Sun, 31 July 2016
(Jer.28:1-17; Ps.119:29,43,68,79-80,95,102; Mt.14:13-21)
“Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.”
The word of truth is what Jeremiah speaks in the face of the lies of Hananiah. The false prophet declares in the name of God: “I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of the nations,” even as he “took the yoke from upon the neck of Jeremiah” – which he wore to symbolize the exile to which Judah was fated – and broke it “in the presence of all the people.” A dramatic action and a prophecy all would gladly consume. But a lie. To Hananiah, Jeremiah prophesies the truth: “By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke!” as well as the false prophet’s own death, which comes in but a few months. And yes, it is seventy years the exile shall last, and not two.
And is it not the word of truth by which the Lord feeds the five thousand today? Using human logic the disciples suggest to Jesus that He “dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.” But it is with the word of truth Jesus states: “Give them something to eat yourselves.” How? they respond. “We have nothing here... but five loaves and a couple of fish.” How does the Lord multiply these loaves and fish? How can He feed five thousand with barely enough food for fifty? It is not possible except by the word of truth, which can move mountains. Is it not His looking up to heaven and blessing and breaking the food that causes it to be multiplied in the sight (and eating) of all? Does not the Father give the Son all for which He asks? Is His prayer not true?
Brothers and sisters, if the ordinances of the Lord are our hope, what can we not do? What food can we not multiply? What ailing hearts can we not heal? For trusting in Him and in His Word all is ours for the asking. But making our own words and our own desires our way in this world, what can we come to but death? What shall we find but an iron yoke upon our necks?
Yes, the yoke of the Lord is light, for it is formed by the word of God, and in its truth we are buoyed up unto heaven. And all our words are justified. And we are fed with the bread of life.
O LORD, your Word is fulfilled in our midst,
and so your Son feeds us with His Body and Blood.
YHWH, take all falsehood from our hearts and from our lives; on your Word alone let us depend. For as we go according to our own thoughts, so we are lost, so we are without answer to the difficulties of life and fooling ourselves with the responses we devise. But trusting in you, what cannot be done; what do we lack? For you feed us by your own hand if we but remain obedient to your command and come to your Son.
In your Word is our hope, dear God – let it be spoken clearly to our ears and let us cling to its truth. Let us not fear whatever darkness may come to us in this land of exile, but let us know that your yoke is light and it frees us from the yoke of sin and all oppression.
Heal our troubled souls, dearest LORD, by the compassionate touch of Jesus. Let us know we are not alone but that you care ever for your poor flock even in this deserted place. You hand be upon us to bless us, and your Word be spoken to the ends of the earth.
Sat, 30 July 2016
(Ec.1:2,2:21-23; Ps.90:3-6,12-14,17,95:7-8; Col.3:1-5,9-11; Lk.12:13-21)
“If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Yes, “all things are vanity!” without God. All is empty, for “like the changing grass” our life “wilts and fades”; we are turned “back to dust,” and so what becomes of the earthly desires we pursue? Where do “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry” lead us but to the grave – and what do they do for us here but keep our hearts from what truly matters?
See the difference between the man in our first reading who “labors under the sun” in “toil and anxiety of heart” and those in our psalm who “shout for joy and gladness” all their days, for the latter say to the Lord, “Prosper the work of our hands,” putting all things into the care of Him who indeed holds all things in His loving embrace. One’s heart is set on “what is on earth,” and so he is blinded by the flesh into which he puts all his hopes. Like both the man in the crowd and the one in the parable of our gospel, his sights are set on his possessions and the feeding of his belly – both of which shall rot away. The other’s heart, however, is set on “what is above.” He is rich in “what matters to God” because he has died to the vain things of this earth, dying with Christ to their illusion and, so, rising with Christ to the life and glory of heaven. As one sinks into hell, the other rises to newness of life “in the image of [his] Creator.”
