Sun, 13 March 2016
(Dn.13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62; Ps.23:1-6; Jn.8:12-20)
“Judgment of mine is valid because I am not alone.
I have at my side the One who sent me, the Father.”
“It is laid down in [the Mosaic] law that evidence given by two persons is valid.” Thus does the assembly condemn Susanna to death, because the two elders testify as one against her. But then “God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel,” and so we find a better pair of witnesses – the Spirit and Daniel – to refute the lies of the wicked elders. And so Daniel, empowered by the Spirit, separates these evil men; and so the lack of integrity and unity in their testimony is exposed; and so “an angel of God shall receive the sentence from Him and split [them] in two” – the “fine lie” they have told will cost them their heads.
And can there be any truer witness of two than that which is known in the Father and the Son, both of whom testify, in the Spirit, that Jesus is “the light of the world”? This great truth cannot be hidden, and so those whose witness is most perfect must speak it, that “no follower of [His] shall ever walk in darkness” but “shall possess the light of life.” This is the will of God, whose Word is true; and this revelation shall be accomplished despite any deceptions devised by those who walk in darkness.
Brothers and sisters, be comforted that the Lord is “at [your] side, with [His] rod and staff that give [you] courage.” With Him and with His Spirit you shall be saved from all evil. Be as Susanna in your time of trial: “Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly,” and He will strengthen you and “spread the table before [you] in the sight of [your] foes.” Taking Him as your witness, you cannot be denied. And the same justification she has known will be your own.
All wicked men shall meet their end, for lies cannot stand and the “past sins” of the false judges shall “come to term.” There is but one Judge whose verdict is true and lasting, and all those who find refuge in Him and His Father shall stand as He does unto eternity.
O LORD, your testimony is true as is that of your Son
for the Holy Spirit is upon Him.
YHWH, your Son is the light of the world; to this you testify in His every word, in His every action. He is one with you, O God, and looking upon Him we see your face. Father in Heaven, your Spirit is upon Jesus to speak the truth – may we know Him well that we might know you.
If in you we trust, dear LORD, we shall be saved from every trial. If we keep our eyes up and looking to Heaven, even through our tears you shall answer our prayers. None is left alone who calls upon your Name; help comes quickly to those who recognize their need.
And so, in your kindness you have sent us Jesus; the Spirit goes forth in His wake. To your table we are drawn, LORD, where our heads are anointed with holy oil. No judgment comes upon the soul who trusts in Christ, for He walks only in light… and so it is with those who follow in His way.
Sat, 12 March 2016
(Is.43:16-21; Ps.126:1-6; Phil.3:8-14; Jn.8:1-11)
“Forgetting what lies behind
but straining forward to what lies ahead,
I continue my pursuit toward the goal.”
In times past the Lord opened “a way in the sea” for the Israelites to pass through, while Pharoah’s army He “snuffed out and quenched like a wick.” Afterward, He “brought back the captives of Zion” from the lands to which they had been scattered to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. “Great things” the Lord has done for His people, but through the prophet Isaiah He enjoins all to “remember not the events of the past,” to “consider not” these mighty and wondrous deeds. For as marvelous as His deeds once were, now He proclaims, “See, I am doing something new!” And indeed, something new is in our midst.
We see perfect evidence of this surpassing work in the apostle Paul, who has “accepted the loss of all things” – including any righteousness this former Pharisee may have had by the law – that he may “gain Christ and be found in Him,” for he knew that all good things are to be found in Jesus the Lord. And now he is but “depending on faith to know Him and the power of His resurrection.”
Here is the new thing which is done: the only Son has died and been raised from the grave, never to die again. And so Paul seeks to share “of His sufferings,” to be “conformed to His death,” that he too “may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Nothing else is worth our time or our breath in this world; only this “one thing” calls us upward to God.
And see how this new thing has affected the adulterous woman, the sinner who represents us all. She is brought forward in all her abomination, deserving death for the act she has knowingly committed… yet she leaves Christ’s presence an entirely free woman. Free not merely to go as she pleases, but free from the sin which should have spelled her condemnation.
