Tue, 31 January 2017
(Heb.12:4-7,11-15; Ps.103:1-2,13-14,17-18; Mk.6:1-6)
“Whom the Lord loves, He disciplines;
He scourges every son He receives.”
Like His only Son we must be. For without discipline where would we be? Apart from the Lord’s chastising hand, into what state would we fall? Without the cross, how could we find the kingdom?
If the Lord did not scourge us, we would be blind as His countrymen in our gospel today, who question even what their ears behold and their eyes see – dead to His presence we would remain. Only the dust of His flesh would we look upon, thinking He is no more than our sinful selves; far short of His divinity would we fall. And so a word of chastisement He brings to our hearts, as He does those of “His native place,” of “His own house,” condemning our failure to honor God in His prophets and in His Son, calling us beyond our eyes of flesh to the breath of the Spirit.
Oh how our “lack of faith distress[es] Him”! Oh how He would stir within us “that holiness without which no one can see the Lord”! For “the kindness of the Lord is from eternity to eternity toward those who fear Him,” and His kindness He would have all know. But failing of a reverent awe for the Most High Lord, what do we do but grovel in the dust? Our hearts cannot know Him if they are not humble; our souls cannot bless Him if they are not holy… and so we lose “all His benefits” by a stubborn pride. This is not the will of God.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord “knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.” But from the dust He calls us to join Him on high, to rise above our earthen state. In His compassion the Father would have us be even as He is; and so He sends His only Son to suffer for our sins, to show us the path to holiness we must walk. “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees”; fear not the cross of Jesus. For by it you will be made strong, you will be made whole; through it “the grace of God” will pour, and make you as His own.
Peace soon follows every cord of scourging; the nails in our hands open our souls to the Spirit’s movement, to the Lord’s love, as by this bleeding our sins are purged. And in His light we shall soon stand, “all [our] being bless[ing] His holy name.” Then we shall no longer question His wisdom but in His mercy make our home.
O LORD, may we be your sons
not just in flesh but in truth;
your compassion be upon us
in the discipline of your Word.
YHWH, thank you for your discipline, for your blessed chastising hand. It is out of love you correct us; in your compassion you desire us to be with you. Let us praise you for your kindness.
Forgive us, LORD, all our blindness, all our failure to see your hand at work. Our disobedience hurts us most of all, for by it we separate ourselves from your love. In our lives let your will be done!
If you had not compassion on our erring hearts, if you scourged not our sinful souls, where would we be, LORD, where would we be? From your healing and your teaching let us never be apart.
Come to your native place this day, O LORD. Those baptized in your NAME please bless. Let us welcome you with open arms into our houses, treasuring every chastising word, and we shall be at peace in your presence.
Mon, 30 January 2017
(Heb.12:1-4; Ps.22:26-28,30-32; Mk.5:21-43)
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,
who inspires and perfects our faith.”
Like the woman in our gospel who saw Him in the crowd and with great confidence made her way toward Him but to reach out and “touch His clothing,” knowing in her heart that by this she “shall get well”; like the official of the synagogue who draws near and falls at His feet begging healing for his daughter, who even after being told, “Your daughter is dead,” does “not grow despondent or abandon the struggle” but takes refuge in the Lord’s encouragement to trust; like all the “cloud of witnesses” that have sought Him, that have believed in Him, that have never taken their eyes off Him or His love – let us be saints who “lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead,” and we shall receive our reward even as those who have gone before us have done. By endurance in faith we shall find Jesus.
Sin it is, of course, that is the greatest obstacle to sanctity in the Lord, to achieving our goal of eternal life in heaven; death and disease are merely the fruits of this poisonous tree. And so the “fight against sin” is truly our greatest struggle, for once sin is set aside, peace comes to our souls and we are no longer anxious or fearful, despite any workings of the devil – despite the destruction in his hands. The woman’s “flow of blood” (for as many years as Jairus’ daughter, “a child of twelve,” has been alive) is but symptomatic for us of the greater affliction of transgression against God. And even the young girl’s death is nothing really, for it is so that “she is [only] asleep,” as the Lord says, and not dead at all… and so death and disease mean nothing unless they are accompanied by sin. It is this plague which must be overcome.
And for this healing we come to Him. For this grace we must press upon Him, like the crowds who surround Him this day. And like the raised child’s parents our “astonishment [will be] complete,” for we shall be clean: we shall be alive in the Lord. “To Him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth”; by Him alone all shall be raised. So let us keep our eyes and our hearts fixed upon Him, knowing “they who seek the Lord shall praise Him” – in Him our faith is complete. “To Him alone [our] soul shall live”; therefore, let us bleed with Him this day.
O LORD, let us be freed of all illness;
let us be raised from our graves to walk with you.
YHWH, our faith unites us to you and so we find healing for every disease and every sin, for no evil lives in you. And so, help us to endure all, keeping our eyes ever fixed on your Son and the hope He brings to our souls, and we shall be well in your presence.
O LORD, you raise us from the sleep of death and sin. Your Son who walks in our midst leads us to your glory. And so, let us bow down before Him, humbling ourselves in faith, and our every prayer shall be answered; and we shall be united to you and your glorious majesty.
Why should we be afraid? Why should we fear placing our trust in you? Let no obstacle stand in the way of our coming to you that we might join the band of your holy ones in your eternal kingdom. Though we must shed our blood in the struggle, let us know our salvation is assured.
Sun, 29 January 2017
(Heb.11:32-40; Ps.31:20-25; Mk.5:1-20)
“They broke the jaws of lions, put out raging fires,
escaped the devouring sword…”
In each of these descriptions of the powerful deeds of the men of old what is conquered is an instrument of death, and so what is indicated is the power of God – from whom these men derive their strength – to destroy death itself. This is made more obvious in the fact that “women received back their dead through resurrection” by their faith in God, and is apparent even in those who “were tortured and did not receive deliverance”; for they suffered all “in order to obtain a better resurrection,” one not simply of the earth and the body, but one which is absolute, one which pertains to spirit and body in heaven… and we can be assured they received such reward.
Brothers and sisters, death is the devil’s instrument, but life is of God; and the Lord of life holds power over all death and banishes it by His word. That death is the devil’s tool, so ready at his hand, is made evident after Jesus “gave the word, and with it the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine”: immediately “the herd of about two thousand went rushing down the bluff into the lake, where they began to drown.” As the demons had driven the man of Gerasene into the tombs upon taking possession of him, so they drive these swine to their demise. Death is the devil’s will; he would see the destruction of all life.
And what of those men of old who seem so much like our possessed man today; what about those who “dwelt in caves and in holes of the earth” and “went about garbed in the skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented”? How do these differ from the poor soul of Gerasene? Does the devil not have power over them, too? The answer is no – the two are clearly different. The power the devil had over the ancient prophets, which is witnessed most fully in Christ Himself as well as all His followers, is a power only over the body, over the physical circumstances of life. As with Christ and His followers, the spirit, the soul of these ancients, remained untouched by the devil’s claw. The same is not so for the poor soul among the tombs: of him the devil had taken possession body and soul. And, you might say, Is the strength exhibited by the demoniac not like that of Samson when he broke the chains of the Philistines? What of this similarity? My friends, the chains upon the demoniac were meant to help preserve his life, and when he “pulled the chains apart and smashed the fetters” by the strength of the devil, it was only that he could continue “gash[ing] himself with stones”; whereas Samson broke his fetters by the power of God in order to preserve his life from the clutches of the Philistines. (One must always use right judgment and discern well, especially the things of the spirit, avoiding preoccupation with the superficiality of circumstances and jumping to quick decisions.)
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!” Keep “constant” in faith and “from the plottings of men” and “the strife of tongues” He will “shelter” you. Whether overcoming or being overcome by death in this life, the life of heaven awaits you and is with you.
O LORD, of the least of us you make use,
joining all to your Body to proclaim your glory.
YHWH, your power is greater even than that of death, and your power you share with all your holy ones, that in your NAME they might overcome death and all its workings. What great deeds are we not capable of if we but put our trust in you? We shall indeed rise from the dead with Jesus your only Son.
