Thu, 31 May 2018
O prophet of the Lord
who spoke in His defense
even before the bench of death,
who professed the wisdom of the Cross
over the intelligence of our race
and all the ideas
it could conceive,
who chose true worship
of the One God
even over life itself
and taught us also
His way in His Church –
pray we shall merit with you
the name of Christian,
the name above every other name,
upon our lips and hearts,
that we shall follow in His steps
seeking always the truth
and His love;
pray we shall worship Him
who deserves all worship and praise
and serve Him and His Church
even with our last breath on this earth.
Thu, 31 May 2018
(1Pt.4:7-13; Ps.96:10-13; Mk.11:11-26)
“The consummation of all is close at hand.
Therefore, do not be perturbed;
remain calm so that you will be able to pray.”
As at the time Jesus walks the earth the end of the Israelite nation is at hand – a consummation signified in “the fig tree withered to its roots” at His command, a consummation that will be fulfilled in the crucifixion of the Messiah but whose coming is already evident in the fact that the temple has been turned into “a den of thieves” – so at the time of Peter’s writing, that end is about to be realized in the destruction of the temple. And more than this, the “trial by fire” occurring in the midst of the disciples refers greatly to the death of this world we face in becoming Christians, to the persecution faced by all His children and felt most genuinely at the hands of the Romans.
But as all around is cast into the sea at the command of the Lord, we should not fear. This is the time to “put [our] trust in God,” to pray in faith, to put [our] gifts at the service of one another” and “let [our] love for one another be constant.” Rather than be sad, we must “rejoice instead, insofar as [we] share Christ’s sufferings.” For it should be our joy to see the temple cleansed, to have our hearts purified of all that is not holy – to witness the power of the hand of God at work. “For He governs the peoples with equity” as “He comes to rule the earth,” so indeed “the heavens [should] be glad and the earth rejoice.”
“In all of you God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ.” His “house is to be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We are His House now; we hold His promise – and we come to His glory as we share in the trials He has known. If the end is close at hand, if the world is already dead, if the devil’s illusions are about to fade… what can this bring us but joy to know the Truth is about to be revealed and all His faithful ones are about to be gathered into His kingdom? Remain steadfast in love and prayer, and “a multitude of sins” shall indeed be covered; and the new life which has sprung from the withered roots of the fig tree shall soon be fulfilled in your sight.
O LORD, drive all evil from our midst
that we might not wither to our roots.
YHWH, you come to rule the earth with justice, to cast out all evildoers that your House might indeed be a house of prayer. And though such purgation bring suffering to our souls (for who is without sin?), uniting our trials to the sufferings of Christ and remaining true to His Word, we are indeed purged of all sin and made ready for the kingdom.
O let us love this day! Let us place ourselves at the service of one another, freely sharing the gifts we have by the grace of your Son. It is in Him we find our home, in Him we know our salvation, and so let His chastisement be upon us for good, O LORD, as we seek to join Him in your eternal glory.
All the earth shall rejoice at the coming of Jesus; the heavens shall sing praise at such wonder. For though the consummation of all be close at hand, O God, all who put their trust in you shall be remade in His image. Alleluia!
Wed, 30 May 2018
O Mother of our Lord,
who are we
that you should visit us?
Over hills you came
to see your cousin Elizabeth
and the child she conceived
to her you brought the Child
who brings us all salvation.
Yes, to us all you bring Jesus…
all holy souls you visit with His grace.
John the Baptist proclaims this Savior
whom he has known first
in your voice,
and all hearts leap up
at your approach;
for the Lord is with you,
even in your blessed womb:
how blessed is this fruit you bear!
Visit us this day, dear Mother,
with Jesus our Redeemer,
that even this day
we may rejoice in His Name.
Wed, 30 May 2018
(Zeph.3:14-18 or Rom.12:9-16; Is.12:2-6; Lk.1:39-56)
“Sing praise to the Lord for His glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.”
How can we capture the joy of this day? For here is the sign of our promised salvation; here we find the first apostolic act in Mary’s bringing the Word of God, so recently conceived in her womb, to Elizabeth, and to her son John the Baptist.
“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel!” Zephaniah encourages the holy nation. And for what does Zion, and indeed the whole world, rejoice but that which we celebrate this day? Here in these simple, lowly women we find all of Israel rejoicing as she brings to birth her Savior. Yes, even now “the Lord, [her] God, is in [her] midst,” even in her womb; and already He begins to bring salvation forth. Already we find a kind of first Pentecost as first, “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’… and then Mary said: ‘My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit finds joy in God my savior?” And already the Baptist in the womb of his aged mother has been inspired by the presence of the Son of God; already he has “stirred in [her] womb for joy,” just at the sound of Mary’s voice touching the ears of his mother, even as Jesus is but days old in Mary’s blessed womb.
And how does all this joy come but through humility. “For He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness; all ages to come shall call [her] blessed.” Yes, Mary is raised “to high places,” is become the Mother of God, because of her great humility before Him. It is this lowliness she proclaims in her canticle today; it is this lowliness Elizabeth exudes when she asks, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” – and it is this same lowliness which is required of all the children of Israel, of all Abraham’s descendants, if we are to know that “the Lord has removed the judgment against [us],” if we are to “shout with exultation” for “the Holy One of Israel” in our midst.
Let us heed Paul’s instruction to the Romans to “put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly” that we might “rejoice with those who rejoice.” As our holy women today, these models of faith, let us “look on the needs of the saints as [our] own” and “be generous in offering hospitality.” “Be fervent in spirit; He whom you serve is the Lord.” For it is He who comes under your roof this day. It is His holy name you should proclaim in all you do and say. And the blessing of salvation shall be upon you.
Mother of God, bring to us this day our Savior,
that we might rejoice with you in heaven.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you have looked upon us in our lowliness
and sent your Son to dwell among us –
may we praise you always for your glory!
YHWH, let us praise your holy NAME this day, for you have come into our midst and raised us poor creatures from the dust to dwell with you in your Temple. Praise you, LORD! Visit us this day in your love, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
O LORD, make us humble and lowly as she who carries your Son to us, humble and lowly as Israel your Chosen one – humble and lowly as Jesus Himself. In Mary’s womb with Him let us dwell and so hear your voice calling to our hearts through all she speaks unto our poor ears. In darkness we remain, in the cave of this world; but you bring us light and life – for such grace let us praise you!
Dispel all fear from our hearts, LORD, at the sound of your Mother’s voice, and so with her let us proclaim your greatness, and the salvation you have wrought in your mercy. We are nothing, nothing but simple souls waiting on your Word… Speak to us this day and awaken us to your glory, that our hearts might exult in your presence all our days.
Mother of God, pray for your poor children.
Tue, 29 May 2018
(1Pt.1:18-25; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Mk.10:32-45)
“The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve –
to give His life in ransom for the many.”
As Jesus and His apostles make their “way up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes,” He tells them that these elders of the people “will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit at Him, flog Him, and finally kill Him.” He then adds, “But three days later He will rise.” Here is the Gospel in short. Here is “the living and enduring Word of God,” the “indestructible seed” which brings us to life by our “faith and hope” centered upon it. Yes, “by Christ’s blood” we “were delivered from the futile way of life” that sin wrought in us; this blood is “the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb chosen before the world’s foundation and revealed for [our] sake in these last days.” Christ has died, Christ is risen, and in Him we come to life again.
And we must “drink the cup” He drinks; we must “be baptized in the same bath of pain.” There is no other way to His glory. Our lives on this earth must be joined in sacrifice with Him. Never are we to “lord it over” others; but always we “must serve the rest.” So Jesus instructs His apostles in this most weighty moment filled with “wonderment” and “fear,” as He stands at the precipice of His sacrifice. And Peter tells us the same when He counsels us to “love one another constantly from the heart.” Jesus’ blood is the greatest love and it is in this river we must swim; in this ocean we shall be cleansed – “by obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brother,” the Lord’s principal apostle declares to all his faithful readers.
“He has proclaimed His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel,” and all these are summed up in the blood of the Lamb of God. “Swiftly runs His word” to all who seek redemption from God; swiftly it comes to pierce our hearts. And though by it we ourselves bleed with Him, by it “He has granted peace in [our] borders” – through Jesus we are “believers in… the God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory,” and His same glory is ours as we die with Him now. Let this Word be inscribed upon your heart.
O LORD, your Son is the Word spoken by your mouth
that comes quickly to save us;
may we share in the cup He raises to His blessed lips.
YHWH, we are purified by the Word your Son speaks to us, by the Gospel preached in His Name – by His death and resurrection, which you desire us to share. Let His blood be upon us for good this day, that we might be thoroughly cleansed of our sins and come to serve you and one another.
Our faith and our hope are in you, LORD; all our desire is to join you in glory. The blessing of your way be known to us – let us walk the path to Jerusalem with your Son. For if we die with Him, if we lay down our lives in service of one another for your sake, then we shall live with you, saved from the death that comes upon all flesh.
Our lives are passing as the grass of the field; this you know, O LORD. But your Son has come to redeem our souls, to raise us from the dust that we might sit with Him in your kingdom. Let your will be done and we come by the drinking of His cup to the heavenly Jerusalem.
Mon, 28 May 2018
(1Pt.1:10-16; Ps.98:1-4; Mk.10:28-31)
“Set all your hope on the gift to be conferred on you
when Jesus Christ appears.”
“The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.” That “which the prophets carefully searched out and examined” but was hidden from their eyes, that into which “angels long to search” is now indeed made known “by those who preach the Gospel to you, in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” Yes, “the divine favor which was destined to be [ours],” “the sufferings destined for Christ and the glories that would follow” spoken of in all Scripture by the Spirit of Christ, are now come into our midst; and it is these we wait to see fulfilled.
And as we await our salvation we must “become holy… after the likeness of the holy one who called” us. As we stay, we must share in His sufferings to find His glory. “Obedient sons” of the one Father, we must pattern ourselves after His only Son. “The desires that once shaped [us] in [our] ignorance” must be absolutely abandoned as we become holy as He.
And the same Peter who instructs us in the salvation prepared for us from all ages and the holiness which alone befits it, exclaims to Jesus in our gospel today, “We have put aside everything to follow you!” as if to plead, “Have we done enough?” And the Lord assures him all that he gives up for the kingdom’s sake shall return to him a hundredfold, and “in the age to come” he shall have “everlasting life.” For indeed, as the Lord has been, so the apostles have followed, and in these same steps we must walk – to this same cross we must come.