In what image is our own life made? What do we pursue with heart and soul as we tread this earth? Are we consumed by the mud at our feet, miring ourselves in selfishness and sin; or do we indeed rise above the greed which tempts our hearts to “eat, drink, be merry”? If we are truly raised with Christ as we proclaim as Christians, we would be seated at God’s right hand with Him, knowing that He is our only refuge, our only God. But so many are distracted by the idolatrous images that surround us in this world. So many desire to be rich and famous, to satiate their appetites in gluttony and drunkenness, to do what pleases their flesh in sexual immorality. And what shall become of these but that the worm shall consume them and they will cry out with Qoheleth, “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”
Brothers and sisters, with Jesus and with Paul I encourage you to find the treasure that is meaningful in life. Set aside the earthly passions that drown the soul, and seek what is alive with Christ. We have a great call in this world to bring the Lord’s light and life forward, to make Him present in our own flesh, in all our work. With Him in our hearts, nothing is done in vain, for such “bountiful harvest” as this is stored up for heaven, which shall never pass away. Let us make His resurrection our own; even as we die to the empty desires of this earth, let us rise unto God as a holy sacrifice.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Addictions: What Do You Say?" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let our lives this day be in line with your will,
united to the glory of your only Son.
YHWH, let us not store up treasures for ourselves, but think rather of you and the salvation of others. All is indeed vanity if like Qoheleth we set our sights on what is on earth, if we are preoccupied by our possessions. For these shall rot with the lusts of the flesh and we shall die with them. But if we set our hearts on you and on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at your right hand, then we shall be blessed with life everlasting.
Your Son calls us to glory with Him in Heaven. He warns us of the emptiness of this earth and the riches hereon. He would turn our eyes to you and away from all greed and selfishness. He alone can prosper the work of our hands, LORD, for without Him we pass like the changing grass and nothing comes of our days.
O LORD, let us not labor in vain but with the wisdom that comes from above, that we might not come to great misfortune but to eternal life in your presence. Remake us in the image of your Son.
Sat, 23 July 2016
(Gn.18:20-32; Ps.138:1-3,6-8; Col.2:12-14; Lk.11:1-13)
“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Prayer. Our wonderful gift from God. Our sharing in His will.
The Lord ordains that Abraham should speak with Him, and so He stops and waits to hear the prayer of His favored one. And so in this mystical scene from our first reading, we are given a holy model for our own petitions of the Lord. Indeed, first we see that the Lord waits upon us to approach Him – His ears are ever open to our pleas. (As we read elsewhere, He knows what we need before we ask.) Second, Abraham prefaces his prayer with acknowledgment of the justice of God, thus revealing the confidence we must have that the Lord will answer any righteous request. Third, Abraham shows the manner in which we must come before our God. Though we must be persistent, thus manifesting our genuine concern for the prayer we offer, we must realize to whom we speak and come before Him in deep humility: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!” says Abraham, and it is with words such as these that he precedes each of his persistent requests. And because of his faith and humility, his prayer is answered and Lot is spared from the destruction of Sodom.
And, of course, our greatest model of prayer is found in our gospel. When Jesus finishes praying, the disciples beg Him to teach them to pray. First He shares with them the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we give ourselves to the providential hand of God and reflect His grace and forgiveness. He then relates a parable on the necessity and blessings of perseverance in prayer – we must never be discouraged in our prayer. Finally, the words which drip like honey from His mouth: “Ask and you will receive…” and His blessed assurance that the Father will “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”
The Lord loves us and wishes to share all of Himself with us. We must but come as children before Him and we will know the kindness of which David sings, and we will sing with him: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth.” Indeed, “the lowly He sees”; His “right hand saves” them. Forsaking not the work of His hands, He rather justifies them, giving them life even by the recognition of their voices before Him. Thus we are “raised with Him through faith in the power of God.” “Having forgiven us all our transgressions” through the cross of Christ, the Father now brings the humble to life through the Spirit of His Son. It is in His hearing our prayer that this grace is best known, for therein our spirits become one with His own.
