Sat, 27 February 2016
(Ex.3:1-8a,13-15; Ps.103:1-4,6-8,11; 1Cor.10:1-6,10-12; Lk.13:1-9)
“The Lord secures justice
and the rights of all the oppressed.”
Thus does the Lord God appear to Moses and call him to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians. He has “witnessed the affliction of His people”; He has “heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers” and “know[s] well what they are suffering.” And so, by the hand of Moses, He will lead them to “a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Yes, brothers and sisters, the Lord “has made known His ways to Moses”; His “kindness and compassion” He has revealed to His people. The great I AM (YHWH), He who is and who will always be, has come and shown Himself to His servant on the “holy ground” of Mount Horeb. In a “bush [that] is not burned” though flaming with fire, He opens Moses' eyes to His presence. And He tells him His glorious NAME, by which He is “to be remembered through all generations” – that it is He who is Life. And, of course, the life He brings is one of mercy and healing.
Yet, though the Lord is certainly “merciful and gracious,” He is also just; thus does Paul remind us that though all the Israelites “were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” in their exodus from slavery, though all ate and drank from “the rock [that] was Christ… God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.” So the blessings they had gained by the mercy of our God, they soon lost by their own disobedience. And so could we all lose the grace of Christ at work in our lives if we “desire evil things, as they did.” For God is merciful, but God is just, and will not have His kindness presumed upon.
Thus does Jesus Himself also warn us, even as He warns the people who question Him this day that they are no better than those “whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices,” that we are not without guilt ourselves. Thus does He proclaim, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did,” as all sinners do. And thus does He warn us by parable that if we do not bear fruit in His name, we shall be cut down and thrown in the fire – for there is no wasted ground in the kingdom of God.
If you cry out to Him, He will hear you, for it is He who “redeems your life from destruction” and your salvation is His desire. But justice insists that if you turn back to your sin, you choose to remove yourself from His loving arms.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Going Home" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us repentant hearts
that we might not be removed from your sight
but burn with your Spirit always.
YHWH, let us not presume upon your mercy, for you have saved us but we remain in danger of falling again if we do not remember your NAME, if we do not keep in mind that you have made us and that you have saved us, you who are Life itself. If we forget your benefits, our iniquities shall return, and then how shall we stand in your presence?
You alone are holy, LORD; you alone are beyond our tongues to describe. Let us be silent before you and remember the blessings you pour upon our souls. For though you are far beyond our ability to comprehend, though your ways far surpass our own, yet you look with compassion on our affliction and seek to rescue us from all ill.
But we must remain humble at all times, lest our branches become barren. Ever we must bear fruit in your Name or we will be separated from your grace, from the surpassing light of your face. O LORD, lead us through this desert to your Promised Land.
Sat, 20 February 2016
(Gn.15:5-12,17-18; Ps.27:1,7-9,13-14; Phil.3:17-4:1; Lk.9:28-36)
“A cloud came and cast a shadow over them,
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.”
As darkness thus covered the three apostles, so “a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.” Both find themselves surrounded by darkness and filled with fear. In just this way the Lord brings His revelations. For as the Lord is about to pronounce beyond doubt that Jesus is the Messiah, so He is about to send “a flaming torch” to pass between Abram’s offerings and so confirm his taking possession of the Promised Land. The Lord must act in such manner to cleanse all foolishness from our souls, that we might hear His most pure Word.
But light comes out of the darkness: indeed, “the Lord is [our] light and [our] salvation” – He Himself is not darkness. And so as the fire of the torch pierces the dark night upon Abram’s mind, so the chief apostles are privileged to see Jesus’ glory, to witness in fullness the Light the Son of God is. And the Lord God leaves no doubt with them that it is of Jesus He says, “This is my chosen Son,” for though the greatest men of Jewish history had also “appeared in glory” with Jesus, now He is “found alone” – and the apostles are left speechless.
It must pass to the marrow of our bones, the Truth of Christ’s salvation. If in any way superficial or “occupied with earthly things” is our vision, Him we have not known. He alone stands as our “life’s refuge”; in Him alone do we find God’s presence – Him alone should our “glance” seek. But as we pray, “Hide not your face from me,” we should realize how profound is the prayer we make. For the Lord indeed “will change our lowly body to conform with His glorified body” when He appears at the end of the age, but consider for a moment what it will be like to have that power of refinement upon ourselves. Very much like the darkness which envelops the apostles and Abram today; very much like the dark night of the soul of which our great saints speak. Are you prepared to have the Lord separate soul from spirit with His sword of Truth? Do you know this piercing, fiery process even now? Then even in this world you shall begin to behold His face, and find yourself ready on that Day to be taken from earthly to heavenly tents.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "White" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to stand ready
before the terrifying glory revealed in your Son.
