Peter Coster’s thoughts about the Festival of St James

21 CV TRINITY 7    Click here for the illustrated PDF


21 CV TRINITY VI                               Thought for St.James’ Day

Readings:-                                                             by

1 Kings ch.6, vv11-14/23-end                         Didymus

Acts Ch.12, vv1-17

John Ch.6, vv1-21


Today we celebrate dear old St.James the Great, the patron saint of St.Kew Church, the beautiful and wonderful old church in St.Kew Churchtown.  All churches have a beauty of course, through their purpose and those who go there.  The core of a village was the close proximity of the School, the Church and the Inn, the latter for the thirst after righteousness.  That is not just an old joke, as many a chorister has sidled out and wetted his whistle during the long and more tiresome parts of the service!  Perhaps not recently, though.

Saturday would have been St.James’ Fete day, by courtesy of the Mathiesons at Trescobel, almost always in blissful sun, often quite hot, with the various stalls selling all manner of things, and meeting friends for a pleasant afternoon.  Much the same had happened at St.Mabyn, St.Tudy, St.Michaels(-tow), and we had St.Minver and St.Endellion fetes still to look forward to.  The covid virus has culled from us not just church services, but Bible groups and our fetes.  I wonder whether we will see the rich variety of fetes return, and when.

The reading from Acts describes firstly, the murder in 44AD of James the Great, brother of John bar-Zebedee, by Herod Antipas, who then seized Peter with murder in mind.  What follows is a description of Peter’s miraculous release from imprisonment.  Further on, Herod comes to an appropriately sticky end. 

We should remember that, earlier, the Bar-Zebedee brothers, the Boanerges, asked to be by Jesus’ side.  But are you willing to share my destiny, our Lord asked.  They answered “Yes” to which Jesus answered that they would also share his destiny.  James was the first Apostle to die.

St.James the Great is the patron saint of Spain, and his remains are believed to be north-western Spain, in the city of Santiago de Compostela, as I am sure many of us know.  There are several versions of James in Spanish, Jaime, Jamés or Iago, the latter being the one used here – the name of the vengeful villain of Shakespeare’s Othello.  The pilgrimage from South-western France to Compostela has become the most famous in the Christian world, and many, including sturdy, determined Christians from North Cornwall, have travelled “El Camino”, to find it a memorable experience.  It has been the basis for a film called “The Way”, which is the translation of El Camino.  The Cathedral at Santiago boasts a huge thurifer, (if that is the correct name) hung from the roof and operated by at least eight men.  The late Chef Keith Floyd called it “the biggest air freshener in the world”.

But enough of jokes.  The Gospel is taken from John’s ch.6, which tells old church hands that it is July-August.  This chapter is arguably one of the most important in the Bible.  The beginning of the reading describes the Feeding of the 5,000, and in verse 6, John reveals that Jesus knew perfectly well what would happen and what he intended to do about it.  I must admit that the miracle that follows on immediately, Walking on the Water, worries me, for there seems no obvious purpose to the miracle, other than that Jesus could do it, and thereby strengthen the Disciples faith in him.  Maybe that was the reason.

While this reading stands alone, the events and teaching which follow are broken into fragments over about six Sundays, thus destroying its central, vital teaching thread.  The authors of the Lectionary do this several times, presumably intending to avoid lengthy readings and comatose congregations.  Not at all – with a good reader the teaching of Jesus comes to life, as it should.

Last year I remember a news item I which a priest was quoted as saying that sermons were often rather dull (How on earth did he come to that conclusion?), and could benefit from a joke here and there.  

I remember talking to Bishop Bill, saying that the congregation often looked half asleep.  Perhaps “stunned” would have been more accurate.  The Bishop’s comment was “Yes, that is quite often the case, but if you slip up, you will find that they have been listening all the time, and will have your guts for garters.”

So, taking the hint, I have included a cartoon that was sent me years back.  It is funny without being disrespectful.  There isn’t much to laugh about these days, so enjoy it.


Include in your prayers thanks for the gift of laughter, for the joy of a fine day, and the beauty of our West Country.  And pray for those who lack laughter, beauty and wonder in their lives.



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