Here we stand at the end of salvation history, as the last in a long line of the children of God. But first we can be with the Spirit as our guide and conformed to the sufferings of Christ. Being at the end of this line we have the benefit of all the prophecy and teaching that has prepared this time; greater fullness of truth is ours than at any time before. And so, more so are we called to be like our Savior; impossible is it become for us to hide in ignorance. “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God,” the light of Christ has been cast upon all hearts, and to continue in sin becomes yet a greater torture – for our eyes are so much less blind. Now must the earth become obedient to His voice, calling so clearly in its soul; condemnation awaits otherwise. Now the simple word of truth spoken by God at the heart of Scripture must be our sure guide: “Be holy, for I am holy,” and our expectations will soon be fulfilled in Him.
O LORD, your Son has come
and now sends forth the Spirit;
let us put all aside to follow Him in holiness of life.
YHWH, your salvation you have made known to us; what the prophets declared has become so in our midst – your Son has walked among us and died for us that we might be saved. O let your salvation be fulfilled this day!
O LORD, make us holy as you are holy, that we might be where you are. Help us to walk the path to glory by fully embracing the Cross your Son provides. Help us gladly to give up all things that we might find all things anew in your presence.
What of this earth matters, O LORD? What is there we should put before our love for you? For all things are in your holy hands and only by you is anything blessed. And so, let us give ourselves to you who are holy, and you will make all things holy for us.
Thank you, O LORD, for your kindness toward us. Thank you for the blood your Son has shed. Thank you for making your love known to us, for now by your grace this love we may share. Open our eyes and our hearts to the glory of your way, and let us walk that way with Jesus.
Sun, 27 May 2018
(1Pt.1:3-9; Ps.111:1-2,5-6,9-10; Mk.10:17-27)
“Go and sell what you have and give to the poor;
you will then have treasure in heaven.”
“You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials,” for even if you are not a rich man with “many possessions” to give up, all that you have that is of the world must die before you will find “birth to an imperishable inheritance incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you.” You can have no pride, you can have no greed, you can have no lust in your heart if you are to find the kingdom of God. Your faith must be like “fire-tried gold” whose “genuineness [will] lead to praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ appears.”
Jesus’ question to the rich young man: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” is, I think, often misunderstood. The Lord is not saying not to call Him good because that title is reserved only for God, for He is God and deserves every title of praise we can utter. Rather, He is testing the young man, who kneels at this moment at His feet, to find out if he truly recognizes that He is “good”, that He is the Son of God.
This is borne out by the Lord’s response as to what the young man should do “to share in everlasting life.” Jesus first lists only the latter commandments, which refer to love of neighbor, which the young man rightfully states he has kept well. “Then Jesus looked at him with love and told him,” in essence, of his need to keep the first three commandments, those which refer to love of God, in a more complete fashion. For what is He telling him in our quote above but to have no false gods, to love the Lord with heart, mind, soul, and strength – and how is this accomplished but in His instruction: “Come and follow me”? As we give up the idols which spring from the earth, as all our possessions and our trust in them are taken from us, we find the “birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” By such death we follow Him unto heaven.
Brothers and sisters, “there is cause for rejoicing here,” for on this strait path, through this “needle’s eye,” we are “achieving faith’s goal, [our] salvation.” Let us “give thanks to the Lord with all [our] heart in the company and assembly of the just.” Let us “rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory” because God “has sent deliverance to His people; He has ratified His covenant forever.” And “He will ever be mindful of His covenant” – always He will be at our side by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to the “salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days.” Endure now the sadness and distress of the death of this life, and find therein the fulfilling of your hope for the treasures of heaven.
O LORD, you make possible
even the salvation of our souls;
let us give up all things to follow you to everlasting life.
YHWH, we praise you, for with you all things are possible, even the salvation of our souls and our coming into your eternal presence. And so, whatever we suffer here brings us only joy, for all things bring us to your kingdom.
O LORD, may we be truly consecrated to you, thoroughly confirmed in your covenant with us, that the new birth you grant through the resurrection of your Son might be fulfilled and we come to dwell with you forever in Heaven. Let nothing of this passing earth stand in our way; let nothing obstruct our worship of you, that we may be truly happy and rejoice all our days in you.
Help us, dear God, to give up all our possessions, to desire to hold to nothing but you. Take all that is not of you from our souls and bodies – let our hearts be set on your surpassing glory.
What trial can sadden us, LORD, if our love is for you? You redeem us from all evil and give new life to our mortal frame. For such grace let us ever praise you.
Sat, 26 May 2018
O converter of peoples,
called from the quiet
of cloister walls
you went obediently over seas
to preach to the souls
to whom you were sent,
and the Lord worked
through your obedience,
spoke through the words
you uttered to the nations…
and so the light of holy faith
banished the darkness of error
and souls indeed were gathered
into Christ’s fold –
pray, O shepherd,
obedience shall be ours, too,
and all whom the Father
would hold unto His breast
shall come indeed to that sacred place
and there find their rest.
May God’s will be accomplished
in His Church
and we bear fruit in His name.
Sat, 26 May 2018
(Dt.4:32-34,39-40; Ps.33:4-6,9,12,18-20,22; Rom.8:14-17; Mt.28:16-20)
“You must know now, and fix in your heart,
that ‘the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.’”
“Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?” Moses asks the Israelite nation. “Did any god venture to go and take a nation for Himself” with the great “signs and wonders” that accompanied Israel’s release from Egyptian bondage? No. For the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of heaven and earth, the one true God. For “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made; by the breath of His mouth all their host.” Yes, “He spoke, and it was made, He commanded and it stood forth.” None is great as the Father in heaven.
And of the power of the Father, Jesus, the Son, shares: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” He declares in truth. It is He who suffers and dies for us; it is He who thus reveals God’s love – it is He whom all nations adore in the holy court. The words of the Father He brings to our ears; His commands, which bring life and “deliver… from death,” He speaks in our hearing. Here is the Word by which all comes to be made flesh in our sight.
And we, “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” – to this “the Spirit Himself bears witness,” speaking in our souls the NAME of God. Yes, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and the Spirit is now with us to lead us, to help us “keep His statutes and commandments,” that we might “have long life on the land which the Lord, [our] God, is giving [us] forever.” And now so on fire with the Spirit of God, Jesus present with us always in body and soul, and standing as holy children of the Father… we must “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [the Lord has] commanded.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.” His presence is upon us always for good, and we long now to know the fullness of the Trinity. He whose “works are trustworthy” we seek to make our own, that we might be one with Him who is One. “Of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.” May He who “loves justice and right” be known in His fullness by all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Speaking of God" (second half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us remain in your NAME
and in your power,
and carry our cross unto Heaven.
YHWH, you are God of Heaven and earth; there is none beside you. By your Word all came to be, and all is held together by your love. We can but hope for your kindness, LORD, to preserve us from the death we deserve. We can but be baptized in your NAME and pray to be as your children.
O LORD, let us be your heirs with Christ. Let us suffer with Him that we might be glorified by the Spirit and come to dwell as one with you in the kingdom. To this earth bring your Word and let us be remade in His image. For He is one with you and the Spirit, worthy of all our worship; and as we worship Him, the Spirit inspires us to cry out, “Abba, Father!” with your only Son.
O LORD, what great grace and mercy you have shown us! You have taken us from the midst of darkness and sin and brought us into your marvelous light by the sacrifice of your Son. In the fire of the Holy Spirit you speak to us and guide us on our journey to you. Help us, LORD, to keep your commands that we might prosper and have eternal life with you in Heaven.
Fri, 25 May 2018
O priest of joy
whose song of service
rises unto the Lord
until this day,
whose delight in sacrifice
to give themselves in freedom
to the work of Christ –
pray all God’s priests
will give themselves so completely
in the love of the only Son
that indeed a holy song
might rise unto the heavens
until He returns from there
to carry us home forever.
May the Lord’s healing graces
be poured forth
through your generous intercession
that all souls might be prepared
to unite with their Creator and Redeemer,
with the Spirit who inspires the Church
even here with His glorious presence.
Fri, 25 May 2018
(Jas.5:13-20; Ps.141:1-3,8; Mk.10:13-16)
“Let my prayer come like incense before you;
the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.”
“The fervent petition of a holy man is powerful indeed.” For indeed Elijah “prayed earnestly” and “no rain fell on the land for three years and six months.” Then “when he prayed again, the sky burst forth with rain.” And now greater things are accomplished by prayer, especially of “the elders of the Church,” our priests, who, in union with Jesus the Lord, “reclaim the one who is ill” and bring “forgiveness” to the sinful soul. Redemption itself is at our hands through the Anointing of the Sick and Confession, and all the other blessed sacraments. And prayer by all souls is a constant guard and reclaimer of lives gone astray.
And in our gospel it is made clear what our disposition should be when we pray, when we come to Jesus. The Lord encourages the little children to come to Him and states unequivocally: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter into it.” We must always come to Him as children – with faith, in innocence, of truth – if we hope to gain a hearing in His sight, brothers and sisters. If when we call upon Him we do not have the pure faith of a child, how can we expect to communicate with Him who dwells in absolute light? If our prayer and our song fall short of the love and joy of innocent praise, then we fall short of reaching Him. But if in such innocence and with such faith and of such truth we come to Him, know that He will treat us just as the children who come to Him today: “He embraced them and blessed them, placing His hands on them.” Yes, then His holy hand will be upon our lives, and His great power we will find at work within us and through us.
“Toward you, O Lord, my eyes are turned.”
Please “hearken to my voice when I call upon you.”
“In you I take refuge; strip me not of life,”
but make me as your child of light.
Our prayer comes like incense before the Lord when it is united with the sacrifice of the Son. Anointed by the Lamb’s blood, all our cries rise unto the Father of Life.
O LORD, as a child let us come to you,
in trusting prayer,
and you will hear and answer us.
YHWH, how powerful prayer is! For it unites us to you and to your great power; it makes us as your children. Let our prayer be sincere, that we might find your gentle embrace.
There is nothing we need fear, dear LORD, if we but turn to you. If we ask, you will give, and cure us indeed of every ill. And so, let us pray for one another in your NAME, desire the salvation of all souls by your grace, and the blessing of your Son’s Cross will reign here on earth and bring us soon to Heaven. Let your will be done and your kingdom come.
