Thu, 24 September 2015
(Hg.1:15-2:9; Ps.43:1-5; Lk.9:18-22)
“Greater will be the future glory of this house
than the former, says the Lord of hosts.”
“Take courage… and work! For I am with you,” the Lord says through the prophet Haggai to the remnant of the people returned from exile as they prepare to rebuild the temple. “My spirit continues in your midst; do not fear!” Of course, we know these words of encouragement are eternal, even as we know that “the future glory” of the temple prophesied by Haggai refers ultimately to the Kingdom Christ now builds for us with His Father in heaven, and in whose construction we participate to this day. For Jesus is the Temple not made by human hands, and we are His Body here on earth, raising the walls of this holy place.
“And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts!” In the former temple, that which relied upon human hands for its construction and could thus be destroyed also by human hands, the peace was necessarily passing. Though the Lord remained present to His people, the temple in which they dwelt, in which they worshiped, was only temporary. The future Temple which holds the glory of God come to fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ, to which He leads us and which is, in fact, the Lord Himself – to this Temple there is no end, and its peace is everlasting. There we shall worship eternally.
And this Temple is present to us now; Jesus is in our midst this day, in His Church, in His Sacraments, with His Spirit, in the Word. And we learn from the Lord in our gospel today the way that leads to its realization. Yes, the apostles, in the person of Peter, recognize that Jesus is “the Messiah of God”; but not yet is it to be declared. There are first “many sufferings” He must endure. Indeed, He must “be put to death” before being “raised up on the third day.” In the same manner we have much to endure in this world, filling up what is lacking of His suffering, before we come into the eternal glory of His resurrection. We shall “go in to the altar of God” and give Him “thanks upon the harp.” He shall receive our song of joy, as in measure He does this day. In fullness we shall know Him. And so, here as we travel toward Him, as we pass through our time of mourning, let us pray with our psalmist:
“Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling place…”
(where His glory shall be great).
O LORD, you are the Most High God –
let us enter your House with praise!
YHWH, you are with us, always with us, dearest LORD, and you call us to be with you; you promise us peace in your holy Temple. And your Temple has come into our midst. He has suffered and died for our sakes and been raised on the third day. Now we must suffer with Him, we must do His work in this world, the work of building up His Temple… and soon we will come to dwell with Him in your eternal presence in your dwelling place.
O LORD, take away our mourning for what we do not have, for the lack of your glory among us. Let us remember that Jesus is the Messiah, that though we be surrounded by darkness this day, His light is with us leading us forth to your kingdom, which even now is indeed being built up in your Church, in all those who work in His Name. To greater glory bring us each day till your promise is fulfilled and we dwell in your presence forever.
Wed, 16 September 2015
(1Tm.4:12-16; Ps.111:2,7-10; Lk.7:36-50)
“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
prudent are all who live by it.”
If “the works of His hands are faithful and just,” as His children living in His Word and as His image, we must “be a continuing example of love, faith, and purity.” If we do not attend to this duty, “so that everyone may see [our] progress,” how shall we “bring to salvation [ourselves] and all who hear [us]”? Our love of Him must shine forth in all we do.
And what is the fear of the Lord spoken of in our psalm but the love shown by the woman in our gospel? As she stands behind Jesus, what is she but fearful, what is she but filled with love? This passage teaches us what fear of the Lord truly is, and what it isn’t. Certainly she is struck to the heart. Certainly in the presence of such purity she is convicted of her lust; certainly in the presence of such faith she is convicted of her lack thereof. But if she were fearful as the world understands the word, would she presume to touch Him? If she thought He might strike her to the ground, would she wipe His feet “with her hair, kissing them and perfuming them with oil”? No, she would die where she stands. But as it is her tears are sweet, for she knows the forgiveness He holds for her in His sacred hands.
This is the fear of the Lord we all must have; it is this which is the beginning of wisdom. We must be convicted of our sins, yes; but at the same moment we must be filled with the overwhelming love of our God. The two go hand in hand, and it is the practice of this fear of God in love of Him and neighbor that is the fulfillment of our duty before Him, that will keep us as a holy example of His presence in the world. The Pharisee in our gospel lacks this holy fear. First of all, he does not see his sin, and so he is not moved to love. Failing to view himself in the light of the One present before him, he fails to find the grace that is the knowledge of our sins – and so he is not moved to love, and so he does not find forgiveness.
Let us not love little, brothers and sisters, for this would not be wise. Failing to live in holy fear of the Lord, we shorten His hand’s working in our lives. May we ever, by His grace, be convicted of our sins, and so turn to Him in love to find forgiveness. We will do this only if we remain ever in His presence, bowed at His sacred feet. Amen.
O LORD, in your House let us make our home
and to us you will be known.
YHWH, may you receive due glory from all souls, we pray. May all bless your holy NAME with songs of praise in your Temple. May all recognize that you are the God of all and that Jesus is your only Son, and so may all rebuild their broken souls by the grace that comes through Him. O let us all put you first in our lives! as you deserve.
It is our joy to praise you, LORD, to recognize your glory in our midst and so join in that glory you offer through your Christ. Without you, what are our lives worth? We remain hungry despite the food on our tables; we remain naked despite the clothing on our backs – we remain empty and poor despite the riches we gather if we remain apart from you in our paneled houses.