Death surrounds us in this world; it is as if we dwell in a tomb. For where can we turn where sin does not exist, and so, how can we be free of its clutches? It is like the lion’s jaw or a raging fire or the devouring sword. But you give power to conquer sin to those who take refuge in Christ’s blood. Even in this dark world, they are screened in your abode. Though we are made to dwell in caves or in holes of the earth, you are yet with us, LORD, we who are to be made perfect in you. O let us sit at your feet in our right mind all the days of our lives! Let us declare your goodness to all.
Sat, 28 January 2017
(Jer.1:4-5,17-19; Ps.71:1-6,15,17; 1Cor.12:31-13:13; Lk.4:21-30)
“I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
When God calls Jeremiah to prophesy “against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people,” He tells him to “gird [his] loins” and commands: “Be not crushed on their account.” For though his people “will fight against” him, they shall “not prevail over” him. The Lord makes Jeremiah “a fruitful city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass” able to stand against attacks of any in “the whole land”; He preserves His prophet’s life despite any danger or threat.
In our gospel Jesus is likewise protected by God from any harm His people would inflict upon Him. Here in the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus is called to prophesy against the faithlessness of the people; and though before He spoke His harsh word of truth they had “all spoke[n] highly of Him,” now “filled with fury” they drive Him “out of the town, and lead Him to the brow of the hill… to hurl Him down headlong.” But the deliverance promised Jeremiah and sung of so beautifully by our psalmist is with the Lord’s only Son as it had been with His prophet, and “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” Though they would not accept the deliverance He brings, He is delivered from them.
“O my God, [you] rescue me from the hand of the wicked”; you indeed are “my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety.” O Lord, “let me never be put to shame,” but “in your justice rescue me, and deliver me.” For you are “my rock and my fortress,” “my hope” who never fails to save. May I walk through all the difficulties of this world, all the darkness of sin and temptation and suffering, with you at my side, therefore with nothing to fear. Make me strong as your prophet, as your Son, for my life is in your Hand.
Brothers and sisters, soon all persecution will pass away with all the imperfect trappings of this desolate earth, and only God’s love will remain. Let us be as He who “endures all things”; let us be of love. And nothing of this world shall touch us as we pass through its midst, shielded by the Word of God, guarded by His eminent love.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, blessed are the lowly ones,
for they shall be with you in Heaven.
YHWH, make us your lowly servants that we might be blessed as your Son, blessed to be called your children. For you look upon the lowly and the poor with mercy; those who are bowed down you raise up. Help us always to be humble before you and make our boast only in your love.
Your Son has come to call the weak of this world, those who are despised for their humility, those who seem certain to be cast aside for their lack of wealth and power in this life. But to shame the wise, to break the pride of those who are rich in their own eyes, you have chosen, O LORD, to bless the meek of the land with all graces – even your kingdom you give to us.
And so, what care we for the persecution we must suffer for the sake of your Name? We thirst only for your presence and so do not mourn the passing of this vain world but only that we cannot come more quickly to your side. O let our heart be clean as your only Son’s, that we might look upon you, O LORD our God!
Fri, 27 January 2017
(Heb.11:1-2,8-19; Lk.1:68-75; Mk.4:35-41)
“Why are you so terrified?
Why are you lacking in faith?”
“Faith is confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see,” our brother Paul would have us know, and realize. We all hope for something; there is ever something we all long to see. The eyes are set in the front of the human head and always he is looking at what is before him, straining to see what is ahead. And what is it we hope to see further along this road we tread? What is our hope for the future – what is set indelibly in our hearts, calling us forward to tomorrow? Are we as Abraham, who was “looking forward to the city with foundations,” to the city of God, and so was able to uproot himself from his city here on earth, “not knowing where he was going,” and dwell in tents? Have we the same hope as he?
If we have his hope, we should have his faith as well, and more. For what upon this earth is worthy of greater assurance than the coming of the kingdom of God? Is there any firmer promise in which to believe? And if Abraham and all the “men of old” were able to live by faith and so find God’s approval and His blessing, how much more should we be ready, how much greater confidence should we have, we upon whom the light which they only “saluted… from afar” has dawned? To our eyes has been brought what they were kept from seeing; and so our faith should go beyond hope – it should be most real, utterly unshakable by the vicissitudes of this world. For He is here, He who was “promised through the mouths of His holy ones, the prophets of ancient times.”
Brothers and sisters, it is time to “cross over to the farther shore” with our Lord. What Moses could only view from afar is now present to us in the flesh of Christ: heaven is in our midst, and nothing should we fear… no room for doubt should we make. In the words of our gospel we witness the disciples coming gradually to see Him who has entered their boat, who has power over all. And their fear shall leave them soon, even as awe overtakes them. And we must be the same, and more. For upon us the Spirit has already come, completing the Trinity’s presence among us. Nothing more is there to look forward to than our life in heaven, and nothing for our crossing do we lack. Sure indeed should we now be. And so, “rid of fear and delivered from the enemy” by Him who is all-powerful, “we should serve Him devoutly, and through all our days, be holy in His sight.” Let faith find its fulfillment now in the lives we lead in His name. Cast all fear away, and love.
O LORD, you are able to raise us even from the dead –
let us put our faith in you.
YHWH, will Jesus not lead us to the farther shore, to the kingdom where you dwell? Will not He who holds the wind and the waves in His hands and commands them by a word of His mouth, will He not save us from all that would keep us from you? But are our hearts set on the Promised Land of Heaven as was Abraham’s and all the prophets’ of old? Are we so willing to give up all the things of this world to find your eternal City?
O LORD, have we the faith that you are able to raise from the dead, that even death and sin and all the wiles of the devil and the trappings of this earth are in your power to command? If so, then why should our hope ever be dimmed; why should we be afraid?
Save us, LORD, from our faithlessness! Let us serve you in holiness all our days, our hearts set on the land to which Jesus would take us.
Thu, 26 January 2017
(Heb.10:32-39; Ps.37:3-6,23-24,39-40; Mk.4:26-34)
“You need patience to do God’s will
and receive what He has promised.”
Brothers and sisters, “we are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and live.” Whatever “great contest[s] of suffering” may be before us or behind us or upon us even now, we do not “surrender [our] confidence” in the Lord but stand strong, enduring all by our “trust in Him” and so coming by these means to the kingdom of God.
My friends, we know we have “better and more permanent possessions” in heaven, and so “the confiscation of [our] goods” upon this earth, the “insult and trial” we have to endure, and even the prison into which we may be thrown, hold no sway over our souls and do not deter our resolve to follow the way of Christ – in fact, they but increase our firmness in the Lord. For seeing how “He delivers [us] from the wicked and saves” us when we “take refuge in Him” reveals to our souls the firmness of His hand upon us and the passing nature of any vain temptation or torture. We comprehend hereby that we need but “commit to the Lord [our] way… and He will act”; He is the one who preserves us from all harm and sees that fruit is born in our lives.
And so, day by day we come to Him; night after passing night we approach His presence. We grow in His sight even as “the soil produces of itself first the blade, then the ear, [and] finally the ripe wheat in the ear.” Even unto the day of judgment we shall grow so gradually, so blessedly, steadily producing fruit in His glorious light, and thus avoid any condemnation. For He has taken possession of our souls; His hand is upon us now, and from such marvelous grace we cannot turn our faces away.
“A brief moment, and He who is to come will come; He will not delay,” says the Lord; and so, brothers and sisters, let us “live by faith” as the Lord’s “just man,” knowing full well that “He will make justice dawn for [us] like the light,” that on His Day we shall be drawn into the kingdom of God. “Bright as the noonday shall be [our] vindication,” so let us endure all patiently and bravely in this world, ever bearing fruit in His name.
O LORD, help us to endure all persecutions
that we might grow steadily unto your kingdom.
YHWH, let us take refuge in you and there find protection and blessing. Let us grow gradually unto your kingdom, enduring all with patience and faith. Your justice will dawn for the man who remains steadfast in your sight.
