Sat, 30 June 2018
(Ws.1:13-15,2:23-24; Ps.30:2,4-6,11-13; 2Cor.8:7,9,13-15; Mk.5:21-43)
“God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of His own nature He made him.”
“God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.” “By the envy of the devil death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it,” but God has nothing to do with death: He is but Life, and would have us be with Him where He is.
It is the Lord’s will that all live, that all are rescued from death and destruction; and so Jesus “became poor, so that by His poverty [we] might become rich,” and so He died that we might live… and so He comes healing us of our disease and raising us from the dead. David witnesses to His power in our psalm today – “You brought me up from the netherworld, you preserved me from among those going down into the pit” – and in our gospel Jesus heals the woman of her flow of blood and wakes Jairus’ daughter from her sleep.
“Little girl, I say to you, arise!” the Lord whispers to the child of twelve as He holds her by the hand, and “she [arises] immediately and walk[s] around.” Despite the commotion and the ridicule of the crowd outside, the Lord enters her room and calls quite clearly to her heart… Do you hear Him? Do you hear Him speaking? Does He not call to all our hearts to rise from the dead, from the death of sin or complacency, or whatever disease has gripped our lives? What He speaks to the little girl He says to all: “Rise from your slumber, O sleeper!”
It is not death to which we are called, but life. This Jesus clearly shows in His ministry upon the earth. And though this life can only be fully known having entered the gates of heaven, and though each day we are called to lay down our lives, to die as the Lord has shown us – though this indeed be a world of suffering for the Christian soul who always carries His cross, we know the Mighty One, the Creator of the universe, holds us each in His loving hand, and He will turn our “mourning into dancing” as He breathes life upon us again. “At nightfall weeping enters in, but with the dawn rejoicing,” as we see that never really do we die, as we discover in His presence among us our eternal life… as we sense even now our blessed immortality. Remain with Him forever.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "To Eternal Life" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, lay your hands upon us
that death might flee and we be healed.
YHWH, in you death has no place, no power at all. By a word from the mouth of your Son, the death we have brought upon ourselves is dispelled, and we are raised to life with you. It is for life you have made us; bring us back to your side.
In this world we weep and mourn, O LORD; we cry out for the darkness that closes in. But what is this death that seems to take hold to those who have faith in you? Those who closely follow your Son shall be cured of their diseases, healed of every affliction – even from death they shall be raised, as if they were only sleeping. For He will speak to our hearts, and hearing His voice we shall arise. We shall live in peace forever.
Jesus has laid down His life that we might be brought up from the nether world. Though death and sin and the envy of the devil threaten to take our posterity away, yet we shall sing praise to you, O LORD, for the salvation wrought in our midst.
Fri, 29 June 2018
(Lam.2:2,10-14,18-19; Ps.74:1-7,19-21; Mt.8:5-17)
“It was our infirmities He bore,
our sufferings He endured.”
And oh how deep are those sufferings; “great as the sea is [our] downfall.” And graphically are they seen in the destruction of Jerusalem; sharply they pierce the flesh of the Son.
Yes, the Lord “has torn down in His anger the fortresses of daughter Judah… On the ground in silence sit the old men of daughter Zion; they strew dust on their heads and gird themselves with sackcloth. The maidens of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground.” And the children and infants “faint away like the wounded in the streets of the city, and breathe their last in their mothers’ arms.” And so the prophet Jeremiah is “worn out from weeping”; and so his “gall is poured out on the ground because of the downfall of the daughter of [his] people.”
And is this weeping not Jesus’ own? Does He not shed tears over Jerusalem for the suffering it has known, and its suffering to come? Does He not indeed die for our sins? Listen to the description of the destruction of the holy city offered by our psalmist today: “With chisel and hammer they hack at all the paneling of the sanctuary.” Are these not the blows Jesus suffered; are they not the nails which pierced His hands and feet and side? “They set your sanctuary on fire; the place where your name abides they have razed and destroyed.” Is not Jesus the Temple of the living God, crucified by the hands of lust and greed and jealousy? Have we not done such violence to our Lord? And has He not endured all for our salvation?
Let the priest and all the children note the cause of such destruction of God’s chosen ones, the suffering of His only Son. Is it not the prophets who proclaimed “false and specious visions,” who “did not lay bare [the people’s] guilt, to avert [their] fate”? And note the Lord’s own words and attitude toward those who follow Him, to the children of Israel who press upon Him: “The natural heirs of the kingdom will be driven out into the dark. Wailing will be heard there and grinding of teeth.” Does Jesus fail to show those in His care the narrow gate? And so should we continue to coddle faithless hearts unto their destruction?
He indeed bears all our infirmities, all the sickness our sin has wrought. But we must indeed see ourselves as the centurion’s servant boy, “in bed paralyzed, suffering painfully,” to find His word of healing. We must come with the faith of the centurion to know His saving touch. For destruction indeed awaits the land, and so we must cry out to Him, “Turn your steps toward the utter ruins; toward all the damage the enemy has done in your sanctuary,” if we hope to be redeemed by His blood.
O LORD, only Jesus could heal our ills,
only He could bear our suffering, for our guilt is great –
only He could take it away.
YHWH, how dire is the condition of your city this day; your people waste away on its streets, and none is there to help them. Should we not call upon you; and would you not be faithful in carrying away our afflictions, in saving us from the destruction that surrounds us because of our sin? We lie paralyzed before you; lift us up from our bed of pain.
Does not death surround us this day, O LORD? Is there not little hope among your people – are not the walls of our city torn down? Yet your Son would bear all our suffering; our infirmities He would take away. Let us come to Him for healing. Let us cry out to you for grace, for you are faithful to all sincere prayers… Look upon us in our desolate state.
O LORD, the sanctuary has been torn down – your Son has been crucified in our midst. But we know this death He endures with us will bring us new life if we but pour out our hearts like water in your presence. O let us come to your banquet in the kingdom!
Wed, 27 June 2018
(2Kgs.24:8-17; Ps.79:1-5,8,9; Mt.7:21-29)
“The rains fell, the torrents came,
the winds blew and lashed against his house.
It collapsed under all this and was completely ruined.”
Yes, “the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege,” and “Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother, his ministers, officers, and functionaries, surrendered to the king of Babylon, who… took him captive… None were left among the people of the land except the poor”; and these, too, shall soon be struck.
Yes, the nations “have defiled [the Lord’s] holy temple, they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.” And why has such destruction come? Our first reading tells us simply of Jehoiachin, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his forebears had done”; and now finally the day of reckoning has come. And now the nations “have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury them.” Now does the Lord’s “jealousy burn like fire.”
And what shall be left when that fire is passed? Who shall stand on that day of reckoning that shall come to all souls, to peoples of all nations? Will you stand before the Lord and recount the great deeds you have done before Him who holds all the world in His holy hand? Will you attempt to justify yourself before Him who justifies all? Will your heart truly be set upon such vain pursuit? Truly then the Lord will “declare to [you] solemnly, ‘Out of my sight, you evildoers’”; for all you have done will be as a grain of sand in His sight, and that grain will be blown from His hand for your lack of humility, for your pride before whom none can stand.
How shall it be then that your house be “solidly set on rock”? How will you avoid the fate of His chosen city Jerusalem? If it has been destroyed, do you not think that you, too, are liable to be struck from His sight? Or do you find yourself perfect? You must cry out as our psalmist, “Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.” You must heed the words of Christ and consider yourselves unworthy servants (Lk.17:10), unfit as you are to stand before His eyes, to dwell in His light. Then He may have pity on your wretched soul. Then He might make you strong. Your tongue silent before His majesty, there will be hope that you shall remain.
Remember, brothers and sisters, this is He who “taught with authority” before whom you stand. Do not lose the awe of His presence. And perhaps the great collapse of your house will not be necessary; perhaps you shall find His great love which washes away all sin. Let the rains He sends but be cleansing. Endure them gracefully.
O LORD, the gold of the temple does not endure,
but only a humble soul set on your will.
YHWH, let us do your will, that we might stand humbly before you on the Day of judgment.
You cannot help but judge, dear LORD; you cannot help but condemn the pride and wickedness of an evil heart and a vain life. You would give us food to stand strong, your command that gives life indeed… but we would follow our own ways, and so, how can we end but removed from your sight?
You make us as temples, LORD, temples of your Holy Spirit feeding on the Body and Blood of your Son… but how faithful are we to the call to be as your Son, to listen to His words and the guidance of the Spirit – are we truly obedient to your will for our lives?
If we are not humble, LORD, then we know you not. If we expect return for works done in your NAME, then we understand not the great blessing of being your sons, and how unworthy we are to carry out your will.
O LORD, come back to us and help us because of the glory of your NAME. Let us make our home in you and in your Temple, and so find strength in you on the Day you return.
Tue, 26 June 2018
(2Kgs.22:8-13,23:1-3; Ps.119:33-37,40; Mt.7:15-20)
“Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I take delight.”
The people of Judah and Jerusalem have been unfaithful to God and to the covenant made with Him, and so the time of their exile draws near: soon this remaining tribe of Israel shall join the others in being cast from their promised land. But today we hear of a faithful king, Josiah, who makes a kind of final effort, a final sign of faithfulness among the people, as he seeks to restore what has been so sorely lost by the nation.
King Josiah recognizes that Judah has sinned against God and so lost His blessing; and this truth is brought home to him in the clear light of “the book of the law,” which has been uncovered in the temple of the Lord, dusted off of its many years of neglect, and read in his hearing. Hearing the commands of the Lord, the Word which gives life to its hearer, the king tears his garments in penitence for what has been lacking to the kingdom, and declares: “The anger of the Lord has been set furiously ablaze against us because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.” To his great credit he seeks now to fulfill these stipulations, making “a covenant before the Lord that they would follow Him and observe His ordinances, statutes, and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant which were written in the book.” The covenant made through Moses he looks to restore.
