Sat, 29 April 2017
(Acts 2:14,22-33; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; 1Pt.1:17-21; Lk.24:13-35)
“God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.”
Peter stands up “with the Eleven” and proclaims to all the Resurrection of the Christ, that He who was crucified has been released “from the throes of death.” David “foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was He abandoned to the netherworld nor did His flesh see corruption.” The women who went to His empty tomb early Easter morning saw “a vision of angels who announced that He was alive”; this they declared to His apostles. And as for the two sojourning to Emmaus, “He was made known to them in the breaking of bread,” whereupon they “returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the Eleven and those with them who were saying, ‘The Lord has been raised and has appeared to Simon!’” All reports converge. The earth cries out of the presence of the living God. He is risen!
“As you see and hear,” you who “invoke as Father Him who judges impartially,” “exalted at the right hand of God, [Jesus] received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured Him forth.” This truth is evident in all the words of Scripture, in all His holy witnesses, and in this bread and wine made the Body and Blood of our Lord. Do you not see? Do you not hear? Do you not know that “you were ransomed from your futile conduct… with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb”? Is it not you “who through Him believe in God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory”? Is it not so that “your faith and hope are in God”? Do you not see? Do you not hear? Do you not know Him even as these witnesses? And do you witness with them?
Let us cry out with the words of our psalm, “O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot,” even as we approach His altar today. As we receive Him, let our eyes be opened to recognize His presence. Our hearts should burn as He speaks to us and with His witnesses “open[s] the Scriptures to us,” and in His breaking of the bread we should see Him. And then we should go forth, inspired as Peter, inspired as the women, inspired as the two disciples and all those gathered in His name, to proclaim that He is risen, that He is with us – that we see Him and know Him. Let all hear and understand that “He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time” for the sake of all. Yes, “the Lord has truly been raised.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "What Do You Think?/Open, No Horizon" (second part) from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, truly has your Son been raised from the dead,
and we with Him.
YHWH, open our eyes and ears to see and hear of your glory, of the resurrection of your divine Son. In the Scriptures and in the breaking of the Bread, in the preaching of your apostles let us come to believe in you and in your presence here among us even this day. How slow of heart we are to believe! Open our hearts and minds to your Word.
The Christ shall not know death and its corruption; He shall rise from the grave. This is declared to us by your prophets and kings, and is realized by all of faith. And our souls, too, shall not be abandoned to the nether world, if we but believe in Him whom you have sent, if we but live in the Spirit He pours upon us. O LORD, let us abound in joy forever in your presence.
Walk with us, O God, and speak to us along the way. Reveal your presence in the Sacrament of the altar. You are our portion and cup. In hope of your glory we dwell this day.
Thu, 27 April 2017
O blessed wife and mother,
extraordinary in ordinary devotion
to your family and God,
you who freely gave your life
that your child might live,
who put the fruit of your womb
before your personal concern –
in this age when so many mothers
and seemingly without care
are more inclined to destroy
the life in their wombs
than nourish it
or sacrifice themselves
for their children’s sakes,
pray that these same may turn
to the love you have shown
and find the call of the Lord
upon their souls
in the heart beating
innocently and plaintively
Pray this holocaust shall be ended.
Sun, 23 April 2017
(Acts 4:23-31; Ps.2:1-9; Jn.3:1-8)
“No one can see the rule of God
unless he is begotten from above.”
“Princes conspire together against the Lord and against His anointed,” we are told in our psalm as well as our first reading. But their rule shall be shattered “like an earthen dish” by the power of the Spirit and God’s anointed One, to whom He gives “the nations as an inheritance.” And in the Book of Acts we see the apostles begin to collect such inheritance “in the name of Jesus,” the “holy Servant” of the Sovereign Lord, the King He has set up “on Zion, [His] holy mountain.” All stream to Him upon seeing the “cures and signs and wonders” worked through them by the Holy Spirit.
In our gospel, it is these undeniable signs of God’s presence which lead a member of the princes who will crucify the Christ to seek understanding from Jesus. And how sad is the question Nicodemus whispers in the night to our Lord: “How can a man be born again once he is old?” It is sad not only because of the futility of his interpretation to “return to his mother’s womb,” but mainly because this is all he can see. He is so of the flesh he cannot understand anything but the flesh; and this sense extends even to the Pharisees’ grasp of the law, which has become as an empty shell void of meaning – bereft of the Spirit as they are. There is hope Nicodemus will hear the words of Jesus; there is possibility other leaders of the people will come to life. But first they will have to leave their vain pursuits behind.
