Sat, 24 September 2016
(Amos 6:1,4-7; Ps.146:2,5-10; 1Tm.6:11-16; Lk.16:19-31)
“Keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Lord is coming. First of all, know this. “The King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see” will reveal Himself “at the proper time.” Shall come the end of this world and the birth of the new in the presence of our all-holy God. Do not doubt this. Do not question it in your hearts. But believe.
Second, know the nature of our God. This our psalm makes abundantly clear: “The Lord gives sight to the blind” and “protects strangers… The fatherless and the widow He sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts.” And since “the Lord raises up those who were bowed down,” we must bow down and serve Him, bringing His love to this world; keeping “faith forever” we must give “food to the hungry,” showing His unending compassion to all those in need.
Third, know the fate which awaits those who fail to adhere to His command of love, those who stain themselves with comfort and riches in a vain existence and have no heart for those who suffer now by their lack. As He prepares a place of refuge in Abraham’s bosom for those who “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness,” so a place is set for those “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day” but who were “not made ill by the collapse of Joseph,” who have no regard for the destruction of God’s people – who step over and upon the poor lying at their doors as they pursue the fatting of their bellies. “A great chasm is established” between the redeemed and the condemned; as Lazarus had no way to enter the door of the house of the rich man, so he cannot pass now into the arms of God… only now that darkness without is eternal – his torment shall not end.
It is popular to believe that Jesus somehow did away with punishment, that in His all-embracing love there is no longer need for justice, and so hell is no longer a factor. The “God of the Old Testament” is presented as the one of punishment with Him of the New conversely being of love. Brothers and sisters, they are one and the same God. And as in the time before Christ, the Lord forever showed compassion for the humble of the earth, so now Jesus shows condemnation to the wicked who refuse to turn from their ways. Only now the love and justice, which are also one, are made eternal by the coming of the end of the age in the Person of Jesus Christ. Continue to keep yourselves pure and serve the Lord – His Day is at hand.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Child and the Beast" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us make the poor man our brother,
and we will know Jesus and so be with you.
YHWH, you secure justice for the oppressed; the poor and the downtrodden you raise up even as you cast their oppressors into the bowels of the earth. The path of the righteous you indeed bless, but the way of the wicked you thwart. You confuse those who do not listen to Moses and the prophets, those who reject your only Son, for you are just and no man can own what he readily spurns.
If it is the belly upon which we set our hearts, it shall grow fat and keep us from entering the narrow gate. If upon our own needs and wants alone we look, failing to see the longings of others or help them in their plight… we shall fail the test you place before us, and be unworthy to be called your sons, dear God.
For you are kind and loving, O LORD, and care always for the hungry and those in captivity. Though you dwell in unapproachable light, to us you come with great mercy to raise us to Heaven with your only Son.
Fri, 23 September 2016
(Ec.11:9-12:8; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Lk.9:43-45)
“The dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”
“As a watch of the night” is our life, passing unnoticed while souls slumber. “You make an end of them in their sleep,” Psalm 90 prophesies (as we hear the same verses of this same psalm for the second time in three days); indeed man lies unaware of his coming death, ignorant of the day which passes. For though in our youth we “follow the ways of [our] heart, the vision of [our] eyes,” and seem to “ward off grief” at will, yet “the next morning [we] are like the changing grass”; so quickly does our flower fade. And so little of this do we see.
In our gospel the Lord speaks again to His disciples of His imminent death, and so, really, the death we all must undergo; but though He makes a clear point that they should listen carefully, saying, “Pay close attention to what I tell you,” yet they seem unable to hear His words. Our gospel tells us, “They failed… to understand this warning; its meaning was so concealed from them they did not grasp it at all.” He repeats what He has said before in no uncertain terms, and yet they are deaf to His word; yet they are blind.
How like us all the disciples are. When confronted with the coming of death how easily we shut our eyes. Though it draw upon us inevitably, how desperately we hold to the vanity of these passing things, unwilling to hear of the day when “the sun is darkened… and the strong men are bent… and the sound of the mill is low.” “Man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets” – so Qoheleth paints the image of the time when “the clouds return after the rain.” How compelling his verses are, and how ominous… and of this darkness we must hear. It is not wise to remain blind to the passing of this life, or with it we shall die when it ends. Though none of this should touch our souls, yet we must learn to let the body go.
O Lord, “you return man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men,’” yet you hold each of us in your loving hands. And so we cry unto you this day, “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” For we wait with expectant hearts for Him who has risen from the dead to come to us again. Let your Spirit breathe upon us now and turn this dust into the image of your Son. May it be your Day which comes to us, even as we die.