Let us pray especially for your priests and the special power you give them to forgive men’s sins and make your presence known among us. In your sacraments we take our refuge, LORD; let them always be celebrated in accord with your Word.
Let our prayer come like incense before you, O LORD; may it be acceptable in your sight. Let it always come from an innocent heart.
Thu, 24 May 2018
O humble soul
whom the Lord blessed
with mystical elevations
to His heavenly presence,
you who remained so faithful
through all trials
and encouraged others
to seek such perfection as well –
pray that this proud age
which leans so distinctly
from the truth,
from the love of God,
will be consumed as you were
by the Holy Spirit,
by desire for the Lord’s overtaking
of our lives,
that all souls will turn
from the false gods at their hands,
idols that overshadow their spirits,
and toward the humility
known only in our Savior’s blood.
Only in Him is life eternal;
pray all souls will come to His love.
Thu, 24 May 2018
O Shepherd and Father,
defender of the faith
and of holy MotherChurch
against those who would rob her
of her freedom,
those who would rape her,
stealing away her purity,
those who would deny
her singleness in the sight of God
as the House which He has founded –
those who would destroy the faith
and bring to naught
the Church, our Mother,
and Peter, our Holy Father,
do not relent in their efforts…
and so we need still
your prayers and your courage
to aid us in standing strong
against the tide
the evil one stirs up in this world.
Pray indeed, O Father,
that all our shepherds and all God’s people
will tirelessly defend the truth in love.
Thu, 24 May 2018
O learned master
whose life itself was as a monastery,
consumed as you were
by study and teaching and writing
who till the very end
spoke the name of the Lord
in all your words
and deeds –
pray that the incense of your life
will rise unto the throne of God
and intercede for us here below
who are so far from His presence,
from knowledge of His providence
and remembrance of His sacrifice.
How will we find ourselves
one with the Lord of Creation
and ascend to His glory
if you do not pray for us,
O blessed soul
so united to His will,
so held within His Hand
and breathing forth His name?
Thu, 24 May 2018
(Jas.5:9-12; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mk.10:1-12)
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.”
And we must be like Him.
James makes clear that we must “not grumble against one another,” nor swear on earth, any oath at all,” but rather simply speak “in the name of the Lord”: “Let it be ‘yes’ if you mean yes or ‘no’ if you mean no. In this way you will not incur condemnation.” And as a sign of the endurance we must have to find the Lord’s blessing, he reminds us of “the steadfastness of Job” and “what the Lord, who is compassionate and merciful, did in the end.”
“As your models in suffering hardships and in patience, brothers, take the prophets.” And, of course, Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets, and His suffering in silent servitude the sentence of crucifixion is the fulfillment of their endurance of persecution. And in our gospel today, does He not give example of the patience we all must hold and the clarity with which we all must speak? For when the Pharisees “ask Jesus whether it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife,” how do they intend their question but “as a test”? But the Lord does not take offense at their temptation; He simply answers them, clearly and to the point: “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one.” And lest there be any doubt that He is saying no to divorce, He continues, “They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined.” And even when “the disciples beg[i]n to question Him about this” again later, He remains patient and gives direct answer: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
The question would seem a simple one and the answer easy to understand, but is it not this question that is at the heart of man’s disobedience, of his grumbling against God? Is it not this answer man seeks most to change, thus leading to his greatest sins, and really to the destruction of society? Yet the Lord’s love is greater than our profligacy, and as the father so readily forgave the prodigal son, so He waits for us to turn to Him – to His presence, to His truth. As David sings of God: “He redeems your life from destruction, He crowns you with kindness and compassion”; and so He longs to “put our transgressions from us” “as far as the east is from the west.” Indeed Jesus “pardons all [our] iniquities, He heals all our ills” – for this has the Savior come. And if we but bless Him for “all His benefits” and share in His love in our relationships with others, we shall find the merciful Lord enabling our endurance of all on this earth and making firm our place with Him in heaven.
O LORD, man and woman are one
and are brought together in your will;
in our covenants let us reflect your mercy
YHWH, give us your patience in enduring all things. You are kind and merciful; let us be like you. Help us to practice your compassion in our marriages and in all our relationships – let us be ready as you to forgive. Yes, let all our sins be put far from us.
If we endure with you, O LORD, shall we not be blessed? If with you we practice patience and kindness when put to the test, will we not share in your reward? Let us be so joined to you, LORD, that we may indeed be called your Body in this world.
O my LORD, let us never be divorced from love of one another or love of you. Let our covenants be sure as your own; for you have promised to be with us even till the end of the age, and so, should we abandon one another? Would this not be an abandonment of you?
Let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, O LORD, and let us therefore live forever in your eternal Word, in the truth and love only you hold.
Wed, 23 May 2018
(Jas.5:1-6; Ps.49:14-20,Mt.5:3; Mk.9:41-50)
“You lived in wanton luxury on the earth;
you fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.”
“You rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries,” James warns all those who trust in their wealth. For though they were “contented with their lot,” to find which they “condemned, even killed, the just man,” yet “like sheep they are herded into the netherworld,” where “quickly their form is consumed.” “Your wealth has rotted, your fine wardrobe has grown moth-eaten, your silver and gold have corroded” – all these things in which the fool has trusted will not only die of themselves but also “devour [his] flesh like a fire,” for so greatly has he placed his heart upon them that with their destruction he is also destroyed.
“See what you have stored up for yourselves against the last days.” The rich man fattens himself for “Gehenna, where ‘the worm dies not and the fire is never extinguished.’” Thus does Jesus call us to repentance in such severe terms, for lacking of it indeed how “quickly [our] form is consumed.” It is not the body which matters, or this earth; heaven is all that matters, and so our souls. Therefore, it is indeed better to cut off hand or foot or tear out one’s eye than to “enter Gehenna with its unquenchable fire.” For what are these things, what are all the riches of the world, in comparison with the kingdom of God and its eternal riches? Do not, therefore, be led astray by your earthly passions; store up treasures for heaven.
“The shouts of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” “The wages you withheld from the farmhands who harvested your fields” are known to God. And as “it would be better if anyone who leads astray one of these simple believers were to be plunged in the sea with a great millstone fastened around his neck,” so much better would be your fate than to suffer eternally the fires of hell. For what shall your unjust wealth benefit you there? From whom shall you steal among your fellow prisoners in chains?
“The netherworld is their palace,” those who grow rich on the backs of the poor and oppressed of this world. For ultimately “death is their shepherd, and the upright rule over them.” They “shall never more see light”; but peace shall reign in the hearts of all God’s children.
O LORD, let us not be plunged in the sea
or herded into the nether world,
but let us set our hearts and minds on you
and so find life everlasting.
YHWH, let us be poor, poor in spirit, poor to this world and its deadly passions. Let us put no hope in the riches that rot, or we shall rot with them. Let us seek, rather, the riches of your kingdom by giving our poor cup of water for the upbuilding of your Church.
Take from us, LORD, all that keeps us from you. Let us not steal or walk in the paths of the unrighteous or look with lust upon anything or anyone. Take hand or foot or eye from us instead; keep us from all sin. Let our salt not rot, our lives not be worthless, but let us bear fruit in your NAME.
LORD, our God, take especially from us our foolish pride, our belief that we can do anything of ourselves. O let us not trust in ourselves or in the things of this world but only in you and help rather than hurt the just man you bless in your holy will. Let all souls be led to your kingdom.
Tue, 22 May 2018
(Jas. 4:13-17; Ps.49:2-3,6-11,Mt.5:3; Mk.9:38-40)
“Anyone who is not against us is with us.”
And whoever is not with the Lord is against Him. There are only two ways by which a man may walk. We choose to place our lives in the hands of God, or we worship the things of this earth.
Indeed, anyone who “perform[s] a miracle in [His] name” is with Him, for a tree is known by its fruit. If indeed we commend our lives into the care of the Lord, saying, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that,” then we shall find His blessing at work within us, and we shall be His children, doing His will. And demons shall be expelled at our words. And we shall never “fear in evil days when [our] wicked ensnarers ring [us] round.”
But if instead we “make arrogant and pretentious claims,” boasting reprehensibly of the profits this earth shall bring us by the power of our own hands, we are in utter danger of the destruction we think can never touch us. For “in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God.” If we “have no idea what kind of life will be [ours] tomorrow” – and who knows the turns this earth does take? – what can we do at all by our own wills? We are, in fact, utterly dependent upon God for each breath we draw, and He may withdraw such life from us at any moment.
What fool is there among you who “trust[s] in [his] wealth”? Who are they for whom “the abundance of their riches is their boast”? Have you no eyes in your head? Is there no sense in your mind? “Hearken, all who dwell in the world, of lowly birth or high degree, rich and poor alike,” and from all lands and of all times – it is in Jesus alone that you find strength to draw your next breath; it is He alone who brings light to your eyes. Your riches will rot. Even prophecies will cease. There will not be a stone here left upon another. Consecrate yourself now to the Lord of all and begin to find His grace at work within you. And each day renew the power of God at work in you for that day. In His name do all things, and you shall be with Him, and He shall not leave you.
O LORD, let us be for you,
living perfectly in your will.
YHWH, let us be with you; let us give our lives to you, doing your work in accord with your will and not following the vain path our own desires mark out for us. Let us be your own; let us be your own, your disciples in this world.
How can we do anything if you do not bless it, LORD? Where shall we end if apart from you? For we indeed are as vapor that quickly vanishes, and empty are all our plans. But with you and in your NAME, miracles we can perform. Great works we may accomplish if in humility we follow your way; for you are great and all powerful, and we become as you are when we walk with you.
O LORD, we do not know what tomorrow may bring. Even this day is a mystery to us. Let us but place this day into your hands, and tomorrow will care for itself in your will. Let us not die seeking the vain riches of this earth but come to life by your saving grace.
Mon, 21 May 2018
O saint of the impossible
whose union with Christ
in His Passion and His glory
serves to grant favors
to those in great need,
you whose great thirst
to be one with our Bridegroom
brought the help of the saints yourself –
pray we poor souls
shall fulfill our vocation,
that through the din of this world
we shall hear and answer
the call of the Lord
and give ourselves in His service
in the manner He desires.
Pray our hearts be so set
on union with Him
that no obstacle shall stand in our way,
that all help we need
to find our path to Him
will be provided through your prayers.
