Sun, 18 November 2018
(Rv.1:1-4,2:1-5; Ps.1:1-4,6,Rv.2:7; Lk.18:35-43)
“Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.”
A blind man sat begging by the side of the road. “Hearing a crowd go by the man asked, ‘What is that?’” And he was told that “Jesus drew near,” that all he could possibly ask for was upon him – and so he begged with the greatest sincerity he could muster.
And as the end of the Church year approaches, we hear from the Lord’s beloved “servant John” “the revelation God gave to Jesus Christ”; he “bears witness to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” telling us truly that “the appointed time is near,” that He “who is and who was and who is to come” is passing by the way. It is time to call out to Him, and know His healing touch.
To the church in Ephesus specifically, the Lord instructs His apostle to speak today, to commend the disciples there on their “patient endurance” and their lack of tolerance for “wicked men,” and to call them back to their “early love… the heights from which [they] have fallen”; thus do they need to “repent,” to call out themselves to the Lord for renewal of their innocent hearts and their burning love for God. You see, all have their own reason to call out to Jesus as He passes by.
What need have you to call upon the Lord’s Name as He passes by here at the end of days? Do you walk at every point in “the way of the just,” or are you somehow blind to His presence, or are you in some way cold in your love? Or have you any of innumerable other sins that keep you from His kingdom? Be careful. The time is indeed short, and we are indeed sinners – and Jesus is indeed still passing by to heal us. Do not be afraid to cry out to Him, to leave “the company of the insolent” and find His redeeming graces. Let the light of faith burn in your soul that you might know “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven lampstands of gold.” His holy light is coming now upon the earth, and you must join yourself to it.
“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
O LORD, heal us of all our sin
that we might walk in the way of your Son.
YHWH, grant us vision to see the appointed time is near and Jesus is passing by to heal us of our blindness, to return us to our early love. And let us not be afraid to cry out to Him.
Bring us healing, Lord Jesus, for you have come from the Father and pass through our midst this day. To us you bring His surpassing love; may we join ourselves to it and follow you along your way.
You speak to us by your Spirit, LORD; you inspire your apostles with your Word. You teach us of the way to you, and that with all our heart we should walk it. Help us to meditate on your Law day and night; ever let us dwell in your light.
Make us always fruitful, LORD, as we delight in serving you. Let our hearts cry out in joy for the blessings you bestow on faithful souls. Make us your own and let us enter your glory.
Fri, 16 November 2018
(3Jn.5-8; Ps.112:1-6; Lk.18:1-8)
“When the Son of Man comes,
will He find any faith on the earth?”
So beset by weakness are we on this earth, brothers and sisters. So doubtful, so fearful… so seemingly without help, alone. And so our faith does falter, and so we do fall. And we wonder, “Where is God?”
But the Son asks us today where we are. He emphasizes “the necessity of praying always and not losing heart.” Why should we think that God does not listen to us? If the corrupt judge can give justice to the widow who begs him constantly for her “rights against [her] opponent,” “will not God then do justice to His chosen who call out to Him day and night?” Do we make Jesus a liar by failing to believe in the Lord’s “swift justice”? Is this corrupt judge more reliable than He?
And listen to what John writes to Gaius. He says to him, “You demonstrate fidelity by all that you do for the brothers.” He has “testified to [his] love before the church” by caring for its members. And John now asks this beloved disciple to support those who pass through his neighborhood carrying the message of the Gospel to the nations, to “help them continue on their journey.” And we can be assured that this child of God does continue to demonstrate his generosity, that “he is gracious and merciful and just” toward his brothers in their need. And if this man “dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright,” shall the Lord Himself then leave us alone when we call out to Him in our need?
Why are we of such little faith? Why do we so easily falter in our trust of the Lord’s protection, of His grace at work upon our souls and His providential hand in our lives? If weak human beings can give aid to those in distress, cannot God? Are not all “wealth and riches… in His house”; does He not hold all the world and all our souls in His loving hand? Then why should we be afraid? Why should we think He does not answer our prayer? It is not because He is not listening that we have not the good we desire – this lack is from our lack of faith.
Brothers and sisters, be encouraged by the Lord today to never give up hope, to never give up our petitions to the Lord. He does not need to be worn down, but is ready at every moment to help us. Seek but to believe in Him.
O LORD, your Son will come to us
as the answer to our prayers –
let us do all we can this day to bring Him here.
YHWH, why have we not faith in your care for our souls? Why do we so easily cease praying to you? Do we not think that you can answer our calls? Those who follow in your way care for those in need, and so should we not trust that you watch over us this day?
O LORD, take our lack of faith from us; let us cease to doubt your loving concern. Help us to open our mouths and cry to you, who know what we need before we ask. For if we do not ask, you cannot answer – how can a prayer be answered that is not made? You wait for us to turn to you… let us do so this day in faith.
And let us then treat others as you treat us; let us respond in generosity to their needs. Let us be ready to help your children on their way, that your work might be accomplished on this earth. Your light break forth upon all just souls.
Thu, 15 November 2018
(2Jn.4-9; Ps.119:1-2,10-11,17-18; Lk.17:26-37)
“Anyone who remains rooted in the teaching
possesses both the Father and the Son.”
While “anyone who is so ‘progressive’ that he does not remain rooted in the teaching of Christ does not possess God.” Rather, he possesses but the emptiness of this earth.
And what is this teaching so necessary for our salvation, for knowing and possessing the Lord our God? It is indicated clearly in John’s request of the Lady to whom he writes (whom we may take as the Church herself): “Let us love one another.” Here is the commandant we “have heard from the beginning,” which we need to find rooted in our hearts – this “commandant is the way in which [we] should walk.” For “happy are they… who walk in the law of the Lord… who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their hearts”; for they shall find Him, and they shall possess Him forever.
Love has come, brothers and sisters: Jesus Christ has “come in the flesh.” And though the people in the days of Noah and in the days of Lot were particularly wicked and meriting condemnation from the Lord, they at that time did not have the Son of God come in their midst. And so if their punishment was great for turning from the way and the call of God, how much greater will be our own if we set our hearts on the possessions of this land and thereby lose Him whose love knocks upon the door of our hearts? It is now among those who deny Him as if they stand under the brightness of the noonday sun and say, “I see no light. I feel not its heat.” If we refuse to open our eyes to what is so obvious, what punishment will be enough for our souls?
Learn the lesson of the two men sleeping and the two women “grinding grain together.” Though they lie and sit or stand in close proximity to one another in this place, seeming no different one from the next, yet “one will be taken and the other left.” While one flies up to the reaches of heaven, the other will rot like a carcass on earth. And why? Who can tell which one says within his heart, “I treasure your promise, that I might not sin against you,” and which has turned his heart from the Lord? “On the day the Son of Man is revealed,” so will be the thoughts of all hearts. And He who is Love alone will know who owns the love He alone imparts. He will say who has walked in His teaching.
O LORD, your Son calls us from our earthly lot
to your kingdom on high –
let us walk His way of love that leads there this day.
YHWH, let us walk in your way, in the way your Son has marked out for us, He who has come in the flesh to show us indeed how we should live, how we should walk in this world.
And your way, O LORD, the way Jesus has trod, is the way of love. This is your commandment to all souls; this is the truth He has revealed to all eyes. And love is not turning to our own desires, putting faith in our possessions, in the empty things of this earth, but rather the laying down of our lives and all these things about us that we might come to you and serve you alone with all our lives.
Let us not be blind, dear LORD, to your Son’s coming and to your command. Let us not continue in ignorance even as He stands at the gate. Our very flesh let us give to you that the flesh we might transcend as we walk in purity with your Son. Take us unto Heaven on the Day of His return.
Wed, 14 November 2018
(Philm.7-20; Ps.146:7-10; Lk.17:20-25)
“The reign of God is already in your midst.”
Brothers and sisters, Jesus the Christ has come, He has “suffer[ed] much and be[en] rejected by the present age”… and He has risen. This is all you need to know. There is no need for “careful watching when the reign of God will come,” for it is not “a matter of reporting that it is ‘here’ or ‘there’” – it is among us today. And when it shall be fulfilled, you will never know.
“Through you the hearts of God’s people have been refreshed,” Paul writes to Philemon: does the kingdom of heaven not come through this man? “Refresh this heart of mine,” the Apostle adds – does he not call for an increased manifestation of the kingdom? A slave has stolen from his master and run away. Paul has discovered him and now calls him, “My child whom I have begotten during my imprisonment.” The slave has run to the prisoner and found freedom; does not the kingdom of God come to this place? And certainly Philemon will accept his slave back as a brother in the Lord, his arms open like the father of the prodigal son… how the Lord does work among us.
And our psalm presents a litany of the Lord’s work: yes, “the Lord sets captives free,” as we see in our first reading; but whenever the eyes of the blind are opened or the widow and the stranger are cared for, whenever justice is secured and the hungry are fed… the Lord is at work, His kingdom comes. This world is in His hands, after all, and whenever love is “freely bestowed” by any of us toiling upon this earth, the Lord shows Himself indeed in the beat of our heart and our arms open wide. It is not difficult to see.
You must remember, my brothers and sisters, that all prophecy has been fulfilled; all revelation is complete in the coming of the Son of God, in His death and in His resurrection. There is nothing left to await but the final day, a Day about which false prophets conjecture and faithless souls run anxiously about to find, only moving themselves further from its presence. “The Son of Man in His day will be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other” – don’t worry, you will not miss it; nor can you mistake it. Your purpose in the meantime is to spend yourself bringing His kingdom to this earth in the love you share with your neighbor. In such love come only from Christ, the kingdom is already here.
O LORD, let us be useful to you
in these days before your Son’s return –
let us bring your presence to this world.
YHWH, make us useful to you and to your Church, that we might serve to bring your kingdom to this dark world of persecution, to this prison in which we dwell. Though we be apart from you as long as we are in the flesh, let us do your work while here, and captives will be set free.
You are with us, LORD, in those who give sight to the blind, in those who instruct the ignorant and lead them to your love. May we be brought to share in your surpassing love! Help us to feed the hungry and care for the fatherless and widows. May every stranger be welcomed into the arms of your Church.
Then we shall find a home in this world, a dwelling place in your arms, O LORD. Though there be suffering every day, you will be with us through it all; your Son will bear every blow in our stead, and we will come in this way to your eternal dwelling. Let us have no fear about His return, for He is with us in this prison.
Tue, 13 November 2018
(Ti.3:1-7; Ps.23:1-6; Lk.17:11-19)
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
Such is the cry of the ten lepers standing at a distance from the Lord. And such is the cry that wells up in all our hearts when we realize we must keep ourselves far from His company for the sin that festers like a disease in our souls. Desiring no longer to be outcasts from His love, we call out… and He answers.
Do you think you are something different than these lepers? Do you think your status with God is somehow raised above these poor souls? Beware. Heed the words of Paul: “We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, and far from the faith; we were the slaves of our passions and of pleasures of various kinds.” Was our soul not then in a diseased state? And was it any work of our own that brought us healing, that brought us to “baptism of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit”? No. Rather, “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” So, by rights we should yet be in the mire of our sin; we should yet be as lepers outside the gates of salvation. But His “Spirit He lavished on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs, in hope, of eternal life.” And do we appreciate what He has done for us?
Indeed the Lord indicates today that most of us are ungrateful wretches when He asks, “Were not all ten made whole? Where are the other nine?” at the sight of the single leper returning to give praise to God. “Where are the other nine?” Only one of ten falls “on his face at the feet of Jesus”; and to how many of us does this lack of thanksgiving speak? And so, how many of us remain with more than a trace of our leprosy?
“He refreshes my soul,” David sings in humble appreciation of the blessings of the Lord he finds before himself in all things. It is He who gives “repose”; it is He who “anoints [our] head with oil”… it is He who cleanses our soul. And if we fail to realize this grace at work within us, then a measure of pollution remains, and still we need to cry out to our God, and fall on our knees in praise for His answer. Ever is He our Master; ever are we His slaves – ever do we need His mercy to live in righteousness each day.
O LORD, save us from enslavement to our passions –
let us have faith in you
and in your grace upon our souls.
YHWH, our faith has saved us, has it not? Our faith in you and in your Son has brought the Spirit upon us to cleanse us from our sin. Now we have new birth and look forward in hope of eternal life. You are ever at our side as we travel through this dark world.
But do we give you due praise, O LORD? Do we see what you have done for us and bow before you in adoration, in recognition of your greatness? Without your grace we would yet be lost – help us remember it is only through you our cup overflows. And so, let us remain with you forever.
What sin has been ours in the past, O LORD! What disease has troubled our souls! Though we have been rebellious before, let us now be obedient to your command and serve you and others as you call. The passions and pleasures that once enslaved us cast away, and let us be humble in your sight.
Mon, 12 November 2018
(Ti.2:1-8,11-14; Ps.37:3-4,18,23,27,29,39; Lk.17:7-10)
“Live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.”
Brothers and sisters, be “eager to do what is right” as servants of the Most High God. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” For “the Lord watches over the lives of the wholehearted; their inheritance lasts forever.”
Paul gives instruction to all on how to live a godly life here on this earth. He “tell[s] the older men that they must be temperate, serious-minded, and self-controlled”; the older women that they must give “good example” to the younger women, teaching them thus “to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, loving at home, kindly, submissive to their husbands”; “the young men to keep themselves completely under control”; and those who teach to “have the integrity of serious, sound words to which no one can take exception.” Then “no opponent will have anything bad to say about us”; then we will have given right witness to Christ in this age.
And “when [we] have done all [we] have been commanded to do” by the Lord and His apostles, when we have fully served Him and one another in our life on this earth – when we have finished “prepar[ing] [His] supper” and “put[ting] on our apron and wait[ing]” on our brothers – what should we do but say in all humility and in all truth: “We are useless servants. We have done no more than our duty”? For this is what will assure us that we will “abide forever”; this will prove that we are as our Lord, “who sacrificed Himself for us,” and so, with “the just [we] shall possess the land, and dwell in it forever.”
Our God has come “to redeem us from all unrighteousness and to cleanse us for Himself as a people of His own.” Let us show we are that people by ever being “sound in the faith, loving, and steadfast,” doing all for the Lord and our neighbor. In this way we indicate that even upon the dust of this earth “we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ.” In this way we attain to the age to come, where we shall be seated at His table.