O LORD, we conquer death
through the death and resurrection of your Son –
be with us as we wait for His return.
YHWH, death comes inevitably to all. It draws near to us like the setting sun. We are mortal, the subjects of our own sin. And so to dust we return.
But your Son has subjected Himself to this death of ours, LORD; He has undergone its torments. In our place He has stood, and been broken for our sakes. He who lives with you in eternity has been delivered into the hands of men and suffered the darkness upon their souls. And so, may we not be born again?
O Jesus, you have overcome the darkness with your unending light; you have come to rescue us from falling into the well, that the clouds might not return again after the rain but that we might know new life with you in the morning after this world passes away, in the glory of your coming Day.
Help us, O LORD, to overcome our fear, to conquer the bonds of this dark place and our own mortality. Let this not be our lasting home, but raise us to your presence that even this day we might rejoice in you.
Sat, 17 September 2016
(Amos 8:4-7; Ps.113:1-2,4-8; 1Tm.2:1-8; Lk.16:1-13)
“If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?”
This world and the things of it are not our own; we are children of heaven. Yet we are here amongst these things which are foreign to us. And so, what should we do? With all the Lord puts in our hands as we pass through this generation we must honor God. Though in the world of mammon, we must use it to serve our God in heaven. Thus we shall prove ourselves worthy to enter into that kingdom which is above, which is our true home. This call is stated simply in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “On earth as it is in heaven” – we must bring the kingdom of God to bear in this place we find ourselves.
In our first reading, Amos makes clear what our attitude should not be with regard to the riches or power we may find at our disposal. We must never “trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.” We must never reflect the greed of these merchants who cannot wait for the sabbath, the Lord’s Day, to end, that they might satiate their thirst for wealth, and this by dishonest means. The Lord will condemn such pride and avarice.
In our second reading, Paul gives a clearer idea the manner in which power should be employed in his exhortation to prayer for those in position of authority. God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth,” and if our kings seek to maintain peace in the world, they will save not only themselves, but provide ground for others to come to God. Again, all that is given us, be it riches, power, wisdom or strength, must be given over to service of the Lord. We must be as He “who gave Himself as ransom for all” in His teaching, in His healing, indeed, in the laying down of His very life. And so, if we ourselves are teachers, we must be as Paul and do so “in faith and truth,” without any deceit. And when we offer prayers, we must always lift up “holy hands, without anger or argument.” In our prayer should always be forgiveness of others.
In our gospel parable Jesus illustrates and commends not deceitful dealings with others’ wealth, but to be wise in what is given us, to turn the riches of this world against the prince of this world (Satan), and use them for the good of the kingdom. Even in these things which are the devil’s we must work to serve our Master in heaven. And so we feed the hungry, we clothe the naked, we pray for those in power, that the Lord who is “high above all nations” and whose glory is “above the heavens” might stoop down to us and through us fulfill the mission of Christ; for “He raises the lowly from the dust, from the dunghill He lifts the poor.” And we must do the same to find our place with Him in heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Asylum Paradox" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us serve you alone
with all that is at our hands.
YHWH, help us to be trustworthy in the very small matters of this dishonest world, with the wealth that passes so quickly away. This is not our world, but your world we must reveal to this place; if we do not reflect your glory now, how can we be called children of your light?
And so we pray for all souls, that they will turn from the oppression wrought by their greedy hands and acknowledge you as God Most High and your Son as their Redeemer. We desire no man to be trampled underfoot but for everyone to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth; and so with hands held aloft we call down your mercy, dear LORD.
With the things you place in our hands here upon this dying earth, let us be faithful, let us be true – let us produce fruit unto the kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is our only home, and so with all our strength let us seek to raise souls to dwell there with all your angels and saints.
Thu, 15 September 2016
(1Cor.15:12-20; Ps.17:1,6-8,15; Lk.8:1-3)
“Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
This is the heart of our faith. This is the “Good News,” the Gospel preached in our midst. This is our firm belief. Upon it all our hopes stand. Christ has been raised, and His disciples will follow Him. As surely as we accompany Him here in His mission on earth, so surely will we find ourselves in His presence in heaven. Dying in Him means rising in light.
But “if our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men.” We could then be said to have truly wasted our time, for then the very heart of our faith would have been torn out, and what but scoffing would we have to hold? A dead Christ we would carry in our arms, and we “the deadest of the dead” with Him.