O Lord, hear and answer us as we call upon you each day in all faith and humility. Make us your own sons and daughters in the Spirit of Christ.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Prayer: He Asks/I Am Not MY Body" (1st part) from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, give us the Holy Spirit
that the salvation wrought by Jesus
might be fulfilled in us,
and we might forever praise your NAME.
YHWH, we call upon your NAME; answer our prayer and send your Spirit upon us to save us and bring us into your kingdom. Your Son would forgive us all our sins – let us be joined to Him.
It is you, O LORD, who listen for our prayers, wishing always to share your grace with your children. By your own hand you would feed us with your Spirit if we would but turn to you in faith. Let us not grow weary of calling upon your NAME, but by our persistence may we find our good desires fulfilled in your kindness.
O LORD, let your people not perish in their sins but find your compassion at work in their lives. Forgive all who turn to you and are baptized into the sacrifice of Jesus. Your promise be fulfilled in our midst by the blood of His Cross.
O Heavenly Father, help us to remember your NAME and the grace that is ours when we seek your face.
Tue, 19 July 2016
(Jer.1:1,4-10; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; Mt.13:1-9)
“O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.”
So does the seed grow, and bear fruit in the sight of the Lord.
Our psalmist declares, “On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.” Indeed we are planted in our mother’s womb and we grow by the grace of the Lord. And as our bodies grow so gradually from the womb of our mother, so our spirits, too, grow from the womb of our Mother, the Church, in whose womb the Lord plants us and nurtures us with His water, the Holy Spirit. For it is the Lord who prepares the ground for our planting. As He declares to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” So even before we are planted as seed the Lord holds us in His Hand, and that Hand of love shall never leave us.
And what does the Lord expect of the seed He plants and nurtures but that it sprout and bear much fruit? What does He do but call us forth to proclaim His Word with our lives: “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak” – what He requires of Jeremiah He requires of us all. As “the Lord extended His hand and touched [the prophet’s] mouth, saying, ‘See I place my words within your mouth!’” so He reaches out to us all, planting His Word within our hearts and expecting it to grow and blossom forth. Into the light our works must come to reveal His heavenly presence.
“The crowd stood along the shore” as rows of plants in an ordered garden, and Jesus watered them with His teaching. And in whom would His Word take root? Who would grow unencumbered in His light? Who would bear fruit unto the kingdom of God? “Let everyone heed what he hears!” Make the Lord your “rock of refuge” and He will “rescue [you] from the hand of the wicked” and nurture you with His Bread and the Word of Life. And your “mouth shall declare [His] justice, day by day [His] salvation” as you come gradually and invariably – you know not now – to the kingdom our Savior prepares with His Blood.
O LORD, let the seed we sow with you
bear fruit by your blessing.
YHWH, from the womb you call us; from our conception you bless us with your Word to nourish us and help us grow in your sight, that upon maturity we might praise your NAME and share your Word with all. Help us indeed to grow each day in you and do your will with all our lives.
O LORD, may we bear fruit a hundredfold! May we be planted in good soil, in the womb of your Church, that fruitful indeed we might be. Touch our mouth with your hand that our tongue may be purified to speak of your glory and so serve to plant seeds of life in souls with ears to hear your voice. Let us not wither and die in our sin or be choked by the cares of this world; keep the clutches of Satan far from us, and we will be your own children, declaring your salvation until your Son returns.
O LORD, we depend on you for our very lives, for the breath in our nostrils and the love in our hearts. Shine your light on us this day and let our fruit be pleasing to you.
Sat, 16 July 2016
(Gn.18:1-10a; Ps.15:1-5; Col.1:24-28; Lk.10:38-42)
“There is need of only one thing.”
Whether we teach or whether we serve, all must be done in the Name of the Lord. If it is not sitting at His feet that we do all things, if all is not a prayer offered in His Name, to His glory, it is all quite worthless.