O LORD, what should we care if we must suffer persecution, if our goods are confiscated and we are thrown into prison? For what blessed possessions we have in you, those which last forever. And so, increase our faith day to day as we see your hand continually rescue us from all distress, from every trial; let us ever grow unto your presence and make our home in your branches.
If we could but be the man you desire us to be, LORD, for our own sakes! If we could but trust in you and your constant blessings! Then we would forever be sustained, knowing that you will not delay your coming but very soon we will be with you in eternity. Be with us as we wait here.
Wed, 25 January 2017
(Heb.10:19-25; Ps.24:1-6; Mk.4:21-25)
“Since we have a great high priest who is over the house of God,
let us draw near in utter sincerity and absolute confidence.”
Let us shine our light without fear, for it is the light of the Lord and cannot be removed. “Let us hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope, for He who made the promise deserves our trust.” Do you think He will fail you in your commitment to Him? No, His love is always first to come; you need but follow.
And let us “encourage one another,” brothers and sisters, even as Jesus does us all in our gospel today. Let us “rouse each other to love and good deeds,” calling one another to shine our light, the light that is in each of our hearts by the grace of our Savior. “Our hearts sprinkled clean from the evil which lay on our conscience and our bodies washed in pure water,” ready we are to do His will in this world; “the blood of Jesus assures our entrance into the sanctuary,” and so, with our place in heaven set firm, we hesitate not to put our love “on a stand” and let it pierce the darkness all around.
“We should not absent ourselves from the assembly,” brothers and sisters. We should not think we need not gather together in His name. For we cannot take strength alone to fight our battles in this world; apart from one another we will be worn down by sin, by pride. Our light is not our own but is meant to be shared; indeed, it belongs to the whole community for it belongs only to the Lord. And it can only grow and increase when given in measure to others; otherwise it will be taken from us.
So let us draw near our Lord as we draw near each other in the sharing of our gifts. Let us be as “he whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain,” and our gifts will be acceptable one to another, and our lives will be acceptable to God. And we shall “ascend the mountain of the Lord” and “stand in His holy place” – the place He makes for us by His sacrifice… “We shall receive a blessing from the Lord, a reward from God our Savior,” if we seek His face alone.
Do not be afraid. Hide not your light. Enter His presence, do His will, accepting the grace He imparts to our lives. He calls you to join in His sacrifice.
O LORD, all the world is ours
if we but come to Jesus for the cleansing of our sins.
YHWH, let us be the race that seeks your holy face and to shine your holy light to all around us. This world is your own and we are in your hands, and none of us can ascend to you if we come not through your only Son. Let us come to Him with confidence and joy and seek to serve one another and the salvation of all. Then we shall be seeking you; then we shall be serving you – then we shall be standing again in His stead, and so find your holy blessing and receive it more and more.
O LORD, let us give ourselves as Jesus has done. Let us be His very flesh and blood. Bless your Church, O God, with His love, with His light shining in every member. Let us not hide in fear but freely offer the gifts you impart to each of our lives for the service of the whole Body. The more we give the more we shall receive, for the more we give the more we share in your love. Let us not fail to shine forth your light as you call us to do.
Mon, 23 January 2017
(Heb.10:1-10; Ps.40:2,4,7-11; Mk.3:31-35)
“I have come to do your will, O God.”
But what is this will of God? How do we know it? How shall we live it? The will of God is known through the obedience of the Son, in His sacrifice for our sins; and all who seek to do the will of God must follow in His way, offering themselves freely, innocently, to the Lord for the sake of the Body of Christ.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asks the crowd. Who enter into His fold, becoming children of God the Father? “Whoever does the will of God.” Whoever does the will of God is the only answer He could make. Whoever is as His mother and says, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word”; whoever is as His brother apostles and suffers martyrdom for the faith, unafraid to speak out in His name; whoever is like the simple sheep surrounding Him in the gospel today, listening so obediently to the heavenly words He utters… these are “brother and sister and mother” to Him. Oh what a glorious family to be among!
Brothers and sisters, we no longer have “only a shadow of the good things to come” but rather a “real image of them” in the flesh and blood of the only Son. The salvation of our God is abstract and fleeting no more, for the Lord has come in a body to make ever so real for us the glory of God. Our hearts should leap up at His presence; our ears should be “open to obedience” to hear and heed His voice. Our mouths agape, we should wonder at His presence among us and desire only to become one with Him who holds our very lives in His sacred heart, in the Spirit upon the flesh He is.
Oh have we not “waited, waited for the Lord”? And how should we not act now that He has “stooped toward” us, now that He has humbled Himself to become man? A spirit of exultation should fill us, for by His presence with us He “put[s] a new song into [our] mouth, a hymn to our God.” Our hearts are set on fire with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and we can no longer “restrain [our] lips,” but must declare even with our precious Lord: “I have come to do your will,” to join in your blessed sacrifice – to know the glory of kinship with you, my God, by whom we are all called.
O Lord, “I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth in the vast assembly.” I declare it on these pages. Please gather me this day into your holy family.
O LORD, help us to join your Son in doing your will
by laying down our lives in this world.
YHWH, let us do your will. This alone we ask of you. Let us do your will that we might join with your Son, our Brother, and be sanctified by the offering of His body for our sakes. Let us join with Him in seeking to do your will, in offering our bodies as sacrifice, in declaring your goodness to all souls.
Put a new song into our mouths, LORD, one that proclaims your glory. Let us be filled to overflowing with your presence in our souls that we cannot but speak of your kindness and your truth, your faithfulness and your salvation. Here am I; I come to do your will. Let this be our song. Let us be cleansed of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus – let our body be as His own.
O that we might be your holy family, LORD, that we might be as Mary and the apostles, giving our complete “yes” to your call. May your Son open His arms to gather us into your presence.
Sun, 22 January 2017
(Heb.9:15,24-28; Ps.98:1-6; Mk.3:22-30)
“His death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions.”
By his death Jesus has disarmed the devil; the Lord has destroyed Satan’s power by His holy sacrifice. Because of Jesus’ innocent blood, “Satan has suffered mutiny in his ranks and is torn by dissension,” for none of his adversarial accusations can stand before such pure love. “He cannot endure, he is finished”… and with him, sin also dies, for there is no longer anyone to accuse us of our sin. It is as if Jesus says, “Kill me if you will,” and once having done so, Satan has nothing left in his arsenal. Once taking all our sins out of his bag and piercing the Savior through with their cumulative strength, what more power has he to effect death? Death has its day, and life – the life that is the love of the Son – has triumphed over it: our sins’ effects have come full force against our Lord and Maker, and “His right hand has won victory” over them.
And so this great promise the Lord can make, this astounding statement He brings to our ears: “I give you my word, every sin will be forgiven mankind and all the blasphemies men utter.” Though the sin against the Spirit will not be forgiven – for how can he who calls salvation condemnation find the grace of God; how can lies find discourse with Truth? – yet all the sins man has committed in his ignorance and lust will be washed clean in Jesus’ blood when any soul comes humbly to Him. And in consequence of this blessed mercy, “those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,” for our Savior has “entered heaven itself that He might appear before God now on our behalf.” Yes, He serves as mediator now, interceding before the Father against our transgressions, that He might prepare for us a path to His kingdom. His cross and His sacrifice stand as our ladder unto heaven.
“The Lord has made His salvation known” by the offering of His Son, and to “all the ends of the earth” “His holy arm” is revealed. He has appeared once in weakness to take away our sins, but “He will appear a second time not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.” And so, as we are washed clean of sin in His blood, we must stand ready for His final coming, for our promised reward, “sing[ing] praise to the Lord.”
O LORD, cast all the demons far from us
that we might worship you in faith and truth
and come to your kingdom.
YHWH, we should be offering you and your Son songs of praise, not blaspheming against your goodness toward us. For He has come to deliver us from sin, to cast Satan from our midst that we might enter your kingdom and glorify your NAME – let us not doubt or deny the grace you send us; let us not court condemnation with a hardened heart.
There is a pride from which we suffer, LORD, a pride and a fear. We are unable to humble ourselves before your majesty or receive the love you bring. Our hands are grasping and our hearts impure, and so we do not see how much we need the salvation wrought by your Son. Help us to turn from our sin, to seek the blood of Jesus upon our souls, that we might become pure and innocent as children before you, living only in the truth, and so, joyfully singing your praise.
