Thu, 30 October 2014
(Phil.1:1-11; Ps.111:1-6; Lk.14:1-6)
“My prayer is that your love may more and more abound.”
Paul’s prayer is addressed to the Philippians, who “have all continually helped promote the Gospel from the very first day” he came into their midst preaching. He overflows with love for them himself and finds them present “to a man” sharing in his “gracious lot,” even as he “lie[s] in prison” far from their land. And so he prays that always “with a clear conscience and blameless conduct [they] may learn to value the things that really matter,” and is confident that “He who has begun the good work in [them] will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus.”
And Jesus’ prayer for the Pharisees is really the same. Though they treat Him as Paul has so often been treated, though He is “summoned to defend the solid grounds on which the Gospel rests” before eyes that observe “Him closely” for any misstep upon which they could capitalize – yet His desire for them is the love of God; yet He would teach them of the ways of the Lord Most High, who cares at every moment for the well-being of even His smallest creatures. Thus does He ask them, “If one of you has a son or an ox and he falls into a pit, will he not immediately rescue him on the sabbath day?” to open their eyes to the innate concern they have for those in their care, that they might see the love of God for all. And though they are not like the Philippians, though they do not accept His word with joy and put it into practice immediately, there may come a time when they will listen, when at least some of them will hear and follow His teaching.
“Majesty and glory are His work, and His justice endures forever.” This is what every heart must proclaim of the “wondrous deeds” of God. It is not only Paul’s wish but the wish of the Lord Himself that all of us “may be found rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ has ripened,” which He has brought to maturity in His blood, in His love. “He has given food to those who fear Him”; this food of love is for all who reverence God to share. More and more it should abound in our midst, even as it does in all our churches and on all our altars this day. Alleluia!
O LORD, your love extends to all and is undying –
help us to share more and more in that love
with your Son.
YHWH, may your love abound throughout the world and we abound in it. May your glory be known in all your works, through all holy souls the Gospel go forth.
We give you thanks, O LORD, we give you praise. For your love is endless and it looks upon every creature with abiding care. In your presence and by the ministry of your Son, we are saved – let us stand in the light of your holy Day!
You give food to all who love you, LORD; you heal every soul that comes humbly to you. Let us appear before you with a clear conscience and blameless conduct. Your will be fulfilled in all our lives.
Wondrous are your deeds, O LORD; majesty and glory are yours alone. But you desire to share your gifts with your children, continually calling us to dwell in your love.
Rescue us from all sin this day, LORD, from the hardness of our hearts, that we might be among the assembly of the just come to full maturity in your Son.
Wed, 15 October 2014
(Eph.1:1-10; Ps.98:1-6; Lk.11:47-54)
“It is in Christ and through His blood
that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven.”
Oh, brothers and sisters, “so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us.” He “has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens!” In Christ we are chosen “to be holy and blameless in His sight, to be full of love… to be His adopted sons.” In our midst the Lord fulfills the plan “to be carried out in the fullness of time: namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ’s headship.” And He does all this by the shedding of His blood.
“God has said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of these they will persecute and kill.’” “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who met his death between the altar and the sanctuary,” to the blood of Christ, who died within the sanctuary – who is the sanctuary and whose blood is poured out upon every altar until this day – the sacrificial blood of the martyrs has been poured forth. And all the blood shed until His time, and all the blood shed by His faithful until His Day… all is the blood of the Christ who redeems us all who shed that blood by our sins. And we should but desire to add our own blood to fill up what is yet lacking in the sacrifice of the Lord, that all the chosen may enter His kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, no longer is “the key of knowledge” kept from us; we now have access to enter into His reign. For “God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery” of the plan of His salvation. And it speaks to us in Christ’s blood. And in His blood we should rejoice; we should “praise the divine favor He has bestowed on us in His beloved.” For “the Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.” And His justice is this: that though the devil accuse us rightly of our sins, though the blood of the prophets be on our hands, though none is worthy of the kingdom and all should be justly thrown into hell – yet “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God,” yet there is One who has died in our place to wash us clean from our sins, to measure off the justice due us… yet the devil’s hope for our condemnation is thwarted by the One who loves us immeasurably. And so we can enter in and “with trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before the King, the Lord.” And so we may know fully the blessings of Christ’s blood.
O LORD, the blood of your Son be upon us this day
to redeem us from our sin
and bring us knowledge of your glory.
YHWH, thank you for sending your Son to redeem us from all our sins and make us one with Him and so with you in the heavenly kingdom. Your salvation this day is known to all by the blood He has shed on the Cross – may all hear His call to repentance, that all might sing in your presence.