“And all the people stood as participants in the covenant”; a measure of the blessing does return to God’s chosen as they “turn away [their] eyes from what is vain” and find life in the ways of the Lord. Here is a final harvest of good fruit before the tree turns rotten and so must be uprooted from the Lord’s sight.
Brothers and sisters, it is adherence to the Word of God which gives all life; it is faithfulness to His call that is our bread of life. If we do not remain in Him and walk in “the way of His statutes,” we are no better than the “false prophets” who are but “wolves on the prowl” and shall be burned in the fires of Gehenna. If we are faithless how shall our tree grow? And if no growth, then no God have we, and we shall but rot.
In His light let us remain, seeking the nourishment of His Word and the Bread we break and offer at His altar. And we shall need fear no exile from the Promised Land, from the Temple that is our risen Christ… We shall be led ever in the way of Truth and grow each day unto Life.
O LORD, renew your Covenant within us,
that we might bear good fruit in your presence.
YHWH, if we but followed your Word and your way, heeding the commands you give us for the nourishment of our souls, then would we bear fruit unto eternal life; then would all be well with our lives. But in disobedience we turn from you to follow our own desires, and so cast from your sight we can only be.
Forgive us, LORD, the sins upon our hands and upon our hearts; let your wrath not blaze against us – save us from the fire! Help us to renew this day our commitment to you and to your Word of truth, that your love might return to us and feed us well. O let us return to you!
So blind we have been, so deaf to your Word, O holy LORD. And so, holiness has escaped us. Let us no longer be led astray by false notions conceived in the corruption of sin but repent entirely of our hypocrisy. Let us but serve you and not our selfishness, and you will bless us once again and we will remain standing strong in your Temple, as your chosen people in light. May your Word take root within our hearts and grow unto eternal life.
Mon, 25 June 2018
(2Kgs.19:9-11,14-21,31-36; Ps.48:2-4,9-11; Mt.7:6,12-14)
“I will shield and save this city for my own sake,
and for the sake of my servant David.”
Brothers and sisters, “renowned is He as a stronghold,” the Lord our God. And faithfully does He watch over His chosen one.
Our psalmist proclaims, “Great is the Lord and wholly to be praised in the city of our God.” He extols the glory of Mount Zion, of Jerusalem, “the city of the great King,” for the blessings of God upon it. Here is His temple and so here it is we “ponder [His] kindness”; here it is we take refuge, finding “the narrow gate” that leads to Him and to His salvation.
In our first reading today the Lord gives evidence of the way in which He protects His children; He reveals that He will not “give what is holy to dogs or toss [His] pearls before swine.” The king of Assyria has indeed “laid waste the nations and their lands,” including the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He has acted with seemingly invincible power, and now he has come to the Lord’s chosen city to destroy it as well. And though this Jerusalem, where His temple does dwell, and the chosen tribes of Judah (through whom His Savior shall come) shall not be protected forever… though this earthly tent shall so soon be ransacked and taken into exile itself, today the Lord shows how His promise, His covenant with them, will never be taken away. Though the temple’s walls be one day destroyed, His spiritual kingdom, His New Jerusalem is eternally blessed in heaven.
Hezekiah indeed “enter[s] through the narrow gate” of prayer. Taking the threatening letter from Sennacherib in his hand, “he [goes] up to the temple of the Lord, and spreading it out before Him, he pray[s] in the Lord’s presence.” He calls out, “O Lord, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.” And the Lord listens. He takes pity on His “virgin daughter Zion… for out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors.” And by the hand of the Lord the king of Assyria is turned back.
Brothers and sisters, “Jerusalem will not be handed over” to the king of this world. Upon His Church His blessed protection remains. Through Judah and David, the king whose city is Jerusalem, Jesus has come – the Lord’s promise is fulfilled and the remnant now does thrive. Here is the Temple not made by human hands; here is the narrow gate through whom all must enter paradise… here is “the joy of all the earth,” God’s “holy mountain” in our midst; and on His heights and in these walls, we are shielded and saved forever.
O LORD, if we enter through the narrow gate,
we shall come into your presence,
and you shall always fight for us.
YHWH, how shall we find our way to your holy City, on which your protection rests, which shall always be saved from the violence of this world? No kingdom can conquer your Church; in her let us make our home.
On your holy mountain, the fairest of heights, let us find our place, O LORD. To your Temple let us come, stretching out our arms in prayer. And you shall listen to our pleas, and your help will be with us quickly – you will be our stronghold. And so, we will praise you forever, for you teach us the way that leads to your House; in your heavenly kingdom we shall ever remain.
O LORD, let us be holy as you are holy, as all your children are holy. Let us be as those who walk the narrow path to you, who find joy in the difficulties present there. Dwelling in faith we shall not fear the threats of the mighty, for you who are above all are our shield and guide.
Sun, 24 June 2018
(2Kgs.17:5-8,13-15,18; Ps.60:3-5,7,12-13; Mt.7:1-5)
“In His great anger against Israel,
the Lord put them away out of His sight.”
Jesus instructs His disciples today, “If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment.” In other words, “Judge not and you shall not be judged.” Here is the prerequisite not only for avoiding judgment and condemnation at the hand of God, but also for assisting and healing others, as is our call. If we wish to serve as Christians and remove the speck of sin from others’ eyes that they might see in the clear light of the Lord Jesus Christ, first it is certainly necessary that we ourselves see so clearly, that we come to the Lord and have our great sin removed from our souls. Otherwise our desire to help others in their frailty will indeed but turn to judgment of them; first we must recognize the great sinners we ourselves are – and so, that we cannot judge another – before we can find the grace from God to bring Jesus’ mercy to others. God alone judges, brothers and sisters, for God alone is good, God alone is pure… the Lord Jesus alone is free from every speck of sin.
And God will judge. Believe this. He will send His apostles and prophets forth to bring remission of sins – He has sent His Son to die on the cross that we might be cleansed in His blood – but failing the acceptance and embracing of the call of the Lord, indeed what hope have we of salvation? There is but His righteous judgment remaining for our souls; there is but His chastising Hand to be placed upon us.
That God does judge, that He does cast sinful man from His sight, is made evident in exemplary fashion in the fate of our ancestors, the Israelites. “Because the Israelites sinned against the Lord, their God,” He cast them into exile at the hand of their enemies. “The Lord warned Israel… by every prophet and seer, ‘Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes’”; He sought to turn them from their sins by those whom He had touched, but “they did not listen… They rejected His statutes, the covenant which He had made with their fathers, and the warnings, which He had given them.” And so, His pure eye unable to look upon them anymore, He removed them from before Himself.
“O God, you have rejected us and broken down our defenses,” David cries, and begs the Lord’s return to the Israelites’ ranks… And how often this must be our prayer because of our foolishness in the sight of the Lord. Brothers and sisters, we have a greater covenant now with the Lord than did the ancient Israelites, for we have a greater than David or Moses or Abraham with us now. And more demanding is He of our purity, of our virtue before Him. For what threatens us now is not mere exile, but the fires of hell; what awaits those who turn from Him now is eternal damnation, and so let us remain faithful to our God. Indeed let us remove the log from our eye that we “will see clearly to take the speck from [our] brother’s eye” and so effect the building up of the kingdom of God. The time is now upon us; let us do all we can to remain in His sight.
O LORD, remove us not from your sight
but remove the plank from our eye.
YHWH, judgment is yours alone and it is eminently fair. Where we would condemn out of hand, you are merciful, and cast us from your sight only when we persist in our sin. Help us to see as you see, and to be as you are, that we might remain before you and help others to return to your presence.
We are outcasts, LORD, for our sins against you, for our failure to heed your blessed commands. You would save us from such fate as would separate us from you, and so you tell us of the path to tread. But we do not listen. And so we invite your wrath upon our souls; and so, how can we help others?
Save us this day, O LORD, from ourselves and from all our enemies. Let us listen to your voice and so enter into your love and the light of your presence. In your land let us dwell, in the land of Heaven, and there let us stay… and to this place let us draw others who seek you in the forgiveness of their transgressions and the following of your way. We have sinned against you, but gather us back into your arms, we pray.
Fri, 22 June 2018
(2Chr.24:17-25; Ps.89:4-5,29-34; Mt.6:24-34)
“Because you have abandoned the Lord,
He has abandoned you.”
How quickly Joash the king of Judah, who so recently had restored true worship in the temple at Jerusalem, “transgress[es] the Lord’s commands.” After Jehoiada the priest died, the people “forsook the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols.” And so, “wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem.” So great is their apostasy that not only would they “not listen to [the prophets’] warnings” when they were sent “to convert them to the Lord,” but when Zechariah the son of Jehoiada stood up in their midst to call them back to the Lord, “they stoned him to death in the Lord’s temple.” And so the central place of worship becomes a place of murder.
How truly Jesus speaks in today’s gospel: “No man can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other or be attentive to one and despise the other.” How clearly we see the hatred of God at work in Judah as she embraces false and empty gods. And so Judah becomes like her profligate sister in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. She who is set aside to preserve the temple and the holy city of Jerusalem, who is given yet a share in the inheritance promised David, turns boldly from her call and blessing to despise that which is most her own. And now does her hatred grow. And though she may escape the chastising hand of God a longer time than her sister, God’s promise: “If [David’s] sons forsake my law and walk not according to my ordinances, if they violate my statutes and keep not my commands, I will punish their crime with a rod and their guilt with stripes,” will not be set aside forever, and they shall follow their sister into exile.
