The Feast of St. James

The Feast of St. James Zebedee (or St. James the Greater) celebrates one of the Twelve Apostles, and a crucial figure in the early Church. He (along with his brother St. John and his peer St. Peter) bore witnessed to the Transfiguration, was in Christ’s inner circle of trusted apostles, and was present at Pentecost.

Early Church tradition has it that after Pentecost, St. James took the Gospel to Spain where he brought many to the Faith. He eventually returned to Jerusalem where he was killed by King Herod Agrippa in the year 44 AD —one of the earliest martyrs of our faith. After death, as the story goes, his body was carried back to Spain by Christians and placed at the coastal city of Compostela. 

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Since he was an early martyr of the Church, St. James’ burial place at Compostela became an important destination for pilgrimage, or a holy journey. There are records of Christians making the journey as early as 814 AD. Now, annually, more than 200,000 people walk El Camino de Santiago - “The Way of St. James.”

In iconography, St. James usually holds a cockle shell, the traditional souvenir of having been to the coast of Spain, where he is buried.

As Christians, it is important for us to remember the saints who went before us. We should be inspired by their example and stirred to greater devotion by the stories of what God did in their lives. We do not pray to or worship these men and women, but we thank God for their lives and deaths. 

As we celebrate the life of St. James the Greater, we declare that the God who worked mightily in his life is the same God who is active and present in our own lives; working in us to produce that same kind of courageous, joyful witness of our resurrected Savior.

Here are a few ways to celebrate St. James as families as neighbors, or as gathered friends:

  • Eat Spanish food for dinner… maybe just serve one Spanish olive on each plate at dinner.

  • Go on a walk or hike. For St. James was well travelled, and he is especially remembered by travelers.

  • Act-out the martyrdom of St James as a family (use the story in Acts as a script).

  • Google pictures of The Way of St. James or Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, post them around your house, and take your family on a make-believe pilgrimage.

  • During the designated prayer time in the liturgy, pray for pilgrims, travellers, evangelists, the persecuted church, or brothers (St James was the brother of St. John).

  • Watch a clip from the movie The Way - here’s the trailer.

  • Print-out or make a paper cockle shell, hide it in the house, and play a game of ‘find the cockle shell’ with kids.

  • Adults may share a drink inspired by St. James the Greater, The Santiago Cocktail, taken from the brilliant book Drinking with the Saints: A Sinner’s Guide to a Holy Happy Hour, by Michael P. Foley:

    • 1 ½ oz. light rum

    • ¾ oz. lime juice

    • ½ tsp. powdered sugar

    • ¼ tsp. grenadine

      Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake forty times., strain into a cocktail glass.
      And, as you raise your glasses in a toast, consider using one of Fr. Mark’s favorite toasting lines from the antique world: “Vicisti Gallilaee!”

Finally we exhort you to use the following liturgy either at breakfast or at dinner or before bed with your friends and/or family. It is a good idea to divide up the readings beforehand so different people can read at different times. 

PDF Liturgy for the Feast of St. James

A Reflection for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

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Each year we remember the story of Mary Magdalene. For countless Christians throughout the ages, hers is a supreme example of the transformative power of the Gospel. It is also one of rich literary beauty.

For the story of Mary Magdalene is simply charged with the brilliancy of the Gospel exchange: “My Life for yours.” The examples are copious:

Christ meets her in her shame; she, in turn, meets Him in His Agony on the Cross.

He lifts her up when she was bowed down with guilt; she, in turn, bows down before Him and prepares Him to be ‘lifted-up’ on Calvary.

He comes to her when she is surrounded by enemies and rescues her from death; and, in turn, she comes to him at Simon the Leper’s house, as He is surrounded by his ‘enemies’ to prepare him for death.

She breaks and shatters her jar of nard just as He in turn would be “broken” and shattered on the Cross.

She pours out the oil of her love for Him, He pours out the blood of His love for her.

She looked for Him in grief. He called her in name with Joy.

She looked for a gardener with answers for her worry but He came as the Gardener to show her mysteries more satisfying than the answers she had thought would comfort.

She was looking for closure and an end, but He instead sent her to proclaim the opening of paradise and the dawn of a new Beginning.

Her story, you see, is the Church’s Story. It is also archetypal of each of our smaller little stories.

On the day of her feast we gather to feast and celebrate that we have been washed and that our shame has been put away. Not because it never existed, not because we really aren’t as bad as we thought we were, not because ‘sin’ is just a social construct. Rather, we celebrate because something stronger than shame has laid claim to us. Sin has not been excused, it’s been forgiven. For love is stronger than death, and deeper than the grave.