YHWH, you are our light in the darkness of this world; though the dark threaten to envelop us, you are there to save us – even in the darkness we find your fire purifying our souls for entering your presence.
To your glory you call us; the land of Heaven you promise us. And that promise is set firmly upon the law and the prophets, and that promise is fulfilled in your Son. He is our hope as we pass through the temptations of this life knowing we are citizens of Heaven. O LORD, let us be conformed to His glorified Body!
You have given witness to Jesus, that He is your Chosen One. You call us to listen to Him, to seek only Him: He shines as the stars in the night sky, leading us to your glory. May our hearts be set on Him alone and we shall not be afraid. O LORD, hide not your face from us.
Sat, 13 February 2016
(Dt.26:4-10; Ps.91:1-2,10-15; Rom.10:8-13; Lk.4:1-13)
“To His angels He has given command about you,
that they guard you in all your ways.”
Can there be any doubt that the Lord God will bear Jesus up through His temptations in the desert, that He “will deliver Him and glorify Him”? For if “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” will the Father leave His Son “in distress”? If He has rescued David from “the lion and the dragon,” will He not also “set [Jesus] on high,” apart from any danger? If the Israelites say: “We cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and He heard our cry” – and so delivered them from the “affliction” and “toil” and “oppression” of Egyptian slavery – will the deliverance of the Holy One from Satan’s clutches be long in coming? Indeed the angels watch over Him, for His name is joined to that of the Father.
And indeed it is His name we now call upon in our need. As Paul tells us, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” And so He who has been preserved from the devil’s temptation now becomes the source of our own salvation – we find ourselves now protected as He, blessed by our faith in the Lord of all.
I notice again how the temptations present in our gospel are indicated, and answered, in our first reading and psalm. Of course, the devil himself attempts to use our quote from Psalm 91 to bring the Lord to ruin – showing how Scripture can indeed be twisted to perverse ends – foolishly failing to see that the quote would prove ultimately true. And the Israelites’ bringing their tithe to God, saying, “I have now brought you the firstfruits of the products of the soil which you, O Lord, have given me,” reveals the sacrifice that verifies that “one does not live by bread alone”; while Moses’ instruction that they then “bow down in [God’s] presence” confirms that “Him alone shall [we] serve.”
O devil, all your temptations will be in vain; can you not see the fruitlessness of your acts? You cannot harm Him who holds your life in His hands, and so why do you not turn and, as the faithful angels, learn to love and serve the Holy One? Brothers and sisters, it is too late for this “viper” to come to truth, but not for any man who will confess that Jesus is the Christ. So let us preach to the ends of the earth by the power of deliverance from sin won by our Lord that “No one who believes in Him will be put to shame.” Oh that all souls would be saved!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Chicken or the Egg" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us bow down before you
and serve you alone,
and we shall be blessed with your protection.
YHWH, bring us out of Egypt by your strong hand; lead us from the desert by your great power. Save us from temptation and bring us with your Son into the Promised Land.
We call upon your NAME, O LORD: save us! We believe that Jesus is LORD with you and that you have raised Him from the dead – let us not be put to shame. Help us to endure in the face of the devil; your Word be ever upon our tongues. O let us trust in you that we shall be delivered from all trials, trampling down the lion and the dragon by the intercession of your angels.
You protect us, dear God, and give us all the food we need to thrive in this land of exile. With you at our side, we shall not be afraid. By the grace upon your Son let us be redeemed from the power of the evil one and enter into your kingdom with a song of praise.
Sat, 6 February 2016
(Is.6:1-2a,3-8; Ps.138:1-5,7-8; 1Cor.15:1-11; Lk.5:1-11)
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “the voice of the Lord” asks in the presence of the angels and Isaiah. “Here I am… send me!” is the prophet’s response. And so this “man of unclean lips” having been purged of his uncleanness by an ember from the altar of God is ready to speak for “the King, the Lord of hosts!” Grace come through the seraphim prepares his soul to do the will of the Lord.
“By the grace of God I am what I am,” Paul, “the least of the apostles,” declares, having been saved from his persecution of the Church of God and made the great Apostle to the nations, he knows, only by the favor of the Lord Most High. And now the Gospel he preaches with a mouth anointed by the blood of Christ, the word of God which he speaks, brings salvation to all who “hold fast” to it.