How shall we come to dwell in Heaven?
Invoke God’s blessing upon us.
Mon, 21 May 2018
(Jas.4:1-10; Ps.55:7-11,23; Mk.9:30-37)
“In the city I see violence and strife;
day and night they prowl about upon its walls.”
The violence this world holds is known most poignantly, of course, in “the Son of Man… [being] delivered into the hands of men who… put Him to death,” but exists most pervasively and fundamentally in our own bodies, insofar as they are conformed to the spirit of the world. For as James asks so pointedly, “Where do the conflicts and disputes among you originate? Is it not your inner cravings that make war within your members?” It is indeed the evil desire in our bones, the “envy,” the “love of the world [that] is enmity to God” which causes us to “quarrel and fight,” which is the source of all sin, and so death, and so war.
That “the spirit He has implanted in us tends toward jealousy” is evident even in the apostles, whom we find in today’s gospel “arguing about who was the most important.” Even these, who have yet to receive the “greater gift” – the Holy Spirit of God who serves to cleanse His children of the evil in them – even these are divided by the cravings that make war in our members. Even these contribute to the crucifixion of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, if you would “find shelter from the violent storm and the tempest” at work in you and about you, you must “cast your care upon the Lord, and He will support you.” “Submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight.” “Purify your hearts” of all that is not in conformity with the Spirit of God and you will find safe haven from the violence of this world and the violence of your own hearts. For “never will He permit the just man to be disturbed.”
And both James and the Lord teach what it is to be just, what it is to excel before God. If you desire the goodness of the Lord, rend your hearts; “be humbled in the sight of God and He will raise you on high.” You cannot raise yourself, for you are but dust; and dust you must be if you desire holiness in the presence of the Most High: “If anyone wishes to rank first, he must remain the last one of all and the servant of all,” as is Jesus, the suffering Son crucified for the sins of each of us.
Brothers and sisters, let our hearts be so docile as to welcome His children openly – as His humble children we ourselves must be. For then we shall welcome Him; for then we shall be sons of the Father, free from sin and so no longer subject to the violence known in the city that is this world of sin. May our own members and all the members of the Church be cleansed of all strife by the power of the Holy Spirit.
O LORD, help us to be humble before you,
that you might raise us up from our sin.
YHWH, should we not be as children before you? Is your Son not like a Child, O LORD? Is He not the humblest of all? O let us be like Him, and you!
Is there some other image in which we should be made, LORD, than your own? What of this world should beguile our soul? To whom should we aspire but our heavenly Father, and how shall we find you except through your Son? Does He not show us the way by His death on the Cross?
O LORD, let us not be deaf to your speaking to us in His words and actions, for He reveals to us who we must be. Help us to leave the example of the world behind, to abandon all hatred and jealousy, all the sinful pride and insatiable greed wrought into our fallen nature, and come to you even this day that we might be redeemed by your Son’s sacrifice and our sharing therein.
O help us to be humble, LORD, to find the humility only you know. With all our hearts let us serve you, and your glory will be ours.
Sun, 20 May 2018
O sacrificial sheep,
priests of the Lord
who offered your lives
even as you offered Mass,
in union with Christ and His Church
for the sake of your homeland:
you prayed for its peace
even as violence was done to you;
you celebrated the Mass
and baptized your flock
even when it became a crime,
even when it cost your lives –
such union with Christ
pray all souls,
and especially our priests,
shall know to the depths of their heart;
let none be afraid
to shed their blood
as one with His redemptive sacrifice.
The Cross pray we follow where it leads,
despite the world’s persecution.
Sun, 20 May 2018
(Jas.3:13-18; Ps.19:8-10,15; Mk.9:14-29)
“The command of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eye.”
What is the wisdom of which James speaks in our first reading but this enlightening of the eye and the mind by following the command of the Lord? It is the words and the wisdom of Jesus, reflected clearly in the Lord’s own life, James relates to the waiting ear this day. What does he instruct but to practice “a humility filled with good sense” and to “cultivate peace,” not to “nurse bitter jealousy in [our] hearts” but to “refrain from arrogant and false claims against the truth”? We must be as “innocent” as the Lamb of God, and as forgiving. Then we will realize that “the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple,” for “wisdom from above” will then fill us, and lead us by its sacred light.
How clear the command of the Lord is in our gospel, and how powerfully it enlightens the eye. As He comes down from the mountain where He has been transfigured before His principal apostles, “a large crowd… on catching sight of Jesus” is immediately “overcome with awe. They [run] up to greet Him.” Being presented with the boy possessed by a spirit that often “throws him into the fire and into water,” Jesus “reprimanded the unclean spirit by saying to him, ‘Mute and deaf spirit, I command you: Get out of him and never enter him again!’” And the boy is healed; he is freed from bondage to the devil, and now in his right mind, he can see.
Though perhaps not always so dramatic, every command of the Lord casts out just such darkness which pervades our souls. Coming in faith before Him as the father who trusts in God and in His Son, the same healing do we know. Following His words, our eyes and ears are opened, too, and we discover that indeed “the law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.” So, brothers and sisters, let us pray with David today: “Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart find favor before you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer,” that we might remain ever in His enduring purity and light.
O LORD, if we but lived lives of prayer in all humility,
never could we be separated from you
and always you would work through us.
YHWH, how shall our words and thoughts match those of your Son, who commands and the devils flee, whose heart is set always on your will… who sacrifices His life for our sakes? Help our unbelief, our lack of trust in you and in your power, that we might by your grace come to share in that power with Jesus, even as we share in His humility.
How can we live in your perfect innocence, LORD, we who are such a faithless lot, we who lack prayer in our heart? O how easily we are overcome! But you are our hope. You come down from the mountain, from the glory on high, to dwell with the likes of us and save us from the devil’s grasp, which has such a dire hold upon us and upon our children. Only by the grace of your presence will this generation be saved – leave us not till your work is accomplished.
Teach us, O LORD; give us your wisdom, that your peace might be ever in our souls and we might serve you with all our thoughts and words. Save us, dear God, from all darkness.
Sat, 19 May 2018
O apostle of the holy name of Jesus
who proclaimed God’s loving mercy
to those in darkness
that the light of faith
might save souls
and make them children
of the light of Christ,
radiating His splendor,
the splendor of truth,
to the ends of the earth –
where is such zeal today,
with the preaching of Paul;
and so, how shall souls be saved,
how shall false beliefs flee,
infidelity be consumed
and the truth appear as a great candle
lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame,
if you do not intercede?
Pray that we may not lack
knowledge of and devotion to Jesus,
that His name shall not be suppressed
but preached without cease to waiting hearts.
Sat, 19 May 2018
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; Gal.5:16-25; Jn.15:26-27,16:12-15)
“The time for Pentecost was fulfilled.”
A driving wind comes from the sky. It fills the house. Tongues of fire come to rest on the disciples, and they speak in tongues of every nation. The gathered crowd of “Jews from every nation under heaven” ask in wonder, “How does each of us hear them in his native language?” How is such perfect communication possible? How could such light fall upon mankind? How can we be made one?
“The Advocate comes.” “The Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,” sent by the Son to “guide [us] to all truth,” declares the glory of God in our midst, fulfills the Word among us, making us brothers and sisters in the light of the Lord.
“O Lord, my God, you are great indeed!” What wonders you work before the eyes of man! What glorious speech you bring to our ears! So far are your ways above our ways; so little of the truth can we weak human beings bear. But you strengthen us. You give us your Word. You anoint us with your Spirit to destroy this sinful flesh and prepare our hearts to receive the grace that comes only by your power. We praise you, Lord, for the glory you impart to our souls.
“May the glory of the Lord endure forever,” and we endure forever in Him. Let us never be separated from the blessing which comes from the One who never dies, the One who brings life to every creature upon the face of the earth, and in the heavens above. “Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit” now. Hold closely to the gifts He offers freely and powerfully forth this holy day and every day of your lives. In no other way will you be fulfilled; by no other means will you come to heaven. The Spirit is the source of all truth and only by His guidance you will hear of the glory of God. And only by His power will you keep it.
In the Church now the Spirit dwells, teaching all her children. From the four corners they come to receive the bread of life. Let us be fed well for the time is at hand when all the Lord’s words will be fulfilled, when the Son shall return again. Our refuge now is the Spirit. In Him let us place our trust.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (final part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us be baptized in your Spirit,
renewed for the proclamation of your love.
YHWH, comes the driving wind from Heaven, the Spirit Jesus breathes upon His apostles, and so we are made your sons, dear Father, and declare your glory unto all. May your Church with one voice offer you due praise and teach the nations of your eternal call.
We must leave our sins behind and accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living as one with the Son of God. If we keep His commandments, we shall dwell with you forever, O Father God. For He is with you and through Him you send the Spirit; all who desire to be your children you bless with purging fire this holy day.
Now the promised gift of the Spirit falls upon our immortal souls and we are refreshed and made new creatures, formed in the image of Jesus, your Son. One you make us in Spirit and Body, free from all the works of the flesh. Your Son stands in our midst and offers us His peace; the Advocate now testifies to all Truth… Come and make your dwelling in us, O glorious LORD and God.
Fri, 18 May 2018
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.
Thu, 17 May 2018
O faithful Shepherd
who laid down your life
for the sake of true teaching,
who was killed by one
set against God’s Word…
though deprived of food
and so of this life,
you were given instead
the life of Heaven
and serve as a holy example
of what should be sacrificed
for love of truth and right –
pray that the flock
shepherded this day by the apostles
will be led by the same loyalty,
led by genuine pastors
whose love for the sheep
would lead them to lay down their lives
that the Church might be blessed
by a radiant faith
which shines the light of Christ
even to the ends
of this dying earth.
Thu, 17 May 2018
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.
Wed, 16 May 2018
(Acts 22:30,23:6-11; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Jn.17:20-26)
“I set the Lord ever before me;
with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
Yes, “the Lord appeared at Paul’s side” at night, in prison, after his testimony and the near riot it caused in Jerusalem. He comes to encourage him, to strengthen him for further trials; and through all Paul shall remain strong.
