Wed, 24 June 2015
(Gn.16:1-12,15-16; Ps.106:1-5; Mt.7:21-29)
“Anyone who hears my words but does not put them into practice
is like the foolish man who built his house on sandy ground.”
The Lord hears our words and answers our cries, but He is not so interested in these as in our listening to His voice and remaining obedient to Him. His desire is that we always strive to do His will; the recounting of our own deeds rings empty in His ears.
It is ten years since the Lord’s call and promise to Abram. Abram and Sarai grow old and the word of the Lord has not been fulfilled. Sarai thinks to resolve the problem, taking matters in her own hands, and Abram, faltering in his faith and failing to turn to the Lord for guidance, instead “heeded Sarai’s request” to take Hagar as his concubine. And oh what shaky ground Abram would stand upon now! Oh what turmoil would be wrought by his failure to withstand the torrents that come with time! For now the lashing of the winds would only increase; now his sin would bear a son who would be “a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone,” indeed in continual war with his kinsmen. And when the son of the promise does finally come, his children will be subject to the yoke of the descendants of the son of this “Egyptian maid-servant.” Four hundred years they themselves will become slaves to her offspring. And persecution shall follow them through the desert and even into the Promised Land. Though yet blessed, they will not come to the fulfillment of the peace of God; only in the New Jerusalem founded in Jesus’ blood will the law given as their guide and the promise of the ages be fulfilled in God’s sight.
How empty our psalm rings today, for we are reminded by Abram’s fault that we do not “do always what is just”; we remember our own failures to patiently wait on the word of the Lord – we have now in mind our own lack of obedience in hearing and following His command. We see the tangled web we weave when we take matters of our life into our own soiled hands.
But this it is necessary to remember: by our own wills nothing is accomplished. We can do nothing except by God. And let us expect no recompense for that which has its beginning and end in the Lord. Our house will be founded firmly only by silent obedience to the authoritative teaching of Christ.
Jesus, forgive us all our wanderings in the thoughts of our own hearts. Redeem all of mankind in your blood; conform us to the will of God. Hear our cry. Make us silent before you. We are your unworthy servants.
O LORD, if we have you, we have everything,
and so shall stand;
without you we have nothing, and can only be destroyed –
it is by your blessing we live and prosper.
YHWH, if you build our house, it is blessed, it is set solidly on rock. But if we fail to hear and heed your voice, taking matters into our own corrupted hands, there is little hope for our salvation. We cannot be saved if we do not listen to the Word your Son brings us, for only He speaks with authority.
How difficult it is, LORD, not to listen to ourselves, not to be led astray by what seems right to our own minds. Your promise is with us always, and it is sure. Yet we cannot wait for its fulfillment, we cannot trust in your providence – even Abraham lacked faith that you would give him a son, and so he went in to his wife’s handmaid.
And our sins do not lack consequence, dear LORD; you do not fail to punish those who go astray. And so Ishmael will stand in opposition to all his kin; and so we are continually threatened by the fruits of our sin. Yet you hear our plaintive cry.
Sat, 20 June 2015
(Jb.38:1,8-11; Ps.107:23-26,28-31; 2Cor.5:14-17; Mk.4:35-41)
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Need you ask? If you must, I will tell you: this is He who “shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb”; He who “set limits for it and fastened the bars of its door” – He who speaks to Job: “Here shall your proud waves be stilled!” This is the Lord, the great I AM!
When the Lord “raised up a storm wind” against those “trading on the deep waters… which tossed its waves on high… their hearts melted away in their plight.” But “they cried to the Lord in their distress [and] from their straits He rescued them.” Is not He who “hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled,” the same God who in our gospel when the disciples cry out, “We are perishing,” because “a violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat” – is this not the same God who “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” by whose hand “the wind ceased and there was great calm”? The power is the same and the God is the same. Jesus is Lord!
And is it not this same God, this same Christ, who stills the waves of your own pride when its waters begin to fill your boat with sin, when it seems you shall sink into the deep and never return? Do you not know your sin? Do you not know His power? Is it not the Lord’s great power and the peace we find by its great grace of which Paul, too, speaks when he says, “The old things have passed away; behold, new things have come”? Is it not the same salvation he refers to when he declares, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation”?