And Peter, too, the first of apostles, we find coming to faith and power in the Lord by His grace-filled call. A catch of fish is what touches his soul and makes him fall to his knees, “a sinful man.” And as He has deemed to stoop to the level of Isaiah and Paul, so the Lord reaches out his hand to Peter, lifting him to his feet and speaking to his ear his call of “catching men.” And so the Rock of the Church is born.
King David sings in truth when he says: “All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O Lord, when they hear the words of your mouth.” And having heard these words speak clearly to their hearts, so are our prophet and apostles set to proclaim with David “the glory of the Lord” to all who likewise hear. And certainly the grace given them “has not been ineffective,” for even now a multitude is drawn into “the presence of the angels,” where they “worship at [the Lord’s] holy temple and give thanks to [His] name.”
Alleluia! Join His call. Let your nets to the depths descend, to draw up souls redeemed by the Gospel of God, that many might sing “Holy, holy, holy” to our heavenly King.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Calling" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to love our enemies
even as your Son has done for all of us sinners.
YHWH, you are gracious and merciful, but we are weak and sinful. How shall we be like you? How shall we bear the image of your Son? How shall we move from being earthly to heavenly men? Indeed, it is only by your mercy.
O LORD, we must reflect your great mercy if we are to find the mercy we so desperately need for our own souls. And sharing in this mercy of yours is mercy itself, is your greatest gift to us, your poor creatures. What more could we hope for than to be like you? For what more could we ask than to be of your love?
You it is who pardon all our iniquities, who spare sinful man. Though our deeds against you deserve death, though for our crimes we merit destruction – though we should be nailed to the ground with one thrust of your spear, we are freed from such a fate by your Son’s sacrifice on the Cross… and we are called to join Him there. Forgive all who sin against us, LORD, that we might be saved.
Thu, 4 February 2016
(Sir.47:2-11; Ps.18:31,47,50-51; Mk.6:14-29)
“Herod feared John,
knowing him to be an upright and holy man.”
O how the Lord has given power to His great men. It is He who “gave great victories to [the] king.” David “called upon the Most High God, who gave strength to his right arm”; and as David “made sport of lions as though they were kids,” as he “slew the giant” and his “tens of thousands” in battle, so John the Baptist slays the sins of the multitude, even striking great fear into the heart of King Herod by the simple words: “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” And though it is John who is beheaded, it is Herod who shakes in his boots long after the Baptist is gone. As our gospel relates today, “On hearing of Jesus, Herod exclaimed, ‘John, whose head I cut off, has been raised up!’” This king’s guilt remains, as do the words of the Baptist in his heart.
“He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him,” David declares so knowingly in our psalm today. Indeed, the Lord’s blessed protection has been continually with his king, who has ever taken Him as his Rock. Of David, Sirach writes, “With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung.” What tremendous witness the wise man gives to the Lord’s chosen king. And perhaps most poignant and most significant is his statement that “the Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever.” David does not lose his kingship because of his failures – as does Herod, who is already dead by his wickedness – but in fact has the establishment of “his throne in Israel” fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
The Lord’s power is upon His chosen. To each He gives the grace needed to offer lives of sacrifice. As David’s life was “like the choice fat of the sacred offerings” and John’s death a holocaust that rises yet unto God, so all our lives may be enriched and blessed, and made whole in His sight; so will they be as “sweet melody,” if we but entrust them to the Lord our God. And then none shall be able to stand before the power that is with us, for His holiness conquers all.
O LORD, may all we do be a song of praise
to your holy NAME;
let all evil be overcome by the strength of your Word.
YHWH, as David slew Goliath so John the Baptist slays Herod, even from the grave. Still this vain king is tormented by the Baptist’s word of truth; still his sin is exposed and his guilt apparent. Still he lives in fear. Still John speaks in Jesus his Savior.
O LORD, with David let us sing praise to your holy NAME, for you conquer all evil in this world and the next; you give power to your Son Jesus and His apostles to destroy all wickedness. Who can stand before your glory? Before you the dance of lust turns to dust.
You are the shield of all who take refuge in you, LORD. You are indeed God Most High, and to you we offer thanks and praise. For there is nothing we need fear; with you at our side we are safe from all our enemies.
Into your kingdom let us come, dearest LORD and God, far apart from this sinful world. Even here you reassure our hearts of your eternal presence.