Sat, 21 January 2017
(Is.8:23-9:3; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; 1Cor.1:10-13,17; Mt.4:12-23)
“Light has arisen.”
“Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.” Yes, “a light has shone”; Jesus has come. No longer do we walk in darkness. So we should proclaim with David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”; we should long to dwell in the Temple He has built, “gaz[ing] on the loveliness of the Lord.” Here in His House we “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” Here in His Church we come to the paradise He has come to establish in this land of darkness.
The light dawns as Jesus calls His disciples to His side. Here are the beginnings of His Church, the coming of light to this earth. The Lord calls Peter and Andrew, and James and John, and they respond, and they follow the light. And the light goes forth as He goes “around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Do you see how the light grows? Do you know the light reflected in the disciples’ eyes, which shall take root and become known to all the world? Here indeed is the Church begun, the holy House of God – the New Jerusalem. And nothing shall disturb its growth; nothing shall dim or block the light that has come.
Yet what division is upon the Church Christ has founded here on the shores of Galilee. How has it come to be that we are so disobedient to Paul’s instruction “that there be no divisions among [us], but that [we] be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” How many more rivalries have we than the Corinthians. Not only do those separated from the Church declare their peculiar allegiance to various people or nations, saying, “I belong to Luther,” or “I belong to Calvin,” or “I belong to England” – and now there are some 360 different denominations, one for every day of the year, it seems – but within the Catholic Church deep divisions arise between “liberal” or “conservative” theologians, thus bringing darkness upon God’s people. The Church remains, and nothing shall overcome it, but what a poor sign it is to the world as the devil has his day in its division.
The Lord has come bringing “abundant joy and great rejoicing” for those who remain in His light. The unbroken flame rises up from these first apostles Jesus called on this one morning by the Sea of Galilee. The net extends from their hands and draws in all who truly seek to dwell in the presence of God.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Mirror of Knowledge" (2nd part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the Gospel be proclaimed
in strength this day
in your Son’s holy Name.
YHWH, your light has dawned upon this dark world; in Jesus your Son our salvation has come, and now we may dwell in your House with Him. Beginning on the shores of Galilee, your Word goes forth, calling all men to your kingdom. May we repent of our sin that we might enter there.
Today your Son calls the first apostles from their boats to dry land that they might be fishers of men. And so He works through His apostles even to this day. A great light shines upon those who walked in darkness – we who were sinners now come to your Temple, LORD, there, we pray, to remain all our days.
Let there be no division in your Church, dear God, but let us be united in the flesh of your Son and preach His Gospel with one voice (His own) to the ends of this dark earth. O let your holy light now shine through all He calls to be His disciples! The yoke of sin that has enslaved us be smashed, we pray, that we shall no longer be afraid, that we shall no longer walk in darkness.
Fri, 20 January 2017
(Heb.9:2-3,11-14; Ps.47:2-3,6-9; Mk.3:20-21)
“Behind the second veil was the tabernacle call the holy of holies.”
To this holy of holies in the temple of Jerusalem only the high priest could come, and only once a year. So holy was it deemed. This tabernacle contained the ark of the Lord with the two tablets upon which the commandments of God were written, and some manna from the Israelites’ travels through the desert. This was truly sacred ground for God’s chosen people, a place they held in awe.
In our gospel the people press upon Jesus; they gather in great numbers at the door of the house where He is staying, sensing that this place is a holy of holies, that there is something inside that makes it sacred. But from this holy tabernacle they are not excluded for its sanctity, but welcomed by Him who is inside, who makes it holy. So much does He welcome those who come to His door that He does not take time even to eat. Better He should feed those who come to Him with His sacred presence than that He should feed Himself, for He will not see any turned away.
My brothers and sisters, Jesus has “entered once for all into the sanctuary, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,” and He Himself has become the “holy of holies”: He Himself is the sacred sanctuary in which God reposes. And He is with us. To this day He is in our presence. Do you not know that He rests in every tabernacle of every one of our churches on this earth? Do you realize the holy of holies that is in our midst? And when He is exposed upon our altar for all to adore, do you realize that here “God sits upon His holy throne”? And do you come to Him? More than a mere image or reflection of the glory of heaven, truly that transcendent glory is present in this bread the angels consume, and which is offered us here.
And so, should we not “shout to God with cries of gladness” or prostrate ourselves in absolute reverence at this the presence of “the Lord, the Most High, the awesome… the great King over all the earth” here in our midst? Should we not receive Him worthily, realizing that here is the holiest of holies whom we cannot reverence too greatly, whom we cannot worship enough? “God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts,” and we should join in this celebration and “sing praise to our King” before the throne upon which He sits, before the Tabernacle in which He rests.
Come to Him in sacred wonder. In this Sacrament He waits. May “the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God!”
O LORD, your Son has ascended into your presence
carrying our sins and washing us clean in His own blood –
how incomprehensible is your great love for us!
YHWH, let us worship you, O living God, through Jesus your Son, who has entered into your sanctuary carrying all our sins that we might be cleansed of them and offer you holy praise. He is your Tabernacle in our midst. Let us come to Him and there find our healing, and there find our salvation.
O LORD, your Son cares only for our salvation, not for feeding Himself. His very body He would make our food and so He offers all His life, every hour of His day, for our salvation. Never would He turn away from us or keep us waiting for your grace. Let us not fail to come to Him to find the blessing He imparts.
The blood of the Christ cleanses our consciences and provides for our eternal redemption. It carries us to the Holy of Holies where you dwell, O Most High God. In awe let us sing your praise with Him who mounts His throne this day. Reign over us with your love; through the blood of your only Son may we stand unblemished in your presence.
Thu, 19 January 2017
(Heb.8:6-13; Ps.85:8,10-14; Mk.3:13-19)
“I will be their God
and they shall be my people.”
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land”; for absolute oneness do we find with our Lord and God through the ministry of His only Son. For the Lord has said of His new covenant, “All shall know me, from least to greatest,” promising: “I will place my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts.” There shall be no separation from His presence for those who believe; His “kindness and truth shall meet” in us as they have in Jesus. Alleluia!
But yet does the time move toward perfection. Though the new covenant be fulfilled in Jesus, it is still being fulfilled in the world and among those who dwell in the world. We know this because the Lord says of the covenant to come, through His prophet Jeremiah: “They shall not teach their fellow citizens or their brothers, saying, ‘Know the Lord’” – there being no need any longer to teach the perfected – and also, “Their sins I will remember no more,” meaning that sin will no longer exist. But Jesus upon commissioning the twelve apostles sends them out “to preach the good news” and “to have authority to expel demons,” and to this day there is need, and great need, for instruction in the Word of God and healing by the expulsion of sin in Holy Confession. This ministry still in place, we know we have yet to reach perfection; we know we have yet to find absolute oneness with Christ and His sacrifice… and so, perfect union with the Father yet awaits us.
“He appointed the twelve as follows: Simon to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee; and John, the brother of James (He gave these two the name Boanerges, or ‘sons of thunder’); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus; Thaddeus, Simon of the Zealot party, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.” Upon these the new covenant is founded. By their ministry it shall grow, taking root in the world and bearing much fruit. And though Matthias must take the place of the traitorous Judas, there is no breaking the line that comes from these foundation stones: all of the coming kingdom is traced to them and from them, for they are anointed by the Son and by them God will make all His children.
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase.” In His Church as in His arms make your home, for His blessings are upon us and shall be fulfilled.
O LORD, let us be companions of your Son
that we might be made one with you.
YHWH, as your Son is joined to you and the apostles to Him, so let us be joined to them that we might be joined to Jesus and you, and your promise might be fulfilled and your NAME be written on our hearts. O let it be so, that all shall know you, that we shall be your people.
O LORD, let truth spring out of the earth as your justice looks down from Heaven. Let the union of Heaven and earth accomplished in your Son be accomplished in us as we join ourselves to Him. O let us walk in the way of His steps that we might find salvation!