Brothers and sisters, we must choose the master we shall serve: if the world and its spirit, then you court God’s condemnation; if the Lord, then remain faithful with your whole heart and follow His Son unto heaven. It is to heaven He desires your soul to come, but you must trust in Him and remain faithful to His call. For if you leave Him, He cannot but leave you; but if you hold fast to His love, He can do nothing but bless you.
Today Jesus, the Son of the Father in heaven, stands up to warn you against the traps of this world and call you into full, living worship of the One God. Will you enter into His love?
O LORD, in your House alone let us make our home,
and so find your kingship over us,
and so find your blessing forever.
YHWH, how kind your words to us are; how reassuring you would be. But do we listen to you; indeed, can we hear you at all? O heavenly Father, you know all that we need, and so would provide for us all things if we but followed in your way – but who among us has any faith?
O LORD, do we not rather fret over the passing things of this earth? Do our hearts not turn quickly to false gods, abandoning you and true worship to feed our bellies, to save the flesh? And what can we be but destroyed like the grass of the field if we have no more sense, no more faith, no more love for you than a lifeless statue? Woe to us as we turn from you, for you are our very life, and without your Spirit quickly we die… quickly we die.
Let us seek holiness, LORD, let this be our goal, our call, our only desire. Let us hope for you alone and for your heavenly kingdom, and we shall be blessed, and we shall remain in your House forever.
Thu, 21 June 2018
(2Kgs.11:1-4,9-18,20; Ps.132:11-14,17-18; Mt.6:19-23)
“The eye is the lamp of the body.
If your eye is good, your body will be filled with light;
if your eye is bad, your body will be in darkness.”
And “how deep the darkness” is upon Athaliah. For her eye is evil, her “light is darkness,” as so desperately she seeks to “lay up for [herself] an earthly treasure” by unjust and murderous means. Seeing that her son, the king of Judah, has died, she attempts to hold on to his crown by killing all the rightful heirs to his throne, caring more for the things which “moth and rust corrode” than for the righteousness of God. And she succeeds, though only briefly, as, true to the words of our gospel today, “thieves break in and steal” the kingship she has herself stolen away. And how great is her woe upon seeing all she has so anxiously and vainly sought removed from under her sight. How deep indeed is her darkness, deeper than the death she is about to endure.
In our psalm today we are reminded of the promise the Lord has made with David, king of all Israel: “If your sons keep my covenant and the decrees which I teach them, their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.” For in Zion the Lord vows to “place a lamp for [His] anointed,” and declares that upon His chosen one His “crown shall shine.” This crown, this lamp, is for all the Lord’s children to receive, to shine forth in His holy presence. All who keep to His ways shall know such blessing. But, clearly, those who turn away lose the light the Lord deems to give to us as followers of His One Light, Jesus Christ. And however boldly or by whatever anxious means we attempt to hold on to it, it shall be removed from us like the passing day. Only remaining in Him are we saved.
In our first reading the people, led by Jehoiada the priest of God, renew the covenant “by which they would be the Lord’s people.” Terribly they have fallen from it and its grace and seek to regain what has now, and so often, been lost. Continually, in fact, the Israelites fell away from the Lord’s command and so were abandoned to their sins – thus necessitating the coming of Christ – but continually the Lord returns them to the light when they return to Him, until finally Jesus does come.
Let us not be as the Israelites have been, brothers and sisters, so easily led into darkness and error, so easily seeking to look upon the evil of this earth. The Lord has come now to lead us away from just such things and give us a light that never fades. It is for us to remain with Him. Let your eye be sound, and so let His wisdom shine through you, O blessed one.
O LORD, let us shine like your Son
in your heavenly kingdom.
YHWH, upon what are our hearts set? Are they set on you and the doing of your will? Do we seek indeed your kingdom? Or do we look to gain whatever we can of earthly treasure, and so set ourselves in opposition to your law of love? You alone are King; your Son alone is the rightful heir to all. Let us place Him upon the throne of our hearts and rejoice at your presence there.
How evil man can be, O LORD, how blind and desperate in his selfishness. Into such grave darkness can we fall when we set our hearts on the things of this world. But how vain power and riches are; how quickly they come to an end, for these are not ours but yours alone, and they return to you at the end of the day. And so, if we would hold to them, we would find ourselves fighting you… and that is a battle we cannot win.
O LORD, have mercy on your people! Take not your light from our midst – make us your very dwelling place. Let your light shine forth from all your children as they set their hearts on Heaven.
Wed, 20 June 2018
(Sir.48:1-14; Ps.97:1-7,12; Mt.6:7-15)
“Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our psalm sings of the greatness of our God; in our first reading we hear of how this greatness was revealed in the prophets Elijah and Elisha; and in the Lord’s Prayer we call for this greatness to be present in our midst.
“Fire goes before Him and consumes His foes round about,” our psalmist declares in praise of God. “His lightnings illumine the world.” How great indeed is He: “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” Nothing stands before His glance, for “justice and judgment are the foundation of His throne,” and this world is held in His all-powerful Hand.
And how well this greatness is brought to bear by His holy prophets. We are told, “Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace.” The consuming power of the Lord is indeed revealed in him, for “by God’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire.” He “brought a dead man back to life from the nether world, by the will of the Lord… sent kings down to destruction,” and finally was “taken aloft in a whirlwind, in a chariot with fiery horses.” How the Lord blesses His holy ones! How He reveals His greatness in them! And of Elisha it is said, “Nothing was beyond his power… In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds.”
There is no end to the power the Lord provides to His children, for there is no end to His power, and this power He would share with all. Thus does the Lord encourage us to call upon the majesty of God our Father to be with us, to feed us each day, that His Name might indeed be praised, that His holiness might be revealed in His chosen ones. And to avoid His wrath, and to share in His power, what must we do? What is the central call of this all-powerful, all-holy Lord? Forgiveness. His grace is power, and grace and mercy we must share with all to share that power which has no end.
Trust in Him who holds you in His Hand, brothers and sisters. And His mighty Hand you shall see at work in the course of your day, and the fire of His grace shall pour upon your soul.
O LORD, let your power be upon us,
the power of your merciful love.
YHWH, you are all-good and all-powerful, and those who share your goodness share in your power. Let your kingdom come upon us; there let us dwell with you. We pray to be forgiven all our sins that your Spirit might be with us.
But we know, O LORD, for your Son has taught us, that if we are to come into your presence and share in your power and wonder, first we must forgive our neighbor – even our enemy we must love. Those who sin against us indeed become as our enemies, but your mercy we must share with them if we are to know your grace at work in our souls. Separated from you, all die, but in your light all are brought to life: let all souls come into your kingdom.
Let thy holy will be done, O LORD, in all your prophets, in all your disciples. Your power, your love, make known in all who bear your NAME. What should we fear if you are with us? Let your Word be spoken through us and His blood course through our veins. Let all peoples see your glory.
Tue, 19 June 2018
(2Kgs.2:1,6-14; Ps.31:20-21,24-25; Mt.6:1-6,16-18)
“As they walked on conversing,
a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them,
and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
Jesus instructs us in our gospel, “Whenever you pray, go to your room, close your door, and pray to your Father in private.” This prescription the holy prophet Elijah fulfills in our first reading when he miraculously crosses the Jordan River and enters the wilderness, out of the sight of the prophets who remain standing on its other side. Elisha, too, he would have remain apart, but this holy man determines to stay with his father in faith. And so as their prayer becomes secret, as their conversation of God becomes hidden and private, even then Elijah is taken in flames of holy fire from the sight of men; even then he ascends to heaven. And though so otherworldly, the eyes of Elisha witness the hand of God lifting the prophet from our midst.
Brothers and sisters, can you see that this is as what happens with us when we pray to God in our private rooms? David in his psalm declares, “How great is the goodness, O Lord, which you have in store for those who fear you, and which, toward those who take refuge in you, you show in the sight of men.” When we “hide… in the shelter of [His] presence… screen[ed]… within [His] abode,” He reveals Himself to us in His glorious might, He lifts us up to heaven where He dwells. As He blesses those who keep their alms secret and repays those whose fasting is hidden, so He anoints the prayers of His children who find Him in the recesses of their hearts. From this wilderness, from this desert place, He lifts us to see the encompassing shining of holy light.
The quiet place is within your soul; the kingdom of heaven is within you. Converse with the Lord quite readily, quite faithfully, in this hidden place, and all shall be revealed to your eyes. Stay with Him; do not leave His side, and all your requests shall be filled in His blessed generosity. And His cloak He shall place upon you, His cross He shall lay across your shoulders, and the great blessings of heaven will be your own.
“Love the Lord, all you His faithful ones!
The Lord keeps those who are constant.”
And all humble souls He raises
to the throne of God.
O LORD, let us hide ourselves in you,
that you might carry us to Heaven.
YHWH, let us enter into your presence hidden within us; into this wilderness let us come that we might meet with you and you might bless us, and take us to Heaven. Hear our prayer this day.
LORD, you alone are our refuge, you alone are our glory and our peace – you are our only desire. Let us not seek the approval of this world or the praise it may give, but look always only to serve you, to love you, with all our might… and let all our might be only of you. Let it be you who work miracles in our life.
Take all we have, LORD; we ask nothing in return but to be with you. Quietly let us come to you who dwell in the purest silence, apart from all the vain distractions of this world.
You are quite above this dreadful place, though you come to dwell with us even here. In you let us transcend all the emptiness that surrounds us, even as we walk with you. O LORD, let us never leave your side that we might come to be where you are.
Mon, 18 June 2018
(1Kgs.21:17-29; Ps.51:3-6,11,16; Mt.5:43-48)
“Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.”