O LORD, help us to turn from all sinful ways
and complete the work you command us to do.
YHWH, we are useless servants; help us to fulfill the tasks you set before us, to be eager to do what is right. For this is what will gain us entrance to your kingdom, to a place at your table – if we live temperately, devoutly and justly in this world, as even your Son has done.
Should we fall into disrepute? Should we not be self-controlled? It is serious work to which you call us, O LORD, and so let our words be sound and our behavior above reproach, and to you we shall be as witness and bring our souls with the souls of others into the security of your blessed land, where we shall dwell forever.
We are blessed to do your work, LORD, to serve you in this world. For in such work you are with us; your will is accomplished even in this flesh and bone. And so, let us give ourselves entirely to you and to your ways, submissive in all things, and we shall be redeemed from all unrighteousness and cleansed for your kingdom.
Sun, 11 November 2018
(Ti.1:1-9; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.17:1-6)
“Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?”
“He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”
Of priests and holy men our readings speak, yes, but most especially of bishops, who are most entrusted with the Word of God, with the preaching of the Gospel of eternal life… and how silence in this regard leads but to condemnation.
Paul sets the standard for the “servant of God.” He presents himself “as an apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of those whom God has chosen and to promote their knowledge of the truth as our religion embodies it.” Here is the bishop in sum. Here is the priest in sum. Here is the sum of any sent to teach in His name: increase the faith and knowledge of the flock. And in this service certainly a priest must be “irreproachable,” and “the bishop as God’s steward must be blameless.” He must be “steady, just, holy, and self-controlled. [And] in his teaching he must hold fast to the authentic message, so that he will be able both to encourage men to follow sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.”
But how many of our leaders hold to Paul’s words? How many encourage the keeping of sound doctrine, and, perhaps more to the point, how many refute error? Worse yet, how many travel merrily along with the error of the day? “If your brother does wrong, correct him,” Jesus says. But how many tell their flock, “You should not fornicate or commit adultery” or “You should not abort a child or contracept him” or “You should not be ‘self-willed or arrogant, a drunkard, a violent or greedy man’”? And how many freely engage in sins such as these themselves? Yes, Jesus says, “If he repents, forgive him” (even “seven times a day”) of the brother in your care; but how can he repent if he knows nothing of the wrong he does, and how can you instruct him if you are committing the same sins as he? And so where is true forgiveness?
“Scandals will inevitably arise, but woe to him through whom they come.” It is a terrible warning the Lord gives today, particularly to those entrusted with much, for how great will be their punishment for the abuse of their call. And of course, the source of such travails in the wayward soul is simply a lack of faith. Not “the size of a mustard seed” or a speck of dust is the faith of too many. If even it could be detected with a microscope it would show itself in good works. But it is not there. And so, who indeed shall climb the mountain of the Lord? How many vainly grovel at its base? And if our leaders do not climb, how shall any follow? So, who shall come to holiness?
Let us awaken to the call of our God! Let the Church serve as His presence in this world. Let us be “the race that seeks for Him,” putting holiness before all else. And let the ordained among us lead us in this way.
O LORD, let us be men of faith
who carry your Word forth blamelessly,
that all may come to see your face.
YHWH, how shall we serve you if we have not sinless hands or clean hearts? And so, how shall we find our reward in your kingdom? Will we not rather be cast into the sea for our unfaithfulness, for our failing to hold to your true teaching and leading others astray? Help us who are far from you. Forgive us our sins.
Do we not travel blindly in this day, dear LORD, lacking the guidance of holy shepherds? Does your people not suffer for lack of knowledge of you and your ways? Is the truth not hidden from our eyes by the silence of your teachers? And are many not led away from you by their example?
Who is there that stands in your stead; who climbs your holy mountain, making a way for others to follow? There are a few, no doubt; but are there not more who are afraid to speak in your NAME? Help us, LORD, for your Church shall be lost without the guidance of good shepherds. Encourage all souls to seek your face, and so find the blessings of Heaven.
Fri, 9 November 2018
(Phil.4:10-19; Ps.112:1-2,5-6,8-9; Lk.16:9-15)
“Well for the man who is gracious and lends.”
“Lavishly he gives to the poor; his generosity shall endure forever; his horn shall be exalted in glory.” Such is the man who knows the proper use of this world’s goods, that is, to give them all as “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” This shows that he “fears the Lord,” that his heart is not set on the things of earth but the riches of heaven; and so to these shall he come.
“Make friends for yourselves through your use of this world’s goods,” Jesus instructs His disciples, “so that when they fail” – when the goods of this world have faded into eternity – “a lasting reception will be yours” in the kingdom which does not pass away. Our life on this earth serves indeed as a kind of test. The Lord needs to see if He “can trust [us] in little things,” in the passing things of this passing day; then He will know that He “can also trust [us] in greater,” in the eternal graces of our heavenly homeland. How well shall we prove ourselves?
The Philippians prove their generosity well. The Apostle Paul commends them for their repeated gifts to supply his needs as he preaches the Gospel. Here we see a perfect example of wise use of this world’s goods, of their being given in service of God and man. And because of their generosity, there is “an ever-growing balance in [their] account,” not of silver and gold, but of the “magnificent riches in Christ Jesus.” As they empty themselves of what they have, as they give of their riches on this earth, the Lord gives them all they might desire of the true riches; as Paul says as he assures them he has been “fully paid” by the fruits they have offered: “My God in turn will supply your needs fully.”
“No servant can serve two masters.” We either amass wealth for our own benefit in this world – and toward our own condemnation – or we give what we have for the benefit of God and others. We love God or we love money; there are no two ways. “The Pharisees, who were avaricious men, heard all this and began to deride Him.” Does your heart tend to deride the generosity to which the Lord calls you, as do these? Is there yet mockery upon your tongue and lips against the preaching of the emptiness of this world’s possessions? Do you also “justify yourselves in the eyes of men”? Know indeed that “God reads your hearts” and “what man thinks important, God holds in contempt.” And if you would have it go well with you in the heavenly kingdom, you must practice the abounding generosity that is the heart of that kingdom (shown in our Lord’s limitless mercy upon our souls), here with what is at your hands.
O LORD, take all that we have, all that we own,
for your use and that of your Church.
YHWH, let our hearts not be set on the wealth of this earth but let us rather use the goods at our hands to serve your kingdom. A fragrant offering let us make to you of our wealth and of ourselves that we might be acceptable in your sight.
How shall we come to your kingdom, LORD, if we cling to this earth and its goods? How shall we share in your glory if our hearts are not generous as your own? We cannot be blessed if we are not a blessing to others, and your everlasting wealth, your eternal graces, we shall not find if we grasp at the possessions at our hands. We must indeed give generously of the things you provide here, and we will have the love that lasts forever.
Your love let us know even now, O LORD; your joy let us take in providing for the poor, in supporting your workers in the vineyard. And you will lavishly bless us when the last day comes.
Wed, 7 November 2018
(Phil.3:3-8; Ps.105:2-7; Lk.15:1-10)
“I have come to rate all as loss
in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul tells us, “Those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ.” The “legal observance” he grasped so tightly – having been “circumcised on the eighth day,” “a Hebrew of Hebrew origins,” himself a Pharisee – he now looses to the wind, desiring only to be among those “who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus,” and “seek[ing] to serve Him constantly.” What matters but Jesus and His love, and “the judgments He has uttered”?
But this justice those who remain as Paul was cannot begin to consider, for they say to themselves as Paul once said of himself: “I [am] above reproach when it [comes] to justice based on the law”… yet do they hold tightly to their fine legal observances, looking down upon those who are below their reproach and judging them all as loss, as wayward sheep destined for the fires of Gehenna. And this Man eats with them! But what is loss in their eyes becomes great gain in the eyes of God, for there is “more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent”; and the angels sing in praise as they see the Son of Man sitting and ministering to these sinners, drawing them, as He has been sent to do, into the kingdom’s gates.
The Lord “light[s] a lamp and sweep[s] the house in a diligent search” for straying souls. When He succeeds, He calls us all, saying, “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.” And will we be jealous of the Lord’s discovery, as the Pharisees and scribes, or will we realize that we all have need of repentance, that we are all that lost sheep, that lost coin which the Lord treasures so once He holds it in His hand again?
Brothers and sisters, it is in the Lord’s hands we must always place ourselves; this is to be in the light of the surpassing knowledge of Christ. By our own hands, in our own wills – “putting our trust in the flesh” – what do we make but corruption, even as our first parents who desired so to hold the apple in their hands and eat it at their pleasure? In things themselves, and our willful manipulation of them, we find only a knowledge that brings death, that leads to darkness. And who will lead us out of such darkness? Jesus, who is Light. In trust in Him we realize we do not know the good we do, for all of any worth is of His making. And so all our desire is for knowledge of “the wondrous deeds that He has wrought” and forgetfulness of our sinful selves. Rejoice in the Lord’s salvation!
O LORD, help us to repent of our sin
and leave behind all things of the flesh,
that we might live in the glory of your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ.
YHWH, how you desire our repentance, our return to you. For this you send your only Son to sit among us and call us to your side – for this He shall even die. May the light He shines find a place in our hearts that we shall be found by Him and lifted up on His shoulders… that we might be raised to Heaven.
We are all poor sinners, LORD, lost to ourselves and lost to you. We are all blinded by the things of this world and the pride we take in our work among them. And so, darkness overtakes us.
Yet you call us to glory in you and in the wondrous deeds that you have wrought in your mercy. Yet we may be gathered into your arms and rejoice in your NAME. Yet if we listen to your Son we shall know redemption, we shall return to you.
And you will rejoice with all your angels that we have come to you, that we have found your glory. Our joy will be your joy, good God, for your love will be our own.
Tue, 6 November 2018
(Phil.2:12-18; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; Lk.14:25-33)
“Work with anxious concern to achieve your salvation.”
Strive we must always to attain the kingdom of God, setting our hearts on salvation alone, and trusting in the Lord all the while.
“If one of you decides to build a tower, will he not first sit down and calculate the outlay?” And do you think the outlay for being a follower of Christ is any less important to consider? For what is required of the soul on the path to the kingdom is nothing less than all he owns, and the work involved is the laying down of his very life. And so we must be prepared; and so we must act with conviction, to dispel any “fear of laying the foundation and then not being able to complete the work.”
It certainly cannot be said of St. Paul, “That man began to build what he could not finish,” for he states with absolute conviction to his beloved Philippians, “Even if my life is to be poured out as a libation over the sacrificial service of your faith, I am glad of it and rejoice with all of you.” He is prepared to die to accomplish the work the Lord has set for him, and he shall. But he witnesses the fruit of his efforts: “As I look to the day of Christ, you give me cause to boast that I did not run the race in vain or work to no purpose.” In his disciples he sees the faith he has planted grow. And now throughout all the earth do his words go forth, bearing the fruit of Christ among all who listen.
And so, brothers and sisters, set your hearts on accomplishing the work the Lord places before you. Let no doubt or fear cause you to stumble on the way. Proclaim with David, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Have this same confidence and commitment to His grace. For “it is God who, in His good will toward you, begets in you any measure of desire or achievement.” It is His work you do and so He will surely bless it. Know that your King is able to do battle with any enemy, that none holds any sway over Him, and be as He is, giving yourselves entirely to His mission, His cause. And you shall “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple”; and you shall certainly achieve your salvation. Onward, soldiers of the Lord.
O LORD, help us to renounce the things of this world
and come into your Temple, into your presence,
and there remain all our days –
accomplish your work in us.
YHWH, you are our light and our salvation; it is you who beget in us any desire for you and your kingdom. And it is you who bring this desire to fulfillment, if we but work to achieve it.
Help us, O LORD, to know the way you call us and prepare us to walk your way without fear, without hesitation. In you we take our courage, for you are great and care greatly for our welfare. It is your bounty alone we desire, and so you will bring us to your House where we may gaze on your face in holy light.
What need we but to dwell with you, O LORD? What of this world could keep us from coming to you? Help us to renounce all else but your holy presence; even our lives let us lay down in service of you. And we shall find our salvation, despite the darkness all around.
It is you who defend us in battle, LORD; it is you who build our house. May we carry our cross with your Son this day, and so be blessed with confidence in your kingdom.
Mon, 5 November 2018
(Phil.2:5-11; Ps.22:26-32; Lk.14:15-24)
“The lowly shall eat their fill.”
Yes, “happy is he who eats bread in the kingdom of God.” Indeed, he shall have his fill. But who shall partake of such grace? Who shall come to the feast when the Master calls?
Brothers and sisters, our “attitude must be as Christ’s: though He was in the form of God, He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at.” Rather, He made Himself lowly, as we are lowly. And now He is exalted; now He prepares the banquet of salvation for all lowly souls.
Who are the lowly souls? The lowly souls are they who bow down before the Lord. “At Jesus’ name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth.” If one does not bend the knee before our Savior, he is not humble, he is not lowly – rather, he stands in his vain pride.
And these proud souls shall not come to the table in the kingdom. If when He calls they turn away unto their own affairs, spurning the only appointment which carries importance, they lose their place in the Banquet Hall. And listen to the command of the “master of the house” to his servant: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.” The Jews having rejected the invitation which was most especially theirs, we the outcast Gentiles now hear the call of the apostles of the Lord, a call that goes out to the ends of the world. All the poor souls are now invited.
Brothers and sisters, “all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of nations shall bow down before Him. For dominion is the Lord’s, and He rules the nations. To Him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth,” all in the heavens, and all on earth. None shall be deprived of hearing the call to the feast the Son prepares; all shall stand before Him and have opportunity to bend the knee, to realize our lowliness before Him whom every tongue does praise. So “let the coming generation be told of the Lord that they might proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice He has shown,” that all forever might bow their hearts before His majesty and proclaim: “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” In such humble praise they shall eat their fill of the blessings of the kingdom.
O LORD, let us honor your Son
who has given His life for the salvation of all,
that we might enter your kingdom
and eat the Bread He sets before us.
YHWH, let us bow down before your only Son and give Him due honor and praise, for He alone is Lord; He alone among us is worthy of our worship, for He alone is your Son. Let us humble ourselves as He has done and so find ourselves in your kingdom with Him.