Brothers and sisters, “Let us cross to the other side.” Let us allow the Lord to bring us “to [our] desired haven.” Through the tribulation of this life let us pass, impelled by “the love of Christ,” knowing He holds power over all the proud waves of the sinful sea in His redeeming Hand. Let Him but speak a word to our impenitent hearts to break the waves we raise up and make us whole.
“Do you not yet have faith?” Then indeed be dead in Christ and live “no longer for [yourselves] but for Him who for [our] sake died and was raised.” This is the Lord our God. Silence your tongue before Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The World Is a Work of Art (Made by the Hand of God)" (final section), from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in you we find our peace,
for you created us,
and for our sake your Son died and was raised.
YHWH, what need we fear if we are already dead in your Christ? How could the proud waves of this world be a threat to him who has already reached his desired haven, who has already come to the opposite shore? The power of wind and sea mean nothing to the One who commands these and all other things, and it is He who is with us now.
O LORD, increase our faith in the salvation that is ours through the death and resurrection of your Son. Flesh now has no hold of Him, and so it should no longer trouble those who are reborn in Him. His life should be our own, and this life is unconquerable. O let us trust entirely in His love!
Though the waves do rise above our heads and threaten our boat with sinking, the Spirit of your Son is present to us to command the sea to be still. And so we shall sail peacefully into your kingdom, if we but remember His presence, if we but call on your NAME.
Fri, 19 June 2015
(2Cor.12:1-10; Ps.34:8-13; Mt.6:24-34)
“Seek first His kingship over you, His way of holiness,
and all these things will be given you besides.”
The call to treasure in heaven continues.
What care we for the things of this earth? What is money, what are food and clothing to us? Indeed, they must not be our concern. And what matter to us is our bereavement of these things and other like afflictions which the world may inflict upon us. We are called to be like Paul and be “content with weakness, with mistreatment, with distress,” yes, even to boast about such weaknesses in the flesh, because we know that when the world attacks us, Jesus comes to save us. “In weakness power reaches perfection,” for when we are afflicted we share in the very “power of Christ,” which is all we can depend on in such times, and which comes to us without fail. Thus even our persecutions become cause for rejoicing and proclaiming with David, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
There is a weakness we should avoid, however. The beatings which come to us from outside us are indeed an opportunity for celebration; but the weakness of being distracted by the cares of the flesh and its pleasures is not to be ours. The Lord speaks lovingly to such weakness in us in our gospel today, gently calling us away from such preoccupation, for He knows, and states quite clearly, that such distractions will keep us from the gates of heaven. “You cannot give yourself to God and money.” We cannot be divided in this way. Our hearts must be set on the holiness of God, trusting even the needs of the flesh to His care, in order to come to vision of heaven – in order to know Christ the Lord and the Father to whom He leads us. Jesus is not concerned for these things and neither should we be. Whether we have or not and in what measure should not matter. We must find the vision of the Lord which rejoices even in our utter bereavement of all things of the earth. Indeed, we cannot come to heaven until we die. “Running after these things” will only kill the life of Christ in us; it is death to such concern which will bring us the true life of heaven.
All that we need will be given us, brothers and sisters, if we set our hearts on Christ. The Lord is not blind to our needs. He sees all and is ever near to assist us in all our troubles. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” We shall “want for no good thing” if we but seek His face. Readiness for heaven must now be with us.
O LORD, how weak we are
as we struggle in this world,
the Cross placed upon our backs –
but O the power of your grace at work within us!
YHWH, what a blessing it is to share in the sufferings of your Son, for then we share in His glory – it is then He is with us; it is then your angel watches over us.
What need we fear of the persecutions of this world if you are at our side? And if we put our trust in you, will you not provide? What is food and what is clothing, what are all the riches of this earth but things that pass with the dawning day? But you do not pass away. You hold all these things in your hand. And so, if in our weakness we find ourselves in need of assistance, you are ready to help us. Indeed, this is your great pleasure, O holy LORD.
Help us to depend on your grace, LORD, for nothing can come to us except as a gift from your loving heart. We shall indeed prosper on this earth and come quickly to the glory of Heaven, if we but take our refuge in you, if we but learn to trust in your care. Thank you for your goodness, which is always with us.