We have hope, brothers and sisters; we have hope that the very depths of our sin and depravity against the Lord shall be forgiven, and we shall be made new, washed in His blood. For the Lord “sends His rain on the just and the unjust,” and this He proves today in our readings.
The Lord forgives David his “blood-guilt,” he who has committed the dual sins of adultery and murder; and Ahab, too, of whom it is said, “No one gave himself to the doing of evil in the sight of the Lord as did Ahab,” finds a measure of His mercy. Indeed, if there is reconciliation of these sinners with the Lord God, then even we must have hope of the Lord’s grace at work within us.
The Lord is He who loves even His enemies, whose “sun rises on the bad and the good” alike, whose arm is not shortened, whose love knows no bounds – for has He not gone so far as to die on the cross as a common criminal, as the worst of sinners, to redeem all from their sins? But to receive such grace and mercy how must we come to Him?
It is clear both in our first reading and in David’s great psalm that forgiveness is not obtained in a casual manner. To find it, we must imitate our sinners in their repentance as we have mirrored them in our sin. For Ahab when he heard the condemnation of the Lord upon his house “tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh”; he did not hesitate to “acknowledge [his] offense” before the Lord and all the people. And recognizing that his “sin is before [him] always,” David comes begging the Lord, “Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt,” seeking the compassion he knows only God holds. And this trust in His mercy the Lord sees; this declaration of sin the Lord hears. It is because Ahab “humbled himself before [Him]” and because David proclaimed openly his guilt that God has mercy on their lives. And we must join them just so in our own repentance to find that same mercy and kindness.
More than this, brothers and sisters. To more than this are we called now, my friends. For like the Lord Himself we are commanded to be – to show such mercy as He. The blood of Christ now outpoured, and it having poured upon our souls, we must now see that it is shared with all. We do that by shedding our own blood, by sharing that same love with everyone, indeed even with our enemies, as with us the Lord has done. And so our freedom from sin is made complete in His heavenly presence.
O LORD, is it not only fair
that we should love our enemies
since you have loved us
who have done such evil in your sight,
even having your Son die for our sins?
YHWH, free us all from bloodguilt, for we are all guilty of shedding your Son’s blood; we are all sinners in your sight. Yet you love us, and offer forth your forgiveness as we repent before you – though we have been your enemies, you make us your friends. Help us to receive such grace from you, and to share it with others.
Your mercy pour upon us, LORD; each day let us come to you and find your cleansing rain. For continually our hearts turn from you… sinners we remain, and your healing grace ever we need to come into your presence and find your all-encompassing love. Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy!
And let us answer your call to show your love and mercy in our lives. The light you impart to us let us shine upon all souls. O what a great grace you offer us, LORD! to be as you are, to love as you do – to be perfect even as you. Let us find such grace at work in us; let it be all we desire.
Sun, 17 June 2018
(1Kgs.21:1-16; Ps.5:2-3,5-7; Mt.5:38-42)
“I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.”
How divergent are the paths of Jezebel and Jesus. This Queen of Israel, wife of Ahab, holds the philosophy that if someone won’t give you what you ask for, take it by force; whereas the Lord says if someone wishes to take something from you, give it and more.
Here are the way of the world and the way of heaven in stark contrast. When as a petulant child Ahab refuses to eat after not getting what he wants, his wife plots the death of Naboth to obtain the king’s desired land. She truly is among “the bloodthirsty and the deceitful the Lord abhors.” Jesus and those who follow Him are they whom the Lord loves. Far from stoning the righteous man to death, they themselves are the righteous who shed blood freely at the hands of their enemies. Both the wicked Jezebel and the just Jesus go beyond the old law: “An eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth.” She takes an eye and a tooth when none has been taken from her, going thus below the law; but Jesus says, “Offer no resistance to injury,” going thus above the law. Where He fulfills the law in love, she makes a mockery of God.
We hear these mutually exclusive paths spoken of even literally today. Jesus instructs His disciples: “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him two miles,” encouraging His followers on the same way of suffering He models for all – a way revealed most clearly in His carrying of the cross to the hill of Golgotha; and our first reading tells us that “on hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it,” walking quite a different path of blood.
Brothers and sisters, it should be obvious that God “delight[s] not in wickedness; no evil man remains with [Him].” He indeed “destroy[s] all who speak falsehood” – the justice of God they shall not escape. But let it be equally obvious that we must follow the Lord’s words in turning the other cheek. His are not mere platitudes but necessary instructions for finding the way to God He Himself walks. If we do not walk where He has walked, how can we come to the place He now is? Do not think you will come to heaven along an easy path, much less a wicked one. You will obtain the vineyard of heaven only by drinking the blood of Christ where you are, only by laying down your very life here in this world.
O LORD, let us leave behind
all the wickedness of this world
and join in your Son’s holy sacrifice of love.
YHWH, let us leave the way of the wicked far behind and walk only in the path you mark out for us. In your Son’s blood let us make our home, that there shall be no blood upon our hands.
Let us lay down our lives with your Son, turning the other cheek to those who would harm us, to those who would slap us in the face. Yours is the way of forgiveness and love, of sacrifice in the name of goodness, in your NAME, O God.
Keep us from the path of the world, LORD, for it is one of evil, of use and abuse of neighbor, of the shedding of his blood, the blood of the righteous Man. O let us not have Jesus’ blood on our hands!
LORD, we are all sinners, but if we turn to you, you save us from such sin as would condemn our souls. But if we harden our hearts against your love, if we seek only our own gain, and at others’ expense, choosing to remain blind to your Son’s Cross of sacrifice, which is our only hope of salvation… we can only be destroyed. Help us to give all to others, to answer your call to love.
Sat, 16 June 2018
(Ez.17:22-24; Ps.92:2-3,13-16; 2Cor.5:6-10; Mk.4:26-34)
“They that are planted in the house of the Lord
shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
The imagery today is of trees and plants and the growth and strength of the kingdom of God. “The just one shall flourish like a palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow,” our psalmist rejoices, and adds, “They shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be.” In our gospel Jesus tells us that the kingdom of God is like the seed that grows gradually, imperceptibly into ripe grain ready for the harvest, and compares it also to the mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” which “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
God is the seed from which all is sprung. Jesus is the “tender shoot” spoken of by Ezekial. Taken from “the crest of the cedar,” the humble bloom of the house of Israel, He is “planted on a high and lofty mountain” – raised up to the right hand of the Father – and by the power of the Holy Spirit, thence He “put[s] forth branches and bear[s] fruit, and become[s] a majestic cedar”: His apostles and prophets go forth and plant the Word of God in all hearts; and as it grows unto heaven and blossoms forth in the works of every Christian, the Church is made to stand fast in the sight of the Lord. “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it”; everyone who seeks refuge from the heat of the sun that is this world of sin beating down upon the human soul shall find in His Church a place of peace and comfort, a house in which he is nourished and sent on his flight, carrying the love of our God across the heavens to all lands.
Brothers and sisters, let us be “courageous,” as indeed Paul declares we are. Let us be strong and sturdy lowly trees growing by the grace of God to heavenly heights in all our deeds on earth. Though “we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord,” though we would today see the kingdom of heaven fulfilled before our eyes, yet as long as we have the flesh of this tree enrobing our souls, let us always “aspire to please Him,” to please our God, to grow closer each day to where He sits on His throne in the kingdom, that when we “all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” we “each may receive recompense” and together “sing praise to… [the] Most High.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Gradual Heaven" from All One, sixth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us dwell beneath the shade of your boughs
when harvest time has come,
when your Son returns.
YHWH, let us be planted in your House and grow by your grace into your kingdom, where you dwell in the highest Heaven. We are but lowly creatures, weak and prone to sin, but by your Son and by His Word and His blood we are strengthened and rise, we know not how, to your throne, where He sits with you in eternal glory with all the angels and saints who have done your will in this world.
How can we be made worthy of your kingdom, O LORD? How can we be courageous, believing that we shall be saved from this corruptible flesh and come home to you? Is it not the lowly one you look upon? Is it not to save just such as us that you have sent your Son, who has instructed His disciples, who have instructed us, and through whom we are blessed? O let this Tree be a tree of life growing ever unto your kingdom, all souls entering there with songs of praise to your NAME!
Fri, 15 June 2018
(1Kgs.19:19-21; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-10; Mt.5:33-37)
“I will follow you.”
Elisha gives His yes to Elijah, and so to God. He “kiss[es] [his] father and mother good-bye” and weds himself to the prophet who has thrown “his cloak over him.” And he shall not turn back, shall not fall short of giving his entire self to the service of God, and so shall be greatly blessed. All he leaves behind. His very livelihood he slaughters, and gives these twelve oxen “to his people to eat.” For he shall not return to work for them anymore.
“You are my inheritance, O Lord,” David sings; “my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot.” All his soul trusts in the Lord in whom he “take[s] refuge,” and what more does the Lord’s king need? “My heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence”: all his being finds peace in the presence of God, for all his being is set upon Him.
So it is, brothers and sisters, that to the extent we give ourselves to God, to the degree that we give our yes to the Lord, even so will we find our place secure. For making our home in heaven with Him, there is nothing to keep us from His grace. All else falls short of His glory. Heaven and earth shall pass away, and the hairs on our heads are numbered: only the New Jerusalem is lasting; only heaven is secure, for only in heaven is God.
We must be with Him. We must give ourselves to Him. Why should anything less hold sway in our lives? Why should we hesitate to follow Him with our whole heart? For there is nothing else that has importance – heaven is all that matters, and giving our lives to this place which is all life, how protected we are from “the evil one” who would dilute our love of God. And how certain our yes to our God is a no to this adversarial devil.
Honor your mother and father, children; give to all the love that is due. But give to God your very soul; let your spirit rest in Him alone, and you will be blessed forevermore.