O LORD, every spiritual blessing you offer to us through the sacrifice of Jesus. O that we might be holy as He, holy as you, and praise you joyfully for your love. Let us not linger in jealousy, in envy of His goodness and truth, but listen to His words that chastise our hearts, that we might be made pure for Heaven. The key of knowledge is ours in your Christ; the wisdom of the ages comes to us through Him – let us but long to follow Him to your glory.
In His blood indeed we are saved. Though our hands have shared in the shedding of that blood, yet it is the source of our salvation, if we but turn to you in love. Praise you, LORD, for your favor toward us!
Tue, 12 August 2014
(Ez.9:1-7,10:18-22; Ps.113:1-6; Mt.18:15-20)
“Where two or three are gathered in my name,
there am I in their midst.”
And so the four living creatures, the cherubim gathered beneath the feet of the Lord, “rise from the earth” and move “straight forward,” the breath of the Spirit animating every beat of their wings. And so the angels called forth by the voice of God protect or destroy the inhabitants of His city, according to His command. And so Jesus can assure His disciples, “Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be held bound in heaven, and whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be held loosed in heaven.” For He is in our midst.
“Who is like the Lord, our God, who is enthroned on high and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?” The answer is, of course, no one. And yet the answer is everyone, everyone whom the Lord touches – everyone He ordains to do His will. For the Lord does not work in a vacuum but anoints all His chosen to serve as His hands and arms, His feet and legs... His tongue and soul on earth and in heaven. We are not left alone, but become as He is. Though “above the heavens is His glory,” yet to the earth has He come down and walked amongst us, making us as His appointed angels. His work must be accomplished in us.
Raise your voice unto Him, brothers and sisters; with angelic blessings we are called to dwell. For He is here in our midst, He who is above the angels’ realm. So, may our hearts beat with the breath of the Spirit; may He animate our every thought and movement. May the will of the Lord be done in His Church, that all shall be prepared to receive His mark, that all will be prepared for the last Day... when the Lord passes through His “city,” when He comes to save and destroy. Now let men be taught what is right and what is wrong; now let us gather in His Name. “From the rising to the setting of the sun is the name of the Lord to be praised.”
O LORD, judgment is yours
and you give it into the hands of your angels,
and your Church.
YHWH, you are exalted high above earth and Heaven; your glory is far beyond our human sight. And yet you look upon us here below and are in our midst. Your surpassing power you give to your angels, and to your Church. And so, saving and destroying angels go forth at your command; and so, on earth and in Heaven your apostles bind and loose. Your judgment is above any living creature, and yet in and through your creatures you dwell, giving them power to do your will.
Justice is in your right hand, O LORD, and all shall be judged in accord with your mind. For you see all things from where you sit and are soiled by none of what is below your glory. Are not those who defile your temple defiled themselves, and so should they not receive your just punishment? How can they be counted among the just, who mourn over such abomination?
O LORD, you are patient and kind with all but cannot live with wickedness. Let all souls turn to your glory!
Mon, 4 August 2014
(Jer.30:1-2,12-15,18-22; Ps.102:16-23,29; Mt.15:1-2,10-14)
“Every planting not put down by my heavenly Father
will be uprooted.”
Is it not these Pharisees of whom Jeremiah speaks when he prophesies, “Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise”? Truly there is “no remedy for [their] running sore, no healing for [them].” Blind shall they ever be, for they do but harden their hearts when their sin is brought up before their eyes.
And so, though Jesus comes to “restore the tents of Jacob,” “when the Lord has rebuilt Zion and appeared in His glory,” where shall they be? Where are they now as He brings this to pass in their very presence? Is it not so that they cannot see? And so, as “the peoples gather together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord,” they can only remain outside His house knocking so vainly...
“It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him impure; it is what comes out of his mouth.” With this simple declaration the Lord turns the eyes of all ancient religions – set so much on the letter of the law, witnessed in the washing of hands and the preparation of food for the body (which shall but die one day) – in upon themselves. With this essential challenge all are forced to examine their faith and discover upon what it rests. Is it truly upon the Almighty God, who is “heavenly,” who is Spirit? Or is it upon their own belly? It is a hard look that must be taken if one is to be drawn into the renewed covenant and anointed by its blood. (How else shall one stand in the overwhelming light of His glory?)
It shall be so that “all your lovers have forgotten you”: anything upon which you set your heart that is short of the Almighty God shall indeed but rot, shall be exposed for all its vanity. And though it seems at this time that the Lord has “struck you as an enemy would strike,” that He has “punished you cruelly,” know that it is “because of your great guilt, your numerous sins, [He has] done this to you,” that He might uproot these from your midst – that you might not be uprooted from His presence.