How “anxious and concerned about many things” we often are. How like Martha we often struggle under the burden of our duties without a proper heart for service. And so how often, in the words of our psalm, we are like one who “takes up a reproach against his neighbor.” How like Martha we fail to be as one who “honors those who fear the Lord,” even if that holy one is our sister. Jesus is at work there in her midst, in the words of Paul, “teaching everyone with all wisdom,” but Martha cannot stop to hear His words, and would take the word from her sister’s heart. And so the Lord must be put to work, performing the other task Paul outlines, that of “admonishing everyone.” Can she really think that the passing needs of the body take precedence over the eternal need of the soul?
Brothers and sisters, we are no less ignorant of the presence of Christ in our midst; we are no less ignorant of His Word speaking to our souls when we rush through our daily tasks – be they to teach or to serve – as if we are on some nonstop treadmill which is beyond our control. Each day and at every moment, the Lord calls to us, and each day and at every moment we must listen. With His Name written clearly upon our hearts we should act, and not otherwise. We must think and say with Paul, “I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God,” whether we bring forth that Word by word or by action. Again, if we do not listen to His voice, if it is not this that moves us, that animates our work, all our afflictions are useless, for they are not united to the cross of Christ.
Let us take Abraham as our example. He greets the Lord as He comes to him. He rushes about to prepare Him a meal and care for His needs. Indeed, “he waited on them under the tree while they ate.” But he did all of this with a prayer in his heart; he performed all his diligent service out of love for Him whom he served. He could see clearly it was God he waited upon, and so all his frantic work was no burden; he found only joy to be in the presence of His God. So must be our attitude in all we do, brothers and sisters. It cannot be otherwise. All we do must be done for Him; we must ever keep His presence in our hearts, and with this one needful thing fixed firmly within us, all of our lives will be blessed. And we, too, will be holy. We, too, will be made whole by the power of His Word at work within us.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Breathing for a Living" from Breath, The Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us remember it is in serving you
we find our hope for glory.
YHWH, let all our work be done for you, all we suffer be for the sake of your Body, and we shall not grow weary in serving you but rejoice that you are in our midst.
You come to us, dear God, you sit among us calling us by your presence and by the words of your Son and His disciples to make known the riches of your glory to all souls to whom we come. O let us give witness to our love for you in all we do this day!
Should we not treasure your presence with us and the work we are blessed to do for you? Should it not be our great glory that we may feed you, O LORD and God, by our own hands? What grace you give us in letting us serve you and one another – what joy we should take in thus doing your will, in putting flesh to your Word… in becoming as Jesus!
O LORD, let all our afflictions be endured with your Son under His Cross, and we shall be fruitful in your sight and remain forever in your presence.
Sat, 9 July 2016
(Dt.30:10-14; Ps.69:14,17,30-31,33-34,36-37 or 19:8-11; Col.1:15-20; Lk.10:25-37)
“He lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn,
and cared for him.”
This “Samaritan traveler… was moved with compassion” upon seeing the poor victim on the road. And so he “poured oil and wine over his wounds” and provided for his healing. Such is the love to which we are called.
In our first reading, Moses exhorts us: “Heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep His commandments… Return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul.” We are told this commandment of love is not far from us, but in our very hearts and on our very tongues – “You have only to carry it out.”
In our second reading, Paul tells of Jesus’ presence in all creation: “In Him were created all things in heaven and on earth… He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” He tells us, too, that it is by “the blood of His cross” that all things are reconciled, that peace comes. And in our gospel, the commandment to love God and neighbor is clearly presented, both in the words of the law, and in a parable of its employment.
The commandment we have is indeed to love, brothers and sisters, to love God and to love neighbor. This word burns in our hearts. We must “carry it out.” It does little good simply to know the law; it must be put into practice to have merit. And who are we called to love? Jesus makes it quite clear that we are called to love all who are in need; we are called to respond with compassion at the sight or the cry of any of His “lowly ones,” His “victim[s].” Remember that Paul has told us that Jesus lives in and through all creation: He is not in some and not in others. So, mustn’t we help our Lord when He is in need? Has He not told us, “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me”? Is not every soul in His blessed Hand?