O LORD, let us follow you unreservedly
and know your presence at our side.
YHWH, let us give you our ‘yes’ even as your Blessed Mother, even as Elisha, even as all your faithful disciples. Let us give all things over to you and follow your way unreservedly. In your truth let us ever remain, not wavering or turning back to what we have left behind. In you let us make our home and we will dwell in Heaven.
What do we need but you at our side? For what should we be concerned but serving your will? For as we take refuge in you, as we set our hearts on your work and your will, nothing can disturb us – in complete confidence our soul abides. For you are all, O LORD; you are all and everything, and nothing exists apart from you. And so, if we have you, everything is ours. Let us but give our trust to you.
And we shall never die if we trust our lives into your hands. You shall be our food and drink, and we shall sit at your table forever… O LORD, we give you our ‘yes’ this day.
Thu, 14 June 2018
(1Kgs.19:9,11-16; Ps.27:7-9,13-14; Mt.5:27-32)
“Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”
“Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me,” David sings in our psalm; and it is the presence of the Lord that is made known to Elijah in our first reading. And that same presence stands most openly before us in the teaching of Jesus in our gospel.
Elijah comes to the mountain of God to find shelter against the persecutions of his own people, for as he says, “I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.” He alone holds the word of God, and so with what zealousness his life is sought. God promises to show Himself to His lone prophet, but neither in the “strong and heavy wind” nor in “the earthquake” nor in “the fire,” which come before Elijah with great power as he stands upon the mountain, does the prophet find God. By none of these is he moved. But in “a tiny whispering sound” the presence of the Most High God is made known (“it is not by sword or spear…” 1Sm.17:47); it is this still, small voice that instills the fear of the Lord in his pierced soul and causes him to “hid[e] his face in his cloak and [go and stand] at the entrance of the cave,” now seeking shelter from the power of God.
And is not this quiet Word made known in fullness today in the presence of Jesus, He who came “humble and mounted on an ass” (Mt. 21:5)? Does His simple teaching, do His gentle words not rend our hearts in twain? Here is the power of strong wind, earthquake, and fire all together in the voice of the Son of a carpenter; here in this unassuming flesh is God Himself made known.
And what does He teach us? And how difficult is it to hear! How we must cower at His words as they reach into our heart! For He tells us that our glance must seek God alone, that our heart must speak, our actions must reveal, His love only. Else what can we do with our eye but to “gouge it out and throw it away”? What can we do with our hand but “cut it off and throw it away” if it will not do the will of the Lord? For all else is waste, and to pursue in blindness the mere pleasures of the flesh, to look upon the vanity of the world with longing, will but bring us to Gehenna – this the gentle Lord would prevent with all His might, with even His death upon a cross.
Do not turn your look upon the sins of this degenerate age. Do not throw in your lot with those “who have forsaken [the Lord’s] covenant, torn down [His] altars, and put the prophets to the sword.” “Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the Lord,” and you “shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living” – and you shall be wed in truth to Him who is all love, and you shall be called to anoint kings and prophets, to do the will of the Father in fullness as His holy children.
O LORD, let us be pure of heart,
that we might see you, that we might know you,
that we might be in your presence and do your will.
YHWH, how can we bear your Word reaching down into our souls; how can we stand in your presence? Though you come to us in gentleness and humility, your loving word is severe to hearts full of sin as our own. And so we hide our faces from your radiant presence.
Let us not be afraid, O LORD, to heed your Word and do your will; change our hearts that they might be pure as your own. Let us not look with lust upon the tempting objects of this world or reach our hand out to them or run to find them… In peace and in calm let us remain in your presence, your Word ministering to our poor souls. Let us desire only to be like you, dear God, and to dwell in your presence.
O LORD, you will take us to your kingdom after this earthly life is spent, if we spend it in your service. Keep us close to you all our days, protect us from the attacks of the devil, and we indeed shall come to see the glory of your transcendent kingdom. O let us be subject to you and your gentle, saving Word this day!
Wed, 13 June 2018
(1Kgs.18:41-46; Ps.65:2,10-13; Mt.5:20-26)
“You have visited the land and watered it;
greatly have you enriched it.”
“There is the sound of a heavy rain.” The Lord is speaking. The Lord is teaching. Jesus is revealing the strait path of holiness that leads to the Father, and His words and His Person come like a fruitful rain upon a drought-stricken land.
O Lord, “thus have you prepared the land: drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods, softening it with showers, blessing its yield.” By your speaking, by your teaching… by your bleeding on the cross for us “you have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with a rich harvest.” But will we receive these rains? Will we accept His chastisements which lead to life, which are the only way to the kingdom of God?
Here are the Lord’s words, the commands of His mouth: “Everyone who grows angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; any man who uses abusive language toward his brother shall be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and if he holds him in contempt he risks the fires of Gehenna.” To what extent has He increased the prescriptions of the law! For He calls us to a holiness that surpasses the holiness of the law. He calls us to the kingdom of God, and great rains are needed to foster its life. And so He demands that we “be reconciled with [our] brother”; and so He warns us to “settle with [our] opponent.” For we are on our way to His holy court, and not even the smallest sin will stand there.
The eyes of Elijah see but “a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” It is but the shadows the prophets knew as “the sky grew dark with clouds and wind.” But it was enough to recognize the coming presence of the Lord that would relieve the drought upon the land, upon the nation of Israel. We, brothers and sisters, are those upon whom “a heavy rain fell,” for now Christ has come; now He calls to us in Person from the cross and from His throne in heaven. If you wish to come to where He is, you must go where He has been: the cross is the heavy rain which brings the sweet smelling flower of heaven.
“God’s watercourses are filled” and “rejoicing clothes the hills.” Listen to His words now. Be obedient to His command. It is the driving rain which breaks up the ground and prepares the soul for holiness.
O LORD, send your rain upon us to soften our hearts;
let us be perfect as you
by your chastising Word of love.
YHWH, release us from judgment, we pray. Send upon us your driving rain, to cleanse our souls of all harsh words and anger. How shall we stand before your throne if here we cannot forgive, for how shall we ourselves be forgiven our grave sins if our hearts are hardened? O send your rain, LORD! Send your rain, and let our hearts be open to receive it well.
Your Word is as a chastising rain to our souls, O LORD; it is the strong words from your mouth that serve to cleanse us from our sin and soften the ground of our hearts to receive your grace and blessings. If we have not your mercy within us, we are dead, for then there is no remedy for our sin. Speak to us; instruct us in your ways, and let us be obedient to your command, to your chastisement that brings new life from this poor land.
O LORD, subject us not to the trial; lead us not before your tribunal. For we have nothing to pay our debt and so cannot stand before you. Only your mercy will save us on that day. Let us have your mercy within us now, and share it with others.
Tue, 12 June 2018
(1Kgs.18:20-39; Ps.16:1-2,4-5,8,11; Mt.5:17-19)
“If the Lord is God, follow Him;
if Baal, follow him.”
Today “the only surviving prophet of the Lord” comes to reveal to the people that “the Lord is God!” Elijah seeks to open the Israelites’ eyes to the presence of God, to bring them “back to their senses.” And how evident it becomes that “they multiply their sorrows who court other gods,” and that those “who set the Lord ever before” themselves are able to declare with David in faith: “With Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
The great futility, the absolute emptiness of following false gods is shown in clear focus in the four hundred and fifty “prophets” who “hopped around the altar” and “called on Baal from morning to noon, saying, ‘Answer us, Baal!’” How well our first reading summarizes the response of gods who are no gods: “But there was no sound, and no one answering.” After “Elijah taunted them: ‘Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened,’” they compounded their worship to utter absurdity as they “called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.”
From this exercise of futile worship Elijah calls the people, saying simply, “Come here to me.” And they move from this macabre circus scene over to the altar of the Lord the prophet prepares. And here the power of the Lord is unveiled beyond doubt to open the wayward hearts of God’s chosen ones. Water upon water is poured upon the evening sacrifice, but the Lord’s fire comes at the word of Elijah and consumes all.
“Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel.” Let it be understood that your law must be followed and not the wicked contrivances of the human heart. Let be known the truth of your Son’s words: “Whoever breaks the least significant of these commands and teaches others to do so shall be called least in the kingdom of God. Whoever fulfills and teaches these commands shall be great in the kingdom of God.” For we shall only know the “fullness of joys in your presence” if we keep to your way, following Him who has come “to fulfill” “the law and the prophets.” Let us never “court other gods” but with your humble king call out ever, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, all your Law is holy for you alone are holy
and lead us only into your presence –
praise you, O LORD our God!
YHWH, you alone are God indeed; you alone should we worship – your NAME alone should we call upon to answer all our needs. And your Law we should keep with all our hearts if we hope to gain a hearing from you.
We are so blind, O LORD, blind to your presence, blind to your power, blind to your love for us and the care you provide in your Word. We seek to make our own way, to worship a god of our own making, and so we fall away from you who hold our very lives in your hands. Send the fire of the Holy Spirit upon us to awaken us to your glory and your love here in our midst this day, that we might turn to true worship, worship of you who alone are worthy of our praise.
O LORD, let your Word be fulfilled in us; let us keep your commands perfectly, following in the way of your only Son, who is the fulfillment of your Word. Yes, you alone are God and He alone is the way to you – let us live in your truth.
Mon, 11 June 2018
(1Kgs.17:7-16; Ps.4:2-5,7-8; Mt.5:13-16)
“The jar of flour shall not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.”
Again today we see in our readings that the Lord provides for His children’s needs, that indeed He is with us until the end of the age – yes, “the Lord does wonders for His faithful one.”