“The wind blows where it will… but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.” So it is with the disciples as by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit “the place where they were gathered shook as they prayed”; and so, filled within with the Holy Spirit they “continued to speak God’s word with confidence.” They are born from above. They have new life in the name of Jesus. All their lives are sacrificed with Him to the will of God. And so the princes have no power over them, but to make them rejoice at the persecution they find at their empty hands.
“You must all be begotten from above,” brothers and sisters. None is to be left behind with the carcasses that gather beneath the eagles’ circling flight. Take refuge in the Lord of Life; be born now in His Spirit.
O LORD, may the house we are in
be shaken by the Holy Spirit, that in Jesus’ Name
we might proclaim the truth before kings.
YHWH, let us be born of the Spirit, let us take life in the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit come through your only Son. In His hands is the inheritance of the nations; in Him all take refuge. Through Him and through His blood we find the strength to proclaim your praise in the face of persecution. Be with us in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Though the Gentiles rage and the kings of this earth conspire against your anointed One and all His children, their violence is in vain because you, O LORD, protect your chosen and give them power over every evil. By a word they are saved; by speaking your Name and declaring your glory, great signs and wonders are worked at their hands, for they are new creatures who take life in you.
O let us be born from above, begotten by your Spirit, O God!
Sat, 22 April 2017
(Acts 2:42-47; Ps.118:1-4,13-15,22-24; 1Pt.1:3-9; Jn.20:19-31)
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Jesus comes to the disciples, repeatedly appearing to them after His Resurrection, to make certain there is absolutely no doubt in them: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” He invites them even to put their fingers in His hands and their hands into His side. To Thomas He speaks, yes, but them all He teaches. For He is commissioning them to go forth in His name in word and sacrament to bring forth life to souls who are dying, to preach the salvation from sin by His resurrection from the dead. “Peace be with you,” He says to His Twelve. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And so He breathes on them the Holy Spirit, giving them power even to forgive men’s sins. Now, those to whom they shall proclaim that God “in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” will not have had the benefit of seeing the Lord. And so, how can one expect them to believe just by the word of another if the speaker of that word is not completely convinced of its truth? Their witness, their commitment, must extend even to the grave – as it shall – if it is to go beyond the grave.
And the strength of the apostles’ witness and the fruit it has borne – which, in turn, becomes a faithful witness unto others – is greatly evident in our reading from Acts. Here we are told the first disciples “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.” Sharing all in common, their lives were centered on daily prayer and the Eucharistic meal, the feast of thanksgiving. And “with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people,” they lived their lives in truth, they lived their lives in faith. What Peter ascribes to the disciples of Christ we find in these: “Although you have not seen Him you love Him; even though you do not see Him now… you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” How effective his and the other apostles’ witness has been.
Brothers and sisters, “His mercy endures forever.” The apostles’ words reach down to us this day and the sacraments of their hands are still in our midst. And so “the joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just” we too should know. We too should sing, “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior.” Though the Church has been made to suffer persecution and been dispersed to the ends of the earth, this is but to bring the Word forth, and through all suffering to make it perfect within us. For ultimately the kingdom is not in this place; heaven we cannot completely see. Only faith will lead us to the Lord’s risen presence.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "What Do You Think?/Open, No Horizon" (first part) from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us make our home in
the nail marks of your hands and the wound in your side
that we might rise to new life.
YHWH, how great is your mercy toward us! How great the wonders that come upon us through your Son, our Lord. For He reveals your ineffable presence to us, taking from us all hardness of heart come from doubt and sin that our eyes might be opened to your glory, that we might enter into your joy.
He has been rejected that we might be accepted. His hands and feet and side have been pierced and He has died that we might rise with Him from the grave. All our sin He would take from us, and so He leaves this power with His apostles and with the descendents of His apostles, who, though they have not seen Him yet have His Spirit breathing upon them to accomplish His merciful will in our midst, to reveal your merciful love to us, O LORD and God.
O let us fall at His feet! Let us proclaim His divinity. Let us join as one in prayer and in the breaking of the Bread in His Name. O LORD, let us be your blessed disciples and so know your salvation of our souls. Alleluia!
Sun, 2 April 2017
(Dn.13:1-9,15-17,19-30,33-62; Ps.23:1-6; Jn.8:1-11)
“Let the man among you who has no sin
be the first to cast a stone at her.”
“Then the audience drifted away one by one, beginning with the elders.” And no one was left to accuse her.