O LORD, if only we could eat bread at your table, if only it were the desire of our heart to enter your presence and rejoice in your glory. It is your desire to share with us all your gifts and graces, to feed us with your finest fare. But how can we celebrate in your House if our hearts are turned to earthly matters, if our thoughts are vain and our souls proud?
Your Son has humbled Himself to come among us and call us to you, LORD. He has set aside His place at your side that He might become as a slave in our midst, that He might lead us to your side. Let us not reject His holy sacrifice but proclaim it with our lives as we eat bread at your table this day.
Sun, 4 November 2018
(Phil.2:1-4; Ps.131:1-3; Lk.14:12-14)
“Let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves,
each of you looking to others’ interests rather than his own.”
The key to Christianity is to see others, even the blind and the lame and the crippled beggar, as superior to ourselves, and place ourselves at their service in love. As Christians we can never look down upon another individual; if our heart is proud and our “eyes haughty,” we are certainly set up for a fall, for the Lord who sees all and humbles Himself before all will certainly humble our proud souls. Rather, we must maintain the “fellowship in spirit, compassion, and pity” of which Paul speaks, “possessing the one love, united in spirit and ideals” and thus always giving one another the “encouragement” we owe in Christ.
Jesus would teach this humility and unity of spirit to the chief of the Pharisees today. He would have him adopt a truly Christian attitude, expecting nothing in return for his feeding of the sheep, concerned only for the welfare of the poorest in his midst. Thus He would convert him to the faith by wiping the mocking smile from his face in a spirit of genuine compassion. He tells him, “Whenever you give a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or wealthy neighbors.” He should not be concerned simply with those of his blood and the people of means, for certainly these would “invite [him] in return and thus repay” him. No, quite a novel idea has the Son of God for the head of the Jewish Church: expect your recompense at “the resurrection of the just,” not on earth. Set your heart on things that are above, not below. And go beyond your blood to invite all into the hall of the Lord, especially those most in need, those most outcast. Such a call must have been shocking to the sensibilities of this Pharisee, as indeed it remains shocking to most even today. But He only calls us to do as He has done – empty ourselves completely for the good of others.
“Make my joy complete by your unanimity,” Paul begs the Philippians; and unanimity in the Lord encompasses all. In it there can be no “rivalry or conceit” because in it there are no factions: all are one in the Lord. To this unity, found only in humility, the only Son does call us all, for He knows it is there we shall find our peace; in such humble service we find our eternal rest upon the lap of our Father.
O LORD, let us not seek our reward
in the things of this world or follow in its ways;
rather, in all humility let us find our peace in your arms.
YHWH, help us to look to others’ needs and not our own, to seek to serve you in all things, not looking for reward. How shall we be humble as your Son, placing ourselves entirely in your hands? How shall we become as your children if you do not bless us? For we are selfish and self-seeking and need your grace upon our souls to save us from such vain pride.
To sacrifice your Son calls us, LORD, to unity with all our brothers and sisters. He would have us empty ourselves as He has done in coming among us and dying on the Cross. This great blessing He would make our own, if our desire were for Heaven.
Give us, O LORD, true wisdom and peace of soul to see and know the glory to which Jesus calls us by His holy sacrifice, to share the love that exists between you and Him alone. O let us be your children! free of all snares of the flesh and the world and the devil, desiring only to sup with you.
Fri, 2 November 2018
(Phil.1:18-26; Ps.42:2-3,5; Lk.14:1,7-11)
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding party,
do not sit in the place of honor
in case some greater dignitary has been invited.”
At the feast of the marriage of Christ to mankind, we are the lesser party, and must act humbly before our God.
Jesus comes among us as a guest to eat a meal in our house; He humbles Himself to sit at our table. And this guest who sits in the lowest place among us is in fact the Host of the banquet of which all are invited to partake. Though the Lamb that is slaughtered for all to eat, He the sacrifice rules at the altar of our worship.
Listen carefully to what Paul says to his beloved Philippians; see how his own attitude mirrors that of the humble Christ, and how it must be imitated by us all. He says quite openly, “I long to be freed from this life and to be with Christ, for that is the far better thing.” In the choice of living or dying, he would opt for the latter, “for, to [him], ‘life’ means Christ; hence dying is so much gain.” As the psalmist sings in comparing his soul to “the hind [that] longs for the running waters”: “When shall I go and behold the face of God?” When shall he know full union with the Lord? Only in death, the dawn of perfect day. But though “strongly attracted” to death, Paul has equal attraction to life, and accepts that he must “go on living in the flesh” for the “productive toil” it means; and so he will “persevere with [his disciples], for [their] joy and [their] progress in the faith.” He will remain “with the throng” that he might lead them “in procession to the house of God… amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,” though he himself is already prepared to enter the festival gates.
Do you not see how this attitude is as Christ’s own? Would not the Lord Jesus have preferred to remain in the heavenly kingdom with the Father? Would this not have been better for Him by far? And yet He comes among us, and yet He remains with us. And yet He takes on flesh which is as the cross itself and bears it with all patience for our benefit. He gains nothing by sitting with us at table as a dishonored guest, but we gain life eternal as we eat the Bread He feeds us.
And so, listen to the Lord’s teaching. Pray that “when your Host approaches you He will say, ‘My friend, come up higher.’” Let His sweet words of humility and sacrifice be in your ears and in your heart – and upon your lips, lived through your body – that with Paul you will “have full confidence that now as always Christ will be exalted through” your own humility; then you will find the same “conviction that this will turn out to [your] salvation.” If here you sacrifice your life, at the wedding party of our Lord and our souls you will be given your due place of honor at table in the kingdom.
O LORD, may the humility of Jesus be proclaimed to all
who wish to see your face.
YHWH, help us to be your humble servants, coming to others as a slave, as your Son, concerned only for the welfare of your flock, even as the Apostle Paul. How shall we have the Spirit of Christ within us? How shall we set our hearts on seeking your face and helping others progress in the faith? Let us not care if we live or die, but only that your NAME goes forth.
To your House let us come, O LORD; at your table let us sit. The lowest place let us take, for this is the place we deserve. It is only by your grace we come to the table at all, and so, how can we boast of anything? Your Son is the exalted guest among us – let us give place to Him in all things.
Call us higher, dear LORD. Call us to your side. Without your call we shall be lost, scrambling blindly for adulation on this empty earth. O let us rejoice as we enter your presence!
Tue, 30 October 2018
(Eph.6:1-9; Ps.145:10-14; Lk.13:22-30)
“Do God’s will with your whole heart
as slaves of Christ.”
These words Paul addresses to the slaves of his time, instructing them to “obey [their] human masters with the reverence, the awe, and the sincerity [they] owe to Christ,” but they apply well to us all, who are in all things to serve the Lord. Always we should “give [our] service willingly, doing it for the Lord rather than men.” This is as “the narrow door” of which our Lord speaks; this is what will bring us into His heavenly kingdom. For it is certain that “each one, whether slave or free, will be repaid by the Lord for whatever good he does.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord’s “kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and [His] dominion endures through all generations.” It matters not when we live or where, or what position we have in society – none of these things pertain to the reign of God. For those who are to be saved shall indeed come from the four corners of the universe and from every period of time, and as Paul says to masters of their slaves: “You and they have a Master in heaven who plays no favorites.” So if you think that any honor or preference of this earth will smooth your way into the kingdom, you are surely mistaken and risk the grave disappointment of discovering that “some are first who will be last,” or finding yourself barred from His House for failing to serve the Lord with all your heart in all the things of the world. For He has come to serve and not to be served, and He “lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”
Jesus goes “through cities and towns teaching – all the while making His way toward Jerusalem.” Even unto the cross He offers instruction to those who would follow Him. He is as the fathers Paul instructs to “bring [their children] up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord.” But we must heed His words; we must honor and obey the Lord as children are expected to honor and obey their parents. For His words are wise and they carry the greatest promise: “That it may go well with you, and that you may have long life,” not so much upon this earth, but in the heavenly kingdom.
Do all things in His name, brothers and sisters. Honor Him. Obey Him. Serve Him well that He might see you and “know where you come from” and thus honor you “at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
O LORD, let us follow in your narrow way
that we might be saved;
let us honor you with all our lives.
YHWH, all are one in your kingdom, for you do not play favorites with your children but call all the same to your presence. And so the lowly you raise from the dust and the exalted you tear down… for all must come to you on an even path. The narrow way that leads to your glory is not dependent on the concerns of this age.
And so slaves are no less your children than their masters; masters no less than their slaves – it matters only their devotion to you. All are called to serve you, LORD, to follow the command you give to each one. And so father and son may come equally unto Heaven if they do as fits their role, as fits your call.
Let children obey their parents and parents nurture their children in the faith. Let workers perform their tasks with zeal and those over them treat all with respect and love. Let all discourse of your glory by their service to you, giving you thanks for the splendor of your kingdom, to which they thereby come. Praise you, LORD, for your goodness toward all!
Mon, 29 October 2018
(Eph.5:21-33; Ps.128:1-5; Lk.13:18-21)
“To what shall I compare the reign of God?”
Jesus Himself compares it to a mustard seed which grows so steadily into a “large shrub,” and to yeast which makes “the whole mass of dough” rise. And Paul tells us of the marriage union that it “refers to Christ and the Church.” These images should lead you, brother, to understand the glorious kingdom that is beyond all image.
“The husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of His body, the Church,” and husbands should “love [their] wives, as Christ’s loved the Church,” giving themselves “up for her” as the Lord has done for us. A wonderfully beautiful call; a marvelous image which is to bring the Lord so really into our midst: love between husband and wife – the love of love upon this earth, which indeed brings the fruit of new life. “A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cling to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Here is a word of truth incomparable to others in the joy it brings the ear and the heart open to its call. For by it is promised great happiness to those “who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways.” Yes, the obedient man will find that his “wife shall be like a fruitful vine” and his “children like olive plants around [his] table”; great is the blessing upon those who wed in love, the true love of the Lord.
But a greater promise than this does this word bring, for in it is indeed “a great foreshadowing”; in it we see not only the fruitful love of man and woman, but of God and His people. For does not Jesus leave His Father in heaven and cling to us? Does it not bring the great knowledge that we shall be made one with Him and with His Father in heaven? If “he who loves his wife loves himself,” does this not emphasize the absolute oneness of husband and wife? And if such marriage foreshadows Christ’s love for us, can we not conclude that we will be as He is?
Oh to what glory we are called! To be as the only Son of God, to be one with Him. Indeed “we are members of His body” even now, certainly. Has Jesus not asked Saul why he was persecuting Him, referring to His Church (Acts 9:4); and has He not said what we do unto the least of our brothers we do unto Him? We are one with Him even now, but yet we are growing, yet we are rising. And the immeasurable glory to which we come is beyond even the most poignant image to depict. It is absolute fullness, absolute union with our Lord and God. Alleluia! “The prosperity of [the New] Jerusalem” is ours.
O LORD, teach us to love one another
that we might be joined to your Son
and so enter your reign.
YHWH, may husbands and wives be truly one in your sight; let there be no separation between them. For they are one as we are one with your Son, and why would we separate ourselves from our Lord? Salvation is ours in Him and in our love for one another. Let us be obedient to His voice and fear you and walk in your ways, and we shall grow unto Heaven.
O LORD, you greatly bless those who fear you, who worship you alone and always do your will. Help us to live according to your Word, particularly as it affects marriages. For this day there is great separation between husband and wife, between man and woman; no sense of their oneness seems known anymore. Set against one another do they not set themselves against you? And living thus, how shall their love grow? Then what hope have any of being fruitful in your sight and coming into your eternal presence? It seems their children they would let die. O save us from such destructive pride that we might love one another as ourselves, as you love us in your Son.
Sun, 28 October 2018
(Eph.4:32-5:8; Ps.1:1-4,6,Eph.5:1; Lk.13:10-17)
“There was a time when you were darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.”
Brothers and sisters, remember always that “God has forgiven you in Christ.” Once you “walk[ed] in the way of sinners,” but now you are as he who “delights in the law of the Lord.” And so as God has shown His mercy to you, so should you do unto others; we must “be imitators of God as His dear children.” As when Jesus saw the woman who “was badly stooped – quite incapable of standing erect,” for eighteen years afflicted by her infirmity, He had pity for her, called her to Him and “laid His hand on her” so that “immediately she stood up straight and began thanking God”… so should our hearts go out to all those in need, all those afflicted by infirmity and sin, that all might be as well as we have become, that all might praise God as we do.
“Make no mistake about this: no fornicator, no unclean or lustful person – in effect an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Brothers and sisters, how many of us have been guilty of the deadly sins of which Paul speaks today? (And if not these, what others?) How many of us have deserved to be barred from the kingdom? In truth we must say that all of us have fallen short of God’s glory and found ourselves in desperate need of the salvation only Christ brings. And so should we hold out no hope for those who commit such sins now, who are as we have been? Certainly “there are sins that bring God’s wrath down on the disobedient” and put them in danger of dying; but do we instruct these to “have nothing to do with them,” do we offer light to those in such darkness… or do we presume their condemnation?
The Lord left not the stooped woman in Satan’s clutches, despite the “indignant” attitude of the leaders of the synagogue – whose own inability to stand erect is so much more difficult to cure. No, the Lord saw a soul in need and reached His hand out to her; and should we not do the same with those we see suffering affliction, if not with a healing touch of our hand at least with the healing touch of devout prayer? The well-being of others must always be our concern. We must ever “be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving.” For if our hearts stoop to jealousy and judgment as does the leader of the synagogue’s, what hope shall there be for us then of entering God’s kingdom? We must ever be children of light, dispelling all darkness, if we are truly to be the “dear children” of our Lord.
O LORD, let us stand up straight before you,
turning from sin and walking in your way at all times.
YHWH, let us be as your dear children, kind and compassionate toward others, ever reflecting your glory. Let there be no sin among us, not even the whispering desire for sin. Let us live as your children of light – banish all darkness from us.
Help us to walk in your way, O LORD, to be well instructed in your paths; for there are many who wander aimlessly and are easily subject to Satan’s wiles. Let us be taught as the Jews of Jesus’ day and listen with attentive hearts to His words. Indeed, like Him let us become, like a tree planted near the running water of the Spirit, and we shall prosper all our days, ever bearing fruit in your NAME.