“Keep me, O God, for in you, I take refuge,” David prays, and sings of the confidence his heart and soul find in the Lord, his “allotted portion and cup… who hold[s] fast [his] lot.” He knows deep in his spirit that the Lord “will not abandon [his] soul to the netherworld, nor will [He] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption.” And certainly, the same faith Paul exhibits; the same trust in the Lord, Paul holds in his own spirit. He, too, is not disturbed, though he finds himself “on trial now because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
And whence comes such confidence? How can a man so attacked, a man so beaten and cursed, be so without fear? Does not Jesus answer this question in His prayer to the Father, which we are all blessed to hear? Here He prays that we be one in Him even as He is one with the Father. Here He asks that our “unity may be complete.” And if our unity is complete with the Father and with the Son, as well as with one another, what, brothers and sisters, have we to fear? If the love of God which the Father “bore [the Son] before the world began” is in our hearts now, what can disturb them? “That your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them” is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for us all – and do you think the Father does not listen, does not answer His Son? He would have us in His company where He is, gazing upon His glory – and this is where Paul dwells. And so he cannot be moved.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The Spirit brings us now that of which David sings, that which Paul knows, that all might know the glory of God, that all might be one in Him, and so, safe from all harm. As Jesus is resurrected from the dead, so shall we all be. What have we to fear? We must but set Him before us always.
O Lord, let your love live in us
that we might make your Name known
with faith and courage.
YHWH, in you we take our refuge, and so we pray that you keep us ever close by – with you at our right hand we shall not be disturbed. Please answer your Son’s prayer that we be in His company where He is, with you in eternal glory. You will not abandon our souls to the nether world, and so, encourage us as you have Paul, with your presence at our side. In your Spirit may we find confidence to bear witness before all.
Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and with Himself He would bring us to your glorious presence. What need we fear with His power upon us? Why should we be afraid when His Spirit is with us, showering on us your love? In you we should but rejoice for the eternal protection you give us in your holy NAME. To life we shall come even this day, O LORD, for we have believed in your Son and so share in the glory of His resurrection.
Tue, 15 May 2018
(Acts 20:28-38; Ps.68:29-30,33-36; Jn.17:11-19)
“O Father most holy,
protect them with the name you have given me.”
In our gospel today Jesus prays to the Father, “who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens,” to “guard [His disciples] from the evil one.” And the parallels continue between His and Paul’s parting words, as the Apostle warns his own disciples, “When I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock,” and therefore exhorts them to “be on guard.”
It is the Lord’s earnest desire of the Father that we His disciples “be consecrated in truth.” If truth be with us, if the Holy Spirit He promises to send be ours, the “careful watch” Jesus has kept “as long as [He] was with [us]” will continue. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the elders of Ephesus to “shepherd the Church of God, which He has acquired at the price of His own blood” – blood the Lord is about to shed in our gospel – will be realized, and His apostles will become themselves those who care for the safety of the people of God. “I consecrate myself for their sakes now,” Jesus says, offering Himself, His blood, as sacrifice for the Church; and Paul commends his disciples to this same Lord, “to that gracious word of His which can enlarge [them], and give [them] a share among all who are consecrated to Him.” In His name all are saved.
“Awesome in His sanctuary is God, the God of Israel; He gives power and strength to His people.” David sings mightily of the majesty of God, whose “voice resounds, the voice of power,” and calling all to “confess the power of God!” indicates how we share in that great power. In declaring of the Father, with Jesus and with Scripture, “Your word is truth,” that truth in essence becomes our own; we are thereby consecrated to it. And so Paul can exhort those he has placed in positions of power: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard,” for he knows as long as (like Paul) they do not “set [their] hearts on anyone’s silver or gold,” as long as they work tirelessly to “help the weak,” to serve the Church, they shall indeed be sharing in the power and authority of God.
Brothers and sisters, we “do not belong to the world” but to God and to His truth. His Spirit is with us to guide us and protect us here on our journey through death to life. As we humble ourselves in prayer before Him, He hears and answers all our needs. Remain in Him this day.
O LORD, shepherd your flock in the truth;
keep all falsehood from us.
YHWH, let us be consecrated in your Word, in your Word of truth, that we might share in your might and power, that we might be protected by your Name. As your Son sends His apostles forth, so these apostles send others forth, all sharing in the power that comes from you by the Spirit upon your Church. May we all be one with your Son as He is one with you, and so may we all do your will despite the persecutions of this world.
We do not belong to the world, O LORD, but to the One who has left this world to come to you in your kingdom. Help us to follow where He leads by your power from on high. Your Spirit fall upon us this day to give us strength to accomplish the work you set before us. From your sanctuary come to us and with us here remain, that we shall never turn from you along this narrow way. From generation to generation let your Word go forth till all your children are consecrated in your truth.
Mon, 14 May 2018
O farmer of God’s green earth
who cultivated the faith
even as you cultivated the ground,
whose simple and humble life
should serve as inspiration
to all toiling on this plane –
pray that we shall follow your example,
sharing our food with the hungry
as we work for the salvation of souls.
Pray that all the work we do
will bear fruit in God’s kingdom,
that with you and your wife
we may be found worthy
of those blessed words
come from our Savior’s mouth:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.
Enter into your Master’s joy.”
Pray according to your own blessing
from the Lord
that this earth He has given us
to care for
may be saved from the greedy hands of corrupted man
and serve as source of nourishment for all.
Mon, 14 May 2018
(Acts 20:17-27; Ps.68:10-11,20-21,33; Jn.17:1-11)
“Father, the hour has come!
Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you.”
A day of departures. A day of final words and commendations. Paul bids farewell to the leaders of Ephesus, declaring his faithfulness to them; and Jesus prays to the Father in the hearing of the disciples, calling the Lord’s blessing upon them.
“The Holy Spirit has been warning me from city to city that chains and hardships await me,” Paul confesses as he makes his way to Jerusalem; Jesus now has the cross directly before His eyes, having supped for the last time with His disciples. “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private,” Paul reminds his disciples; while Jesus states to His Father: “I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world.” “I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety,” Paul declares; “I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” Jesus says to the Father. And as Paul hopes, “If only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace” – not caring for his own life or any suffering ahead – Jesus’ only concern as He moves toward His own death and His return to the “glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world began” is that the Father will bless His disciples, for, as He says, “It is in them that I have been glorified.” These who remain in the world, as has Paul, are those who bring His glory forth, even as Jesus has revealed the glory of the Father.
The hour of death has come but “God, who is our salvation… controls the passageways of death” because He “bears our burdens.” The Lord Jesus Christ has borne, and will bear, all the temptations the devil can mount – the greatest of these illusions being death – and has conquered them all. And now His disciples follow in His footsteps, like Paul, who has “served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that came [his] way.” By this sacrifice the Lord “restored the land when it languished,” and now all are called to “repentance before God and… faith in our Lord Jesus” to know that redemption. This life that comes from His death is the glory of the Lord that goes now forth.
O LORD, we must leave this world to come to you,
but you control the passageways of death –
let all be done in your Name.
YHWH, what do you desire of us but sincere repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus? We glorify you by glorifying Him, by keeping faith in Him and witnessing His Gospel to all. May we ever preach the kingdom as has the Apostle Paul and so complete our mission here in union with your Son.
O may we come to eternal life! May we truly know you and your Son. May we share in your glory as He has prayed. O LORD our God, may we make your Name known to all, never shrinking from your call upon our souls, and leave this place blessed by you. Keep us ever in your truth and love until the day we join you in Heaven.
The hour has come, O LORD. Your Son has been glorified by you, returning to the glory He had from before time began. And now in us He seeks to be glorified, to continue the work of eternal life here on this earth. Death is not far from any of us; may we die in you and so be freed from all the chains of this world.
Sun, 13 May 2018
O chosen apostle,
destined to serve the Church
as witness to the resurrection
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
you who walked with Him
from the beginning
even until He was taken
from our sight
yet were not appointed by the Spirit
as one of the Twelve
until a place was made desolate
by the traitorous one –
pray that the call upon the soul
of all God’s children
will be fulfilled
according to His will
and we all shall come to be
witnesses to Jesus
and His eternal glory
wrought in our midst
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let none shy away from the Lord
but assume their rightful place in His presence.
Sun, 13 May 2018
(Acts 1:15-17,20-26; Ps.113:1-8; Jn.15:9-17)
“It was I who chose you to go forth and bear fruit.”
Since “the saying in Scripture uttered long ago by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of David was destined to be fulfilled in Judas” and he “went the way he was destined to go,” now the word of the Lord must be accomplished: “May another take his office.” And though “Peter stood up in the center of the brothers” and declared the need expressed in Scripture, and though the one hundred and twenty brothers gathered together “nominated two,” the prayer of the disciples, as well as their actions, makes clear by whom Matthias is chosen: “O Lord, you read the hearts of men. Make known to us which of these two you choose for this apostolic ministry.” As Judas is destined for perdition, so Matthias is chosen by the Lord to take his place, for all is indeed in the hands of God.
And what loving hands these are, brothers and sisters; and what loving hands all His disciples are called to employ. The words of the Lord in today’s gospel breathe the very love of God upon His apostles. “Love one another as I have loved you” is His command to them. “Live on in my love.” Our “fruit must endure,” and it can only endure, we can only bear fruit, sharing in the love of Father and Son. For then the Holy Spirit is upon us, who brings all to life. And the way in which we share in divine love the Lord makes clear as well: “There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And it is this laying down of his life to which Matthias is called today; and it is the same service in His name that makes us all friends of Jesus.
“From the rising to the setting of the sun is the name of the Lord to be praised,” for indeed “high above all nations is the Lord; above the heavens is His glory.” His ways are certainly far above our own, and it is His ways to which we must come, obediently following His command, His command to love. Today He reaches down and “raises the lowly from the dust… to seat [Matthias] with princes, with the princes of His people.” Today His choice is made of who will follow the Son. None but He knows the ones He chooses, the way we must walk, for none is “like the Lord, our God, who is enthroned on high and looks upon the heavens and the earth below”; and our joy is made complete only in going forth as He leads, for, simply put, none can compare with His love.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music By Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you choose those whom you send forth –
let us live in your love.
YHWH, help us to love one another as your Son has loved us that we shall live ever in His love and bear fruit in His Name. May we take our place with Him and all His apostles in your kingdom this day.
O LORD, as you chose Matthias to take the place of Judas, to sit with your princes, so let us know that we, too, are chosen by you to do your will in this world as the friends of Jesus. We take no honor unto ourselves but all honor you bestow upon those you call to your side. The greatest honor you would give to all – to be formed in the image of your Son.
