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Sermon for St. James of Jerusalem – Br. David Allen

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Acts 15:12-22a
1 Cor. 15:1-11
Mt. 13:54-58

Today we commemorate James of Jerusalem and the First Council of the Church.

        The Gospel Reading for today identifies James as a brother of Jesus (v.55).  The First reading, from the Book of Acts tells us of the decision reached by James as the Spokesperson of the First Council of Jerusalem (vv. 19-21). The reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians gives us evidence of Jesus’ appearance to James following his Resurrection (v.7).  From this the inclusion of James as an apostle and his leadership of the Council are implied.

That Council, and the decision made by James, are of tremendous importance for the identity of the Church.  Freed from bondage to the Law of Moses it would no longer be considered as a sect of Judaism. While not denying roots in the Law and the Prophets of the Old Testament, never the less, those coming to believe in Jesus Christ and his promises could begin to be a Body of Faithful believers, showing Jesus Christ to the World.

By the witness of the Apostles, teachers, and martyrs of the Early Church, we learn to know Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead for the salvation of all. We who believe in him give thanks for his immeasurable love.

The background leading up to that first council is found in the verses of the Book of Acts preceding the assembling of the apostles and elders meeting together (15:1 -5).  Some Pharisees insisted that all new converts needed to be circumcised.

The next few verses give us Peter’s testimony (7-11). The portion read today begins with the witness of Barnabas and Paul (12).

Then we have the decision of James. (13-21). “What those Pharisees had demanded was not necessary.”

The important thing about the decision given by James, and assented to by the other apostles, is that those who have come to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are not required to accept rigid and difficult interpretations of the Old Testament Law of Moses.

It would be fruitful to read over those verses that I have cited and meditate on them.

When you think about that decision it should help also to remember Jesus’ words to his disciples at the last supper, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15:12).

Isn’t this the primary requirement?

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