Archives For James

Addison Hart joins the podcast to talk about his latest book, ‘The Letter of James: A Pastoral Commentary’.

From the back cover: The Letter of James is perhaps needed more than ever today. In this commentary, Hart argues that the epistle is indeed the work of James of Jerusalem, “the brother of the Lord,” that it was an encyclical letter, and that its chief concern was to combat a distorted version of Paul’s gospel. It is a work with a singular purpose: to bring the churches back to the most basic teachings of Jesus. In its defense of orthopraxy as the primary Christian standard, its denunciation of those with wealth who exploit or neglect the poor, its hard words for those who have taken on the mantel of “teacher” without first learning to restrain their tongues, and above all its exhortation to relearn the truth that “faith without works [of love] is dead,” James could be talking to churches in our own time. This commentary presents James afresh, as a living guide with a perennial message for those who seek to follow Jesus. It is pastoral in intent, written for those who teach and preach, those who desire a more authentic discipleship, and those who practice lectio divina—the meditative reading of Scripture.
Addison Hodges Hart is a retired priest (of both the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches, M.Div.), former college chaplain for Northern Illinois University, teacher, spiritual director, and former ecumenical/interfaith director (for the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois). He is the author of six previous books, published by Eerdmans, the most recent being The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd: Finding Christ on the Buddha’s Path (2013), Strangers and Pilgrims Once More: Being Disciples of Jesus in a Post-Christendom World (2014), and The Woman, the Hour, and the Garden: A Study of Imagery in the Gospel of John (2016). He currently lives with his wife in Norway, along with two Newfoundland dogs, a herd of cats, and some goats.

295024_10151240304491769_259193053_nTurns out, a whole lot of people didn’t realize Jesus had siblings.

They pop up in several places in the Gospels and they’re mentioned in the Epistles as well.

Luke in the Book of Acts makes clear that one of them was at the very center of the church. But they’re almost completely missing from today’s Church’s worship music.

(The cynic in me would argue that’s because Jesus is missing from today’s Church’s worship music too- because the songs are all, really, about us.)

I guess this could be a function of how much emphasis Christians place on Jesus’ divinity to the exclusion of his humanity. Maybe it’s simply easier to push Jesus’ other siblings to the side (just like we do with Joseph, those siblings’ father) than wrestle with the paradox the incarnation.

Indeed Catholic Dogma, which believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary, pushes them so far aside it pushes them right out of Jesus’ immediate family, insisting the word translated ‘brothers and sisters’ in most New Testaments really means ‘cousins.’ But it doesn’t. The New Testament has a word for ‘cousins’


James as in the ‘Letter of’ is the most famous of Jesus’ siblings. At some point after Easter, James went from bystander to disciple to leader in the Jerusalem Church. He was eventually condemned by the Sanhedrin, like Jesus, and was stoned to death.

We mentioned James at several points during our worship service this past weekend, and due the dearth of James-mentioning music, our worship leader, Andreas Barrett wrote a bluegrass song: Jesus and James (Brother of Mine).

I’m sorry I don’t have audio of it but thought you might appreciate the lyrics:

Jesus and James (Brother of Mine) ♦ Music and Words by Andreas Barrett


Looking back on the days when you and I were made,

Who’d have thought that things would turn out like they did?

We were two peas in a pod, but only one the son of God;

Who’d have thought that you were more than just a kid?


Brother, you could be a thorn in my side

But Jesus, I remember how we laughed until we cried.


Only caring for today, childhood carried us away

And we followed each adventure where it went.

Telling secrets just for two, but time is fleeting so it flew

And in a moment all our innocence was spent.


We would run and play just like the rest,

Never knowing growing up would put us to the test.


Brother, O brother of mine,

Sometimes you confuse me, but I’ll always toe the line.

I’ll tell the world my brother is divine, vine, vine—

Jesus, save a place for me, ‘cause I don’t mind.


When I ranted, you would turn; I had so much more to learn

In a world that soon would never be the same.

While you breathed, I lived a lie; now you’re breathless. 

So am I, ’cause nothing’s left to do but take the blame.


We would live and love just like our friends,

Growing older, sowing the beginning of the end.


I saw blood and water flow from your side;

Jesus, now you’ll never be denied.


Brother, O brother of mine,

Sometimes you confuse me, but I’ll always toe the line.

I’ll tell the world my brother is divine, vine, vine—

Jesus, save a place for me, ‘cause I don’t mind.


Brother, O brother of mine,

Sometimes you drive me crazy, but I’ll never draw the line.

You bled for me and now I’m gonna die, die, die—

I’ll see you, Jesus, on the other side.