O let us set our hearts on serving you, on humbly coming before you as your sons, dear God, and we shall exult in glory.
Wed, 9 September 2015
(Col.3:12-17; Ps.150:1-6; Lk.6:27-38)
“Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action,
do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
“Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs.” Such is our speech and action when dedicated to God. Our lives indeed become a symphony of His grace when we “let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in [us].” The “blast of the trumpet… with lyre and harp… with timbrel and dance… with strings and pipe… with sounding of cymbals,” which our psalm exhorts in praise of God, are the litany of virtues we are called in both our first reading and our gospel to practice with our Christian lives.
Paul conducts us to “clothe [our]selves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” He invokes “Christ’s peace,” “thankfulness,” and “wisdom made perfect” upon us, and states: “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect,” making love the key to this hymn we sing and play with our lives, the note to which we continually return and which is ever present at the heart of our melody. And what a perfectly marvelous, heavenly song this is when sung in sincerity and truth.
The sincerity and truth to which we are called is made unmistakable in the Lord’s teaching in our gospel. Here we have the greatest challenge to our virtue of love, and its greatest moment. Here the magnum opus is sounded. Jesus has for us a litany of virtues Himself: “Be compassionate… do not judge… do not condemn… pardon… give,” and assures us that “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” will be ours if we live by His word. But the love which is the sum of all virtues is most poignantly accentuated in the command which sets the Lord and His grace apart from all others and their teachings, which makes Him so clearly the Son of God. “To you who hear me, I say: Love your enemies,” He proclaims to His disciples, and then makes explicit the call to a Christian life: “Do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, and pray for those who maltreat you.” And more specifically, “When someone slaps you on the cheek, turn and give him the other; when someone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well.” Who can hear these words? Who can heed these commands? Who can live them in speech and action, as has our Lord upon the cross? It is this sacrifice of love to which we are called, and only this will raise our song unto heaven. We must act always out of love.
O LORD, how shall we love as you who are Most High
when we cannot even love as humans? –
if we really are your chosen ones
we will die on the Cross with Jesus.
YHWH, let us praise you with all our lives; may all our words and all our actions be a song of praise to you. Christ’s peace reigning in our hearts, help us to love one another, even our enemies, forgiving any wrong done to us and praying for the salvation of all souls. As Jesus let us be in our compassion, desiring never to see others condemned but hoping always for their conversion in your blessed mercy. Then our song shall reach to you and the angels will shower your graces upon us.
To what great love you call us, LORD! to be even as your only Son, even as you are in your infinite mercy. If we could but hear your call, if we but answered Jesus’ instruction with the sacrifice it entails, how blessed we would be? Help us to lay down our lives with Him, even for those who kill us. Alleluia!
Thu, 3 September 2015
(Col.1:15-20; Ps.100:1-5; Lk.5:33-39)
“New wine should be poured into fresh skins.”
“The blood of His cross” is poured forth for us; it becomes the new wine we drink this day, that which makes us new men by its grace. The scribes and Pharisees refuse this new wine, saying, “I find the old wine better,” so they cannot see “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creatures,” standing before them this day. Do we see Him? Do we hear His teaching? Do we allow His Word and His presence to be poured into us? Do we make ourselves “fresh skins” to receive the wine that is the Lord? Or do we, too, prefer the old? The old man under the burden of sin and death must be put away before the new man of grace and life can enter in.
“In Him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible.” Paul tells us Jesus fills all the universe with His presence, for “all were created through Him and for Him. He is before all else that is,” and “in Him everything continues in being.” He is the source of life and life itself. And He is “head of the body, the Church.” “Firstborn of the dead,” primacy indeed is His “in everything.” First to be born, first to die, He is also the first to be raised to new life… and by His power we are all raised to the new life we now find through His sacrifice. The blood which fills the universe must now fill our beings; we must be filled with His presence, for only by Him does grace come. Only by Him is the Law fulfilled, the Word made real, and the life of heaven become our own.
And those who are present to Him, those who are present with Him – those who are filled with His Spirit cannot help but rejoice. The disciples could not fast while Jesus was with them, while the bridegroom to whom they wed themselves was in their midst, and likewise those who come into the presence of the Lord cannot come but with joy. “Enter His gates with thanksgiving,” our psalm declares. “Know that the Lord is God; He made us, His we are.” And as we enter into the blessed Body and Blood of Christ, as we come to know the bridegroom of our soul… as His Spirit fills us what can we do but rejoice in the Lord, “whose kindness endures forever,” who makes us as His own – who redeems our very souls. Make room for Him in your hearts. There let His blood flow, that you might have new life.
O LORD, with you we are called to dwell –
let us rejoice!
YHWH, absolute fullness resides in your Son, through whom you made the universe and through whose blood you reconcile all things. He is your very image, and He calls us all to enter your gates through Him, that we might rejoice forever in your kingdom.
Jesus is the Bridegroom to whom we must be wed if we are to come into your presence and see the face of the One who made us. His blood is the new wine poured out for our sakes, that which will unite us with Him as we come with pure hearts, with new wineskins, to Holy Communion. O let us receive Him well, LORD! that we might be filled with the grace He offers forth.
You call us to sing joyfully before you, LORD, in the wedding feast of Heaven. May we be your faithful flock, gratefully accepting the love that comes to us only through your firstborn Son.