Paul speaks of this quite pointedly; he pulls no punches in this regard, declaring openly: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.” Yet there are those today, as then, who “say there is no resurrection of the dead,” that “Christ was not raised” – and these would call themselves Christian. And in the same manner there are many who do not truly believe the resurrection, yet wear the Christian nametag. If we have doubt in our hearts, or, worse yet, if we preach against the core of the faith, what do we do but kill ourselves? What do we do but work against the very Gospel of Christ? And how then do we merit the name of Christian?
Brothers and sisters, we must know in our hearts and be assured that Jesus is risen from the dead. We must realize that God has “attend[ed] to [David’s] outcry,” that He has “hearken[ed] to [his] prayer” – that the most urgent longing of our souls has been answered by the “savior of those who hope in [Him].” With David, we of faith should say with his resolve: “On waking, I shall be content in your presence.” Has the resurrection not been indicated in the “women who ha[ve] been cured of evil spirits and maladies” and who now accompany Jesus? Does not Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven devils had gone out,” give clear example of hope in Christ fulfilled? For she is not at all as she was, and this woman once so completely possessed by death itself is the first to see the Lord risen.
We must know the resurrection in our lives on earth; this is the only way we will comprehend it in heaven. Release from sin allows us to see already the eternal fruits of the kingdom. Accompanying Him now, our sins behind us, already upon heaven’s road we tread. And we know of a certain we shall pass through these “towns and villages” even unto His kingdom.
O LORD, your Son has been raised from the dead;
may we be raised with Him and be at your side.
YHWH, your Son is raised from the dead for us that we might enter your glorious presence. Though in the shadow of the wings of the Cross on this earth we make our home, it but prepares us for the kingdom. For even here our sins are taken away, and we come to new life in the Spirit.
We cried out to you, O LORD, and you heard our voice and sent your Son to walk among us. And if we follow in His steps we shall come to where He leads – we shall come to you. The path He trod must be our own, for it is the way of salvation. Through death on the Cross we come to life, for as we die with Him so we are raised.
Let us rejoice in His resurrection, O LORD; let us have faith in the new life at work in us even this day, and look with hope to our place in your kingdom. On waking may we look upon your face and be content in your eternal presence. For your glory let us ever strive, giving all to you as we walk in your way.
Sat, 10 September 2016
(Ex.32:7-11,13-14; Ps.51:3-4,12-13,17,19,Lk.15:18; 1Tm.1:12-17; Lk.15:1-32)
“The Lord relented in the punishment
He had threatened to inflict on His people.”
Redemption is ours, brothers and sisters. Though we are great sinners, the Lord has mercy on us when we turn to Him; for, as Moses interceded for the Israelites in the desert, so Christ Jesus intercedes for us now before the throne of His Father. Indeed, He “came into the world to save sinners,” sinners like you and me.
What examples of sinners we have throughout our readings today – what examples of great sinners and the greatness, the abundance of God’s grace. Where shall we begin? In our first reading the people of Israel had fallen into the depths of depravity as they passed through the desert. While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, they were far below, “making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it.” To it they sacrificed, and in drunken revelry proclaimed it God. Yet because of Moses’ intercession the Lord held back His blazing wrath against them. He did not destroy them.
In our second reading we find “the foremost” of sinners, the apostle Paul, recognizing his own great guilt as arrogant persecutor of the Church and, in the same breath, witnessing to the manner in which he was “mercifully treated” by the Lord, that he might indeed be “an example for those who would come to believe in [Jesus] for everlasting life.” If the Lord can turn him who was the primary persecutor of Himself and His people into a leading apostle of His Word, how might He not convert our own hearts, or the hearts of any, to Him and to His will?
And, of course, in our gospel we have the parable of the prodigal son, he who “squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation” yet was openly received into the waiting arms of the same father whose property he swallowed up when this dissolute child came to his senses and returned to him. The Lord makes so clear in His parable today the great desire God has to take the sinner in His arms, to place Him on His shoulders; indeed, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” Brothers and sisters, we all have need of repentance, and the Lord welcomes us all.
After all this, perhaps our most poignant witness to God’s forgiveness and grace comes in King David, who has been adulterous and murderous but who cries out to Lord in our psalm, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.” His “contrite spirit,” his humble begging is heard by the Lord, as is the repentance of us all. Through the blood of Jesus, all ignorant sinners may be saved.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Wish I'd Never Done It" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you welcome poor, repentant sinners
into your House with joy.
YHWH, have mercy on us poor sinners. In the greatness of your compassion, wipe out our offense. Like the Israelites who made the golden calf in the desert, like David who turned to adultery and murder, like Paul who persecuted your Son with such abandon, we are all your prodigal children. But as you had mercy on all of these, look upon us with kindness as we turn back to you.
