Thu, 15 December 2016
(Is.56:1-3,6-8; Ps.67:2-3,5,7-8; Jn.5:33-36)
“My house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
The Truth has come, and all nations are drawn to Him.
None is excluded in the House of God; His holy Temple is a place where all take refuge, where all find fulfillment, where all find joy. He only asks that we heed His testimony, that we see the works which He performs and act in accordance with His holiness. “Observe what is right, do what is just, for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed,” the Lord says to us all. Set yourselves on right paths with Him who has come, and you will be readily accepted into His presence.
“Loving the name of the Lord and becoming His servants,” this is what brings us into His house. No matter who we are, no matter where we are, no matter when we are, we will be brought “to [His] holy mountain and [made] joyful in [His] house of prayer,” if we follow His ways. Exult in the light of the Lord, know that Jesus is the Temple to which your heart is drawn and your “holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on [His] altar.”
His justice is for all; His love extends to the ends of the earth. David’s prayer is answered in Jesus: “May your way be known upon earth, among all nations your salvation.” For now does He “rule the peoples in equity”; now “the earth has yielded its fruits.” Now the blessing of our God falls upon all whose hearts turn to Him.
“May all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Then will all be drawn into His house of prayer and know His love. This day shall not be long in coming; come now to “the lamp, set aflame and burning bright” for all eternity. Enter into the flesh of Christ.
O LORD, you sent your Son
that the light of your face might shine upon us
and all peoples might learn to love your NAME.
YHWH, let us exult in the eternal light that is your Son. He has come among us to draw all souls into your House of prayer, that all might offer holy sacrifice to you on high. And you accept all who come through Him; those who do what is right and keep your day holy you join to yourself. O may all men know such blessing! May all the ends of the earth glory in your presence.
All the nations you gather into your arms, O LORD, by the intercession of Jesus. Your works He performs in our midst to reveal your glory to us and so draw us to the truth, to your holy mountain – to the Heaven where you dwell. May we not be kept apart from your kingdom by any evildoing, by any ignorance of the Word your Son brings to us. Let us enter under your rule.
If we wish to be your children, you will welcome us, LORD. If it is our desire to give you worship, if our hearts are set on prayer, you will bless us. In your Son we will find answer to our prayer, if we believe His testimony, if we believe in the divinity He shares with you.
Wed, 14 December 2016
(Is.54:1-10; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; Lk.7:24-30)
“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.”
We are “the barren one who did not bear,” the “wife married in youth and then cast off” by our God. Once “forsaken and grieved in spirit,” blushing for the “shame of [our] youth,” now the Lord takes us home and promises us His love. “My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken,” the Lord in His mercy assures us. Though we be as those in the days of Noah, deserving of His destructive wrath, yet He takes pity on us, not only sparing our lives, but also promising to expand our space, to increase us in His blessed generosity beyond what we could imagine.
“At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing.” Yes, our sin has made us sad; our separation from God has invited His wrath and made us less than what we are. But though the Lord may punish in His justice, yet “His anger lasts but a moment; a lifetime His good will.” David sings, “You changed my mourning into dancing,” for indeed great is His mercy toward us; tender is His touch upon us as He brings us “up from the netherworld” and places us at His side in the kingdom, as His holy bride.
And the Baptist makes the way the redeemed must walk. Necessary is “the baptismal bath he administered” in order to realize God’s plan for the salvation of our lives. He is the messenger who goes ahead of the Lord, preparing the path that leads to our being “born into the kingdom of God,” where our greatness cannot be measured for it will be in union with Him who is “God of all the earth.” Indeed, we must turn from our sins to find our way to this unity; we must repent in tears and turn back to Him. And He will be quick to rescue us, and we will be blessed to rejoice forever, to “break forth in jubilant song” at the graces poured forth upon us by our God in the forgiveness of our sins.
His tender Hand is near us, waiting to touch us. Is it your will to be wed to the Most High God? Then receive the baptism He requires and you will be made fruitful in the kingdom of God.
O LORD, take us back to you;
may our hearts be prepared to receive your glory.
YHWH, we must be cleansed in your baptismal bath, for you wish to draw us back to you from our sin; you wish to turn our mourning into dancing, but we cannot approach you, we cannot enter your kingdom if our shame still clings to us, if the dust of this earth remains upon our souls. We have been made barren by the evil our hands have done; we deserve to be drowned in the waters of the flood, to be cast to the nether world… but you look upon our desolation with mercy and seek to wed us unto you that we might again bear fruit, that we might spread out across all the earth. Bring your Heaven to this desert place, we pray.
Weeping we have known. Abandonment we have suffered, O LORD. Let us now hear your voice crying out to us, calling us back to your loving arms. Our sins indeed please wash away. Never leave us again, we pray; assure us of your abiding love. Into your kingdom let us come with all your holy people.