LORD, forgive us our sins, remember them no more – cast all evil from us. May the priests who stand in your Son’s place absolve us of all wrongdoing as we come on our knees before them. Your power be upon us for good; by your Word let us be taught, till we are entirely one with you, living in your New Covenant, living in the flesh of Christ, as His holy Body.
Wed, 18 January 2017
(Heb.7:25-8:6; Ps.40:7-10,17; Mk.3:7-12)
“Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through Him,
since He forever lives to make intercession for them.”
Oh how the people approach Him today, seeking healing, seeking grace: “a great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon” – from all around they came to press upon Him, to press upon Him… “All who had afflictions kept pushing toward Him to touch Him. Unclean spirits would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, “You are the Son of God!” So great were their numbers He needed to take refuge in a fishing boat. Oh “the press of the crowd against Him,” the press of the crowd. They could not resist drawing toward Him who stood at the center of the universe, Him who stood in the place of God, Him who was God. Greater than the pull of gravity was the pull of their hearts toward salvation.
And do you think He has left you, brother? Do you say, “Where is He now that I need healing, that I may press upon Him myself?” He has not left you alone; He has multiplied His presence and increased His grace through the ministry of His apostles. They now go out to those who would press upon Him, and through these priests they find the high priest, He who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.” Indeed, He is not on earth anymore and His ministry is not earthly – yet He is ever present to all who stretch forth their hands to Him. Do you not know the immense mercy available to you in the Sacrament of Confession? Do you not realize the heavenly food you eat in Holy Communion? Press upon Him this day; approach the priests who, despite their imperfections, hold the power He has left in our midst, and to your loving God you will come.
“Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry now,” and “He is mediator of a better covenant,” an eternal covenant. Brothers and sisters, “we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of Majesty in heaven, minister of the sanctuary and of that true tabernacle set up not by man but by the Lord.” What greater gift could we ask for? How much more exalted could we be called to be than to receive mercy from Him who dwells in the heart of the Father, than to take food from the hands of Him who holds the hand of God?
O Lord, “may all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, ‘The Lord be glorified.’”
O LORD, your Son has taken on our flesh
that He might draw us
into the sanctuary of your presence
O let us join ourselves to Him!
YHWH, your Son is able to save all those who approach Him, for He sits with you in the heavenly sanctuary having offered Himself for our sakes. And so the crowds press upon Him, and so the devils cannot but recognize His power over them… and so we are saved from our sin by our faith in Him and offering ourselves to you through His hands.
O LORD, may we be an acceptable sacrifice to you, joined well to the sacrifice of Jesus. May we say with Him, “I come to do your will,” and think of nothing but obedience to your call. Write your law within our hearts that we might transcend the darkness of this place as we align our lives with your Son’s and die to all that keeps us from you. He is made perfect forever in your presence and intercedes for us to be made perfect with Him. O let us press upon Him this day that we might ever glorify your NAME.
Tue, 17 January 2017
(Heb.7:1-3,15-17; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.3:1-6)
“Without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or end of life,
like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.”
We hear today more specifically about “Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God,” whose name means “king of justice” and also “king of peace,” who is therefore so like our King Jesus; it is in his line the Lord takes His place.
“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor,” King David declares of his Lord and our Lord. Indeed before the dawn of light upon earth, Jesus is King: He is the only-begotten Son of God whose rule is from everlasting to everlasting; and His priesthood, like that of Melchizedek, is “in virtue of the power of a life which cannot be destroyed” – not by physical descent but by spiritual ascension. From God Himself He receives His kingship and His priestly anointing.
In contrast to the eternal priesthood and princely headship of our Lord and Savior, we see in our gospel those whose power comes only by “virtue of a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent,” and which is, therefore, passing away. Indeed, before their eyes it passes this day as Jesus stands before the Pharisees at the front of the synagogue and calls them to acceptance of the greater glory now in their midst. But they “closed their minds against Him” as they refused to realize the limitations of their own calling as leaders of the people, choosing to cling to a dying law and a power which is being taken from them even as a greater is offered, rather than stretching forth their hands to the Lord, in whom the law takes life and finds fulfillment, through whom all power comes…
Yes, the Lord “stretch[es] forth” “the scepter of [His] power” even as the man stretches forth his “shriveled hand” here at the front of the synagogue, before all the people and their teachers on a sabbath day, and finds it “perfectly restored.” The same He would do for each of them and for all of us, if we but recognized His transcendent power and glory, if we but realized He is the Son of God.
O LORD, your Son is of the Spirit
but we are of the flesh;
help us to offer this poor flesh
through His eternal priesthood.
YHWH, in the line of Melchizadek your Son comes to us, without beginning of days or end of life, for by you He is begotten before the world was brought forth. And so His power is like your own, and so in Him we shall not die but be healed of all evil upon us.
We praise you, LORD, for your justice toward us, for the presence of your Son. For in Him we take our refuge; in Him we find our salvation. O let us freely reach out our hands to the grace He offers that He might stretch forth His scepter toward us and we be made whole in your sight!
The Day you make is one of peace, O LORD, and so the Son you send brings to us that peace. Let us give to Him our possessions, even our very body and soul; for all He touches He sanctifies, and so we will thus be blessed by Him.
No hardened heart could ever destroy Him or His love. Let us sacrifice ourselves with Him, LORD, that we might join Him at your right hand.
Mon, 16 January 2017
(Heb.6:10-20; Ps.111:1-2,4-5,9-10; Mk.2:23-28)
“I will indeed bless you, and multiply you.”
God promised to bless Abraham, to make his descendants numerous as the stars; and “He swore by Himself,” “by oath,” to carry out His promise, thus giving an unshakable, “unchangeable” “firmness to [the] promise.” God does not go back on His word. And so, “after patient waiting, Abraham obtained what God had promised”; He became the father of many nations, of all those of faith.
Now if God is so faithful, should we who are “heirs of His promise,” who are children of Abraham in the faith and so the sharers of the same blessings promised to him, should not “we who have taken refuge in [God]… be strongly encouraged to seize the hope which is placed before us”? For we, “through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises”; and greater promises than Abraham do we receive at the hand of our Lord now, for our “hope extends beyond the veil through which Jesus, our forerunner, has entered on our behalf.” As David “entered God’s house… and ate the holy bread which only the priests were permitted to eat,” and “even gave it to his men,” so Jesus enters His Father’s house, passing through the gates of heaven into the sanctuary, into the holy of holies, and there partakes of bread at His Father’s hand… and indeed shares it with us, His brothers.
Oh brothers and sisters, each day we partake of the bread of the angels from the hand of the Lord; it surrounds us like the “standing grain” around the disciples. And does it not prove to us that “great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights”? Doesn’t it reveal to our souls that our hope in Him is “a sure and firm anchor,” that His love for us is strong and all His promises are fulfilled in our midst, before our eyes? “God is not unjust.” No, “gracious and merciful is the Lord.” “Holy and awesome is His name,” and He shares the glory of His presence with all His children: “He has given food to those who fear Him.” So, let us “not grow lazy” in faith but take strength in this food He supplies. “He will not forget [our] work and the love [we] have shown Him by [our] service.” But let us continue to serve Him in our brothers; let us “show the same zeal till the end,” that all His promises we may taste. Indeed, the more we eat His bread, the more we accomplish His work, the more His blessings are multiplied, in us and in the world!
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” The gift of God’s rest is ours, releasing us from slavery. Freedom we find in His name, blessing we find in His promise – His rest is upon us as we remain in Him. And “He will forever be mindful of His covenant”: His blessings shall ever increase in our souls.
O LORD, your Son has entered into your presence
that we might be fed with the Bread of Life –
let us hope always in Him.
YHWH, if Abraham’s cause for hope was great, how much greater is our own, we for whom Jesus has passed through the veil of death that we might enter your presence? Now that your Word has been made flesh and been given to us as food for our journey, how much stronger should our faith be, and so, how much surer our work? We should not bend in the wind like standing heads of grain but know the glory to which we are called as we reach up to you through the grace that is with us by the sacrifice of your Son.