Make clear to all, O LORD, that sin is sin, that the idolatry of lust is a turning from you and the light of your truth and the love of your heart. Keep us from certain death, from the counsel of the wicked, delighting only in your Law day and night.
Fri, 26 October 2018
(Eph.4:7-16; Ps.122:1-5; Lk.13:1-9)
“Each of us has received God’s favor
in the measure in which Christ bestows it.”
Paul reminds us today of Scripture: “When He ascended on high, He took a host of captives and gave gifts to men.” Christ Himself “descended into the lower regions of the earth,” coming to the place where we lowly humans dwell, and then “ascended into heaven, that He might fill all men with His gifts,” that those to whom He comes here on earth might know the riches of heaven to which He draws us all.
“It is He who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ.” Yes, He gave us these leaders such as Paul to guide us to all truth, but He no less has given us each a share of His heavenly glory and bestowed upon each of us the gifts that are our portion from Him. None is without gifts, and none can fail to employ these gifts. It is necessary that the Body of Christ has “the proper functioning of [its] members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament” if it is to grow in love as it is called to do. All our gifts must be employed to the full; each must fulfill his role.
The Lord makes clear the call upon each of our souls to utilize the gifts He grants to each of His members. Listen to the words of the vinedresser in His parable: “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree and found none.” Who is that vinedresser but Jesus Himself and who is that fig tree but we who claim to be His disciples? And finding no fruit on the fig tree, what does the vinedresser say? “Cut it down. Why should it clutter up the ground?” Why indeed should we drag down the Body of Christ struggling to grow in love in this world; if we are dead members, what place have we in His kingdom? And unless we reform in the short time we are given, what shall become of our souls?
Brothers and sisters, do we not wish to “go up to the house of the Lord,” to rejoice in the heavenly Jerusalem, to “form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature”? Then our tree must bear fruit in His name and serve to build up the Body in love; “if not, it shall be cut down,” and we shall be separated from the glorious presence of the Lord. See the great graces and gifts the Lord showers upon you; pray for their fulfillment, for their growing more and more – “profess the truth in love” and the favors you have been given will bear their fruit, for your benefit and that of the whole world.
O LORD, let us not be cut down
but built up as the Body of your Son.
YHWH, let us make our home in you; in the Body of your Son let us find our place. In your holy Church may we ever dwell, bearing fruit in your NAME. To full maturity let us come, in Jesus who has come to us.
O LORD, in your House let us rejoice; let us find our peace in the New Jerusalem. Within Her gates we are safe from every false doctrine, from every whim and fancy of man. For divine wisdom rests in Her whom the Christ has formed by His own hands, in His own blood. Since He has founded the Church and its servants, it is He who lives in it with you.
But we must leave behind our sin if we are to find such perfection in Him. We must reform our lives if we are to be made in the image of Christ your Son. O LORD, let our lives not be empty; let us not come to a sudden end… May we please you by our repentance and know your blessings upon us this day. Let your Church and all its members grow and bear fruit in Jesus’ Name.
Thu, 25 October 2018
(Eph.4:1-6; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.12:54-59)
“Make every effort to preserve the unity
which has the Spirit as its origin
and peace as its binding force.”
Is this not what Jesus instructs the crowds in saying, “When you are going with your opponent to appear before a magistrate, try to settle with him on the way”? Do not both Paul and Jesus speak of the love we must have one for another, even for those who may seem our enemies? Again, in the House of God there is unity, there is peace. Among His children there should be understanding, there should be grace. We must make every effort to have no enemies – to hate no one, to bear no grudge against any – in this life or the next.
Brothers and sisters, we are called to live as one, “bearing with one another lovingly,” for “there is but one body and one Spirit” in Christ; “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” which we all share, and so we should live as children of the “one God and Father of all.” On our oneness in the Lord our hearts should be set, and nothing should disturb the peace we find in Him. We see so many other things, we understand so much of the world and its ways… why do we not understand this? Why do we not know and practice God’s way?
“The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” This David tells us: all are one under the Lord God. But only those “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,” “may stand in His holy place.” We cannot “ascend the mountain of the Lord” if we are not made perfect as He. And so the Lord warns us of the necessity of settling all our accounts here, now, while there is time – while we yet have breath and eyes to see – lest we come to the judge at the end of time with the darkness of sin upon our soul. Now is His mercy offered forth, and we are called in turn to offer it freely to others. Then will be grave punishment for sin, for failures to love and maintain unity.
“A blessing from the Lord” awaits us all. He “that seeks the face of the God of Jacob” shall receive his reward. Even now the Spirit of the Lord grants us a foretaste of such grace. But we must be ever diligent to maintain it. We must be ever ready to forgive one another if we are to remain in Him. And so I ask: forgive me, brother; forgive me, sister, any wrong I have done you… and be assured of my forgiveness.
O LORD, help us to stand in your holy place,
as reflections of your peace and your love for all.
YHWH, you are LORD of Heaven and earth and all is under your watchful care. We are in you and in your Son and have your one Spirit at our heart’s core. Let us live in peace! Let us live as your children, holy as you are.
If we maintain not humility and peace in our souls, can we be said to be your own? O LORD, if we settle not with our opponent here on this earth, how can we come unto your heavenly presence? There can be no anger or hatred in us; indeed, our hands must be sinless if we are to enter your eternal kingdom and make our home in you.
And so, dear LORD, help us to forgive one another, to love all as you love them – let us be the race that seeks ever your holy face and never turn aside from such desire for utter love in your presence. Forgive all those who sin against us, and please let us be forgiven in your sight.
Wed, 24 October 2018
“Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth?”
Strong contrast we find in our readings today. Jesus speaks of the division He has come to bring by the fire of truth He lights on this earth – fire like a sword separating even the closest of family members one from another; whereas Paul speaks of “the breadth and the length and the height and the depth of Christ’s love” and the great oneness found in “the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” How does one reconcile this apparent contradiction? Is the Lord of peace or division?
Brothers and sisters, there is no contradiction here. Paul speaks of the “glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus” which exists “through all generations” and which we share “with all the holy ones” for whom “charity [is] the root and foundation of [their] life.” As our psalmist proclaims, “Happy the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance.” In the House of God is peace. In His Church is the oneness of perfect love, and all its members “experience this love which surpasses all knowledge” and “attain to the fullness of God Himself.”
Then whence the division the Lord emphasizes? The division exists here on earth, as He Himself states. When the light of truth comes up against the darkness that is this world, when the holy ones of God meet up with the children of this evil age, there is necessarily division. Despite the best efforts of the just to bring peace to all, how often is our offering of peace rejected – how frequently is Christ nailed to the cross. So, though we yet hold love for all as the disciples of our living Lord, it cannot but be that many will cling to darkness and so find an enemy in the light. And thus division comes. Though in heaven and in the Church there is nothing but peace, the world breeds only division.
Brothers and sisters, “may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith.” “May [the Father] strengthen you inwardly through the workings of His Spirit” as you undergo the anguish of the baptism His Son has known. May He keep you in peace and “bestow on you gifts in keeping with the riches of His glory.” For soon division will be gone and His peace will be all that is known.
O LORD, how your love separates
the evil from the good! –
may we know the fullness of your love
at work in our lives.
YHWH, great is your glory, far above the ways of men – how can we grasp this surpassing knowledge, how can we know your all-encompassing love? Though you dwell beyond our reach, in your kindness you stoop down to us, to share with us the great riches of your glory.
And so, what should we do but praise your NAME? What should we do but thank you in song? For you have looked upon us in our lowliness and delivered us from death and sin, and made us one with all your holy ones in your eternal kingdom.
But what of those who reject you, LORD? What of those who spurn your love, who desire not the peace which surpasses understanding? What can they do but fight against your Church? And those may be of our own family. Then where are we? How shall there be peace on this earth among those who despise your gifts? Give us strength to share in the baptism of your Son, in the fire we must endure on our way to Heaven; help us to conquer all division and stand always with you.
Tue, 23 October 2018
(Eph.3:2-12; Is.12:2-6; Lk.12:39-48)
“When much has been given a man,
much will be required of him.”
Yes, “more will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted,” and today we see two of the men to whom the most has been entrusted. First, of course, is Peter, who queries the Lord and to whom the Lord addresses His question, “Who in your opinion is that faithful, farsighted steward whom the master will set over his servants to dispense their ration of grain in season?” knowing full well it is to the blessed Rock of His Church He speaks. And Paul tells us how “through the gift God in His goodness bestowed on [him] through the exercise of His power, [he] became a minister of the Gospel.” Paul has been “given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and to enlighten all men on the mysterious design which for ages was hidden in God, the Creator of all.” The Rock of the Church and its great Apostle – how much has been entrusted to these two men!
And what has been entrusted to these is entrusted to all who follow in their wake, to all “the holy apostles and prophets” to whom “the mystery of Christ” is “revealed by the Spirit.” And so the same responsibility is upon them as well. The Lord has promised, “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation,” and how can the faithful find such life-giving water if the Lord’s priests and preachers do not offer it forth freely as it has been given them? If they withhold the children’s food and their tongues cleave to the roofs of their mouths, how shall the Church be fed, how shall she be instructed in the way she should walk? If the guardians of the truth are not vigilant, but rather begin “to abuse the housemen and servant girls, to eat and drink and get drunk,” feeding only themselves, their own bellies… what shall become of the Body of Christ? And what shall become of those who have allowed the Lord’s House to be broken into?
“Sing praise to the Lord for His glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth”: that “God indeed is [our] Savior,” and all are called unto Him. Brothers and sisters, we all share in the priesthood of Peter and the evangelical ministry of Paul, and so, “drawing near Him with confidence,” we must all “among the nations make known [the Lord’s] deeds.” All have been given a measure of the Lord’s grace and power, and all are responsible for fulfilling the “master’s wishes” with regard to our call. This is our gift from God, to share in His work of service, in His cross. Let us embrace it as readily as have Peter and Paul.
O LORD, may we all be faithful stewards
of your manifold gifts
and find our salvation in your Son.
YHWH, you are in our midst and you call us all to your work, to service of your Church in your holy NAME. Through your Son Jesus Christ we all may share in your manifold wisdom, in the salvation to glory wrought by His blood… Let us give thanks to you and acclaim your NAME, serving you faithfully all our days.
LORD, it should be our joy to serve you; it should be our very food. What greater gift could we hope for than to share in your promise and in your blessed ministry with Peter and Paul? One are we in your Body, in the flesh of your Son, and freely may we come to you now with all our petitions and find you ready to answer our plea – what blessing is ours by your grace!
Let us draw water at the fountain of salvation, LORD; let us drink freely of the glory you offer forth. Remaining ever faithful to your will, let us draw ever closer to you, till we sing your praises forever in your kingdom.
Mon, 22 October 2018
(Eph.2:12-22; Ps.85:9-14; Lk.12:35-38)
“You who were once far off
have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
We who “were excluded from the community of Israel,” who were not of His chosen people upon whom His Spirit rested and so were “without hope and without God in the world,” now are “fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God” by the great grace of the cross of Christ. Now, “in Him [we] are being built into this temple”; now all “have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
“He came and ‘announced the good news of peace to you who were far off, and to those who were near” – to us who were far off, we of the nations apart from “the covenant and the promise,” that the promise might be ours as well; but also to those who were near, those to whom the covenant had been given. For those who were near were also far off; they too were blind to His presence in their midst and needed their eyes opened by the living Christ. For though the word and the sacrifice were at their hands, far was He from their hearts, and so the blessed coming of the Messiah is for these, of course, as well. He came, in fact, for them first of all.
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” Gentile or Jew, it does not matter. Now there is but one race: Christian. Now there is but one Savior for all. For now indeed there is “glory dwelling in our land,” and any who come to it become children of its light and are fitted into the House of the Lord. “He proclaims peace” now unto all, that all might know “His benefits.”
And are we ready for His coming again? Do we heed our Lord’s exhortation in our gospel today? Do we serve Him constantly, ever keeping a place for Him in our hearts and at our tables, that when He comes the great promise He makes to His servants – “He will put on an apron, seat them at table, and proceed to wait on them” – we will know? Will we be gathered into His heart and His home? Brothers and sisters, “become a dwelling for God in the Spirit.” Realize the blessing that is ours now through the cross. If under its blessed shade we take refuge, if we heed the call to come from our former residences so distant from Him and draw near to the love of the Lord, then already we will sense “the master’s return” upon us, and holy light it will bring to our souls.
O LORD, let us be built into your Temple
and become your dwelling place in the Spirit –
your light in our eyes, your peace in our souls,
your love in our hearts at all times.
YHWH, let us be prepared for the second coming of your Son; may the blood He shed make us one with you and with one another, that in peace we might wait for His return, that in your Spirit we might dwell even this day. As your holy temple let us be, that we might know your call in our souls and do your will in all things.
You look down upon us in kindness, LORD, and so your Son you have sent. He is Truth walking among us, leading us on the way of peace. And so, your benefits we may know; our work may yield its increase – our lives may be made worthy of your coming kingdom.
O LORD, let our eyes be open, looking for your Son’s return; let our hearts be set on the promise He leaves us. O let Him freely enter our homes and we be fed by His hand alone – please let us be joined to your saints in Heaven, forming one House in your NAME.
Sun, 21 October 2018
(Eph.2:1-10; Ps.100:2-5; Lk.12:13-21)
“It is owing to His favor that salvation is yours through faith.
This is not your own doing, it is God’s gift.”
Brothers and sisters, salvation is no “reward for anything [we] have accomplished.” It is nothing we make by our own hands, but comes only by God’s “kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
“God is rich in mercy.” Here is the great truth; this is our great hope: “Because of His great love for us He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin.” By our own hands we had but built up our condemnation and so “deserved God’s wrath.” Like the foolish rich man, we thought we could take our refuge in the things of this earth, that in them we would “have blessings in reserve for years to come.” But however much we “pull down [our] grain bins and build larger ones,” filling them with all the “grain” and “goods” of the world, we yet will have nothing; yet will we be empty and in need. For our life is in His hands alone. “He made us” and not we ourselves; “we are truly His handiwork,” and so, dependent on Him for all things. And if not for His mercy we would yet be dead in our sin.