3 Ways to Partner with Us

“How can we partner with your guys as you church plant?”

That, or something like it, is a question we are hearing with greater regularity. as we get closer to Ash Wednesday. In response we’ve tried to work out 3 ways of '“walking with us” that fulfill two requirements:

  1. They must be ways of “walking with us” that are in unity with the kind of community we seek to form and plant in Honolulu. This is because, as we discussed in our previous post on this blog, as Marshall McLuhan suggests “the medium is the message.” This means that we cannot dislocate how we go about planting a church (the programs and strategies, the models of growth, the culture that is developed, etc.) from the message proclaimed by that church plant; or, as our bishop has wisely advised, how you begin is how you continue. And we want to begin in such a way that knits our hearts along the disciplines of the ancient faith because we believe that they endure beyond personalities and movements. We want to make sure that these forms of partnership are in unity with what we believe and value.

  2. Secondly, while we long to see people gathered to this mission, and while we pray for and trust in God’s provision for it, we wanted to find ways of partnering that are available even for those whose church home is elsewhere and whose financial commitments are such that they will not be partnering with us in these ways.

Thus, and with no further ado, we invite you to walk with us in the following 3 ways:

One: The Psalter

First, we invite you to join us in praying/reading through the Psalter on a monthly basis. The Book of Common Prayer has broken the entirety of the Psalms into daily readings (30 days, morning and evening, click on the link above). We long to be a people whose language and imagination are saturated by the biblical patterns and through forms provided in the Psalms. Join us as we pray these, as we conform the experiences of our days (with all of the struggles, joys, and vicissitudes of the grind) to the richness of the Psalter. (For great resources on this discipline, look into N.T. Wright’s The Case for the Psalms, Bonhoeffer’s luminous The Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, or C.S. Lewis’ contemplative study Reflections on the Psalms).

Two: The Friday Fast

Second, we invite you to join us in observing a fast on Fridays. This can be as simple as abstaining from meats and sweets, or giving-up one meal (like lunch or breakfast). Historically, Fridays (except those in Christmastide and Eastertide) have been days of particular reflection and remembrance of the Lord’s crucifixion in the Christian week. As we fast we are praying for that same obedience, that same love, to be active and apparent in our own lives as it was displayed upon the Cross, so many Friday ago. However, even as we invite you to join us in this, we urge you not to be vain or falsely grave about this fast. For the Christian, all fasting, even those which occur in Lent and on Good Friday, have the great ring of comedy. For neither hunger nor death are the end of the Christian story, but the expectation of it. Thus, even as the hunger of Fridays bids us ponder and confess our weaknesses, remember that Fridays also carry the paradox of the Gospel: it is the hungry who are fed, the confessed who are unashamed, the meek who inherit the earth, and the dead who are raised. Join us on happy, joyful, jubilant, Fridays where we declare that all our hope (both eternally and in terms of the church plant) is not about our strength, but about God’s strength displayed in our weakness. (For a great piece of writing on this we advise Shakespeare for Lent by Dr. Peter Leithart).

Three: The Common Prayer

Thirdly, we invite you to pray for us daily, using the following collect from the Book of Common Prayer, modified to include All Saints by name. The idea here is that using the same prayers together serves to collect all of our disparate thoughts, prayers and sentiments together before God as a mighty, swelling, resounding chorus (that’s why we name them ‘collects’). It goes like this: “Almighty Father, whose blessed Son before his passion prayed for his disciples that they might be one, as you and he are one: Grant that your Church, being bound together in love and obedience to you, may be united in one body by the one Spirit; we pray in particular for the mission of All Saints Honolulu, that you would grant us unity in our common life; that the world may believe in him whom you have sent, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

Now, this is not to say that there are not numerous other things that we could add to this list (things that are good and valuable and are in alignment with the mission of the Gospel), but that, the following three capture well the goal of our project .

As always feel free to contact us with any thoughts or questions. Just hop on over to our contact page. Look! Here’s a link to it!

Grace and Peace

Marshall McLuhan Plants a Church

The often quoted but, I fear, too often unheeded dictum of Marshall McLuhan is that the medium is the message. The dictum is brilliant in both its simplicity and its profundity. The way we do a thing cannot be dislocated from the why and the what (and the who, when, and where).

This is no supra-biblical lesson either. It is the truth behind the prophets’ several warnings that nations come to resemble not only their idols, but their idolatries as well. Which is to say we do not merely become the things we worship, we also become the way we worship (this is the central thesis of Smith’s book, You Are What You Love ).