O LORD, keep us from the pit;
forgive our sins
and let our house be rebuilt from its ruins.
YHWH, you open the eyes of the blind and save those who have strayed so far from your love. You desire to rebuild the ruins of Zion, and so you send your Son to teach us of your presence within. Help us to set our hearts on your kingdom that we might be as your temple, as your own kin.
It is through Jesus your compassion comes to us, LORD. We were destined for death, sitting in a land of darkness and gloom, overwhelmed by our sins; but you enabled us to approach your throne and find healing for our souls through the grace and mercy of your only Son. Remember us, that we might praise you through all generations.
How sick we were, LORD, indeed at the point of death, headed for an empty pit. But you turn our eyes from our running sore to look upon your majesty. In your pity you heard the groaning of these prisoners and raised us from the mire. O may we stand firm on your holy mountain, planted securely in your love.
Sun, 3 August 2014
(Jer.28:1-17; Ps.119:29,43,68,79-80,95,102; Mt.14:22-36)
“Let those turn to me who fear you
and acknowledge your decrees.”
Hananiah does not fear the Lord; he cares nothing for His decrees. And so he prophesies that the Lord will bring “the vessels of the house of the Lord and all the exiles back from Babylon” within two years, though the Lord has not said this. And he refuses to turn to Jeremiah – who does acknowledge the Lord’s decrees and speaks only truth – hardening himself against the word and the will of the Lord even unto his death. How foolish to have “false confidence,” to have no fear of God and His prophets. “Rebellion against the Lord” can but bring destruction to the proud soul.
And what of the fear the disciples exhibit throughout our gospel today: the fear of the boat “being tossed about in the waves raised by strong head winds”; their terror at seeing Jesus “walking on the water” in the middle of the night (“‘It is a ghost!’ they said.”); Peter’s fear of sinking in the water... Is this the fear the Lord desires of His chosen ones? No. For this is the fear of a faithless soul disturbed by the distractions the devil might raise, not the fear of the Lord. The fear the Lord requires we see after Jesus “had climbed into the boat, [and] the wind died down.” Here read of the fear of the Lord: “Those who were in the boat showed Him reverence, declaring, ‘Undoubtedly you are the Son of God!’”
Acknowledge Him we must. To His feet we must bring all our sickness, all our blindness. Knowing that by His word alone we are saved, that in His presence alone do we find our home, our harbor in this storm – this is the fear which must burn in our hearts. There is no other way. There is no other word which has weight. Only His hand reaches out and lifts us up from drowning in the waves. And for this we honor Him. For the law of His mouth we praise His name. For what does He speak but our salvation? What does He come across the lake bringing us but assistance in our exile here? And so, what should we do but reverence His eminent grace? Let the Lord be praised!
O LORD, by your Word save me;
with your hand raise me up.
YHWH, you destroy all falsehood from among us; from our hearts you remove all fear. And so, we praise you for your glory, for truly you are our LORD and God.
Across the waters you send your Son, to calm our hearts and remove all fear. Into our boats He climbs, bringing your peace, LORD, and by His hand all are healed.
Let us not be blind to His presence; let us not lack the faith to walk with Him. For His arms are always outstretched to catch us and gather us into your heart, O LORD.
There indeed is no falsehood in Him, or in the words He speaks to our souls. He is the true Prophet sent in your NAME, LORD, and we find refuge in obedience to His call.
O LORD, may our boat come soon to the shore we seek; with your Son at our side we are already with you. And let your Word of truth be in our mouth as well – let us speak only the words you inspire.
Sat, 2 August 2014
(Is.55:1-3; Ps.145:8-9,15-18; Rm.8:35,37-39; Mt.14:13-21)
“The eyes of all look hopefully to you,
and you give them their food in due season.”
And the song of David, and the prophecy of Isaiah, are fulfilled in Jesus and the heavenly banquet He sets before us this day. For the Lord “open[s] His hand and satisf[ies] the desire of every living thing”; “without paying and without cost” all come to His table to eat.
“You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat.” The “rich fare” the Lord provides cannot be bought with money, for the earthly food “fails to satisfy.” Only that paid for by the blood of the Son gives life; in His sacrifice we find “the everlasting covenant,” the union with God and with His love which all our souls desire. And we know, as Paul testifies, that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Does Jesus not give witness to the love of God today? Does He not show that “the Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works”? For though “He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by Himself,” though He sought to be alone with His Father in prayer, when followed by the crowds He took pity and “cured their sick.” And though He had been with them all the day and evening drew on, when the disciples urge Him to “dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves,” Jesus responds: “There is no need for them to go away; give them food yourselves.” And He feeds them, without cost and without discriminating between one and the next. All sit at His table today; and we are told that “all ate and were satisfied.” And why not? For the bounty of the Lord is indeed the richest fare.