O LORD, how greatly you desire our repentance. What great joy it brings you when we confess our guilt. For this you sent your Son to suffer and die; to save our souls you did not spare His life. And so, as we listen to His teaching, as we hear His call to penitence, our contrite heart causes you to rejoice that you might have us home again.
Forgive us our sins, dear God, and help us to forgive others. In this is your will fulfilled; in this the blood of your Son bears fruit, and we are redeemed.
Thu, 8 September 2016
(1Cor.9:16-19,22-27; Ps.84:2-6,8,12; Lk.6:39-42)
“Although I am not bound to anyone,
I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible.”
How like His Lord is Paul in his declaration, “To the weak I became a weak person with a view to winning the weak.” For as Jesus descended from heaven to take on flesh and save those corrupted by its sin, so the Apostle has made himself “all things to all people,” stepping inside their skin “in order to save at least some of them.” Indeed, Paul proves himself to be “on a par with his teacher” in sacrifice and fruitfulness, for how well he serves “to remove the speck from [his] brother’s eye” that he might see Jesus in the clear light of day.
The Apostle has been “entrusted with a charge,” that of “preaching the Gospel.” And doing so willingly he finds his “recompense.” And what is this recompense but that he receive nothing in return for his work, nothing here on earth except of course the blessing of persecution such work for the Master entails? Then why engage in such toil, and why call others to such a life of self-sacrifice? Ah yes, because of the “crown that is imperishable” which awaits the runner of such a race. This heavenly blessing, too, is found when one does all “for the sake of the Gospel.”
“My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God,” our psalmist intones today, and goes on to proclaim the happiness of those “who dwell in [God’s] house.” “Continually they praise [Him]… They go from strength to strength,” for “grace and glory He bestows.” This is the goal Paul has in mind when he says, “I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line.” All his tribulations never distract him from his final destination; the kingdom of heaven remains ever upon his heart. And ever does he strain forward that he and so many others might attain that crown for which “our soul yearns and pines.”
Brothers and sisters, we must “discipline [our] own body and master it”; we must “remove the plank lodged in [our] own [eye]” if we hope to join Paul in the place where “even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young.” And our young we, too, must bring there – all those in our charge must know of the kingdom of God. And so let us join Paul and our holy Lord in here becoming slaves of all, enduring our exile bravely that we might draw others to the eternal home found on the altar of the living God.
O LORD, let us be led by your holy apostles
to lay down our lives with your Son,
that we might find our home in you.
YHWH, all holy hearts long for your presence, long to make their home in your house; and you send to us apostles, teachers of your way, that we might find you. O may the vision of all be made clear to see your glory! May all learn the lesson they need to know, taught by your Son in His sacrifice and carried on by His disciples.
We long to praise you, LORD, but there is a log in our eye that blinds us to your coming kingdom. Help us to remove all obstruction, all distraction, all our blindness, that we might not lose sight of the blessings you offer to those who spend their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Let us rather carry that Good News of salvation to all souls, serving to remove the specks from their eyes by your grace and mercy. Help us to be slaves of all that all might make their home in you. Keep us from the pit, we pray, by your guidance and secure protection. Let us always yearn for you.
Sat, 3 September 2016
(Wis.9:13-18b; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Phlm.1:9-10,12-17; Lk.14:25-33)
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me
cannot be my disciple.”
The wisdom of the cross, that blessed necessity for every Christian’s life. What does it teach us? How does it call us to act? Its wisdom is not of this earth, for the “corruptible body burdens the soul,” but the counsel of the “Holy Spirit from on high” brings the freedom to be sons of God. This wisdom can only be found by knowing we are but dust and renouncing all things of dust to serve the living and true God.
“Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” our first reading from the Book of Wisdom inquires of us. Indeed, things before our eyes, things of this earth, “we find with difficulty,” so who can understand things of heaven? How shall we attain the vision of God, of whom our psalm states, “A thousand years in your sight, are as yesterday, now that it is passed, or as a watch in the night”? How can we who wilt and fade “like the changing grass” come to the surpassing knowledge our Lord possesses?
Jesus answers the question. He turns to the crowds who follow Him, who are excited by His presence but unaware of the demands made upon every Christian’s life, and He teaches them this wisdom that is of God. It is His essential lesson: Be prepared to give up all things for the sake of the kingdom. Put nothing before your worship of God. Renounce all your possessions and be ready to die for Him – only then can you approach the glory He brings to this earth. Only by the wisdom of His cross will you find the kingdom of God. For indeed “the earthen shelter” and all its concerns weigh down the mind, weigh down the spirit, and keep it from attaining to God; they must therefore be left behind to find the freedom of sons of the Most High.
