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.