Do we follow Jesus as diligently as these in the wilderness, brothers and sisters? We know the food He provides us now every day. And we have been shown clearly that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” Let us partake well of this feast set before us, which gives us now a foretaste of heaven. Freely let us come to Him, and be fed by His holy hand. And our expectant souls shall be forever satisfied, for His hand is always open.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Whole Whale" (first third) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let our lives this day be in line with your will,
united to the glory of your only Son.
YHWH, let us not store up treasures for ourselves, but think rather of you and the salvation of others. All is indeed vanity if like Qoheleth we set our sights on what is on earth, if we are preoccupied by our possessions. For these shall rot with the lusts of the flesh and we shall die with them. But if we set our hearts on you and on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at your right hand, then we shall be blessed with life everlasting.
Your Son calls us to glory with Him in Heaven. He warns us of the emptiness of this earth and the riches hereon. He would turn our eyes to you and away from all greed and selfishness. He alone can prosper the work of our hands, LORD, for without Him we pass like the changing grass and nothing comes of our days.
O LORD, let us not labor in vain but with the wisdom that comes from above, that we might not come to great misfortune but to eternal life in your presence. Remake us in the image of your Son.
Thu, 20 February 2014
(Jas.2:14-24,26; Ps.112:1-6; Mk.8:34-9:1)
“Faith without works is as dead as a body without breath.”
How dead indeed is a body without breath; how short a time we can go without breathing before dying. And so how much is our faith dependent on works to remain alive.
Brothers and sisters, we are human, we have bodies – of the earth, of flesh and bone, we are. We are not angels. And having bodies we must use what God gave us, what we are: it is in such action we prove the worth of our salt. We cannot sit by idly while another suffers and call ourselves Christian; we cannot prove our faith other than by actions. We must work out our call. We must “take up [our] cross and follow in [Christ’s] steps.” Sitting by the side of the road will get us nowhere. Just as Abraham showed His belief in God by taking his son to be sacrificed, so must we move as the Lord calls.
And He calls us to service, He calls us to love. He calls us to lay down our lives for the sake of others. And this not just in thoughts or words, but in deeds. We must be as He who “dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright” and conduct our “affairs with justice.” If we are ashamed of Jesus and the doctrine of the cross He preaches, if we hide our light under a bushel basket afraid to speak or act in His name, He makes quite clear that He will be “ashamed of [us] when He comes with the holy angels in the Father’s glory.” Profession of faith alone is not sufficient to enter “the reign of God established in power”; we must practice what is preached.
Was not Jesus of flesh and bone? Did He not perform great works in our midst? And does He not still perform great works through us His Church; or are we now angels flying at heaven’s gate? Flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone we must be, or we are nothing worth. We eat His body and drink His blood and shoulder His cross to find “the wealth and riches [that] shall be in His house,” that will live eternally.
(It occurs to me that the quote could be reversed to be phrased more literally: “Faith without works is dead as breath without a body,” wandering aimlessly; but it would not get across the dire need for works quite so forcefully.)
O LORD, man and woman are one
and are brought together in your will;
in our covenants let us reflect your mercy
YHWH, give us your patience in enduring all things. You are kind and merciful; let us be like you. Help us to practice your compassion in our marriages and in all our relationships – let us be ready as you to forgive. Yes, let all our sins be put far from us.
If we endure with you, O LORD, shall we not be blessed? If with you we practice patience and kindness when put to the test, will we not share in your reward? Let us be so joined to you, LORD, that we may indeed be called your Body in this world.
O my LORD, let us never be divorced from love of one another or love of you. Let our covenants be sure as your own; for you have promised to be with us even till the end of the age, and so, should we abandon one another? Would this not be an abandonment of you?
Let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, O LORD, and let us therefore live forever in your eternal Word, in the truth and love only you hold.
Wed, 19 February 2014
(Jas.2:1-9; Ps.34:2-7; Mk.8:27-33)
“You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s!”
This is a most important statement Jesus makes; it really cuts to the heart of His teaching, and to His sacrifice for our sins.
He has just finished asking His apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” and for perhaps the first time heard their belief that He is the Messiah. This is a critical moment. But there is no time to sit back and enjoy it, for “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer much, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be put to death, and rise three days later.” He knows they will not understand. He knows they will not hear “rise three days later” but “suffer” and “death” and be appalled that the Son of God should be treated so. The sacrifice is here beyond their comprehension. And He knows, too, that Peter does not only speak for all when he declares Jesus the Messiah, but also when he “remonstrates with Him.” And so the Lord turns around from where Peter had led Him privately, and makes a point of “eyeing the disciples”; for in His reprimand of Peter as “Satan”, He reprimands them all. Their minds must be utterly changed; they must see things as God – they must look upon heaven and not earth.