Brothers and sisters, we must not “live at the level of the flesh”; we cannot give our “allegiance to the present age and the prince of the air” and remain in the favor of God. “Following every whim and fancy of our own” will but lead us down a dark road, and all the “piled-up wealth” we can amass will give us no light for the night ahead. Truly we must realize that we are “created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance.” Now that by His mercy He has saved us, has lifted us from the mire into which we’d sunk, it is ours to “serve the Lord with gladness” and “come before Him with joyful song.”
“In Christ Jesus [God] raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens, that in the ages to come He might display the great wealth of His favor.” And should we not but accept this gift from Him “whose kindness endures forever”? Should we not humble ourselves before our Holy Lord and “enter His gates with thanksgiving”? All He requires of our souls is to accept the salvation He brings us, and to grow “rich in the sight of God.”
O LORD, make us rich in your sight;
by the favor you have granted us
through the salvation wrought in Christ Jesus,
remake us in your image.
YHWH, you made us and have remade us in the image of your Son who has died for us that we might be dead in sin no more. Let us praise the great favor from you and live always according to your Word.
We have accomplished nothing, LORD, nothing but our own condemnation, nothing but distraction from you as we turn to the flesh and riches of this world. As to the evil spirit we give our allegiance, we find your wrath upon us; we find the death we have wrought by sin.
But you are merciful, LORD, and call us through your Son to salvation from this darkness that has enveloped our souls. You would indeed remake us in Christ; He would indeed restore us to our former glory and carry us to your kingdom. O let us not set our hearts on the riches of this earth but seek only the grace that comes to us at your hands, in His blood. Let us enter your courts with songs of praise this day.
Fri, 19 October 2018
(Eph.1:15-23; Ps.8:2-7; Lk.12:8-12)
“Whoever acknowledges me before men –
the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God.”
We are only very small, less than a speck of dust in the eyes of God. Beholding His heavens, “the moon and the stars which [He] set in place,” should we not cry out to God with David in our psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” Truly we are but miserable creatures. And yet the Lord of all has deigned to make man “little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor”; and yet through Jesus Christ He raises him up to His heavens.
How like the acknowledgment the Lord promises is Paul’s acknowledgment of the Ephesians: “I have never stopped thanking God for you and recommending you in my prayers.” For their “faith in the Lord Jesus and [their] love for all the members of the Church,” rightly do they gain honor from the Lord’s Apostle, and from the Lord Himself. And all who are like them shall know “the wealth of glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the Church.” “Like the strength [God] showed in raising Christ from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in heaven,” so will be the strength and grace Jesus shows in raising us up to be one with Him and His Father among the angels of heaven.
“He has put all things under Christ’s feet and made Him head of the Church, which is His body.” And all who acknowledge His greatness, all who serve the Lord and His members, become part of “the fullness of Him who fills the universe in all its parts.” Indeed they will be lifted up with Him who is “high above every principality, power, virtue, and domination, and every name that can be given in this age or in the age to come.” For the body shares in the blessing of its head; the oil poured upon our Lord flows down upon all His members through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And, yes, the Spirit is with us, brothers and sisters, defending us always and teaching us at every moment just what we need to do and say, if we have but faith. He gives us all the “wisdom and insight” we need to know the greatness of our call in Him and to accomplish all His works, if we but call upon the Lord’s Name. Acknowledge Him always in all you do; be among the “babes and sucklings” who praise His majesty and glory, and His blessing you shall know to the depths of your soul, and the heights of heaven.
O LORD, let your Spirit be upon us to speak in us
and work through us always.
YHWH, teach us by the Spirit all we should say and do; may He enlighten our innermost vision that we may know the great hope to which you call us. How great is your power in us who believe! To what glory we are led by the Spirit! For we are thus joined to your Son who has all power in Heaven and on earth – members of His Body do we become.
You have put all things under Christ’s feet, dear LORD, crowning Him with your own glory and honor. And as you have raised Him from the dead and seated Him at your right hand in Heaven, so you will raise us up with Him whose Name is above all names. And so, what should we do but praise you and honor you with all our lives.
O LORD, let us indeed acknowledge your Son here where we stand, before all men, that He might indeed acknowledge us before your angels and they might lift us to your presence at His command. Glory to you forever!
Thu, 18 October 2018
(Eph.1:11-14; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,12-13; Lk.12:1-7)
“What you have whispered in locked rooms
will be proclaimed from the housetops.”
What we have whispered and what has been whispered to us, the teaching of the Lord, the truth of the Spirit, is destined to grow unto praise of God – to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. What begins here in a small way in Jesus the Messiah, shall proceed in His disciples to all nations. In the dark, first it is but whispered. It sinks deep into the locked rooms of our guarded hearts. There the truth finds a home, takes root, and grows. And all the world shall know… All the world shall know all that is spoken in your heart.
Brothers and sisters, “when you heard the glad tidings of salvation, the word of truth, and believed in it, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit who had been promised.” In Him and in His truth whispering in your heart you found “the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made His own to praise His glory.” Though a tiny spark at first, concealed in the dark, this flame has burned intensely, and now becomes the fire of praise unto God. “We were predestined to praise His glory”; this was the Lord’s desire from the first moment He touched us with His Word. And now His plan must be fulfilled.
As Jesus looks about in our gospel and sees “a crowd of thousands had gathered, so dense that they were treading on one another,” He realizes how the flame has already begun to grow. And so He warns His disciples to be true to the Word He has labored to plant in their minds and hearts and souls. He knows that they will be tempted by “the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” that they may be inclined to speak what will tickle the public’s ear in order to gain their approval and support. Thus does He say, “Do not be afraid”: do not be afraid of what the truth may bring or that you might be killed for speaking it. Remain true to what I have whispered to you in our locked rooms, for the Word must go out to the ends of the earth. Their mission upon them, He calls His friends to fulfill it.
And so let all our voices resound with the praise of God who has saved us, for “praise from the upright is fitting.” “Exult, you just, in the Lord… for upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” Now all must know that “of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full,” so fail not to “chant His praises,” to proclaim His truth to all the world. It is here we are called to do so.
O LORD, let us not fear to praise your glory
before all the world.
YHWH, we are called through your Son to declare your glory, to sing your praises in the light of this day. May we in faith and sincerity fulfill this call and come at last into your kingdom.
You are our LORD, you are our God, and all things are known to your eyes. Life and death are in your hands, and only in you do we find the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled – only in you and by your Son will we inherit eternal glory. Let us be your true disciples that, though we die for your cause, we may ever have life in you.
Praise you, LORD, for your goodness to us, for your watching over us and providing your Son to save us and your Spirit to lead us to your glory. Let the truth you have spoken in the depths of our hearts be proclaimed openly to the ears of all men that the devil may be overcome and all your poor sparrows find their home in you.
Tue, 16 October 2018
(Gal.5:18-25; Ps.1:1-4,6,Jn.8:12; Lk.11:42-46)
“Since we live by the spirit,
let us follow the spirit’s lead.”
“Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent”; these indeed follow not the spirit’s lead but the dictates of the flesh. And all their “licentiousness” and “drunkenness,” all their “hostilities” and “envy,” shall but lead to their doom. For “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!” When they die – as already they are dead – the grave alone shall be their home, with the tortures that are found there. But “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires” and so know the “fruit of the spirit” and not the flesh. “Love, joy, peace” and all the precious gifts are theirs in this life, and shall remain with them forever. The Spirit leads us to such blessing.
As for the Pharisees in our gospel today, they prove themselves children of the flesh and not the spirit, for though they “pay tithes on mint and rue and all the garden plants,” though they are so careful about the details of the letter of the law, their worship is in vain for they do all “while neglecting justice and the love of God,” thus tearing out the very heart of the law of God they presume to follow. And so their path is the one which leads but to the grave. They clearly are even now dead, “like hidden tombs over which men walk unawares.” Here are “the insolent” the just must avoid. Here are those who build pretense of holiness but have nothing of the spirit inside. And so their decaying souls shall crumble from within, and “like chaff which the wind drives away,” so shall their remains be scattered like dust by the truth of the Spirit, which exposes and destroys all lies.
“The way of the wicked vanishes,” brothers and sisters. It cannot stand, for there is no foundation, there is no truth on which it rests. It is but empty, illusory, passing. But we who claim to be sons and daughters of the living God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and following the lead of the Holy Spirit, must have nothing to do with the fruits of this way. Our worship must be true, must be genuine, must be that in which the flesh is crucified and the spirit allowed to breathe, that none of us will be crushed under the burden of sin but all be set free to walk in liberty now and forever.
O LORD, let us not be counted among the wicked
but have your love and your truth burning in our souls.
YHWH, let our worship be genuine, let our hearts be set on love of you. Let us follow the Spirit’s lead; your way of truth be our own this day. Meditating on your Law, let us live it and bear its fruit.
Apart from you let us never be, O LORD, never separated from your love. Crucified let our passions be, that we shall share in new life with your only Son. Your joy and peace be with us always; keep us forever from jealousy and outbursts of rage. In the Spirit let us make our home, never turning to what comes of the flesh.
Far from the paths of the wicked please keep us, LORD, that we shall not live our lives in vain; day and night let us think of you, and we shall be ever blessed. O that we might bear your fruit all our days, that our leaves might never fade… Keep us always close to you by your chastising word of truth. Then the water of your Spirit will nourish us well and our sin will be known no more.
Mon, 15 October 2018
(Gal.5:1-6; Ps.119:41,43-45,47-48; Lk.11:37-41)
“Any of you who seek your justification in the law
have severed yourselves from Christ
and fallen from God’s favor!”
Brothers and sisters, “it is in the Spirit that we eagerly await the justification we hope for, and only faith can yield it.” The works prescribed under the testament of old have had their day and their time is passed. Circumcision, the central act of the law, along with the temple and its sacrifices, has been rendered useless. Physically there may yet be benefit to this practice, and so it is employed widely, but spiritually it is now without merit. All that is of the old law has been subsumed by the new, and to set our hearts on what is now dead will leave us but as empty and dead ourselves.
Now there is baptism in the name of the Lord. Now there is Jesus and His Body, the Church. Now there is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. With these in our midst all else pales, for these are set upon the Rock of eternal life; these are founded in the Spirit which does not pass, nor can be destroyed – and these are known only by faith. Truly, “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself in love.” Now that love has overcome the law, now that it has fulfilled it, why should we be concerned with the cutting of flesh? It is our hearts that must be circumcised.
What is inside is what matters. Jesus has said this repeatedly and He declares it again today to the Pharisee who is so preoccupied with physical washing, with the need to “cleanse the outside of the cup and dish.” This is slavery! Indeed it is born of an attachment to the things of this earth and places our neck under its yoke. If we do not “give what [we] have as alms,” if we do not open our hearts to love of the Lord and love of neighbor, all the scouring of our skin will be utterly useless – in this way we shall never touch our souls. We must have love, we must have faith, and do the outside things only as necessary.
“Let your kindness come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise.” Though I am no longer under the law of old, yet I see how weak I am, how reliant on the works of faith, and how ignorant and blind to your presence I can become. And so I pray that you “take not the word of truth from my mouth.” I pray you enter my house and recline at my table, and that my heart will be set on love of you above all… and that all things else will but serve this love. Let me not fall from your favor, from your love.
O LORD, help us to cleanse the inside of the cup
that by faith and love
we shall come to new life in the Spirit.
YHWH, you call us to love what is within, where you live, where you make your home. But we are distracted by what is without, so shallow is our vision. Help us to see as you see, to desire what is in your heart. Then truly we shall be set free to walk as your sons.
O living God, your love instill within our souls; your truth alone let us speak. Let us not be concerned with the works of the law, with the cutting of flesh and the washing of hands, but with the accomplishment of your will. And so, to save ourselves from such empty worship, let us give all things to you.
If we had but faith, O LORD, then our vision would be clear, our hearts would be set on you alone, and all things would be ours. Let us but seek our salvation in the keeping of your Word, and you will care for all else. Make us clean in your sight!
Sun, 14 October 2018
(Gal.4:22-24,26-27,31-5:1; Ps.113:1-7; Lk.11:29-32)
“At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh
will rise along with the present generation,
and they will condemn it.”
Paul’s words to the Galatians today sound much like a parable: “Abraham had two sons, one by the slave girl, the other by his freeborn wife.” He himself states pointedly, “All this is clearly an allegory: the two women stand for the two covenants.” But though Hagar may be seen as the mother of all “children [born] to slavery” and Sarah may be compared to “the Jerusalem on high,” which is free, the allegorical significance notwithstanding, both Hagar and Sarah were flesh and blood human beings who walked the face of the earth along with the father of their children, Abraham. So, though the life of anyone may be seen in an allegorical light, it does not mean the life itself is but an allegory.
And yet the scholars of our day would turn the life of Jonah into a mere allegory – as they would, it seems, with Jesus. They say that Jonah did not exist, that the book written of him is but a story, a parable. And so they say that the Lord would compare Himself to a parabolic figure: “Just as Jonah was a sign for the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign for the present age.” And so they say we will be judged by fictional characters.
The Lord’s words remain ever true: “This is an evil age.” It is given a sign, the greatest of signs, and it denies it. It seeks further sign with a heart only to deny once more. Why? Because it has no faith. And without faith one cannot reason; without faith one can see nothing. Truth remains ever hidden from one’s eyes. And so those with empty minds stumble blindly through their theorems, the products of a diseased imagination. And so those without faith seek at every turn to tear down the faith, which ever eludes their clawing grasp. But they shall be judged. What shock will be theirs when the ones they have sought so vainly to make into fictional characters stand before them to condemn them to death. Perhaps then they will see. Perhaps then there will be an end to “the yoke of slavery” they would place upon the “freeborn” children of God.
Beware the faithless soul, dear children. Remember only, “From the rising to the setting of the sun is the name of the Lord to be praised.” Indeed, “high above the nations is the Lord; above the heavens is His glory,” and He shall lift you “lowly from the dust” to be with Him. As He tears down those who exalt themselves and reveals their children to be so vain, then He will bring your fruits to light and you will bear many. The works of all will be exposed on that Day.