As “the brook where Elijah was hiding ran dry,” the Lord instructed him to go to Zarephath of Sidon, a pagan territory, saying, “I have designated a widow there to provide for you.” Elijah is obedient and the Lord is faithful to His word, for just “as he arrived at the entrance of the city, a widow was gathering sticks there.” (Indeed, how wonderful it is to see the word of the Lord fulfilled!) Elijah does not hide the Lord’s prophecy from his benefactress, and she, too, believes the word the Lord has spoken. And so she and her son and the prophet were “able to eat for a year” from a jar that was all but empty.
Brothers and sisters, our psalmist David sings in joy to the Lord today, “O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!” And how certain it is that He gives light to those who seek Him, those who have faith in Him. For “when [we] call… [He] relieve[s] [us]… in distress… [and] put[s] gladness into [our] heart[s], more than when grain and wine abound.” For the light of the Lord is greater than the bread we eat; it is His love alone which provides all and alone brings joy to our souls.
And we are called to share in that light, to be “the light of the world.” It is into us He places His light and then invites us to “set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house”: “Your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father.” As He is Light, we must be light; as He provides for the needs of all, we must provide for the needs of all. And we must believe that, as “the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah,” just so the light He gives our lives shall not dim and the salt which draws it forth shall not lose its savor – we must believe that He indeed will provide for us, even to His second coming. And it shall be so. His love shall ever grow and this Bread be shared more and more with those He calls out of the world. Though famine be upon the land, He feeds us with the finest wheat, and calls us to feed others.
O LORD, let your light shine upon us and through us –
let us have faith in you
and see your work accomplished in our lives.
YHWH, let the light of your countenance shine upon us, and let that same light shine through us to illumine the world, to give light to all who see us. You alone provide for us; you alone feed us; and you alone make our lives of worth – let it be you we bring to others.
If our salt be not of you, O LORD, what good will it be and what good can it do? Apart from you and the light of your love, we are useless, fit for the trash. But if we keep our eyes fixed on you and your holy light, if we call to you in our distress and have faith in the care you take for the souls of those who love you, then we shall be made whole in your sight and ready to serve your will.
What water can we find upon this earth, LORD, for it is dry and lifeless. Our spirits sag and the darkness threatens to overcome us. Let us not be of the darkness; let us not give in to its threats. Let us remember you and in you place our trust, and there shall be food and water in abundance, and we will see your hand at work even in our own lives. Praise you for your goodness!
Sun, 10 June 2018
(1Kgs.17:1-6; Ps.121:1-8; Mt.5:1-12)
“My help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
It is He whom we seek when we “lift up [our] eyes toward the mountains.” And what do we find but that “the Lord is [our] guardian; the Lord is [our] shade; He is beside [us] at [our] right hand.”
Does the Lord not watch over those who trust in Him? Take Elijah for your example. He is led into exile under the stars, separated far from his people, yet he finds “the sun shall not harm [him] by day, nor the moon by night.” He finds, in fact, his needs are met in a most marvelous way, for “ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the stream.” At the Lord’s command even these birds of the air serve to provide the needs of those who take refuge in Him. And His refreshing waters are always at our side.
Brothers and sisters, what do we see when we lift our eyes to the mountain? Do we not see the Lord sitting, teaching us His way? Are our hearts not nourished by His Word and our souls refreshed by His Bread? He speaks to us only truth, assuring us that “blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs.” He tells us what we indeed find as we live our lives under His wings. If our refuge were the world, how could sorrow and lowliness bring us blessing? Would our hunger and thirst not then be for the riches of this world, and we find ourselves fatted thereby for the day of slaughter? But being “single-hearted” and with a “hunger and thirst for holiness,” we find ourselves more than satisfied; we find that we “shall see God.” What more need has the devout soul than to dwell in the light of the Lord?
“The Lord will guard your coming and your going, both now and forever”; He shall not “suffer your foot to slip,” for “He neither slumbers nor sleeps” but is ever diligent in the protection He provides His holy ones. And so what should you do but “be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.” As long as you remain with Him, He shall watch over you; and to His blessings there is no end, for all is held in His sacred hands and His desire is always to shower His mercy upon your soul.
O LORD, as we give ourselves over to your Word
and His way of the Cross,
you bless us and bring us into your kingdom.
YHWH, you watch over all our ways; you guard and guide and bless our days. Ever at our side you wait, to feed us with all we need. How blessed indeed we are to have you as our God. There is none who provides as you do.
And so, let us continue on your way, LORD; lead us each day to the place we should be. In your will all is accomplished well – let us be ever at your side.
Though we mourn and though we weep, though we hunger and thirst for your love… though we suffer in this world for holiness’ sake, you answer all our desires, O LORD our God.
And so, let us be as your prophets of old, trusting only in your hand, needing nothing but your presence with us and the promised reward of Heaven. For nothing can harm us if you are there, and with you we already taste the kingdom.
Sat, 9 June 2018
(Gn.3:9-15; Ps.130:1-8; 2Cor.4:13-5:1; Mk.3:20-35)
“With the Lord is kindness
and with Him is plenteous redemption.”
We hear today recounted in our first reading our first parents’ tragic fall from the grace of God into the boundaries of hell – for now they tend to hide themselves from His glorious face. Oh such disobedience that has caused such painful separation of the crown of creation from the Creator’s hand! And what greater punishment than this can we know: not to be eternally in His presence as was His intent? And for such sin inflicted upon our race our psalmist is caused to plea: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” For release from the “iniquities” upon his soul he begs the Lord… and so is proclaimed the cry of us all.
And does the Lord hear? He cannot help but hear, for “with [Him] is forgiveness, that [He] may be revered.” He draws His children back to His paradise by the cords that are the blood of Christ, “that the grace bestowed on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” “Knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also… we are not discouraged… For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” Sin may well be at work within us, causing the body to die, causing us to give up our lives – forcing us to put no stock in the passing things of this life; but through this sacrifice the Lord is at work building our home in heaven. Paul sums up this redemptive process so beautifully when he says, “This momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison.” For the affliction indeed passes with these passing things, but His house is eternal.
And in our gospel we see well that Jesus has come and “plunder[ed] the house” of Satan. “He drives out demons” from this decaying house in which we dwell, dividing it against itself and breaking the hold Satan has on souls by the corrupted influence of the flesh. Anointing fallen man with the purity of the Holy Spirit, as by fire sin is consumed. What devil can stand in this light? What influence has sin upon our souls with Jesus as our God? And so we poor fallen creatures become as His own, as His “brother and sister and mother,” for by the grace that comes only from the Son, again we become one with the Father – in joy we stand before His loving gaze. “More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,” for now has our redemption come.
Written and produced by James Kurt; read by Sylvia Kurt.
Music: "Unbind Yourself" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, with hope we look to the dawn
when we shall be freed from sin
and joined to your Son.
YHWH, how can we be forgiven our foolish disobedience, which has separated us from your presence, from the House in which you dwell? How shall we reenter there, we who are so bound by Satan because of our sin? Will you hear our cry, O LORD?
You cannot but hear our cry, dearest God; you quickly answer those who seek forgiveness and the doing of your will. You will not turn your back on those who mourn for their iniquities, who long again to see your face. Indeed, Jesus you send to us.
And from what does your Son hold back in redeeming our lives from the grave? What will He not do to convince us of your love for your wayward children? We must but accept His Word, His love, even as He hangs on the Cross for us, and not spurn the Spirit’s work in Him. He will make us as His brothers, plundering Satan’s possession of our soul and bestowing your glory upon us, if we but trust in you and your loving mercy.
Fri, 8 June 2018
(2Tm.4:1-8; Ps.71:8-9,14-17,22; Mk.12:38-44)
“Put up with hardship, perform your work as an evangelist,
fulfill your ministry.”
In final words to his blessed disciple, Paul exhorts Timothy with all the strength he is able to muster “to preach the word, to stay with this task whether convenient or inconvenient – correcting, reproving, appealing – constantly teaching and never losing patience.” He even invokes “the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead,” to emphasize the seriousness of his charge. Clearly the end approaches for Paul. He himself states: “The time of my dissolution is near” – and so it is with great urgency he desires his preaching task to go forth, for Timothy’s own sake, that he might share the “merited crown” that awaits his father in the faith, and for all who look “for [the Lord’s] appearing with eager longing.”
Paul sees as he draws nigh to the Day of the Lord what has perhaps never been known so clearly as today, that “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but, following their own desires, will surround themselves with teachers who tickle their ears.” He prophecies so well what is true of every age but is magnified so greatly in the dark time in which we live: “They will stop listening to the truth and will wander off to fables.” More have died in war in the last century than in all the rest of human history; and the martyrs’ blood has never mounted as high to heaven as in this atheistic age wherein all hearts turn away from true doctrine to enshrine the workings of their own hands and minds. (May the smoke of Satan be blown from the confines of the Church and the devil’s veil of illusion be lifted from all minds!)
But we must not be as the scribes “who like to parade around in their robes and accept marks of respect in public, front seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.” The prideful adulation that sparks the unholy fire of the cults so prevalent in our glamorous time is not what must call to our hearts or be the leaven for our souls. We must but praise the Lord! With our psalmist we must sing to our Lord and our God, “the Holy One of Israel”: “My mouth shall be filled with your praise, with your glory day by day.” We must “give [Him] thanks with music on the lyre,” with our body’s every fiber.
Brothers and sisters, we must “always hope and praise [God] ever more and more.” Ever we are called to draw closer to the Lord. We have not yet been as the widow who “gave from her want, all that she had to live on”; we have not yet been “poured out like a libation” as has Paul; we have not yet shed blood with Jesus on the cross. We cannot yet say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”; for there is much race yet to be run and to the end our faith must endure and grow ever stronger day to day. Indeed our ministry must be fulfilled, all our strength spent in witness to the Word of Truth.