Let us be faithful to that call, O LORD; let us give you due honor, you who are enthroned on high, far above heaven and earth. We are but dust, dear God, but you sit above all Creation, and this dust you would raise up to dwell in your eternal presence. In all your children let your will be done. Let us give witness to your Son’s resurrection and so join Him at your side.
Sat, 12 May 2018
O marvelous Wonder,
O Lady who shines
like the sun,
who brings the Light
into our midst
and calls us to repentance
that we might be saved,
that the whole world
might turn to the Lord
and be preserved
you come at the end of the age
to lead us back to your Son
before He comes again
and finally –
pray we shall hear and heed
your warning to our souls
and, with the faith of the children
whose eyes beheld you,
in union with the Cross of Jesus
for the salvation of all
and the renewal of the Church and the world.
Sat, 12 May 2018
(Acts1:15-17,20a,20c-26; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; 1Jn.4:11-16; Jn.17:11b-19)
“As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.”
Jesus sent the apostles forth, and “none of them was lost except the son of destruction”; and Judas was lost only “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” that the betrayal of the Christ might be accomplished. Otherwise, those whom He sent He also protected, He also guarded well from the evil one, that what must be accomplished in them should likewise be brought to fulfillment – that they be one with Jesus in the Father and bring His holy Name to the world, that all might be gathered together as one in God’s truth and His love.
To begin the accomplishment of this mission after the departure of the Christ, the principal soul whom Jesus sends stands up in the midst of all his brothers and calls for the replacement of Judas, that Scripture – “may another take his office” – continue to be fulfilled. Matthias is chosen by the Lord to become the twelfth “witness to His resurrection,” and so “the apostolic ministry” is now in place; and so the army of God can now go forth to reveal that “His kingdom rules over all.”
And what is His kingdom, brothers and sisters, but a kingdom of love? Our beloved John ever makes this clear, ever emphasizes this essential word of truth, and we must declare in truth his essential word of God’s love: “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.” His proclamation must be our own. We must see and know how the Lord guards us, how He protects us from the snares of the world and preserves us in His love by putting “our transgressions [far] from us,” that we might praise His name in faith even unto heaven. We must say with John, “We have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son as savior of the world.” In genuine recognition of this basic truth we shall find the love of God living in us.
And “if God so loved us” by sending His only Son to us, “we must love one another” by heeding His call to be sent to others. Like Matthias and the apostles, we too have a blessed vocation in Christ to bring His love and His truth to this dying world. To this let us consecrate ourselves as freely as has our Jesus, as freely as the Twelve… “that we might share [the Lord’s] joy completely.” We “do not belong to the world any more than [He] belong[s] to the world”: let us find our place in His kingdom.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Can You Love?" (part B of "Liars Don't Love, Lovers Don't Lie") from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, keep us in your Name
from the evils of the world
that we might remain in your love.
YHWH, send us forth in your Name and that of your Son; you are God and Father of all and Jesus shares in your glory. May we come to share in that same glory by the love you have shown us in sending your Son, and may we share that love with all.
Your Word of truth take not from our souls, dear LORD, but let it be spoken in our every breath. Your love dwell ever in us that we might dwell ever in you and do your will in all things. O let us be consecrated to you with your Son! Let us be made sacred in your sight, that indeed we might be your children, your apostles of love and truth.
Count us among your disciples, LORD, you who are mighty and rule over all, that freed from our sins your love might be perfected in us and we become one with you in Heaven. For us has Jesus laid down His life in perfect love – may we acknowledge His Sonship and so share in your love.
Fri, 11 May 2018
O child of courage,
though but a boy
you gave your life
as the strongest of men,
proving thus your love for Christ,
a love that steels souls
even in the face of death,
even in the youthful breast –
if but a young child like yourself
could die so freely for the faith
and show the face of Jesus
to the whole world,
how much more should we,
so graced by the Lord
with years of devotion,
be ready to give
for the name of God?
Pray your innocence
may renew our hearts
and your strength
fortify our commitment
to give our lives for Christ
and His Church.
Fri, 11 May 2018
O brave soldiers,
the world could not take
Christ from your hearts;
though it tried to expunge Him
from the army in which you served,
your allegiance to the holy One of Israel,
our Lord and God,
and so death you preferred
to life without Jesus –
pray for us who are so weak in faith,
that our stale complacency
might be invigorated
by the blood of our Savior,
the blood you yourselves shed
as you filled up what was lacking
in the sufferings of Christ.
Pray we shall not turn
from the sacrifice to which the Lord calls us
but embrace with joy the cross we must bear,
and which bears us unto Heaven.
Fri, 11 May 2018
(Acts 18:23-28; Ps.47:2-3,8-10; Jn.16:23-28)
“He went about establishing from the Scriptures
that Jesus is the Messiah.”
In our gospel today, Jesus again assures the disciples, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name,” He tells them of the time when He will no longer speak to them “in veiled language,” but “shall tell [them] about the Father in plain speech.” A most fascinating quote is His statement, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” So great is our oneness with Jesus because we “have believed that [He] came from God,” that now as He returns to the Father, we go there with Him; and since we are thus with the Father through Him, He need not ask for us of the Father, but we ask ourselves. When Jesus declares, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me,” He is telling us that we are indeed one with Him in the Father’s love, and so, of course, the Father hears all our prayers.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Apollos, who was “a man full of spiritual fervor. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus.” His love for the Lord is most evident in His “express[ing] himself fearlessly in the synagogue,” in his “vigorous” preaching of Jesus as the Messiah. He also shows himself to be a humble man, very acquiescent to Priscilla and Aquila, who “took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” As strong as he was, and as much as “he greatly strengthened those who through God’s favor had become believers,” he was very willing to learn of his weakness. And so he becomes a model of faith and of the oneness with God we find in the Spirit through the love of Christ. And so his words are like prayers which never fall short of the glory of God. And so the Father answers all he has in his heart.
“He is supreme,” brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus now sits on the throne of God in the highest heavens. And we who believe in Him become one with Him, and so, one with the Father of all. And thus do we find all our prayers answered; thus do we find all our work blessed. Thus do we find ourselves moving as one with the will of God by the love the Father shares with all of us through our faith in His Son. As great as Apollos and Paul and all the apostles are, we can be, if we but believe that Jesus is God and so share in the Father’s love, and so hear the Holy Spirit speaking plainly to our hearts.
O LORD, Jesus is your Christ;
He reigns with you over all the nations –
thank you for sending Him to us
that we might be united to you.
YHWH, you are King of all the earth, reigning in highest Heaven, and Jesus is the Messiah you send, one with you and born for us that we might be one with both of you through the power of the Holy Spirit. As your Son returns to you, He brings us with Himself; insofar as we love Him and believe in Him, you love us and so unite us with yourself. What can we say of so great a gift but, Alleluia! Praise you, LORD!
May the Name of your Son be preached with zeal to all towns, to every soul that longs for salvation, that none shall be left without instruction but all realize the glory to which we are called in you. With you, O Most High God, may we be joined by the grace found in your Son.
All we desire may we ask for this day in the Name of your Son. And so, O LORD, all shall be as you desire – all will be gathered together as your children.
Thu, 10 May 2018
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps.47:2-8; Jn.16:20-23)
“Go on speaking and do not be silenced,
for I am with you.”
As Paul continues his missionary journey, his fears are calmed by the Lord, who assures him: “No one will attack you or harm you,” though he be in Corinth, whose infamous immorality is illustrated in the riotous behavior of the Jews in its court, and to which the court “paid no attention at all.” And the Lord is true to His word, protecting Paul throughout his year-and-a-half stay, and keeping him even from having to defend himself from charges in today’s first reading.
In our gospel Jesus reassures the disciples at the Last Supper, as He is about to leave them and their hearts begin to be troubled: “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.” And though there remains ever a measure of grief in our hearts as we labor in this world, our bodies apart from the fullness of the grace of heaven, yet we know that Jesus’ promise has indeed been kept in His sending His Spirit upon the apostles from His heavenly kingdom. It is, of course, this Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and protects Paul, making his missionary work fruitful, for he does all having been baptized by the fire of Christ. And, of course, the disciples to whom Jesus speaks today will soon have no more fear, for Pentecost is not far from them.
Pentecost is not far from any of us, brothers and sisters. The promised Spirit is come into the world to answer all questions, to calm all our anxieties. As we wait these nine days to celebrate this great feast of the Church, as we prepare again to enter into its birth in the Spirit of God, let us be assured that the Lord’s promise remains: “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.”
No one can take from us the promised joy we now hold in our hearts and which is renewed in this season. As Paul is emboldened even through his most difficult trials, as the apostles rejoice at their persecutions for Jesus’ sake, so we should know that the Lord “brings people under us, nations under our feet”; and so, as powerful as the world may seem in all its brazen immorality, yet we are assured that “He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob, whom He loves.” “There are many of [His] people in this city,” here where we dwell on earth, and we must speak to them of the Lord’s glory, His love strengthening us for every task. It is He who accomplishes all in us, and so He will guide and guard our way.
O LORD, give us reassurance of your presence with us,
now and until the end of time.
YHWH, soon our hearts shall rejoice at the return of your Son and our union with you in Heaven forever. But now your Spirit is with us reassuring us of the fulfillment of this promise and guiding and protecting us along the way. We can accomplish all the tasks you set before us because of the glory that is among us even this day in our Advocate from on high.
O LORD, though there is cause for us to weep and mourn in these days we remain apart from complete unity with you, we are strengthened as we wait by the knowledge that Jesus is yet present with us in the Spirit He sends. Let us take refuge in this gift and, as we wait now again for its outpouring in a few days, let us remember your faithfulness to us and our destiny to praise you forever in your eternal kingdom. O you who sit upon the throne, shine your light upon us this day.
Wed, 9 May 2018
(Acts 1:1-11; Ps.47:1-3,6-9; Eph.1:17-23 or Eph.4:1-13 or Heb.9:24-28,10:19-23;
Mt.28:16-20 or Mk.16:15-20 or Lk.24:46-53)
“God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.”
Three events are the subject of today’s readings. The key of these is certainly the Lord’s ascending into heaven and taking His place at the right hand of the Father. Without this the other two could not follow. And so we celebrate the Lord’s Ascension in particular; but we also hear of the coming Pentecost and the apostles’ call to go forth to the ends of the world.