And we must be His blessed hands here on this earth. We must indeed be like Him. Let us look at David’s psalm. In it we hear the cry of those “afflicted and in pain” calling on the favor of the Lord: “In your great kindness answer me with your constant help.” Here we see that in “great mercy” the Lord turns toward those who seek Him. Brothers and sisters, “the Lord hears the poor” and we must be as He is. We must cry out to Him ourselves in our own need, yes, but we are also called as His disciples to serve in His place, to share His love – to pour His blood upon the wounds of those in need.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Coat of Warmth" (1st part) from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us carry out your Word
by caring for the needs of others
in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, let us do as your Son has done; let us live in and by His blood. Compassion may we have for all in need that all might know your mercy.
All things were created in and through Jesus, and all things have life because of Him. To reconcile all things He died on the Cross that all might dwell in your peace. And to what are we called, O LORD, but to help bring that peace to bear upon this earth? What must we do but share His blood with all souls, that all souls might indeed find themselves alive in Him?
Enlighten our eye, O LORD, to the truth of your presence in the love of your Son. Let us see His light shining before us this day and allow it to shine through us as well. O let your Word be fulfilled, your Word that burns in our hearts even as we speak. You hear the prayer of all your lowly ones – may we listen to them with you.
Sat, 2 July 2016
(Is.66:10-14c; Ps.66:1-7,16,20; Gal.6:14-18; Lk.10:1-12,17-20)
“The Lord’s power shall be known to His servants.”
Paul states: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus instructs: “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” The bottom line is that “the laborer deserves his payment.”
The prosperity of Jerusalem shall flow “like a river” over those who work as laborers in the field of the Word of God: “peace and mercy” shall be to the “Israel of God.” All “who were mourning over her,” all who have suffered the indignity of the cross in this exile of ours, shall indeed rejoice as they “suck fully of the milk of her comfort” in the heavenly kingdom which the Lord brings to us this day. Indeed, “let us rejoice in Him. He rules by His might forever.” And we share in His reign who serve Him now beneath the shadow of the cross.
Satan falls now “like lightning from the sky”; we “tread upon serpents and scorpions,” crushing them underfoot by the power the Lord gives us as we tread this earth in His Name. Sent forth with nothing, we have everything, for He is with us who provides from the throne of heaven. “As nurslings” we are carried in the arms of the New Jerusalem “and fondled in her lap.” “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,” the Lord assures us; and indeed in the cross we bear, “the marks of Jesus” on our bodies, we find the open gate that leads to the house of peace: the wounds themselves are the doorway.
“The kingdom of God is at hand for you,” my brothers and sisters. I proclaim it in your hearing this day. “Peace” and the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters.” Peace be to your house. You shall know His peace and find His healing as you accept His sweet cross upon your backs. “When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass”; for in that day you shall be a “new creation.” You will say with Paul, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world,” and you will make your abode in heaven. That day is upon you now, brothers and sisters. Heed the Lord’s call to go forth as lambs in the midst of wolves, and you shall find His incomparable blessing of the peace which passes all understanding – you shall come into His kingdom.
“Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what He has done for me.” For me “He has changed the sea into dry land” and by the blood of His cross cleansed these feet to which the dust did once cling, that I might enter heaven. Walk now in His power, I beg you, children of the Lord. “The harvest is abundant.” Let us go forth laboring and eating of this Bread.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may your Spirit guide us
on the road to the Cross.
YHWH, how shall we be fit for your kingdom? How shall we give ourselves as we must to your will? Help us to leave all behind and never turn back to it. Help us to follow your Son even to the Cross. For if you do not help us, we shall falter on the way. Without your grace we shall not have the light and strength we need.
O LORD, our spirit is willing to follow you, but how weak is our flesh. How concerned we are about the things of this earth! And so your Son must be severe with us, for how else shall we break the yoke of slavery to sin? Without His sharp Word we would linger in complacency all our days.
O let the ties that bind us to this world be cut and we be free to walk with Jesus in utter service and love! May the fire of your Spirit be upon us to burn away all attachment to sin. Be our sole refuge, dear God, that no corruption we shall know but remain at your right hand forever.