James, of course, speaks of the same matter in his discourse condemning favoritism or the judging of others by appearance. For if we favor the rich man with the gold rings, we are showing our preference for the mark of the beast “who blaspheme[s] that noble name which has made us God’s own.” If we judge against the faith of the poor in favor of the wealth of the rich and powerful, what are we saying? That we desire the riches and power of this world and not the treasure God holds in store for us in heaven. We are indeed “as judges who hand down corrupt decisions,” for we are nothing but false to the faith we profess.
Again we must ask ourselves what our hearts are set upon. The Lord’s challenge to our souls is severe. Is it Satan’s realm we prefer, or are we as “the lowly” of whom David sings, who find salvation in glorifying the Lord. It is a clear choice with which we are presented: to judge as God or to judge with the limited and ultimately deadly vision of man fallen under the sway of Satan. It is from just such judgment the Lord has come to release the apostles, and all His Church, in His Name.
O LORD, let us not be plunged in the sea
or herded into the nether world,
but let us set our hearts and minds on you
and so find life everlasting.
YHWH, let us be poor, poor in spirit, poor to this world and its deadly passions. Let us put no hope in the riches that rot, or we shall rot with them. Let us seek, rather, the riches of your kingdom by giving our poor cup of water for the upbuilding of your Church.
Take from us, LORD, all that keeps us from you. Let us not steal or walk in the paths of the unrighteous or look with lust upon anything or anyone. Take hand or foot or eye from us instead; keep us from all sin. Let our salt not rot, our lives not be worthless, but let us bear fruit in your NAME.
LORD, our God, take especially from us our foolish pride, our belief that we can do anything of ourselves. O let us not trust in ourselves or in the things of this world but only in you and help rather than hurt the just man you bless in your holy will. Let all souls be led to your kingdom.
Tue, 18 February 2014
(Jas.1:19-27; Ps.15:1-5; Mk.8:22-26)
“Jesus laid hands on his eyes, and he saw perfectly.”
What is it to see perfectly but to be as “the man who peers into freedom’s ideal law and abides by it”? For to see perfectly is to see as God sees, not looking upon the surface of things – that which is reflected in a mirror – but to see the light of God reflected off the souls of His children. And not merely to speak of such things, but, as James states so forthrightly, to “act on this word,” to let the Lord’s light take “root in you”… to “humbly welcome the Word,” and then to “put it into practice.”
Does Jesus not put the word of God into practice in our gospel today? James says we should be “looking after orphans and widows in their distress,” and Jesus shows this concern for the poor and needy by taking “the blind man’s hand and [leading] him outside the village,” there to anoint his eyes and grant him vision to “see everything clearly.” With all His life Jesus gives example of how we must put flesh to the word of God, for He Himself is the Word made flesh. If we have not flesh to the laws we hold, to the teaching we receive, we have not Christ, and our faith is worthless. “He who walks blamelessly and does justice,” he it is that is acceptable in God’s sight.
“Can you see anything?” Jesus whispers to all of us as He works to illumine our vision. “Do you know my touch upon your eyes?” If we see people “like walking trees,” He will touch us again, for He does not tire of serving our needs. And must we not be the same? Must we not never harm but always help our “fellow man”? Must we not be men as Jesus? He is the mirror in which we see ourselves.
And oh to gaze into His face when we awake! Oh to even now know His flesh in our bones and His blood flowing through our veins! Oh to be a Christian! A Christian! A man living as Christ… What joy is ours as He gives light to our eyes and we see ourselves walking with Him! Let it be so for all eternity.
O LORD, let us be for you,
living perfectly in your will.
YHWH, let us be with you; let us give our lives to you, doing your work in accord with your will and not following the vain path our own desires mark out for us. Let us be your own; let us be your own, your disciples in this world.
How can we do anything if you do not bless it, LORD? Where shall we end if apart from you? For we indeed are as vapor that quickly vanishes, and empty are all our plans. But with you and in your NAME, miracles we can perform. Great works we may accomplish if in humility we follow your way; for you are great and all powerful, and we become as you are when we walk with you.
O LORD, we do not know what tomorrow may bring. Even this day is a mystery to us. Let us but place this day into your hands, and tomorrow will care for itself in your will. Let us not die seeking the vain riches of this earth but come to life by your saving grace.