O LORD, you are indeed gracious and merciful; you look upon our needs and answer them. You promise to be with us always and increase and multiply our works, so long as we remain faithful to you. Let us trust in your Word to us and find hope always that you are near. In Jesus your Son, you have walked among us – your great love for man let us never forget.
Give us the food we need even this day, O LORD, the Bread that is our very life.
Sun, 15 January 2017
(Heb.5:1-10; Ps.110:1-4; Mk.2:18-22)
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Without beginning or end is the holy priesthood of our Lord; high above all sacrifices reigns His own.
“Taken from among men” is Jesus our high priest “and made [our] representative before God.” Like others He is in this respect; yet the “gifts and sacrifices” He offers are infinitely greater than any that have ever been, for it is Himself He lifts up for our sins. “He is Himself beset by weakness,” though not His own; He is Himself pierced for transgression, though not of His making – and in the cross of our condition He bears “in the flesh,” in the crucifixion He suffers at our hands, does the high priest become the victim whose blood covers the earth with redemption. Yes, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered; and when perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” What other high priest can boast as much?
And yet the people would limit the grace that pours forth in the blood of His sacrifice, in the sweet-smelling flesh He offers, to a dying law which has been corrupted by the hands of man. They fail to see that the old is subsumed by the new… and so the Lord seeks to teach them to receive the “new wine” He would pour into their hearts with minds open to the light of God. They do not yet know the joy His disciples experience just being in the presence of the Messiah, the bridegroom of all faithful souls; as yet their hearts have not been circumcised by the nails of the sacrifice He makes in their name. But soon their time will come, we pray. When He is lifted up, perhaps they shall see.
And in our psalm we have David’s verse of Jesus: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool.’” Jesus is David’s Lord even then, for Jesus our Savior has always been. Beautifully does David speak of this as well, in the voice of God: “Before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.” As the dew covers the earth unseen before the sun rises, so before the Father pronounced the words “Let there be light” – first bringing the universe into being by the power of His Word – Jesus was eternally present, even as the water the Spirit moved upon.
And so He has “princely power,” seated at the right hand of God. And so He “rule[s] in the midst of His enemies,” His sacrifice destroying the death which seemed to take hold of Him. And so, like the order of Melchizedek, which came well before the institution of the Israelite’s priestly line, from all eternity His salvific priesthood is – and shall last until the end of time.
O LORD, you sent your Son to offer Himself
in our stead;
may we be clothed anew in His grace.
YHWH, the priesthood of your Son is from all eternity and will last until the end of time for the expiation of our sins. And the sacrifice He offers is Himself in the suffering and death He endures in our midst. Though He rules forever at your right hand, He humbles Himself to suffer at our hands that the evil in our hearts might be washed clean by the blood He freely sheds. O let us be made as new wineskins able to receive the grace He pours forth.
Jesus is our Prince who fights our battles and puts all our enemies under His feet. He crushes the head of the devil and destroys all the weakness by which we are beset, and He does this by the weakness He endures and the death He suffers for our sakes. O LORD, let us know the glory He would bring to our poor souls, the salvation wrought by His holy sacrifice, and let us join ourselves to that sacrifice by fasting and doing penance in His stead as long as He is apart from us, until the Day He returns.
Sat, 14 January 2017
(Is.49:3,5-6; Ps.40:2,4,7-10; 1Cor.1:1-3; Jn.1:29-34)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is “the Son of God,” the One upon whom he has seen “the Spirit come down and remain.” And we are all His servants, made holy only in Him. John declares his own servitude, speaking of “the one who sent [him] to baptize with water,” and stating, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because He existed before me.” His witness to Jesus and the strength he takes from Him is clear, as is the case with St. Paul, who declares himself “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and goes on to say that, indeed, all the Church is “called to be holy” in Jesus Christ. This call from the Lord to be His servant, and that it is through His servants the Lord shows His glory, is prophesied in strength by Isaiah in our first reading, showing that even before Christ came to be born among us He indeed existed and through Him the Father called His servants, His children, to Himself. For Isaiah speaks for God, saying, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Here he speaks of Jesus; here he knows even in his time of the salvation the Lord brings.
And David in our psalm echoes the same theme of the servitude of Christ and the servitude in Christ to which all are called, and which acts as a light to this world. “Ears open to obedience you gave me,” proclaims the great and humble king, and sings as if in the voice of Christ: “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” What great blessing it indeed is to share in the servitude of Jesus, to have His song placed in our mouths, to make our lives “a hymn to our God.” He makes us His own and we share in the blood that flows through His veins when we place ourselves in the service of the Lord.
The Lord calls. He is among us now and has made His salvation known. Through the prophets, through the Baptist, through His apostles and martyrs and saints – through “all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” He reveals His glory day to day. It is His desire that we be strong in Him as we join to Him and are baptized by Him with the Holy Spirit. His grace and peace He would leave with us, His glory He would reveal through us, if His servants we would make ourselves this day. Find your strength in Him, brothers and sisters. He stoops toward you and hears your cry, and will instill His song of praise in your hearts, to be declared to all the world.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Miracle" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we all testify
that Jesus is the Son of God;
by Him may all souls be saved.
YHWH, ears open to obedience give us that we might be your servants, that we might be as the Body of your only Son, doing your will in all things, ever making Him known. Let all we do testify to His presence in our midst that salvation may come to all men, even to the ends of the earth. Your apostles, your prophets, please make us, crying out your way, calling all to holiness in the Lamb of God.
Jesus is the One who is greater than us, greater than any man who has walked this earth, for only He is your Son, dear God; only He sanctifies the human race by His blessed sacrifice. Let our lips not be restrained, but let us declare His glory to all souls.
You have stooped toward us, O LORD; through Jesus you have shown us your glory. Your Servant you have called and sent among us that we all might become your servants in Him. O let your law be so in our hearts and the doing of your will our delight! Alleluia!
Fri, 13 January 2017
(Heb.4:12-16; Ps.19:8-10,15,Jn.6:63; Mk.2:13-17)
“Nothing is concealed from Him.”
In God’s eyes all men are sinners; this is what His penetrating vision cannot help but see. Yet it is just such sinners as we He has come to call, to call away from our sin. The Pharisees cannot bear this sword of truth to pierce their soul, and so they take up the sword of anger against those who are being redeemed, and He who is redeeming them. Let us not be as these hardened hearts, brothers and sisters, but expose our sin to the Lord’s sharp gaze, that He might heal us by His grace.
That Jesus Himself sees all that is in a man is indicated by His “overhearing the remark” of the complaining Pharisees today, and more clearly elsewhere in His reading their and His disciples’ thoughts without a word being spoken (e.g. Mt.17:25). As nothing is concealed from the Father, so nothing is concealed from the Son: “The reflections and thoughts of the heart” are open to Him. And He knows the troubles that affect each of us. And these, even of the Pharisees, He would heal, even as a wise physician – but we indeed must come with our souls exposed and prepared for surgery.
And though this process can be painful, and though we might say to ourselves, “We are not deserving” – though the questions of the Pharisees might be our own – yet we must witness Jesus’ attitude toward Levi and his fellow tax collectors/sinners. Yet we must see how He defends these from attack, not bringing their shame before them as the Pharisees would, but with a heart set only on forgiveness. For indeed “we have a great high priest,” one who takes our sins upon Himself, one who suffers with us our weakness in order to save us from its consequences. And so with Levi and his friends we should “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor,” both in the confessional and at the Eucharistic table, for our need He has come to fill with His love.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul”; Jesus is this law made flesh. “The command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye”; to remove the darkness of our vision, the all-seeing God has come. “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever,” and as long as we come before Him, trembling for our sin, we shall live on in His love.
Shine your light upon our souls, O Lord,
and remove all darkness from them.
In your grace you make us whole;
with you let us be holy.
O LORD, your Son has come to save us from our sins;
may the light of His Word dispel all darkness
from our souls.
YHWH, let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor in your sight, my Rock and my Redeemer. For you see into the depths of our hearts; you know well the sin that is within us – yet you are merciful in judging us, desiring only to heal us of our sickness. O let us always come humbly before you to find your blessing upon our souls, that we might ever serve you well with our poor lives!