O LORD, how great you are
and how great is your gift to us,
for your Son has freed us to walk with Him –
let us repent at His word.
YHWH, we are your freeborn children for whom your Son has died; in Him we find new life. In the blood of Jesus is found the New Covenant, a covenant which unites us with you in glory.
Praise you, LORD, for such a great gift! Thank you for the grace that comes to us, your once wayward sons. Though we have been barren of children, empty of any fruit as we wandered far from you outside the walls of Jerusalem, yet you have looked upon us with mercy and called us to your side. Help us to reform our lives that the fullness of your gracious gift might be known to us on the Day your Son returns to judge all souls.
Yes, LORD, the lowly ones you raise from the dust to sit with you in heavenly places, to know your great blessings in the kingdom on high. Free our souls to praise you for your glory. Set free from slavery to sin we shall share in the joy of the New Jerusalem and declare your wonders forever.
Fri, 12 October 2018
(Gal.3:22-29; Ps.105:2-8; Lk.11:27-28)
“Each of you is a son of God
because of your faith in Christ Jesus.”
Praise God! “Glory in His holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!” For He has come among us. Born of the womb of Israel, the Messiah is in our midst. And so we should “sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.” For now by faith in Him we live, and are truly blest.
Brothers and sisters, “before faith came we were under the restraint of the law… the law was our monitor until Christ came to bring about our justification through faith.” Under the law we lived in sin, for who could fulfill all the demands of the law? “But now that faith is here, we are no longer in the monitor’s charge.” We have found One who has fulfilled the demands of the law, and who is perfect in the eyes of God; and He makes us as Himself, as sons of the living God! And so what can we do but rejoice. We “who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have clothed [our]selves with Him.” And so we stand naked to the world no more. And so we hide no longer from the sight of God, for our sin before Him has been taken away, and with it the law.
Listen attentively to the preaching of Paul, that “there does not exist among [us] Jew or Greek,” that it is faith in the Lord that saves us all. It is the same lesson Jesus teaches in our gospel today. For “the womb that bore you” refers to Israel; it is the breasts of the Chosen that have given Him suck, that have nourished Him well – it is of them He comes. But not for this is the people blest; we cannot boast of our heritage. Rather, we shall be judged worthy of blessing only by how well we “hear the word of God and keep it,” as our Blessed Mother has done in preeminent fashion. She, as Paul, does not boast in her Jewish upbringing. She knows that it is not even for her great work of bearing the Son of God that she found favor with Him. Rather, all favor, the highest favor and grace, comes to her for the love she bears Him and the service she performs eternally in His Name… for her absolute faith.
We must “seek to serve Him constantly” as does our Blessed Mother, as does our Mother, the Church, in faith. Then truly we shall be “descendants of Abraham, His servants, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!” And we shall rejoice to see His Day.
O LORD, may we hear your Word and keep it in faith,
like Abraham, like Mary,
that we might inherit eternal life in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, because of our faith in your Son, we become as your children, indeed, as He is before you. You bless all who come to you through Jesus, all who do your will. And what should we do but rejoice for such grace, for this wonder you perform in our midst.
It is Israel that bore your Son; at Mary’s breast He did suck. But it is not for this the nation is blessed, nor she who carried Him in her womb. It is your people’s obedience you seek, and so any may become as your Chosen by listening to your Word and keeping it in their hearts. As Mary let us be, LORD, giving you our lives.
All of faith are descendants of Abraham. All are blessed who are baptized in Christ. He it is who justifies us in your sight, LORD, and makes us sons of the Most High. Glory to you for the grace upon our souls in Jesus’ Name.
Thu, 11 October 2018
(Gal.3:7-14; Ps.111:1-6; Lk.11:15-26)
“All who believe are blessed along with Abraham,
the man of faith.”
But those who do not believe cannot be called “sons of Abraham,” in whom “all nations shall be blessed,” for they have not the faith of the father of many nations. For those who do not proclaim the Lord’s “renown for His wondrous deeds,” but rather say of His “gracious and merciful” acts: “It is by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that He casts out devils,” there is only a curse. They curse themselves and scatter their own salvation to the winds by the evil thoughts of their hearts. “The reign of God is upon” them, and they say it has come from hell. Have such as these faith? Have they even eyes in their head? Then how shall they be saved? How shall they be called Abraham’s children? Rather, the devils will return to them “to find [their] house swept and tidied,” prepared by the emptiness of their hypocrisy for these to take up eternal residence there.
“He has given food to those who fear Him… He has made known to His people the power of His works.” All those of faith see that this is the Messiah and “give thanks to the Lord with all [their] heart in the company and assembly of the just.” All these are blessed. They live in a house guarded by “a strong man fully armed,” and their “possessions go undisturbed.” For the devil cannot break into the house of God, and he has no key to enter; but the Lord breaks down the doors of the evil one and all his weapons are removed from his hands. And so we are free… We are free because the Lord has redeemed us, and in His house we are protected from sin.
Brothers and sisters, the Savior has been “hanged on a tree… that through Christ Jesus the blessing bestowed on Abraham might descend on the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, thereby making it possible for us to receive the promised Spirit through faith.” This faith itself is redemptive. In this faith is the blood of Christ. It is this blood which fills our hearts and makes room there for the Holy Spirit to come in. There no devils can enter, for our doorposts have been anointed by Him. And so, what can such souls dwelling in this house of faith do but sing out with our psalmist, “Great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights”? What can we do but declare His “majesty and glory” as we see that “His justice endures forever” and His justice is founded in love? For by our faith He has made us whole; we who once grumbled against Him are now sons of Abraham. He has taken all our sin away, and it shall not return again.
O LORD, your power is only for good;
let your Spirit be with us this day through faith,
that we might be saved.
YHWH, if we have not faith, we have nothing but emptiness, and thus make a place for the devils to dwell. But if we have faith in you, your Spirit fills us, and into your house we do come. Make us temples of your Holy Spirit!
Your Son has died, O LORD, that we might have life, that we might be set free from the course sin has wrought upon our souls and enter into your kingdom as your blessed children. Why should we not believe in your love for us? Why do we doubt the salvation you provide through your Son?
Let us rather rejoice in your glory, LORD, in your goodness to us. Let us sing your praise with all the strength of our souls, thanking you with all our hearts in the assembly of your holy ones, among your saints in Heaven. To such glory you do call us, away from the darkness of this place… Let us but have faith in you and we shall be as your sons.
Wed, 10 October 2018
(Gal.3:1-5; Lk.1:69-75; Lk.11:5-13)
“I can’t get up to look after your needs.”
Does Jesus ever speak these words to us? Does He ever deny our petitions, failing to bring them to His heavenly Father? Do we ever find ourselves empty-handed when we come to Him “in the middle of the night”? Does He ever tire of serving us, of saving us from our sins? Then neither should we turn our back on our brother’s needs; neither should we fail to hear his cry and give him food.
Brothers and sisters, is it not “you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was displayed upon the cross?” Have you not seen for yourselves the miracle in which we have found “salvation from our enemies and from the hands of all our foes”? And so should you not “serve Him devoutly and through all [your] days be holy in His sight”? If we do this, if we wake in the night to answer the needs of those who call, if we make ourselves available always as does the Lord, then even as we rise from rest Jesus will be with us – in this very action we will know His salvation present in our hearts. For as we lay down our lives, as we die with Him in service of others, the light of His resurrection already becomes present to our eyes.
Though the burden is made light by the Lord, this way is not easy – but we should not tire of imitating Him. Does Paul tire of teaching and preaching the faith, of correcting his wayward children who seem so foolishly to stray? Just as the heavenly Father would never give His son “a snake if he asks for a fish, or hand him a scorpion if he asks for an egg,” so the Apostle, too, knows the needs of his flock and works constantly to feed them with the Word of God. Though it weary him no end, yet he ever pours himself out as a libation for their sakes. He is ready for heaven, ready to die and unite with God, yet he gets up in the night, yet he remains present to his children, to provide the food that is due them. And we must be the same as this Apostle.
A great assurance the Lord gives us: “Whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted.” If we “have faith in what [we] heard,” we shall indeed find “that God lavishes the Spirit on [us] and works wonders in [our] midst.” For He is faithful and forgets not His promise to us. Yes, “He has raised a horn of saving strength for us in the house of David His servant,” and our Savior is ever present to answer all our needs. But who shall carry out His Word? Who shall know the cross of Christ and its redeeming grace in their own flesh? Who shall serve Him and be thus as His children? Those who rise to look after others’ needs, they shall be bone of His bone.
O LORD, you give your Spirit
to those who have faith in you,
to those who call upon your NAME –
hear our prayer this day.
YHWH, give us this day the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us to the salvation wrought by your Son, Jesus Christ. Leave us not alone on this plane, hungry and apart from you. Help us to pray, to knock upon your door with faith, knowing it is your good pleasure to answer our needs. Then we shall serve you devoutly all our days and be holy in your sight forever.
If your Spirit is with us, LORD, there is nothing else we need, for then you, too, are with us with your only Son. And we will be founded firmly in your Church, safe from all our enemies and nourished by your Bread.
We are not able to give good things or do good works on our own, dear LORD. We need your help and guidance; we need the Spirit that comes from you to bless us with your abundance. We shall wither quickly and die without your assistance – come to us this day with your Spirit that we might be your children.
Tue, 9 October 2018
(Gal.2:1-2,7-14; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Lk.11:1-4)
“He who worked through Peter as His apostle among the Jews
had been at work in me for the Gentiles.”
And that same Spirit, that same God, that same Lord and Creator is at work in all His holy apostles, and is the Father of all who call upon His Name.
“Father, hallowed be your name.” You are great and you are glorious, and you bless all your children, your children of light. From every nation you call us by the power of your Word. You send out apostles as you sent out Paul, to the ends of the earth. You gather all your children together at your one table to feast upon your Body and your Blood, and you speak to the heart of all creation. We your people you call to pray; your disciples you teach to call upon your Name. To the depths of our souls you breathe your Spirit, and so you make us your own. Like you we would be, O Lord! Like you, dear Jesus, in your devotion to our Father.
Help us, O Lord; teach us to forgive, teach us to love. Teach us not to draw away from others, but to join with all who heed your call. Let us always be “straightforward about the truth of the Gospel,” always breathe it and speak it with all our lives – with all our strength let us love and welcome all, especially the poor. And let us present ourselves to your “recognized pillars,” to the leaders of your Church. Let us not go off on our own, with our own thoughts, pursuing our own goals, but let us be ever obedient unto those in whose hands you have placed your teaching ministry… let us lay down our lives “for their scrutiny” as has even the Apostle Paul. For none can work without your approval, without the blessing that comes in “the handclasp of fellowship” your Church extends. And so, in your Church, under its guidance, and in absolute love of all, what shall we then lack?
“Praise the Lord, all you nations, glorify Him, all you peoples!” For the Lord comes to you now – He teaches you His sacred way to the Father of all. Heed but His Word; speak and do but His work. Love always Him and all His people and you shall know how wonderfully “the fidelity of the Lord endures forever”; His children you shall indeed become, and He shall work through you as He has Peter, as He has Paul… as He has His only Son. Say amen to His Spirit. Amen.
O LORD, you are our one Father
and we are your one children in Jesus your Son –
let your kingdom come.
YHWH, make us your faithful and holy children, honoring always your blessed NAME and doing always your will. Let your kingdom come through us; let your Word go forth to the ends of the earth.
Obedient to the authority of your Church let us ever be. Let us never turn from you, LORD, by veering from the path of the apostles. In union may your whole people stand, in the truth your Spirit speaks.
Yes, let us be one in the true faith, LORD, in your will and in your way. Forgive us all our sins and give us the grace to forgive all who sin against us, that we might partake of your food together at the table you set for us.
This world is a place of trial, we know, LORD, but you save us from all trial by your presence in our midst. Let us never be separated from you or one another but ever set our hearts on serving you by bringing your Word to all our brothers.
Mon, 8 October 2018
(Gal.1:13-24; Ps.139:1-3,13-15,24; Lk.10:38-42)
“The time came when He who set me apart before I was born
and called me by His favor
chose to reveal His Son to me.”
Paul speaks of his conversion to the faith today. But before he changed and became the Lord’s great Apostle, he tells us, “I made progress in Jewish observance far beyond most of my contemporaries, in my excess of zeal to live out all the traditions of my ancestors,” and that he “went to extremes in persecuting the church of God and tried to destroy it.” Now, isn’t Martha as Paul was? Is it not her own zeal for observance of Jewish tradition which makes her so anxious and blinded to truth? We hear that she “was busy with all the details of hospitality,” a venerable Jewish custom and requirement of the law; but does not her own “excess of zeal” for this observance lead her even to persecute the Church of God, as it has with Paul? For is her sister not as the Lord’s Church, as His holy Bride seated at His feet? And what does Martha intend to inflict upon her when she asks in her presumption, “Lord, are you not concerned that my sister has left me all alone to do the household tasks? Tell her to help me,” but by such public humiliation to draw her from the blessings of Christ into her own anxiety? But as Paul has heard the call of the Lord, so now Mary does as well, and nothing shall remove such favor from her. And instead of the drawing of Mary from the Lord, it is the Lord who calls Martha from her chores to listen to the voice of God.
Martha shall heed the Lord’s call, we know, for it is she who shows such great faith at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, she who hears the Lord’s most wonderful revelation: “I am the resurrection and the life.” And so she, like Paul, like her sister, finds herself chosen by the Lord. And so must we all, brothers and sisters! So must we all. We all must know the call of Him who “formed [our] inmost being,” by whom our “soul” and our “frame” were “made in secret, when [we were] fashioned in the depths of the earth,” in our “mother’s womb.” We must all come to that place where He will speak to these very depths of our being – where only He probes – and know the “wonderful” call of the Lord, that as it was said of Paul, “He who was formerly persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy,” so it will be said of us that all doubt and fear we have left behind and the Lord’s will is our only occupation. We must hear His voice and we must speak His NAME, or all we do will be in vain.
“My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar,” O Lord. And so I pray that all my rest will be taken in you and all my work you will bless. Bring us all to the quiet place within our souls, where you speak in silence, where your will is revealed to waiting hearts… let us be seated always before you.