In both our gospel and our first reading a woman is accused of adultery, one justly, the other unjustly. Yet both are freed. For under the old law the innocent were to be set free, but under the new, even the guilty. In the blood of Christ sinners are saved from the fate they deserve; the Lord does not condemn us, and only He has power to do so – for it is always against Him that we sin.
It is curious to note that in both reading and gospel the accused woman is brought before the man against whom she is principally accused of sinning. In the case of Susanna, it is her husband Joakim to whom the people come with their difficult questions, “because he was the most respected of them all”; and the woman in the gospel is brought before Jesus, the Lord and the bridegroom of us all. It is only wed to Him that we find salvation, and He does not disappoint the repentant adulteress today. Nor shall He condemn any of us who stand before Him weeping for our sins against His pure love.
There is a “dark valley” through which we all must walk. One day we shall all stand before the Judge. Some will be persecuted only for righteousness’ sake, accused of that which they have not committed; others will stand in the full light of their sin. But all before Christ might find forgiveness, if they but realize their faults and who it is stands before them. For the love of God is unimaginable; it is not something we humans can put our fingers upon. The love of God and the grace and mercy He holds forth will never be deserved by our race. Yet they are there. Yet are we washed clean. Yet the Truth will set us free.
Let no man condemn another; “the angel of God waits” “to receive the sentence from Him” – none of us is able to move His hand. And so, always we must forgive to find His grace alive in our souls.
O LORD, open the gate that we might enter in
and dwell in your presence.
YHWH, let all hear and heed the voice of your Son, who is the true Shepherd leading repentant souls to salvation. Send your apostles into every house that all might hear the call of Jesus, be purged in the fire of the Holy Spirit, and come to dwell in your House, beholding your holy face.
Let us be led forth by the Christ to your mountain, O God. Make us one flock in Him, all as your blessed children. O let us be as sheep slaughtered for your table, joining your Son on the altar of sacrifice; by His voice let us be cut to the heart and in our repentance become a holy offering to you.
False prophets keep far from us, dear LORD, those who work but for pay, who care nothing for your flock. In the Spirit send forth disciples to lead to running water those who thirst for you, O living God.
Sat, 1 April 2017
(Ez.37:12-14; Ps.130:1-8; Rom.8:8-11; Jn.11:1-45)
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
“You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!” says the Lord God through the prophet Ezekial. “The one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit dwelling in you,” says St. Paul. And our psalm sings of the Lord’s “plenteous redemption,” that “He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities”; and so, “more than sentinels wait for the dawn, let [us] wait for the Lord,” who dispels all darkness, all death, by His Word, by His presence among us. Let us but believe in Him, and we shall live.
The dawn comes to Bethany, to Martha and Mary, and to Lazarus. It comes to us all in this powerful sign of the Lord’s conquering of all darkness and death, “that [we] may believe.” Wrapped in burial cloth is Lazarus, laying in the sealed tomb four days. The tears of a people are shed for the loved one who has died, and Jesus joins their weeping. Deeply human is the Lord, and so, “perturbed and deeply troubled” He becomes at the sorrow we all know when death is near. He longs ever to cry out to us not to mourn, but believe, and now we hear His voice call upon the Father’s name; and now as He “crie[s] out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” we see that what He says is true: He is the resurrection and the life. And so, believing in Him, no longer does the Christian fear death.
Death is of the flesh, but we are “in the spirit.” “The body is dead because of sin,” but “the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” And so, as we rise from the graves opened by the powerful word of the Lord, as we rise from our iniquities unto eternal life, we know His Spirit at work within us, the Spirit of Christ that is only life. In Him let us take refuge; in Him let us believe. He is here with us to keep us from death, to release us from all darkness – to free us all from sin. Let us remain with Him and so have eternal life.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Be Well" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us live in your Son and so in you
that we might do your works in this world
and praise you forever in Heaven.
YHWH, let us be built into and grow as the Body of your Son. Make us a royal priesthood, a holy nation – your Church. Into your House let us come and dwell, eternally praising your Name.
Jesus is in you and you are in Jesus, and those who believe in Him and so in you become one with Him, and so with you, dearest LORD and God. O Father in Heaven, to Heaven let us come, to oneness with you. Let us do your works on earth and so find our way to your kingdom.
Why should we be troubled when we have the promise from Jesus that He prepares a place for us? Why should we fear when He is near in the power of the Holy Spirit? Let us follow closely the way He leads, that indeed we might exult in your presence forever.