O mighty God, O all-seeing and all-knowing LORD, let us treasure your Word, your Law, which is as balm for our troubled spirits. Let us welcome your Son to our table that He might feed us with your truth, that we might find wisdom and learn by your grace to live forever in joy in your presence.
How we need your Son, our high priest, as our physician, He who gives Himself to take away our sin. O LORD, may we indeed find your favor through Him, obediently answering His call to salvation.
Thu, 12 January 2017
(Heb.4:1-5,11; Ps.78:3-4,6-8; Mk.2:1-12)
“The promise of entrance into His rest still holds.”
But only those with faith in Him shall be made whole.
Paul says of the Israelites in the desert, “The word which they heard did not profit them, for they did not receive it in faith.” Though they had seen “the glorious deeds of the Lord and His strength and the wonders that He wrought,” they yet became “wayward and rebellious, a generation that kept not its heart steadfast nor its spirit faithful to God.” Yet they disobeyed and disbelieved. And so they entered not into His rest; they received not the grace of union with the Lord in His peaceful kingdom, but rather died in the desert in their sin. Thus does Paul warn us not to “fall in imitation of Israel’s unbelief,” but ever to “strive to enter into that rest” God holds for all His faithful.
And the faith necessary to enter God’s rest is illustrated clearly in our gospel today, as is the woe of unbelief. It is “when Jesus saw [the] faith” of those who lowered the paralytic through the ceiling to Him that He said to this poor soul, “My son, your sins are forgiven”; and it is upon hearing these grace-filled words from the Savior’s mouth that some of the scribes, those faithless souls so much the descendants of their faithless fathers, grumbled against Him and accused Him of “blasphemy.” And as the Lord here makes clear the equation of forgiveness and healing (“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk again’?”), commanding indeed the paralyzed man: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home,” so does this healed soul, washed clean of all his sin, with his companions and all those of faith who stand “awestruck” as they look on… so do these enter God’s rest – even as the scribes gnash their teeth.
Brothers and sisters, “God rested from all His work on the seventh day,” and that rest awaits all at their completion of the Lord’s work in this world. This truth Jesus reveals in our midst even this day. And so we “should put [our] hope in God, and not forget the deeds of God but keep His commands”; for “it is we, who have believed, who enter into that rest,” so long as we keep faith in Him.
O LORD, let us enter into your rest,
that we might rise and carry souls to you.
YHWH, how shall we have our sins forgiven if we have not faith in you and in your Son; how shall we enter into your rest if we turn away from you? We must come to you and to your Son, believing in the salvation wrought by you and letting nothing stand in our way… and you will bless us and gather us into your arms.
O Lord Jesus, forgive us all our sin this day. Cast far from us all that keeps us paralyzed, all that prevents us from rising and following you. Take away our rebellious souls, our unfaithfulness before you – O may we hear your gracious words calling us to stand and walk with you! O may we know the peace of your forgiveness!
O LORD, you are our God, and in you alone we find our rest, we find healing from all our sickness and sin. Help us to be strong in faith ourselves and serve to bring others to you as well. You await our coming to you; let nothing else matter to us at all.
Wed, 11 January 2017
(Heb.3:7-14; Ps.95:6-11; Mk.1:40-45)
“Today, if you should hear His voice,
harden not your hearts.”
Today we see Jesus continuing His healing ministry, and we see how it becomes “no longer possible for [Him] to enter a town openly” because of the public proclamation of His wondrous and powerful works. We see also how, though “He stayed in desert places… people kept coming to Him from all sides,” for His work must be accomplished. But we see most particularly the way we must come to Him to find our own healing.
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us,” David sings, calling all to their proper place before God. And this the leper in our gospel does today, indicating indeed to all the attitude we must have toward Jesus, the place we must find at His feet. With soft hearts we must come before our Lord in tears for the sin upon our souls. Not like those in the Egyptian desert can we be, those who “saw [His] works for forty years” yet “tested and tried” Him constantly. This generation indeed He “loathed” in His anger, calling them “a people of erring heart” who “know not [His] ways.” On the contrary, our hearts must burn with a tender love of God and one another as we approach the Lord in the desert where He waits to save us from our sin. He will match any tenderness of our own. “Moved with pity” we shall find Him, ready to gather our broken spirits into His arms.
“Take care, my brothers, lest any of you have an evil and unfaithful spirit and fall away from the living God.” See that your hearts are never “hardened by the deceit of sin.” It is always “today” and the Lord is always calling to your soul, always requiring your life from you – always offering His love to you. Offer your own in return, that you shall not be cast from His presence, that you shall not be ostracized like this leper from the community, but remain ever in His holy fold as “the flock He guides” with His gentle hand… and finally that you might “enter into His rest.” He calls you to healing at His hand; hear and answer on your knees.
O LORD, make our hearts soft and our spirits loving,
as your Son;
let us bow down to Him.
YHWH, let us not be of erring and unfaithful heart but let our love match your own and that of your Son, for He looks on our poor condition with pity and reaches out His hand to heal us of our sin, of our weakness before you. Why should we harden our hearts against Him when all He wishes is to save us? Let us accept and treasure such blessing which comes only from you.
So blind we can easily become, O LORD, so blind to your presence among us and your works done for us. So easily we are led astray; so easily we become deaf to your Word speaking to our hearts. O let our hearts not be hardened! but let us come humbly before you to worship you and call on your holy NAME. This is what brings life to our souls. In this worship alone do we find our rest.
O LORD, set us free from all pride, from all failure to remember your presence before us…. Be not angry with your wayward children but gather us into your loving arms.
Tue, 10 January 2017
(Heb.2:14-18; Ps.105:1-4,6-9; Mk.1:29-39)
“Since He Himself was tested through what He suffered,
He is able to help those who are tempted.”
And help them He does. Die for us He must. Each healing is a move of love which takes His life as sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus died on the cross for us, yes. He opened His arms and let His healing blood pour forth for all “the children of Abraham,” all those of faith. But His whole life, and especially His ministry of preaching and healing, is a dying, is a robbing of “the devil, the prince of death, of his power.” We see clearly in our gospel today how Jesus “free[s] those who through fear of death had been slaves their whole life long,” how He lays down His life for “the whole town [which] was gathered outside the door” of “the house of Simon and Andrew.” After healing Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of a debilitating fever, He cures all who press upon Him, all “who were variously afflicted”; from them “the demons He expelled.”
And in these cures, in these expulsions of demons, do we not see our “merciful and faithful high priest” who has come “to expiate the sins of the people” at work in “blood and flesh,” dying for the nation’s salvation? Has the Lord not equated such healing with salvation, declaring there is no difference between forgiving sins and saying “be well” to the troubled soul (Mk.2:9)? And do not these demons desire to cry out that He is the Christ even as He gouges the life from them as He Himself dies? Does their rule not escape them now with every word of the Spirit He speaks? But He does “not permit the demons to speak,” for they would reveal who He is only that He might be tempted to become ruler on earth of these people who would certainly seek to crown Him king. But the salvation He brings rises beyond this dying life, and the Son of God has no relations with the prince of darkness and his lying rule.
And so our Lord “went into [the] synagogues preaching the good news and expelling demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” So He went forth robbing the devil of His reign, suffering and dying all the while, all the way to the cross, where His ministry is accomplished. And we, brothers and sisters, do we not continue His ministry to this day? Has the Lord not left the dying to us now – a cross upon each of His disciples’ backs to fill up what is yet lacking in His sacrifice? Is this not the great gift He gives us? And in His steps, by the apostles’ instruction, in union with His Church, do you walk through the suffering and darkness of this world to the Lord’s eternal light? For your sake has He died. So “seek to serve Him constantly” as He does you.
O LORD, in flesh and blood your Son has come
to drive all demons away from us
and save us from the power of death.
YHWH, your Son has come to heal us, to cast all our sin far from us, releasing us from all power of the devil. Death itself He conquers for our sakes, suffering all the weakness of our human condition that He might free us from its bonds. He has made Himself captive to flesh and blood that we might fly unto the kingdom with Him. And so, let us glorify His Name!