“As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.” Now He goes to heaven, returning to the Father, as He has said, to enter into glory. And as He has asked, we should be joyful, we should “shout to God with cries of gladness. For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great King over all the earth,” and now Jesus, our Savior and our brother, is with Him, and so brings us to Him. His glory becomes our own, and so His now assuming His throne in heaven should cause us to “sing hymns of praise” to Him who now “reigns over the nations.”
And from His place seated “at the right hand of God” “upon His holy throne,” the Lord keeps “the promise of the Father about which [we] have heard [Him] speak.” For “in a few days [we] will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”; Pentecost will be here, and Jesus’ words to His disciples as He prepares to ascend will be our own: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” It is from this Holy Spirit that the Church takes its strength, through whom we are all made one in “faith and knowledge of the Son of God,” and by whom we attain to “the full stature of Christ.” He it is who inspires all, and He could not come except that our high priest has entered the sanctuary of heaven – opening for us the way to enter there – and from there delivered unto us the grace which through Him comes.
And what does this inspiration, this absolute strength we take in the Spirit call us to do but to heed the Lord’s words and “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” knowing as He has said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age”? And so, apostles and prophets and evangelists and all His children go forth empowered by His Spirit that “hearts [may] be enlightened,” that all might know “the hope that belongs to His call… the riches of glory in His inheritance… and what is the surpassing greatness of His power” – that all might believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus is now seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven, “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” All things are “beneath His feet,” for “King of all the earth is God,” and Jesus is God. But though the Son has joined the Father, remember He is with us always, suffering with us still and bringing us to His side by the power of His Spirit. Wait now on His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (1st half) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the cloud
which took Jesus from our sight
soon bring Him back to us
and keep Him with us forever.
YHWH, your Son mounts His throne of glory, He ascends to you in Heaven, drawing us up into your presence and giving us the power to proclaim your glory and baptize all in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – with you, O God, let us be made one!
And let us go, O LORD, even to the ends of the earth, your Son working through us by the power of the Spirit upon us. As we wait now for your promise to fall upon us and be fulfilled in us, let us with faith set our hearts on your surpassing presence. From the bonds of this earth let us be freed, that by the power of the Spirit we might indeed join Jesus at your right hand. O let thy kingdom come!
Soon your Son shall return to us and we will sing in unending joy. But even now we are the Body of Christ, united with Him in Heaven. O LORD, send your Spirit forth that we might find the strength to call all souls unto your glory.
Tue, 8 May 2018
(Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps.148:1-2,11-14,Is.6:3; Jn.16:12-15)
“It is He ‘who gives’ to all life and ‘breath’ and everything else.”
“His majesty is above earth and heaven,” brothers and sisters. And so our psalmist today encourages all in the heavens and all on earth to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” “From one stock He made every nation of mankind to dwell on the face of the earth,” and it is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And so should we, “His faithful ones,” not offer Him praise?
Brothers, be not ignorant as the men of Athens who thought “the God who made the world and ‘all that is in it,’ the Lord of heaven and earth,” as “something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of man’s genius and his art.” Could man with all his intelligence make the sun or wind? Then how can it be that he might contrive the Creator of these? Such groping in darkness for the God who is “not really far from any of us” shall not be tolerated forever. For the time has come to turn on the lamp which lights the room and let all shadows flee. He who is going to “judge the world with justice” is among us now; it is He whom God “has endorsed in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead.” And it is faith in Him to which we must come.
Jesus promises the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide [them] to all truth.” It is He who “will not speak on His own, but will speak only what He hears.” He receives from Jesus, who possesses “all that the Father has,” all that He announces to us. And Paul is His mouthpiece today, speaking not what he has invented by his erudite learning and fanciful imagining, but rather proclaiming the truth he hears the Spirit inspiring in his soul and burning in his heart.
We shall not get to heaven on stairs we make with our soiled hands; they cannot but crumble under the pressure of time and the weight of truth. Only by obedience to the Spirit who inspires all, shall all find the presence of the “God Unknown” to hearts of stone and minds as fleeting as a wisp of smoke. “He calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives,” for their scoffing at truth shall bring them alone to a dark room, where there shall be no breath of the Spirit. But we who know all wisdom comes from God, living in its light are made His children.
O LORD, may we know your glory in the Word
announced to us by the Spirit Jesus sends.
YHWH, the light of wisdom you alone shine by the Spirit of Truth come through your Son. You are exalted above earth and Heaven, and we cannot approach you by our minds or the work of our hands – only by faith will we come to know your surpassing glory.
O LORD, let your glory be announced to all that all might praise you in whom we live and move and have our being, that all might thus come to know themselves by realizing we are your offspring. If we do not see you, how blind we remain to everything, hopelessly groping in the dark for truth and light. We cannot make truth, we cannot make you, for it is you who have made us.
May we heed your call to reform our lives, dear LORD, that we might come to understanding, that guided by the Spirit we might come to faith in you and praise your Name forever with all your children in the heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 7 May 2018
(Acts 16:22-34; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Jn.16:5-11)
“Immediately all the doors flew open
and everyone’s chains were pulled loose.”
“Your right hand saves me,” David sings unto the Lord this day in our psalm. Mighty indeed is His power, and so we should “worship at [His] holy temple, and give thanks to [His] name,” for He has “built up strength within [us]”; by the power of the Holy Spirit He has set us free from our prisons, from the chains of sin.
“When I called you, you answered me,” David sings. And how the Lord answers Paul and Silas as they call unto Him in song of their own. “After receiving many lashes they were thrown into prison, and the jailer… put them in maximum security, going so far as to chain their feet to a stake.” Yet what do we find these apostles doing in the deep of the night? – “praying and singing hymns to God as their fellow prisoners listened.” And God hears their prayers; they bring “a severe earthquake [which] suddenly shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations” and setting all those inside free of their chains.
Can we have a clearer sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power than this? Well, yes, because as wondrous as earthquakes are, the truest sign of the Spirit came this night when the jailer “and his whole household were baptized.” The earthquake and the flying open of prison doors may have opened his heart to hearing the word of God, but his wholehearted acceptance of “his newfound faith in God” is the Spirit’s great work. For what is of greater importance, the stone and steel of a prison cell shaken and cast to the ground, or the salvation of the eternal soul of man?
The Lord Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as Advocate to plead our cause and prove us right about our faith in the One who saves from sin. In justice and in truth He goes to the Father, and from His exalted throne He sends forth the Paraclete to prove His presence with us still; and by the grace and power of the Holy Trinity at work in our midst, “the prince of this world has been condemned” and the prison he built to contain us destroyed.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.” Let us sing to Him, brothers and sisters. Let us join with David and Silas and Paul, and all the redeemed of the Lord, and “joyfully celebrate with [our] whole family,” with all the children of our God, our everlasting faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit. From prison we have been released; with the Savior we are risen. His Spirit is upon us now.
O LORD, may we believe in your Son
and so be saved from our sin,
entering your House with songs of praise.
YHWH, you have saved us from certain death, death at our own hands because of our sins. To our very foundation you have shaken us and served to make us new men. May all be baptized in your Name!
Send your Spirit forth, O LORD, to shake this place in which we dwell, that we might be released from our prisons, from dwelling in our self-made hell. The chains of this world are easily broken by your power come from above; let us turn quickly from our sin and acknowledge your power and might, and we shall be saved – we and all our household.
No fear let us have of the world’s efforts to chain your Word, O God. Despite all, let us sing your praise, knowing the devil has been condemned, and the Spirit will never die in us. And whatever darkness may surround us this day shall soon pass, and with your angels we shall sing your praise in your eternal kingdom.
Sun, 6 May 2018
(Acts 16:11-15; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.15:26-16:4)
“You must bear witness.”
The Spirit will come and call to your hearts to speak of the name of Jesus and His salvation. As He prompts you, you must speak the truth in love, you must go as He calls – you must bear witness. And sometimes the word you speak, and you yourself, will be accepted with the faith and great hospitality as known in Lydia (who is said to be “one who listened,” for “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying,” and who generously invited Paul and his companions, foreigners traveling to distant lands, to “come and stay at [her] house”); and other times those who “know neither the Father nor [the Son]” will “expel you from synagogues,” will cast you violently from their midst, and “anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” It does not matter. The Word must go forth, in season and out.
How few true witnesses there seem to be today, for in the time and place in which I stand certainly the Word of God is out of season. False witnesses with strange gospels abound, but the tongue of the apostles is tied, and what is spoken seems to land upon deaf ears. Those who have no conception of the Holy Spirit and so know neither Father nor Son are emboldened to speak as messengers of Jesus, though the Jesus they know is not the Christ and what they speak but serves to lead the sheep astray. And where is His Church? Will no one stand to speak of His love?
Today instead of “sing[ing] for joy upon [our] couches… the high praises of God… in our throats,” the houses in which we dwell seem to swallow our souls, and we are left mute in the face of destruction. And it is hard to say that our faith is shaken, for who can find any faith at all? Neither persecution nor glad acceptance do we find, for we speak no word to challenge the world.
Let us pray to the Lord, brothers and sisters, that He will send laborers forth, that even in this time of lethargy upon His Church, new life is beginning to grow. For until the end of time the Word must go forth; before then it shall not have reached its goal. However well the devil may fool us into complacency, we must know that it is always time to preach the Word, for ever will hearts be seeking Him – and ever hands seek to destroy Him. “The Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” This call to the humble must be heard by all.
O LORD, let us stand strong in doing your will,
praising your Name, come what may.
YHWH, help us to go forth in the Name of your Son, to speak His Word to the world, to bear witness to truth as He has. For though we be persecuted and even killed for serving you, there will be those who will listen and be saved.
Ready our hearts for what may come, O LORD, that we shall not fear in the hour of darkness, on the day the power of the evil one asserts itself. Help us to realize his power is as nothing and those who do his bidding shall pass like the fading grass. Only those who hear and heed your voice will stand on the last Day.
The faithful will rejoice in you, LORD, and sing a new song to your glory come into our midst by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We shall praise you forever in your eternal House. Even now in prayer we come to dwell with you.
Sat, 5 May 2018
(Acts 10:25-26,34-35,44-48; Ps.98:1-4; 1Jn.4:7-10; Jn.15:9-17)
“This I command you: love one another.”