O LORD, it is you who have formed us,
and you formed us to love you;
let us listen to your voice and do your holy will.
YHWH, how shall we find ourselves at your feet, dearest LORD? How shall we become as Mary, our hearts set on you alone, knowing your presence deep in our soil as we listen to your holy words, as we marvel at your flesh before us? In your Son let us make our home, that your Word might be instilled in our soul.
In silence let us sit, O LORD. And in peace let us rise and do your will. As we travel even to the ends of the earth, bringing your Word forth, let us remain ever seated at your feet. Oh never leave us! though much work we do for you.
Be our blessed guide, LORD, at all times. Hold us in your arms as you knit us in our mother’s womb, and we shall never be apart from you, and anxiety shall never distract us from your eternal presence. You who have made us, you who know all our thoughts and ways, please see that it is with you we remain, ever speaking your holy NAME.
Sun, 7 October 2018
(Gal.1:6-12; Ps.111:1-2,5,7-10; Lk.10:25-37)
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?”
Do you really want to know? Do really seek to hear of the Gospel of Christ? Do you really desire the Word of God, which is “reliable forever and ever, wrought in truth and equity” and which “came by revelation from Jesus Christ?” If so, listen to what He speaks to you today; do not go on “so soon deserting Him who called you in accord with His design in Christ” – be not as the priest and the Levite who, coming upon the man “stripped” and “beat[en],” “saw him but continued on.” For He shows Himself to you this day. He lies before you like “the man who fell in with the robbers,” and He calls you to love.
You know what to do, brothers and sisters, just as the lawyer knew so well the Shema, the great command to love God and neighbor. The answer to the question of “who treated the man with compassion” is obvious. We see the love of God, we know the love of God, and we know that we are called to practice the love of God. “Then go and do the same,” Jesus says. “Go and do the same.” Here is the Gospel in short, in this short phrase: love others as I have loved you. Lay down your life; die to yourself and live for God and others if you wish to inherit eternal life. Such inheritance comes only after such death, and love is all that will bring you there.
“If anyone preaches a Gospel other than the one you received, let a curse be upon Him!” This exclamation by Paul is also one of love. For to love does not mean “to win man’s approval,” “to please” or “ingratiate” oneself to others that all might speak well of us who have spoken well of them – to love means to speak the truth, for only by such truth is love preserved. There is no Gospel but the Gospel of love spoken by the mouth of the Lord, one which calls us not to an easy compliance with the world, a nod of the head and a sidestep around the wounded bodies before us… it is that which calls us to lay down our lives along this road of ours. This is what is from God, shown most clearly by the death of His Son.
Brothers and sisters, “holy and awesome is His name” and His call. “His praise endures forever” in our mouths for “He has ratified His covenant forever”; and the love of Jesus is all we need to know. Can you do all the Samaritan has done for the stranger? Then everlasting life is indeed close to your heart. Follow in His way.
O LORD, your Word, your Gospel,
is that we should love,
that we should love you and others –
let us hold to your Word and so live in your truth.
YHWH, praise you, our LORD and our God! Help us to follow your Word and your way. For you are great and worthy of praise, and we must be as you.
Your love is unbounded, O LORD; it reaches to the ends of the earth and to every soul. All you would care for in your love, and you call us to do the same.
Let us be your hands and your voice, LORD, in this dangerous place. Let us have hearts for healing and spirits for speaking your truth, that all souls might indeed be saved by your holy Gospel.
If in silence we stand as souls go astray, or if we avoid the needy man in our way, what, O LORD, shall be our fate – shall not a curse be upon us? And so, let your love and your truth be fulfilled in us that we might preach without fear and serve without hesitation, that we might accomplish your will. Let us love you first of all, and all souls as you love them.
Fri, 5 October 2018
(Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-16; Ps.119:66,71,75,91,125,130,135; Lk.10:17-24)
“I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning.”
Oh how our readings conspire together today to bring heavenly light to our eyes. Truly by them the Lord would say to us what He says to His apostles, what is so evident with Job: “Blest are the eyes that see what you see.” For what more could we hope to behold than the defeat of Satan and the power of the Almighty at work in our lives?
“I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you,” Job declares unto the Lord who stands before him. Could there be a greater blessing than this for him who has longed for just this moment? For just in this moment comes to him who has suffered so greatly at the hands of Satan the vindication of the Lord’s servant, the justice that is in the hand of God. Truly is Satan now cast down before the Lord of all, and truly do the eyes and the heart of Job witness this power of the Most High. For truly is he set free from the evil one’s clutches and blessed so abundantly. Job’s eyes see the return and the increase of his myriad of animals; they witness the great blessing of seven sons and three daughters, of whom it is said, “No other women were as beautiful as the daughters of Job.” These eyes behold “his children, his grandchildren, and even his great-grandchildren,” yes, but the greatest of all visions for which Job is truly blessed and which brings any and all other blessings is that his eye has seen the Lord: he knows now Him who has made him and rejoices sublimely with the apostles that his name is “inscribed in heaven,” indeed that it cannot be blotted out; for Satan has done all he could to accomplish this, and failed.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” – our psalmist’s words could be Job’s own, for indeed in the Lord’s faithfulness He has afflicted Job to “teach [him] wisdom and knowledge.” And what knowledge the seventy-two disciples receive this day in our gospel; a knowledge hidden from all ages, a power residing only with God, is given over unto their spirits. Satan himself and all his minions are now subject to their command. What falls short of the light in their eyes; what do they now lack? And so, what can they do but rejoice greatly? For even Jesus Himself rejoices “in the Holy Spirit”; even the Son of God gives “grateful praise” to the Father for the power and wisdom granted His “merest children.” Brothers and sisters, the blessings of the Lord are overwhelming… and we do not yet even see heaven!
“The revelation of your words sheds light,” O Lord, “giving understanding to the simple.” Let us hear what you wish to teach us this day. That which “prophets and kings wished to see… and hear” you reveal to us at this time – that the power of your Word casts out sin and Satan, and that your own glory you share with your little ones on earth. Bless us here with your gifts, O Lord. Remove from our hearts all fear. Let us know with certainty that you have destroyed the evil one, and draw us now inextricably to your kingdom.
O LORD, let our eyes see you,
that we might not sin against you but do your holy will.
YHWH, you are great beyond compare, the LORD of Heaven and earth; yet you share your greatness with your children, delivering power into their hands.
How can we bear to see you, LORD? How can such wonder be known to our eyes? Make us repentant of our sin and innocent before you, then we shall be able to receive your great gifts.
LORD, even Satan and his minions are subject to us, for they are subject to you and we are yours alone. Help us ever to trust in you, and that our names are written in Heaven. For if it is upon Heaven our sights are set, then we shall find no trouble upon this earth; we shall be subject to none of the wiles of the evil one.
We have been afflicted by you, O LORD, afflicted as Job by the scourges of Satan. It has seemed to us that you left us abandoned, but this was to teach us of your loving presence and just how close you are to our souls. Open our eyes to see you this day, and all your many blessings.
Thu, 4 October 2018
(Job 38:1,12-21,40:3-5; Ps.139:1-3,7-10,13-14,24; Lk.10:13-16)
“I put my hand over my mouth.”
When the Lord speaks, what can we be but silent? When He chastises us for our pride and sin, we can only be ashamed. No defense have we before Him who holds us and all the world in His mighty hand and who comes to us with His redeeming love. We can but bow before Him.
The Lord has “commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place”; He has “entered into the sources of the sea [and] walked about in the depths of the abyss” – He has “comprehended the breadth of the earth” and the highest heavens. And so, if we “take the wings of the dawn, if [we] settle at the farthest limits of the sea,” He is there. If we “go up to the heavens” or “sink to the netherworld,” He is present. He is present everywhere, and everywhere we are, we are subject to His hand. For He has “formed [our] inmost being”; He has “knit” us all “in [our] mother’s womb.” And He alone knows “the dwelling place of light” and “the abode of darkness,” and to which place our souls shall come. There is nothing we can say before the Creator and Judge of all the earth except, “I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works,” as we humbly give thanks to Him who scrutinizes all our ways.
And when He comes to us with His love, when He has wrought forgiveness in “the miracles worked in [our] midst” by the grace of the only Son… when redemption for all our sin He offers by a merciful hand, what must we do but accept it? For how shall it be for us on “the day of judgment” if we reject the Word of God walking among us and speaking to our hearts? It cannot but “go ill” with us if we fail to reform our broken lives when the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth stands before us with love in His arms, blood pouring from them as He hangs upon a cross.
Should not our hands be over our mouths at such a sight, brothers and sisters, at such a witness of undying love? Should it not convict us of our sin and make our hearts burn with a spirit of repentance and cry silently to God as our prideful tongues cleave like stone to our palate? What hope have you if you yet dare to speak before Him? Rather, bow your heads and fall to your knees and beg the forgiveness of Him who has made you and who loves you to the heights and depths, with all the breadth of His Spirit.
Lord, like Job, I have “no more” to say; I am yours.
(Blessed silence before the Lord may we all come to know.)
O LORD, it is you who made us and you who save us;
let us not be hurled down to the realm of death
but raised up to dwell with you.
YHWH, what should we do but repent in sackcloth and ashes before your majesty? What can we be but silent before you? For you are all-powerful and all-knowing, and we are but your creatures.
What place has pride before your glory, LORD? How can we be so foolish as to assert our will and our way before you whose ways are not known to man, whose will is so far above and beyond our own? It is you who have made the world and all it holds; it is you who have formed us in our mother’s womb. And would we presume to instruct you? And would we be obstinate in following your commands?
O LORD, though we are nothing, but dust of the earth, yet you love your humble creatures as you love all you have made. For you have made us good. Have pity on us poor sinners and help us to heed your Word which comes to us through your Son and His apostles. May we find ourselves at home in your sight, in your heavenly kingdom.
Wed, 3 October 2018
(Job 19:21-27; Ps.27:7-9,13-14; Lk.10:1-12)
“I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that He will at last stand forth upon the dust.”
“The hand of God has struck me!” Job exclaims as he begs pity from his friends who “hound [him] as though [they] were divine,” reminding him unendingly of the Lord’s justice and ever accusing him of having sinned against his Maker. Job defends himself and wishes “that with an iron chisel and with lead” his “words were written down.” And truly his prayer is answered, for here are his words “inscribed in a record… cut in the rock [of Scripture] forever.”
And what has this poor soul to say? Reflecting David’s own call for pity from the Lord and his own desire to know his God – “Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks” – Job declares, “My inmost being is consumed with longing”; his heart, too, is set upon God. And as David proclaims in great hope, “I believe I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living,” so Job makes known, too, his faith and hope in the Lord: “My own eyes, not another’s, shall behold Him.” What testimony from a man in such travails!
And in our gospel we see that his (and David’s) hope is not in vain, for here now stands the Lord forth upon the earth, Himself having taken the form of our dust and multiplying His presence among us as He “send[s] workers into His harvest.” And He comes to bring peace; His disciples declare, “The reign of God is at hand.” And every “peaceable man” receives now this gift of grace from the Lord Most High, this realization of His presence before us. No longer does He hide His face.
And now we wait again, for the Lord to return once more to our towns; now we long for the Day when with our “flesh [we] shall see God,” when we shall gaze upon Him forever and know His everlasting peace. Now He comes to heal us; now He sends forth His Word and His workers to prepare His way… and so now we should make straight His way, for His reign is upon us.
May He never have cause to “shake the dust” of our town from His feet – may He never regret having come among us. But let us, brothers and sisters, “wait for the Lord with courage” and perseverance, with a blessed hope born in faith. Let us with Job know that our Vindicator lives and He shall not be long in coming… indeed, He is already here. “Be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Welcome His Spirit into your home.
O LORD, stand forth upon the dust;
send out your workers into the harvest,
that we might know your peace,
that we might enter your reign.
YHWH, let your peace rest upon this house; let our eyes be blessed with seeing you this day. Help us to have courage as we wait for your Son’s return – believing hearts form in us that we shall never be removed from your presence.
Your reign, O LORD, is indeed at hand. It has walked amongst us in the form of your Son. And it continues to go forth in the apostles you send to bring your peace to every land. O let us be welcoming of your Word, and help us to bring that Word to every waiting soul.
If we have but faith, O LORD, we have all we need. Though in darkness we sit, yet such hope gives us light, and we know that we shall see you again. Though we go forth with nothing, empty of the things of the earth, in you we have everything – the great abundance of the Spirit is ours.
To you alone let us hold, LORD, knowing you will not cast us off, knowing your pity deep in our souls… Let your rich harvest be gathered into your rooms.
Tue, 2 October 2018
(Job 9:1-12,14-16; Ps.88:3,10-15; Lk.9:57-62)
“Why, O Lord, do you reject me;
why hide from me your face?”
The cry of our psalmist certainly reflects that of Job, who in his travails asks, “How can a man be justified before God?” who realizes that the Lord “does great things past finding out” and that “should He come near [us], [we] see Him not.” But it also reflects Jesus’ treatment of those who might follow Him, and could easily be their cry as well.
“If I appealed to Him and He answered my call, I could not believe that He would hearken to my words.” Such a seemingly hopeless attitude may be understandable in one suffering such a plight as Job. For he is as “the mountains [removed] before they know it”; he is shaken as “the earth out of its place.” He is as one suddenly confounded by God, who is “wise in heart and mighty in strength.” Before such power how can he speak, or expect to be heard? And so, rightly in silence he must remain. Certainly he could cry out to the Lord, “Will you work wonders for the dead?… Do they declare your kindness in the grave, your faithfulness among those who have perished?” and in justice be saved from “the land of oblivion.” But the test Job undergoes passes beyond justice to the suffering of the innocent before the mighty power of God.
And what of those who would be Christ’s disciples spoken of in our gospel today? To them why does the Lord speak so severely? Why does it seem they, too, are unable to come before His face – why does He seem to reject them? Is He not of love, this Son of Man, unlike the judgmental God? Does He not welcome all with open arms? Then why such sharp words to those who approach and those He calls to “come away and proclaim the kingdom of God”? The Lord does not reject them, but puts them to the test as He has with Job to see if their hearts are truly set upon Him alone, as indeed they must be. It is, of course, for the great glory to which He calls them that all His disciples are chastised so vehemently.