O LORD, send us true teachers of the faith,
that we might be so faithful ourselves,
pouring out our lives for your sake.
YHWH, to you let us turn in faith; instruct us ever in your way. Let your truth alone be taught by all who stand in your place. Laying down their lives for your flock, may they find their blessing on your Day.
And let us all lay down our lives with them; O LORD, let all men sing your praise. For none is released from your call to preach, to live the faith all our days.
Soon your Son shall return; let our eyes be up and looking for His coming. Let us desire to unite with you and so give all we have toward that end. We may not have much to give, LORD, but if we place all at your service, you will multiply our good works and make us worthy to stand with you.
O LORD, keep us from those who lead souls astray by their words and by their actions. To Jesus indeed let us look, and to His faithful disciples, to find the way we should walk. If we are diligent in following you, if we are humble and speak the truth, you will bless us and all we do, and join our song to that of your saints. May Jesus teach us this day.
Thu, 7 June 2018
(Hos.11:1,3-4,8-9; Is.12:2-6; Eph.3:8-12,14-19; Jn.19:31-37)
“With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.”
“Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!” From His pierced heart flow forth the waters of salvation; in Jesus’ blood we find our life. Oh how wonderful to have a God whose “heart is overwhelmed,” whose “pity is stirred,” who bleeds and dies for us upon the cross to reveal the limitless nature of His love. Here is “God’s manifold wisdom” made known, here in “the unfathomable riches of Christ” freely given to all, that all might “grasp fully, with all the holy ones, the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge.” Such unsurpassable grace can but leave us breathless in praising His name!
“When Israel was a child I loved him,” says the Lord through the prophet Hosea. His love “like one who raises an infant to His cheeks” does not leave His blessed child; it only grows with time. Even though “they did not know that [He] was their healer,” yet He did not turn away – He multiplied His love for us in the sacrificial offering of His Son. Now having been redeemed of our sin in the cleansing shower of His blood, we can only claim to be “confident and unafraid.” For with Isaiah we fully proclaim: “My strength and my courage is the Lord, and He has been my savior.” What the prophet knew in shadow we see now in the fullness of the light that is the Son, and so “in Christ and through faith in Him we can speak freely to God, drawing near Him with confidence” and “attain[ing] to the fullness of God Himself” and to His love.
My dear brothers and sisters, let our prayer for one another be joined on this “solemn feast day” with Paul’s desire for the Ephesians: “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may charity be the root and foundation of your life.” Then like this blessed Apostle who went from being “the least of all believers,” persecuting the Church of Christ, to being shown “the mysterious design which for all ages was hidden in God” – and indeed “enlighten[ing] all men” of the Father’s love revealed in Christ Jesus – we too will be raised from our lowly state in this world of sin to our place with the Son at the right hand of God. The fountain of salvation is open now; come to the water and drink fully of His love, of His blood.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Cleansing" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, Jesus was pierced for our sins;
His blood pours upon us for our salvation.
YHWH, you are our healer. Your Son is the fountain of our salvation; in His blood we are cleansed of our sins. May we make our home in His Sacred Heart.
We praise you, LORD, for your love, for the care you have shown to your little ones. To us you have sent your only Son to die on the Cross that we might live. Though it is our lance that has pierced His Sacred Heart, yet His unfathomable love pours upon us and bestows on us the great riches of your glory. For this gift what can we do but praise your holy Name?
O LORD, may your Christ dwell in our hearts through faith in Him; may charity be the root and foundation of our lives, that by the love of your Son we may draw near to you yourself, dear God. No longer is your mysterious design hidden from men’s eyes – O let your great wisdom be known and all souls glorify your ineffable NAME through Jesus who speaks to us ever of your mercy!
Wed, 6 June 2018
(2Tm.2:8-15; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14; Mk.12:28-34)
“Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior.”
Brothers and sisters, “Remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, was raised from the dead.” He is our Lord. He is our God. He is our Savior who speaks only truth. Listen to Him and walk in His way, “following a straight course in preaching the truth.”
After Jesus proclaims the greatest of all commandments today, finally, “no one ha[s] the courage to ask Him any more questions.” Finally the traps cease to be set to catch Jesus in His speech and the leaders of the people “stop disputing about mere words.” For who can argue with the Son of God when He makes known the clear path to God, when He exposes the heart of the law and the prophets in absolute terms? Only silence can follow such Truth. No vain utterance can stand in the face of such Love.
For the command is love, and Jesus is love – and this Paul has come to preach, “even to the point of being thrown into chains.” His only concern is for “those whom God has chosen, in order that they may obtain the salvation to be found in Christ Jesus.” For this he preaches the Gospel unto death, that all might hear and know of the love of God… and should we not join him? Should the Church not be a speaker of the truth in love, “a workman who has no cause to be ashamed”? Should she cower to declare Christ Jesus risen from the dead and fear offending those on the path to destruction? Should she stand by idly as false gospels are preached and docile lambs are led to the teeth of wolves in sheep’s clothing? Does she not care for the flock as does Paul, as does Paul exhort Timothy? Should it not be she who “guides the humble to justice” and “teaches the humble His way”?
Brothers and sisters, “there is no chaining the word of God!” and there is no place for falsehood to stand in its light. God is love and we must love others. We do not love by nodding as others fall into error – this is not our call in the Lord. We must teach the truth with Jesus our Lord with “heart,” “mind,” “soul,” and “strength,” His Spirit of love and truth upon us. Then will all lies fall silent. Then will light shine. Then will His love be known and all come to the “eternal glory” He holds.
O LORD, teach us your way of love
that humbly we might walk in it
and teach it with strength to others.
YHWH, Jesus is the true teacher of the faith, for He is risen from the dead – He is your Son, O God! Who can dispute with His wisdom? Who can question His knowledge, who compare with His holiness? None there is beside Him, yet send us true teachers to speak in His Name.
We are prone to go astray, dear LORD, to wander from your love, which is life itself to us. We do indeed tend to forget why we’re here and fall easily into sin. O send forth your preachers to remind us of your love, to remind us of the sacrifice your Son has made for us, and that He is risen from the dead. For if we forget not that He is raised for our sakes, will not your love remain in our hearts; will we not conquer sin and death and live with you in love of one another? Then let your Word come to us and make His home in us, that humbly we might worship you all the days of our life.
O LORD, let us be faithful to your Word at work within us and live in your love. May all our being bless your NAME!
Tue, 5 June 2018
(2Tm.1:1-3,6-12; Ps.123:1-2; Mk.12:18-27)
“He has robbed death of its power
and has brought life and immortality into clear light
through the Gospel.”
It is this Gospel which Paul exhorts his “dear child” Timothy to serve, to preach and to teach “with the strength which comes from God, bear[ing] [his] share of the hardship which the Gospel entails.” Paul has suffered for the sake of the Gospel – and suffers “present hardships” till the end – and he would see his favored disciple carry on in his way. And so he encourages him: “The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit but rather one that makes us strong, loving, and wise.” For of the life Christ brings the world must know, and who shall preach it if we don’t? And so, through his letter Paul calls us all to be as he is, “an apostle of Christ Jesus sent to proclaim the promise of life in Him.”
Does Jesus not bear well His hardships today in our gospel? Does He not stand strong and speak of life everlasting even before those who “hold there is no resurrection”? The Sadducees question Him: “At the resurrection, when they all come back to life, whose wife will she be” – she who has married so many? Again a trap is laid, and again it is shown so futile, for what word can stand before the word of God. And that Word answers simply and directly: “When people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but live like angels in heaven.” These Sadducees “fail to understand Scripture or the power of God,” and so they are terribly blind in their mistaken thinking, which sees nothing beyond the present time. (Yet the present, too, they do not understand, for they do not recognize Him who stands before them.)
Brothers and sisters, we are called to live like the angels of heaven, and not only to live such, but to preach this life as our Savior has done, as Paul has done, as Timothy. We must keep “our eyes on the Lord, our God,” “confident that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to [us] until that Day” when we join Him who is “enthroned in heaven.” And so let us “stir into flame the gift of God”; let us speak His Word of life without fear for the hardships the Gospel entails. The Light that lasts forever has come into our midst, and before Him death has no dominion.
O LORD, through all the trials of this world,
bring us to the light of Heaven.
YHWH, God of the living, let our eyes be ever upon you, let us ever remember you whom we serve… and let us ever serve you with strength and dedication, knowing it is through you we are brought to new birth and made immortal as you. O let us live with you now and forever!
Why should we be afraid, LORD, of any challenge to our faith? Why should we turn away from our call to worship in your NAME? Why should we hesitate to proclaim your glory and the grace you bring us by your Son’s death and resurrection? His sacrifice means life to us, and to turn from His Cross would spell our death. May we serve Him and His Gospel in confidence all our days and so come to the place He prepares for us in Heaven.
All your angels and saints live forever in your holy presence, their eyes ever upon you and their voices ever praising your NAME. May we share with them in your holy life even as we toil for you on this plane.
Mon, 4 June 2018
(2Pt.3:12-15,17-18; Ps.90:2-4,10,14,16; Mk.12:13-17)
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
but give to God what is God’s.”
“Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent after Jesus to catch Him in His speech.” These “two groups” seem to come one from God and the other from Caesar. But their devious plotting shows the only party present of God is Jesus Himself.
And to whom do we belong? Peter makes it abundantly clear in his letter today where our allegiance should lie. He exhorts us to “look for the coming of the day of God and try to hasten it!” We must not set our hearts on things below but on things above, where God dwells; for “the heavens will be destroyed in flames and the elements will melt away in a blaze.” It is “new heavens and a new earth” we must await, where “the justice of God will reside.”