And so we hear the Lord’s essential instruction: love. If we keep His commandments we will love, and if we love we will keep His commandments. His commandment is to love.
But what is love? John gives us the simple answer, of course: “God is love,” but also indicates further the nature of love, corroborated by the Lord Himself. It is “not that we have loved God, but that He loved us.” Love comes not from us but from God, because, as we have said, God is love; we are not love. It is God the Father who has sent His Son to reveal His love by dying for our sins; without this sacrifice we would not know love, could not comprehend the love that is God, that is willing to lay down His very life for the sake of His children. Apart from this love we remain in the dark about love – any love separated from this offering is not love at all.
And as it is not we who love but He who gives love, who is love, so it is not we who choose Him but He us. We did not contrive the sacrifice of the Son: we could never have imagined it. We have, in fact, great difficulty in simply accepting it, so beyond our concept of love it is. But there it is. There He is, calling us to His love, to this love, to the sacrifice of our own selves for one another, that we might thoroughly share in the gift of love. We need but respond to know love.
And who may share in this love? Let us come to Peter’s realization: “In every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him.” There is none from whom the Spirit can be withheld, for, as John confirms, “Everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.” So we need but love. We need but put our hope in Him and in His love. We need but keep His command, and His love shall be our own, and we shall find ourselves “speaking in tongues and glorifying God”; whomever we are and wherever we come from, we know “the salvation by our God” by living in the love of the Spirit and being “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Alleluia! There is not much else to say. Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Let us forever live in His love. Let us forever die for one another.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Love, the Meaning of: Can You Love?" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, thank you for sending us your Son,
for sharing with us your love –
may we also share Him with others.
YHWH, help us to love one another, to die for one another, that we might find the love you offer us in the sacrifice of your Son, that we might live ever in your love.
What more could we want than to be begotten by you and know you by living in your love? What greater call can there be for our lives than to be united with you who are love? O LORD, all who fear you and act uprightly, all who love you and love their neighbor, all who desire you and your love you come to in your Son – may all be baptized in His Name!
Pour out your Spirit upon all souls, dear LORD, that all might be conformed to your will and made in the image of your Son. As Jesus let us all be, laying down our lives for one another in the Spirit of love. We are all but men, LORD, but your Son calls us His friends as He draws us into union with you and your love. Alleluia!
Fri, 4 May 2018
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps.100:1-3,5; Jn.15:18-21)
“I chose you out of the world.”
What is the world but heartache and sin; from this the Lord would release us.
Jesus tells His disciples: “You do not belong to the world,” and yet, as is most evident in the journeys of Paul, to all the world do the apostles go. The Master tells them, “You [will] find that the world hates you”; even so, they preach to a world which has no respect for the name they proclaim, who “know nothing of Him who sent” them. The inevitable persecution they do not fear, the death their work brings they do not flee, but face all in complete readiness.
Indeed, Paul is our example of the commitment we all must have to doing the Lord’s will in this world. With great fervor he travels from land to land and, praise God, “through all this, the congregations grew stronger in faith and daily increased in numbers.” He transmits the Lord’s Gospel message to all waiting ears and perseveres through all trials. For there are those throughout this earth who will listen to the Word that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are,” and that Jesus is His Son – and Paul cannot help but strain forward to find these hearts which long to “come before Him with joyful song.” So great is Paul’s desire to bring the word of the Lord to those who have never heard it before that he must be restrained by the Holy Spirit. Twice today in our first reading he is prevented from entering and preaching to lands for which it is not time, finally being called in a vision to those who awaited him. Paul and the apostles’ readiness to do the Lord’s will is related clearly in Luke’s statement, “After the vision, we immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the Good News there.”
We must go where we are called and move as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus the Christ. Into the world He leads us all to bring His light forth. Though never of the world, we must encourage all the world to “sing joyfully to the Lord,” to “serve the Lord with gladness.” By our words and by our lives we must show that we are “His people, the flock He tends,” and others will be drawn from the clutches of a world that hates the truth and into the protecting arms of God.
O LORD, let your Word go forth to all the world
that all might be saved from the world
and come to you.
YHWH, should we not rejoice that the world hates us, that it persecutes us and the Word we speak, for does this not show that we are of Jesus, that we are one with Him in following in His way? And is this not the path by which fruit is born, fruit that will last unto Heaven? Is this not the way souls are saved and come to rejoice in your kingdom?
Help us to remember this, LORD, to remember and desire only to do your will, to follow in the way Jesus leads and bring His Word, His Spirit, to the ends of the earth. Make your apostles as zealous as Paul to bring the Gospel to all who are open to receive salvation, to know the blessing of being your children.
May all souls be grafted onto the tree of your Chosen people. Let your Church increase in faith and numbers, LORD, until the return of your Son.
Thu, 3 May 2018
(Acts 15:22-31; Ps.57:8-12; Jn.15:12-17)
“There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Do not Judas and Silas fulfill the Lord’s command to “love one another”; do not they lay down their lives for the Lord when they bring word “to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” of the apostles’ decision regarding those who have “upset [them] with their discussions and disturbed [their] peace of mind”? Do they not carry the love of the Lord in their persons as well as in the letter in their hands?
And are these not made friends of the Lord even as the apostles and elders, even as those who come to them? Jesus says to His disciples in our gospel, “I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” And now in the same way these disciples “go forth and bear fruit” as the Lord has commanded by making known to the children of the nations “the decision of the Holy Spirit,” the whole Truth of God’s love, thus drawing them into the friendship of Christ.
The apostles and elders, who call themselves “brothers” of those of Gentile origin, “have unanimously resolved to choose representatives and send them” to witness of the Lord’s love for them; Paul and Barnabas are called by the apostles, those “who have dedicated themselves to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ” – there is left no doubt of the strength of the decision that is made and the authority by which it comes. And so “there was great delight at the encouragement [the letter] gave,” for it and those who read it hold indeed the love of God, the absolute truth of the Holy Spirit, by whose power they have been freed from the burdens being imposed upon them and brought into the fold and friendship, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
“I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, I will chant your praises among the nations.” With David, the Gentile disciples “sing and chant praise” to the living God who is “exalted above the heavens” and “above all the earth.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon them now by the love that has been laid down before them, and now they too are called to lay down their lives in the Lord’s love, as are we all, that friends of Jesus, sons of the Father, may ever be drawn into His holy fold.
O LORD, your love is all we need –
help us to worship you with our very lives.
YHWH, let us all live in your love and rejoice in the blessing of the Holy Spirit; let us dwell with you in the glory that is above all the earth. Obedient to your Word, to the rightful authority of your Church, we follow in the way of the Spirit and find ourselves as friends of your Son.
You do not make the way difficult for us, but quite simple. You simply call us all to love. To lay down our lives for one another, even as Jesus has done, may seem impossible to our corrupted hearts – but in you all is made very easy, for your yourself are love. O LORD, help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son and so bear the fruit of eternal love.
It is clear, dear God, that you desire all to share in your great blessings. You long to give us all we ask for. You wish for us peace of mind and heart, and you know this is found only in doing your will, for your will is only love. Let us heed your command to love, and so chant your praises in the kingdom.
Wed, 2 May 2018
O holy apostles of the Lord
upon whom the Church is established,
your words go out to the ends of the earth,
bringing the Gospel to all nations.
You who were near to Jesus Himself,
who were with Him all the time
He walked among us…
there is no greater witness
to the way and the truth and the life
of our God, our Savior –
please pray for the Church in the world
that it shall be led by the Spirit of Truth
and we shall all be as brothers of the Lord,
living in His love
and revealing the Father.
As you have performed the works of the Son,
so let us join in the work of redemption,
that all the earth will come to see
that Jesus is in the Father
and we are made one in Him.
Wed, 2 May 2018
(1Cor.15:1-8; Ps.19:2-5; Jn.14:6-14)
“The man who has faith in me will do the works I do.”
What is the message the apostles preach “to the ends of the world”? What is “the glory of God” that “the heavens declare” and “the firmament proclaims”? It is none other than Jesus’ words to Thomas: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me”; it is His answer to Philip: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” The Father “lives in [Jesus] accomplishing His works,” and Jesus lives in His apostles continuing the great work of God.
Here is the Gospel in short, which Paul preaches to the Corinthians in our first reading: “Christ died for our sins in accord with the Scriptures… He was buried and, in accord with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” He has appeared to all the apostles who preach His Name, who declare His salvation to all men; and He is known to us this day in His Spirit, in His Church, in His Sacraments and in His Word. And indeed it is so that knowing Him we know the Father; filled with His Spirit we cannot but proclaim the majesty of the grace at work in Him through His Church. Standing on the solid foundation the apostles have set, what can shake our faith or keep us from His glorious presence?
Brothers and sisters, on days such as this – and indeed on all days – our hearts should burn intensely with the love of the Lord. Our souls should join with the blessed spirit of these holy apostles and declare aloud the silent Word that “imparts knowledge” to the minds of all. So should our “voice[s] resound” of the glory of God and the grace He has poured forth in our spirits. Let the earth be filled with His light!
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, you are seen in your Son;
let Him be seen in us.
YHWH, let us do your works; let us believe in you and bring your Gospel to the ends of the earth. Let us declare with your holy apostles that your Son has died for our sins, and that He is now risen.
Dear LORD, open our eyes to see that Jesus is in you and you are in Him. Truly He is the way, the truth, and the life – by His presence amongst us, we are saved and drawn into life. Let us follow in His way and so become one with you and with the Spirit.
With confidence may your apostles speak, LORD, that your voice might go out to all the world and all hearts might declare that Jesus is God, and that in Him alone we are redeemed. O let us all speak for Him as He comes to us this day!
Make us His brothers in the faith, dear Father, those who see you and know you and do your will. Strengthen us today to do your work, and so find glory in your Name.
Tue, 1 May 2018
O defender of the faith
in the divinity of Christ,
bulwark of the Church
of the One
who is true God and true Man,
upholder of the way
in the face of all persecutions –
pray that the shepherds of the Church
will today be so staunch in the faith,
never afraid to defend the truth
from attacks from within
and outside her walls.
So many souls
are led so astray
by the teaching of false prophets;
pray indeed that the Lord
will raise up leaders,
prophets of His true teaching,
of His narrow way,
which leads through the body He assumed,
the death He took upon Himself
for our sins,
to His divine presence in Heaven.
Tue, 1 May 2018
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.