Tue, 13 December 2016
(Is.45:6-8,18,21-25; Ps.85:9-14,Is.45:8; Lk.7:18-23)
“There is no just and saving God but me.”
Jesus is “He who is to come”; His deeds speak for themselves. “There is no other!”
“Justice shall walk before Him, and salvation, along the way of His steps.” How evident this is in Jesus’ life, for wherever He goes He teaches wisdom; whomever He touches He heals. God created the world “not to be a waste” but “to be lived in,” and so Jesus sets free all captives – the blind, the lame, the deaf… He releases all from sin. Yes, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” The justice which descends from the heavens, which falls from His lips “like dew from above,” will cause “salvation [to] bud forth.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” We see Him. We hear Him. If our hearts are open to Him, we witness His working every moment of our lives. For He is “the creator of the heavens… the designer and maker of the earth,” and His Hand is at work in all things – He cannot be separated from His creation. The light and the darkness are made by Him, and for us who love Him “truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.” “For He proclaims peace to His people.” For those who love Him, there is only light.
And we know that Light is Jesus. It is to witness to Him the Baptist came; and now he hears of the fulfillment of the way he has prepared. We must find “no stumbling block” in the Lord. We must join in proclaiming His good news, in walking in His way – in letting our deeds speak for themselves as wrought by the Hand of the loving Creator and His redeeming Son.
Be of light, brothers and sisters, of justice, of peace. Let kindness and truth meet in all your words and deeds and you will be sons and daughters of the one “just and saving God” – and you will be blessed forever.
O LORD, may every knee bend before you
who created us and redeemed us.
YHWH, in your goodness you have made the earth and all who dwell in it, and by your grace your Son has served to redeem Creation. From the beginning you designed this world to be lived in, you desired that all your creatures should flourish, and though woe has come upon us because of our disobedience, now Jesus has come among us to make the deaf hear and the blind see, to raise us from the death of sin. O let us walk before you in justice!
You are the only just and saving God; beside you there is no other. And should we not rejoice in your presence, O LORD? Your justice rains down upon us from Heaven now, and should we not spring up from the earth declaring your truth and your glory? Should we not be one with your Son who is our salvation and so find your blessings, and so yield an increase of holy fruit? O let us be healed of all our afflictions! that we might know your glory dwelling in our land.
Mon, 12 December 2016
(Zep.3:1-2,9-13; Ps.34:2-3,6-7,17-19,23; Mt.21:28-32)
“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord.”
All have been “rebellious and polluted”; all have been as she who “hears no voice” and “accepts no correction.” But the Lord now comes to “change and purify the lips of the peoples, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” Who is it who hears the voice of the Lord to “not be ashamed of all [our] deeds, [our] rebellious acts against [Him]”?
“Let me make it clear that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you,” Jesus states simply and directly to the chief priests and elders. These lowest of society, these most polluted, have put faith in John’s preaching of “a way of holiness,” but those most esteemed, the elder son whose words bear the stamp of God but whose actions are far from Him, are held back from entering the kingdom by their pride, perhaps thinking they are already there.
How sad. How can it be that those so steeped in the holy Scriptures do not hear the words of David’s psalm: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit He saves”? Or how are they blind to the vision of the “humble and lowly” the Lord deems to bless? For that matter, how do they hide themselves from the great prophet’s declaration that the Lord “will remove from [their] midst the proud braggarts”?
Our words alone will not save us, brothers and sisters. However great the lines of the scribe or the preaching of the priest, it will mean nothing if not lived in flesh and blood. Better to say no to God, as the younger son, and then turn to Him and do His will. Certainly we all stray; and this we must recognize. But just as certain is that all must turn to Him, after regretting our sin, and do as He commands.
Do not be afraid. The Lord will “destroy remembrance of evildoers,” but count not yourself as in allegiance with them. Be among those who “speak no lies” and you “shall pasture and couch [your] flocks with none to disturb [you].” The vision of God and His Spirit shall be your own.
O LORD, let us speak no lie before you
but let our actions meet our words of praise.
YHWH, we must do your will to enter your kingdom, this your Son makes clear to all. We cannot merely honor you with our lips but must make our holiness incarnate as His.
O the woe of the proud, dear LORD! How terrible their separation from you. For they are blind even to their separation, and so, what shall save them? Let them be saved by seeing the humble come to you; let them know your mercy and love by witnessing your forgiveness toward the lowly sinner… and let them accept your mercy upon their own hearts.
Purify our lips, O LORD, from all lies, all deceitful words. Let it be your holy NAME that is upon our tongues, that we might dwell in truth and peace and humility, and praise your glory forever.
You are close to the brokenhearted, LORD; you gather even the rebellious into your arms. Let us accept the correction of your Son and cry out to you, that we may indeed be saved and come to serve you.