O LORD, how your Son lays down His life as He walks among us, taking our sickness upon Himself. How much He suffers as we come to Him to find our healing – how brokenhearted He is to witness our travail. But He does not turn from His mission or rest in His accomplishments; on He goes from place to place, redeeming all who come to Him. And this path leads inevitably to the Cross, to His death and our freedom from all sin. Let us praise Him for the sacrifice He makes, for His offering His life for our sakes.
Mon, 9 January 2017
(Heb.2:5-12; Ps.8:2,5-9; Mk.1:21-28)
“A completely new teaching in a spirit of authority!”
Thus do the people exclaim at the power of the word which issues forth from the mouth of Christ, into whose hands “all things” have been subjected. The devils see Him and shriek: “I know who you are – the holy one of God!” They know Him and they fear Him, for He has indeed “come to destroy” them and whatever authority they seemed to have. He it is who has come to return man to his rightful “rule over the works of [God’s] hands.” God has “crowned [man] with glory and honor, and put all things under his feet”; and though “at present we do not see all things thus subjected” because of man’s sin, because he has subjected himself to the works of the devil, yet Jesus has come to bring “many sons the glory,” to reveal in His own person the power of God present in all mankind.
And how does the Lord Jesus Christ destroy the devils? How does He redeem man from their clutches, from their possession? By suffering. By dying. Yes, even now we “see Jesus crowned with glory and honor” – the glory and honor to which we are all called – “because He suffered death.” By suffering death He conquered death, and thus any power the devil wielded by its weight upon our souls. And we are free! The devils are cast from us because He has walked among us; He has come into the synagogue and “taught with authority.” And so the pride of the devil is broken, and we see the angels’ place as servants to man as we see the dignity to which men are called in this Son of Man.
And the Lord “is not ashamed to call [us] brothers.” Though by our weakness, by our sinfulness, our disobedience, certainly we merit shame – and so, rightly does David cry to God, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” – yet He does care for us, He is mindful of us… He suffers and dies for us, taking our shame upon Himself in His only Son. And what the Lord has earned we should not spurn, but treasure the grace that is ours through our Brother’s sacrifice. Let us put ourselves under His authority that His authority might be our own, and the devil shall be gone.
O LORD, all things are under the authority of your Son,
who came to save us from all evil.
YHWH, what authority is upon your Son! Your own authority, your own glory. He has power over all the earth, and the unclean spirits are subject to His command. There is nothing outside his rule, for His rule is your own.
And through your Son, and through His suffering, this rule, this glory, becomes our own. Since He has come as our Brother, we become your sons with Him. And so, great authority you place upon your children, LORD, upon the men you call forth; for you call us to share in the work of your Son and in His consecration.
Greater than the angels is Jesus, our Savior. O LORD, only He leads us to your glory this day. May we know the blessing that is ours through the Holy One of God and listen to His teaching. Let all men to the ends of the earth hear of His fame and believe in Him, that all might praise Him in the great assembly.
Sun, 8 January 2017
(Is.42:1-4,6-7; Ps.29:1-4,9-11; Acts 10:34-38; Mt.3:13-17)
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.”
And so He anoints us all in the baptism our Savior has wrought. As Jesus humbled Himself to be baptized by John, so must we bow our heads before Him and receive holy baptism at His hands. As He has laid down His life for us, so must we lay down our lives for one another. As “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil,” so God is with us to do the same.
“The Spirit of God descend[ed] like a dove and [came] upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” So Matthew recounts the Baptism of our Lord. And how similar is the beginning of our reading from Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.” The chosen one of the ages now walks amongst us, the Spirit of God upon Him. His justice now extends to the ends of the earth, calling all into His blessed confines. None who come to Him does He reject. The “eyes of the blind” He opens, the prisoners He brings “from confinement” in the sin and darkness of the dungeon that is this world to the heavenly light of His presence walking among us in sacred flesh. “In every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him,” for He loves all.
And so should we not sing out in praise of the glory of the Lord to which we are all called as did David at the completion of the tabernacle of God? For here stands the true Tabernacle, here stands its fulfillment… before us is God who calls us not only to look upon but to enter into His doors and dwell within Him in His heart, in His bosom – one with His sacred flesh and blood. The law is now written on our hearts, not only pages of a book; now the Spirit speaks to those who remain close to Him. Now we hear the “mighty” and “majestic” “voice of the Lord… over the waters”: “the God of glory thunders.” “In His temple all say, ‘Glory!’” And should we not “give to the Lord the glory due His Name”? Does not our cup overflow as Peter’s to declare the salvation that comes at the hand of our God?
Jesus has come. The Spirit is with us. Go now in the Spirit and power of God.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, may your Son, our King,
bring your merciful justice to all who dwell in darkness.
YHWH, your mighty voice is over the waters, declaring the glory of your Son to a people in darkness. Your Spirit is upon Jesus to open our eyes to your glory here now in our midst – and what should we do but praise you?
He comes humbly to us, bearing our sins and bringing peace to our troubled souls. And so, now the flood cannot overwhelm us; now we are released from the prison in which we had been trapped for so long. Now, O LORD, your will is accomplished and all are called into your holy light.
O let us be baptized with Him and so become as your beloved sons! Let us, too, hear your voice speaking your blessing over us. Fulfill all righteousness among us this day, let your work be accomplished among men – let us be known as your children. O LORD, let us be acceptable to you!
Glory to you, O God of all glory! May we be pleasing to you as is your Son. Let your surpassing justice be done.
Fri, 6 January 2017
(1Jn.5:14-21; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.2:1-12)
“He hears us whenever we ask for anything according to His will.”
In our gospel, the waiters come to Mary; their misfortune is witnessed by her compassionate heart: “They have no more wine,” she tells her Son. She knows what she is saying, she knows what she is asking… and Jesus knows, too. And though He seems not prepared to answer her concern (you see, our concern is her concern, and she makes it His), yet she says to the servants standing by the words which perhaps best exemplify the Mother’s relationship to the Son – “Do whatever He tells you.”
Has Jesus a choice now? Can He rebuff her request to “reveal His glory”? It is a miracle she asks for the benefit of those in need, and the Lord cannot turn her down. Do you see this? Do you understand the significance of this scene, here at the very inception of Jesus’ ministry, especially those who doubt our Blessed Mother’s intercessory power with her Lord, her Son? And do you think the power for finding answer to prayer with her beloved Jesus, the Son of God, is somehow shortened in ensuing days? Does death conquer it? Is she no longer the blessed of all generations? Has this blessed generation come to an end?
“We know that He hears us whenever we ask” and that “what we have asked Him for is ours.” This is our confidence in God’s compassion and love. And we know too that the Blessed Mother stands beside our Lord and prepares the prayers we would offer Him, putting them into the words, the Spirit, we cannot express. If we give them all to her, they will all be made effective, and we will taste of “the choice wine” which has been kept in store for us until these latter days.
Through this miracle at Cana “His disciples believed in Him.” Here He offers them a sign of His divinity – here they find “discernment to recognize the One who is true... the true God and eternal life.” And so the wedding feast truly begins. And so we “praise His name in the festive dance” and “sing praise to Him with timbrel and harp.” “The children of Zion rejoice in their king,” for He has answered their deepest prayer: here in our midst is the Son of God.
O LORD, reveal yourself to us in your Son;
hear our petition.
YHWH, your Son has come and given us the grace to recognize Him. And so we have confidence to approach Him with our petitions, especially through His Blessed Mother. And we know that our petitions shall thus be granted and we shall sing praise to you in the assembly of all the faithful in your holy kingdom.
From sin take us all, dear LORD, from that which holds us to this world. Your glory alone may we seek, the eternal life we find in your only Son. He is true, He is God, and if we are in Him we may rejoice in you. Increase our faith in Him this day; let our eyes not be blinded to His miraculous presence.
O let us taste the water become wine! and the wine become the blood of your Son. Let us be inebriated with this fruit of the choicest Vine whose time has come and celebrate your glory in our midst. For by His flesh and by His blood we are wed to you, O God, and for what greater cause could we dance and sing? All sin He takes from us that life in you we may know.