Think not that He rejects you, brothers and sisters, when He hides His face from you. Know that you are never hidden from Him, and that should He remove Himself from your presence, it is only to grant you clearer vision of His face. None is more blessed than Job for none has known so fully the awesome power of God and given himself over to it so completely. None but Christ and His followers, who give up all things, who suffer all persecutions innocently, silently, in order to know the surpassing might and tender mercy of God. Indeed His “wonders [are] made known in darkness,” for then they most clearly shine.
O LORD, let us follow your Son, even unto death.
YHWH, we must give up all things to follow you; it must be your will alone we have in this world. Even if you should put us in darkness, yet we should defer to your judgment, to your power over all things for good.
Your Son is severe with those who would follow you, LORD, who would be as you are, as His disciples. For what a call this is! And how ready must we be to enter its demands. Your reign far surpasses anything we know, anything we come to rely on in this world, and so the passing of this world – and even our own lives – we shall not mourn but learn to entrust all our cares to you.
If the sun and the mountains are moved by you, LORD, how much more should we put ourselves in your hands. Our trust should be so complete that we accept even your seeming rejection. Hear our prayer and come to save us! that we might walk with your Son in your way.
Mon, 1 October 2018
(Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23; Ps.88:2-8; Lk.9:51-56)
“My soul is surfeited with troubles
and my life draws near to the netherworld.”
After sitting in silence seven days, scraping the boils from his skin, finally, “Job opened his mouth and cursed his day.” Finally he cries out against all his troubles, asking, “Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?” Only so much can mortal man bear, and so Job seeks now only the tranquility of death, wherein “the weary are at rest.”
How well our psalm today describes Job’s state, he who is among those “whose path is hidden from them, and whom God hemmed in.” For he truly finds himself now “numbered with those who go down into the pit… a man without strength” from whom all blessing has been taken. His “couch is among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom [God] remember[s] no longer and who are cut off from [His] care.” And so he prays for an end to his misery; so he seeks the forgetfulness of death to remove its pangs from his body and his heart.
And is it not these same pangs James and John would inflict upon the Samaritans who refuse to welcome Jesus: “Lord, would you not have us call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” Would they not plunge them “into the bottom of the pit, into the dark abyss” where Job sits in his innocence? Is it not right that God’s “wrath lies heavy” upon such as these? Let God’s “billows” “overwhelm” them, they declare.
But Jesus has another answer. He would not see even the guilty suffer the fate of the righteous Job. For He is now “firmly resolved to proceed toward Jerusalem,” where His crucifixion awaits. He is now upon the fulfillment of His mission here on earth, and it has nothing to do with punishing the sins even of His persecutors – it has only to do with His death. It is He upon whom God’s wrath shall be heavy, He who will be plunged into the pit… He who will suffer all punishment for sin. Even for these Samaritans (even for you and me), the Lord shall suffer and die, taking upon Himself the punishment James and John see rightly due them, rightly due to all. His cross completes the pangs inflicted upon Job. And through this cross the troubles shall be overcome.
Brothers and sisters, let us no longer cry for relief from our suffering, for that relief is at hand now in the cross of Christ; He has suffered all these things already, and we must but give them to Him to be drawn from the netherworld and set in His glory.
O LORD, let us be taken with your Son
from this world of darkness and death.
YHWH, save us from the dark abyss, from the nether world to which by our sin we come. Let us know that the price has been paid by your only Son, who has suffered all torments for us. In His sacrifice let us trust, and give to Him our cross.
Truly, LORD, this earth is a dark place, and it draws us to a darker place, an eternal abyss, where is no light. From the grave how shall we be saved, we who are mortal and decaying, we who are surfeited with troubles, with the bitterness of this disobedient age? Does it not seem to us there is no escape.
O let us not be forgetful of you, LORD, or of your love! Let us not forget that you have sent your only Son, to die not only for the righteous but also those who would cast Him out – His death means new life to all who offer Him their cross. How quickly He would take all darkness from us, how eagerly He awaits our turning to Him… O Jesus, lift all souls from the bottom of the pit; save us from the wrath we rightly deserve.
Sun, 30 September 2018
(Job 1:6-22; Ps.17:1-3,6-7; Lk.9:46-50)
“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked I shall go back again.”
In the beginning and in the end, we have nothing: and so should be our attitude toward all things we are given – that they are not our own, that we do not possess them… that they shall pass from us unto eternity again. As shall we all.
In our first reading we begin to hear of Satan’s temptation of Job, of whom the Lord’s own words witness: “There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil.” But Satan in his jealousy responds, “Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing?” and recounts all the blessings the Lord has bestowed on His “servant.” The adversarial angel then wins from God permission to tempt Job by removing all his blessings.
And the persecution is strong. All in a day Job loses all his multitude of livestock, his servants, and his children. Four messengers come, each with catastrophic news, each the sole survivor of the tragedy of which they speak, and each following the previous “while he was yet speaking.” In a moment all but his life is taken from Job. But Job proves God’s assessment of his character true by proclaiming, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” thus properly putting all things in God’s hands, and praising His glory even in such tragedy. We are told, “In all this Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God.” He is as the child Jesus sits beside Himself in our gospel today.
Satan has failed in his effort to get Job to curse God; he will not do so even at his wife’s prompting. But Job, so Christlike in his suffering the abandonment God’s Servant knows so fully upon the cross, shall fall short of the Christ in one respect: this innocent child will not be able to keep from decrying his state or withstand the accusations of others that he must be guilty of sin. He will not be able to suffer in silence, not opening his mouth to defend himself (taking this unwarranted persecution upon himself to redeem others, as Jesus has done) but will declare his “just suit” to the Lord, begging Him to “attend to [his] outcry,” saying with David in our psalm: “Hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.” He shall not be able to keep from stating his innocence, from saying, “Though you test my heart, searching it in the night, though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me.” And in this way Satan shall break him; in this manner he shall fall short of the perfect humility of Christ. (Though the Lord shall justify and reward his faithful servant in the end.)
Brothers and sisters, do not act with jealousy, as even the disciples seem to today in trying to stop one “not of [their] company” from healing in Jesus’ name. Do not even think among yourselves of who is the greatest. This is an abomination before God. Have the attitude of Job toward all things – that they are but gifts from the Lord and that we are nothing in ourselves. Then you will be like His little child and so know His blessings forever.
O LORD, naked we came forth
from our mother’s womb,
and naked we shall go back again –
our lives are in your hands.
YHWH, let us be as an innocent child sitting patiently at the side of your only Son. Though the foe come to test our hearts, by your grace let us prove ourselves worthy of your blessings. Let us never sin against you in word or in deed but place all things in your holy hands and accept whatever befalls us.
O LORD, let us never be jealous or proud; let us never imitate the sin of Satan, who would see your children falter, who would strike any against whom his envy might rise. Let us but seek to serve you in all humility and so know the great joy of being as your Son. From all wicked thoughts release our souls that we might walk with you.
Hear our prayer for mercy, LORD; though we be not perfect, you can make us so. Let it be our sole desire to be pure before you, that we shall never know your wrath or be cast from your sight. Take all things from us, but only spare our life. Please never leave our side.
Thu, 27 September 2018
(Ec.3:1-11; Ps.144:1-4; Lk.9:18-22)
“He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts.”
Yes, “there is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens”; and there is a time for time to cease and the timeless to come to the fore – a time for the things above the heavens. And that fullness of time has come upon the earth, for the Son of Man has known His “time to be born”; and in man’s discovering “the work which God has done,” no time for vain toil is there anymore. The time has come to make Him our “refuge and [our] fortress,” our blessed “rock” of truth.
“One day when Jesus was praying in seclusion and His disciples were with Him,” the time had come for Him to “put the question to them”: “Who do you say that I am?” And now it was Peter’s “time to speak,” to declare the faith of the Church: “The Messiah of God.” And though it was not then time “to tell this to anyone,” for the Son of Man had yet to know His “time to die,” soon the time would come for the Son to rise, and then there would be no more “time to be silent.”
That time has come upon us now, brothers and sisters. Now is only “a time to plant” and “a time to build” – a time to raise the kingdom of heaven here on earth, a time to labor to complete God’s Church. For timelessness now has its time; life eternal overtakes us. And so we have only “time to love,” having broken the wheel of sin by the sacrifice of Christ and so come out from under the shadow of hatred. No return to the vanity of the things of this world is there for us, for we must do all as if doing nothing.
It is true: “Man is like a breath; his days, like a passing shadow,” but it is also so that the Lord “take[s] thought of him.” And in this earthen vessel He has placed the Spirit of life – and that Spirit is now known in full in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is “time to embrace” Him and know the “time of peace” He breathes eternally upon His creatures, letting all shadow pass away as we walk in His holy light and proclaim His holy name.
O LORD, your timelessness let us know in our hearts,
that we might overcome the world through your Son.
YHWH, in the fullness of time you sent your Son to die at our hands that we might be raised up with Him. And now that He has died for our sins, a new time has come to your people – a time of salvation.
All time pointed toward Him and all time flows from Him, and all time is in Him who is all that is. O LORD, let us make our home in Him and in His resurrection.
You are timeless, O LORD and God, and so how can we poor creatures so bound to time, so subject to the dust of this earth, come to know you who are beyond the heavens? We could never have discovered your hand at work among us if you had not sent your only Son to redeem us and reveal to us your glory. And so, let us embrace this gift you offer that we might mourn and weep no more but rejoice ever in your presence, despite the Cross that comes. Let us be raised on the Cross with Him that we might be raised unto His eternal reign.
Wed, 26 September 2018
(Ec.1:2-11; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Lk.9:7-9)
“See, this is new!”
Here is He who is “new under the sun.” For it is not so that “John has been raised from the dead,” nor that “one of the prophets of old has arisen”: He has not “already existed in the ages that preceded us.” He is the Christ! He is the Messiah! He it is who has come to “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.” In Him the dark of the night veiling our eyes is banished from our midst.
O Herod, drowning in your debauchery; O Qoheleth, pursuer of your passions in all their vanity, why do you race to catch up with the sun as if it should stand and wait for you? What makes you think you could hold the wind in your hand? Why would you see end of the rivers’ path to the sea? Why do you toil so blindly, taking your refuge in created things and frustrated when you cannot control them to your own ends, when they betray the peace you seek? “Back to dust” you shall indeed return, and the sun and the wind and the sea still stand; and above them all does reign our God, for whom “a thousand years… are as yesterday, now that it is past.” In Him you should have taken refuge.
Herod, do you too now begin to see the ends of your debauchery; does its emptiness now overtake your soul? Do you remember the words the prophet delivered to your ears? What is the cause of your curiosity, and will you listen now to the voice echoing through your halls? The kingdom of the world crumbles before our eyes and no “profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun,” unless it is the Lord who “prosper[s] the work of our hands for us.” Dead we are and alone will ever be in our profligacy, the emptiness upon us.
Qoheleth, your words are proven wrong: it is not so that “there is no remembrance of the man of old,” for we read your thoughts with diligence today; and three thousand years after your time you teach us still of the dark vision of life without the Christ. And of Him who has come after thee there is great remembrance, and more than this, for His breath is now upon us. In Him is “the ear filled with hearing” and the eye “satisfied with seeing,” for now truth and light do walk with us, even under the sun. And though our body “by evening wilts and fades” as of old, our soul “at dawn springs up anew.” For “the gracious care of the Lord [is] ours” and He “teach[es] us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” And this wisdom is true; this wisdom is new: this wisdom bears us light to transcend the vanity of a worldly life and come to the kingdom of heaven.
O LORD, your Son is He who makes all things new –
let us live and work in the light of His presence.
YHWH, your Son is new under the sun; into our midst He has come. May we be more than anxious to see Him: may we be made new in Him.
In days past, LORD, the world and men toiled in futility for their sin against you, for their separation from you. You were ever new and ever calling us to life in you, but we labored in vain, going our own way – the way of darkness that leads to death, the way that is indeed apart from you. Return all souls to your light, your life, known to us now in your only Son.
You reign over all, LORD our God, all of time is but a moment to you and all the world is as a speck of dust. Have pity on us, LORD, for we are quick to wilt and fade. At daybreak may we rise with Jesus and walk in the light of your new day, dwelling forever in your reign, living and working always in your presence.
Tue, 25 September 2018
(Prv.30:5-9; Ps.119:29,72,89,101,104-105,163; Lk.9:1-6)
“Take nothing for the journey.”
How can he who takes nothing with him for his journey be provided for? Does not such action contradict the wisdom of the king who asks in his book of Proverbs – “Give me neither poverty nor riches”? Is it not poverty the Lord recommends to His disciples?
The evangelical counsel of poverty practiced by the religious communities and striven for by all true members of the Christian faith is not the same as that which our author of Proverbs wishes to avoid (no more so than the riches he would keep far from himself are those of the heavenly kingdom). For those whom Jesus sends out never find themselves “in want,” the want which would lead the desperate to steal and so sin; rather, the only “want” His disciples have is for an increasing understanding and practice of the word of God. And the poverty they practice is meant to feed this hunger for the greatest of food.
Proverbs itself gives us answer to the means by which the Lord’s disciples taking “no bread, no money” are fed: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” The Lord is always our food. Cannot He who “endures forever,” whose word is “firm as the heavens,” care for the small needs of His creatures here below? Will not he who labors for Him have all he needs to accomplish his work? Certainly! For though the disciples take nothing, it does not follow that they have nothing – for they have the Lord with them, and that is everything.
Indeed, it is because the first of the wise king’s requests of God – “put falsehood and lying far from me” – has been answered in them that this second is accomplished. “Remove from me the way of falsehood,” our psalmist echoes, and for the Lord’s disciples this has been done. They “add nothing to His words” as “from every evil way [they] withhold [their] feet”; and so “the law of [His] mouth,” which resounds from their own mouths as they “proclaim the reign of God,” “is to [them] more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces” and feeds them abundantly.
The Word of the Lord will be received by those who seek His truth, and in turn feed the speaker as it does the hearer. So let us be wary of “being full” of the things of this world, lest we find no room for God, and let us make our psalmist’s declaration truly our own: “Falsehood I hate and abhor; your law I love.” Then all things will be provided for.