Here is the new thing as it affects every human soul: the forgiveness of our sins. And what joy this should bring us! For if Jesus who is to judge the heart of all sentient beings does not condemn us, who shall stand with stone in hand to punish our transgression? But heed, my brother, my sister, the Lord’s due warning, if you would truly know the grace of this new thing – “from now on do not sin anymore” – or what is new and bringing refreshment will become old and stale very soon. Forward we must strive all the days of our lives, leaving well behind our sins; only in heaven will we take full hold of Him who has taken possession of us by His mercy.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Cleansing" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, cleanse us of our sin
and draw us into your kingdom.
YHWH, great things you have done for us, and so we should announce your praise. For you have put behind us all our sins and call us upward now to you in your Son. There seemed no way through this desert, but like torrents of water in the wasteland you have poured your grace upon us; and we are set free, and we escape judgment… and we come running now to you.
Something new you indeed accomplish in our midst, something greater than the parting of the Red Sea or the drowning of Pharaoh’s army. For then you saved your people from certain death, yes, as well as from slavery; but they would soon die anyway, as do all who travel here. But now it is eternal condemnation from which we are redeemed. Now everlasting life we strain toward as we embrace Jesus’ holy Cross. O LORD, let us but know the grace come to us in your Son! Thank you for your forgiveness.
Sat, 5 March 2016
(Jos.5:9a,10-12; Ps.34:2-7,9; 2Cor.5:17-21; Lk.15:1-3,11-32)
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”
As the Israelites now realize their redemption from slavery in Egypt as they step into the Promised Land, so the prodigal son comes to his own redemption, his own release from slavery as a hired hand in a foreign land, as he returns to his father’s house. Yes, as the Israelites “ate of the produce of the land” for the first time after the feast of Passover, so the prodigal son feasts on the “fattened calf” slaughtered for him by his merciful father. And the redemption of both is a redemption from sin.
Today we hear quite clearly “the message of reconciliation” proclaimed throughout our readings. It is a call to all souls and a thanksgiving to God, “who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” And will we come to the water and drink? Will we leave behind “the pods on which the swine fe[e]d” and come to His table to eat? Will we too come to our senses and, realizing the mercy the Father holds for all His children, return to the House of God and feast in the land to which He leads us?
It seems certain, and simple, that we should join David in his song of praise, that we should heed him as he entreats our souls: “Glorify the Lord with me.” For as “from all his distress He saved him,” so from all our distress He saves us; and so nothing should fill our hearts but joy. “He was lost and has been found,” the Lord declares in jubilation over every poor sinner who returns to His fold. And so, should we not respond gratefully to the appeal of Paul and all those entrusted with “the ministry of reconciliation” to indeed “be reconciled to God.” In faith let us confess our sins and know the gracious blood of our Redeemer pouring upon our souls.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And now He waits on the road before His House for our return. Now He longs to open the doors of forgiveness and let us into His dwelling. Now He would see the sacrifice of His Son bear fruit, that we all might be as He is. Accept His removal of sin like a sword in the depths of your soul, and enter into His kingdom.
O LORD, let us eat of the yield of your Holy Land
and become a new creation.
YHWH, let us be reconciled to you who hold your arms open to receive us poor sinners. In your Son and in His sacrifice you offer us redemption from all our iniquity and invite us in to sup with you in your House, in your eternal kingdom. We are not worthy of such grace, but your love transcends our unworthiness.
To the Promised Land the Israelites come, having left the bonds of Egypt behind. You gave them bread by your hand on their way to freedom, and now the fruit of that land they eat and find themselves well fed. The Prodigal Son is welcomed home by his compassionate father. The fattened calf is killed in celebration of his return, though half of his father’s property he has squandered in his sin.
O LORD, how can we fathom your love for us, your invitation to us to come back to your side despite our disobedience? May all men come to their senses and call out to you.