This is the lesson demonstrated in the irate husband who screams “I am NOT ANGRY” at the top of his basso range while pummeling the kitchen table and calling imprecations upon those various members of his household who dared question his good-natured amiability. His actions are the verdict; his own manner condemns him, proves him wrong; his is the voice of finality raised as the proof of his family’s prior complaint. The medium is the message. And the medium is not neutral in terms of meaning.

Further examples are abundant and I need not fill up this space with them. The above is sufficient. And the implications are many.

We are concerned here, however, only with those implications which carry import for the Church. How does this dictum direct the way that we go about the mission of God’s people on the earth?

If nothing else it drives us to the biblical pattern of worship (viz. a liturgical pattern of worship) and to the rhythms and disciplines of the ancient faith: the common life of accountability, confession, and real discipleship; the fervent study of scripture; the active giving of charity and resources; the seasons of the liturgical year, marked by fast and feast; and the centrality of the Sacraments. For us these things are not mere supplements to some intellectual “interior” message of the Gospel, they are the embodiment of that message. Or, to put it another way, the Gospel is not merely a good or interesting “idea.” It is embodied allegiance to the Person of Jesus Christ the King. And knowing Him means knowing Him as He is offered in the breaking of bread, in the Word, and in the life of His Church.

For Jesus did not come merely to give us some disembodied message but to give us Himself. For he is both medium and message, and, as St. John tells us, the message came down from heaven and became incarnate.

It is not enough therefore, in our estimation, to adopt willy-nilly the practices and methods of growth from late-market America in our desire for growth and fruit. Practices born in industrial competition (fine perhaps for the market) tend to skew the message of the Gospel. Because, remember, the method is the message.

This is where the disciplines and forms of worship which marked the early church bring us so much life as a community. They work to form rhythms and practices so that ours is a community whose “methods and mediums” are in alignment with its desired “message.” Or, more tersely, sicut in caelo et in terra.

The Planter Sows in Death: Our Plan to Plant in Lent

“For Christians, death is not end but beginning. Lent is an extended meditation on that good news.”
– Peter Leithart [from ‘4o Reasons to Observe Lent: A Murder of Tweets’ on the Theopolis Blog]

All Saints Honolulu will hold its first gathering in the evening of Ash Wednesday (March 6th , location TBD). This, for those who may not know, is the beginning of the Christian season of Lent; a time of corporate fasting and repentance which draws us into the drama of Holy Week and the victory of Easter.

After this inaugural gathering on Ash Wednesday, we will continue to meet throughout Lent, holding small midweek eucharist services (always followed by a Lenten potluck) at a time and place to be determined (we’ll keep you posted as things keep developing).

And while there is very much which could be said explaining and expounding upon Lent (some of which I may say later in other future posts), my goal here is only to give some rationale for why we are planting with intentionality in Lent.

Firstly, we believe that, normatively, how you begin is how you continue. Lent offers us a season to begin the process of mission and community formation with a focus on the Christian practices of prayer, confession, hope, repentance, and accountability. These things are central to the communal life of the church and we want to continue in them; and to have them be things that mark us as a people.

We also recognize that the life of a church plant is a messy affair. And that, life together with other Christians is sometimes vicious, sometimes brutal, and beset with misunderstanding. At times the hypocrisy of others in the church drives us to madness, making us question the goodness of the God who (according to our reckoning) has not been as judicious as we think He ought to have been with His welcome of others. Lent declares (much to our chagrin and yet much more to our everlasting good) that we too are costly, sometimes vicious, often brutal; that skipping that sandwich or hoppy IPA or Makai Savings Poke Bowl makes us irate, noisome, and messy. Lent reveals to us our own hypocrisy and madness. Lent sheds light upon the fact (little countenanced by many of us Americans) that, in fact, our own inclusion into the people of God has been the cause of other people’s questioning the goodness of the God who (according to their reckoning) has not been judicious in His welcome of us.

Lent also declares that our hope rests not in what we can achieve or scheme or market or network, but that, rather, our hope rests upon God alone who is strong enough to work in us. Lent is a good time for church plants to be reminded that our hope does not rest in what we can produce, or in the amazing goodness of the people on the team, but rather in the fact that the God who called us, will be faithful to his call.

Lastly, as we prepare to plant in Lent we are intentionally planting in a call to die; to give ourselves away; to lay ourselves down for the life of others. As a church-plant we are like a seed cast-off of the mother-church. In Lent we observe the truth that “unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it bears no fruit.” And this is good news for us because, as Leithart states (above), “For Christians, death is not end but beginning.”