What is of Caesar will return to the earth, just as God “turn[s] man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men.’” (For where is Caesar today? And where is the coin that was in their hands?) But the Lord is “from everlasting to everlasting”; “a thousand years in [His] sight are as yesterday… or as a watch of the night.” For He exists “before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world were brought forth.” These indeed He created; and these are destroyed by His hand.
Brothers and sisters, as our years “pass quickly and we drift away,” let us listen to Jesus, who indeed “teach[es] God’s way of life sincerely.” Let us listen to His servant Peter, who tells us, “Be on your guard lest you be led astray by the error of the wicked.” The wicked surround us here on this earth, but even here our hearts must be set on God and we must “be found without stain or defilement, and at peace in His sight.” Here we must pray that the Lord will “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness,” that when He comes we shall know His glory… but also that even in these decaying earthen vessels we shall find His grace and see His work accomplished. “Glory be to Him now and to the day of eternity!” May He make us His own.
O LORD, let your eternal kingdom dawn upon us,
even as the kingdom of this world passes away.
YHWH, make us your own; let us come into your kingdom. On this barren earth let us not make our home, in princes and kings let us never trust – to you alone may we give our allegiance, waiting ever for your Day.
O LORD, our lives are but passing on this plane, but you are everlasting. Though we wither and die, though all we see shall be consumed by fire, with you we shall live, and rejoice eternally. And so, let us not set our hearts on the riches and glory this world holds in its grasping hands; let us give all over to you with praise.
The Day draws near, O LORD, we know, when your Son will return and bring with Him new heavens and a new earth. O let us hasten this Day by our prayers, let us prepare for it by our actions… let us never fear His coming because of our attachment to sin but give up all the darkness, the evil surrounding us and inviting us in, and wait in purity with our eyes to the heavens for our salvation to be fulfilled.
Come, Lord Jesus, and draw us into the Father’s kingdom.
Sun, 3 June 2018
(2Pt.1:2-7; Ps.91:1-2,14-16; Mk.12:1-12)
“I will deliver him and glorify him;
with length of life I will gratify him
and will show him my salvation.”
So the Lord speaks of us through prophecy of His only Son. So the Lord seeks to accomplish in everyone who “acknowledges [His] name.” So indeed He has sent “the Son whom He loved” for our salvation. So He prays with Peter, the Rock of His Church, “May grace be yours and peace in abundance through your knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.” For “by His own glory and power… He has bestowed on us the great and precious things He promised, so that through these [we] who have fled a world corrupted by lust might become sharers of the divine nature.”
Brothers and sisters, “that divine power of His has freely bestowed on us everything necessary for a life of genuine piety through knowledge of Him.” He has come into this world, He has entered the vineyard despite the threat of death, and has indeed been “beat[en],” “treated shamefully,” and “killed,” all that He might found His Church among us; and His grace is for us “marvelous to behold.” Should we not then “make every effort” to employ the gifts He provides by the Holy Spirit and the Church He has made? Should gift not build upon gift so that in this house of ours we grow from the foundation of faith unto the divine love of all?
Let us not be like those tenant farmers who acted out of jealousy, who could only say of the Son: “Here is the one who will inherit everything. Come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance will be ours.” For the Lord has indeed “come and destroy[ed]” these faithless servants “and turn[ed] His vineyard over to others.” We are those others. And we “inherit everything” with the Son if we “say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Yes, brothers and sisters, it is we who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Let us be most conscientious in our work in His name; let us be ever ready to provide Him “His share of produce from the vineyard.” For the vineyard is all His, and we are all His, and He is with all of us and with all we do and are – and He will deliver us and glorify us in the eternal life to which He has come to lead us. In His Son is our salvation.
O LORD, on your Son we find our blessed foundation; in Him let us grow to perfection,
to union with you.
YHWH, your Son who was rejected by man, who was despised and put to shame and to a painful death, be the foundation of our lives – let our hearts be set upon Him alone that we might become sharers of His divine nature, as is your will.
Let us build our house on faith in you, O LORD, and grow in every virtue by increasing knowledge of your power and participation in your great love, till we come to rest with you in your eternal kingdom. That kingdom you build upon this earth this day, both in the hearts of all believers and in the Church you ordain to bear your NAME, to produce fruit by your grace. Let us remain ever in this House, in this vineyard you plant, that our houses may be like your own.
O LORD, take our souls unto yourself as we give all things over to you who are the source and deserving recipient of all good things… O let us dwell in your holy House in your surpassing peace all the days of our poor lives, and so become holy as you.
Sat, 2 June 2018
(Ex.24:3-8; Ps.116:12-13,15-18; Heb.9:11-15; Mt.14:12-16,22-26)
“The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the Lord.”
The blood of sacrifice, the blood that seals all covenants with God, is upon all our readings today. In our first reading, on the altar Moses has “erected at the foot of the mountain” where he received the commandments of the Lord – an altar surrounded by “twelve pillars for the twelve tribes” – “young men of the Israelites… offer holocausts and sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord.” Half of the blood of the bulls Moses “splashed on the altar”; the other half he “sprinkled… on the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of His.’” And so the people promise to heed the Lord’s commands; and so the first covenant is instituted.
Our psalm tells us, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones.” And our second reading informs us just how precious is the death of the Lord’s Faithful One. Yes, “Christ came as high priest”; as “mediator of a new covenant” He entered the “perfect tabernacle not made by hands… not belonging to this creation,” and offered not “the blood of goats and bulls” but rather “His own blood.” His “death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant.” And so does “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished before God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.”
And in our gospel, in anticipation of His crucifixion, on the feast of Passover – when the lamb was sacrificed and its blood used to anoint the houses of the Israelites to thus save them from death – Jesus institutes the New Covenant with His disciples. First “He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it. This is my body.’” Then with the cup He said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.” It is, of course, this New Covenant we celebrate this day, as we come to the table where all the disciples of the Lord have eaten, where all His faithful have been washed clean in His blood. Here we share not only with our minds – for then why should it be necessary to eat and drink (one does not eat and drink a symbol, but feasts with eyes alone) – but with our very bodies, with the fullness of our beings; and our very human nature is transformed by His sacrificial presence. Brothers and sisters, the Lord gives Himself entirely for us; let us here lay down our lives in His flesh and blood. Let us take up the cup of salvation and each day call upon His Name.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Blood in My Palate" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, is Jesus not our inheritance;
do we not eat the Body and Blood
He has given up for our salvation?
YHWH, the blood of the New Covenant be upon us for good, the blood of Christ upon our lips; and let us fulfill our vows before you, serving as the Body of your Son. O let us be blessed with all the graces of Heaven as they pour upon us in the blood of Jesus, our Lord!
How can we make return to you, dear God, for all the good you have done for us, for your giving us your only Son to serve as sacrifice for our sins, as food for our journey to you? You, O God, have come among us in His flesh and remain with us in the Sacrament – how can we grasp such a gift? How can we thank you for your love toward us revealed in the blood of Jesus the Christ?
Let us but take up the cup you offer and call upon your holy Name. Let us but serve you with all our lives, worshiping you in all things, O living God, and the promised eternal inheritance will be ours. O let us drink of the fruit of the vine with your Son in the kingdom! Prepare our hearts to receive your Lamb.
Fri, 1 June 2018
(Jd.17,20-25; Ps.63:2-6; Mk.11:27-33)
“Welcome the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
which leads to eternal life.”
“As [Jesus] was walking in the temple precincts the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached Him.” They come to Him who is the true Temple here in the place where He teaches, but they do not come “praying in the Holy Spirit” or “persever[ing] in God’s love.” Their questions rather are those which hold condemnation. If they had come seeking truth, they would be able to speak truth when asked by Him of John’s baptism. But, far from seeking the grace of God, they desire only political advantage. And so they think among themselves, “If we say…” and “Can we say…” instead of simply baring their souls before Him who could save them. And so, answering, “We do not know,” indeed do they close themselves off from knowledge of the “authority” and “power” given to Jesus the Christ.
This cannot be our faith, brothers and sisters. Our faith must be as that sung of so beautifully by David in our psalm today: “O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” With all our beings we must strive to know Him whom our soul loves. Knowing our own emptiness apart from Him who is Truth, we indeed turn our “[gaze] toward [Him] in the sanctuary,” we indeed long for His love and mercy. And instead of speaking ill against Him or looking to condemn Him, rather we bless Him with all our souls, singing with His servant David: “Lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name… and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.”
The baptism of John was divine and Jesus is its divine fulfillment. He is the “One who can protect [us] from a fall and make [us] stand unblemished and exultant in the presence of His glory” if we but say, “Glory be to this only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” His indeed are “majesty” and “might”; He indeed “correct[s] those who are confused” and “snatch[es] others from the fire.” He has rescued us from sin and poured the water of the Holy Spirit upon us to slake our thirst for Him. And so, “as with the riches of a banquet shall [our] soul be satisfied.” By the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, heaven is now ours.
O LORD, keep us from falling into our pride;
let us not be separated from you.
YHWH, how shall we stand unblemished and exultant in your presence? For all glory and majesty are yours, and what are we but sinful men? Take the stain from our hands and from our clothing. Only by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will we be made ready to stand before you; only by His grace can we bless your holy NAME.
O let our lips praise you, dear God! May our souls be satisfied as with the riches of a banquet, the banquet of your eternal kingdom. Let us not doubt the glory you would share with us through our Baptism into your only Son. Let us know that He has come from you and would take us to you this day.
O LORD, we gaze toward you in the sanctuary – our hearts long to join with you on high. Thank you for making your presence known to us even on this plane, and help us to persevere in your love each day.