of the implanted Word. James further writes  that with the tongue we bless the Lord and curse our neighbors.  James was encouraging his brother pastors to be clear in preaching the Word, rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel so that a “harvest of righteousness” come to fruition in the making of “peace” (James 3:18), God’s peace which surpasses all understanding.

Many pastors/ministers/ priests,  at the time of the Reformation, then and now,  concentrate, the people’s attention on themselves and not Jesus Christ.  Has the Lord’s salvation come from the heart of Joel Osteen or your pastor or the Pope or Luther? By no means! Pastors are called to preach Christ, not the Christian.  Pastors are not called to preach themselves, only the Word of God. The Word preaches the Lord’s salvation through the humble tongues and pens of His called pastors. The place of salvation is not the creature, but  the Creator who sent His only-begotten Son.  The Reformers, as James, were not for the peddling of God’s Word for money (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:17), but the preaching of God’s Word for salvation and the fruit of good works.  Preaching the Christian will set the ship of the Church (Latin: navis, ship and from it, nave, where a congregation sits), the wrong way, going in circles, endlessly revolving around the emptiness of the fallen self,  not Jesus Christ and His living way.  Bitter jealousy and rivalry, over “ministries” will result  and will result in “every vile practice”(James 3:16), like a mega-church pastor building a million dollar home and other pastors preach the good works of social activism and  those works alone to ‘save the world’.   Many such pastors sell their books and preach their books, but not The Book, the Scriptures. Such bitter jealousy for more is not of the Lord, and as James wrote, the saving wisdom, the Word made flesh comes from another source,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

The Word made flesh. The same Word implanted by the preaching and teaching of Christ carefully and faithfully  for us and for our salvation.

 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1)

Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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