The Lord comes to “teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” It is this teaching Paul seeks to impart to Philemon as he asks him to forgive the slave that has wronged him and accept him back “forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother.” This same forgiveness, which is divine not earthly, is that which is asked of us all by the Lord. For so we have been forgiven by Him, so we who were sinful slaves have been made his brother… and so we must do the same for others. It is no longer the mind of man by which we judge but the mind of God, and the grace of this wisdom we gain only by carrying our cross. It is this which shapes us in His image, which imparts to us His wisdom – and by this the work of our hands shall prosper.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Open Air" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to renounce all our possessions
that we might know your counsel and follow your Son.
YHWH, send your Holy Spirit from on high that our paths might be made straight, that we might walk the way of the Cross and so find the grace we need to be disciples of Jesus and so enter your presence. Without such kindness toward us, we shall be lost, distracted by the vain things of this dying earth.
We are but dust, dear LORD, passing like the changing grass, and our hearts are often set on the passing things around us. Teach us to renounce our possessions, help us to know it is in this true freedom lies… that walking the way of worldly concerns will lead us only to death but laying down our lives with your Son we shall come to glory. Let us not be so foolish as to think we shall be blessed otherwise.
Freely let us offer all we have to you, LORD; then you shall indeed prosper the work of our hands. And we shall go from being slaves of the flesh to dwelling as your beloved in the age that does not pass away.
Fri, 2 September 2016
(1Cor.4:9-15; Ps.145:17-21; Lk.6:1-5)
“God has put us apostles at the end of the line,
like men doomed to die in the arena.”
“Up to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, poorly clad, roughly treated, wandering about homeless,” the great Apostle Paul tells us of the persecution and slander all the Lord’s apostles must undergo. And yet “when we are insulted we respond with a blessing,” for this is our call in the Lord: to love even our enemies, that we might show the love of God to all, that we might indeed become “a spectacle to the universe, to angels and men alike” – “fools on Christ’s account,” yet bearing all patiently that the Gospel might truly be fulfilled and the last shall be shown to be first in the eyes of God.
It is this birth to which Paul brings the Corinthians, his “beloved children.” And though it seem a difficult fate to call down upon a people, yet we know that David’s psalm is true, that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth”; and so through all trials He leads us and comforts us, making any suffering a light burden to bear. And just as Paul is father to this nation, so the Father of all is there always to watch over all His children, for it is “in Christ Jesus” the Apostle has begotten them; and as He has heard the cry of His Son upon the cross and brought Him to resurrection, so “He hears [all His children] cry and saves them.”
In our gospel the Lord’s disciples are hungry, and so, in the hot sun, “walking through the standing grain” with Jesus, He feeds them: all around is food at their hands. Truly their prayer does He answer; their need does He see. But instead of seeing that the Lord “fulfills the desire of those who fear Him,” all the Pharisees can do is ask, “Why are you doing what is prohibited on the sabbath?” Thus the very men who should be present to bless and comfort and guide the followers of the Holy One can but call them into the arena of persecution with the rest of the fallen world. Thus the shepherds who are called to feed the sheep would remove the food from their hands and see them perish. Instead of becoming apostles themselves, they become their bane. For they cannot comprehend that God’s love transcends God’s law, that “the Lord keeps all who love Him” and this is what makes Him “just in all His ways and holy in all His works,” and not the mere precepts to which they hold so desperately, so blindly… so jealously. Thus the chosen of God become in their eyes “the world’s refuse, the scum of all.” And what can they be but crucified?
All must come to the holy Lord and “all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” And though war be brought upon our souls, we must always “try conciliation” – peacemakers covered with blood and spittle is the state to which we are called. No other way will the world come to know that the love of God transcends all, and all call upon Him from their hearts.
O LORD, though persecuted and poor,
we are surrounded with your presence,
and so are fed in times of famine.
YHWH, you are our LORD and God; when we cry out to you, you save us. Though we must endure persecution for your sake, though we suffer want and go hungry, you surround us with standing grain – you are ever near to help us. Let us indeed praise your holy NAME!
What should it matter to us if we are beaten, if we are insulted and spat upon; if you are with us we are free of pain, for all these things your Son endures for our sake. We are your children and you love us, so even these trials you turn to good. Remain ever with us to save us by the Cross of your only Son.
He is Lord over even the Sabbath. He has power from on high. For you, LORD, have given all things over into His hands, and for us He does provide. Our rest we take in Him, our food He places in our mouths – through Him we remain close to you: He is our Bread of Life. And so, let us rejoice to walk in His way.