Sat, 29 December 2018
(1Sm.1:1:20-22,24-28; Ps.84:2-3,5-6,9-10; 1Jn.3:1-2,21-24; Lk.2:41-52)
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
If Hannah says of Samuel, “As long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the Lord” even as she leaves her son with Eli in the temple, should not Jesus be equally dedicated to God, being His true Son? If as John rightfully says of all those who live in God’s love and follow His commandments, “We are God’s children now,” how much greater a child of God is He who serves to make us children? And so, where should He be but the temple of the Lord?
But Jesus’ parents do not look for Him there, indeed are “astonished” to find Him there – and thus perplexed at His answer to them – because they have no word that He will be like Samuel, that they are to leave Him in “the midst of the teachers.” Surely Mary knows of her own kinship with Hannah, for this is indicated clearly in her Magnificat, which mirrors so closely Hannah’s own canticle of praise upon conceiving her son. But that Jesus should be separated from them at this time, that He should in essence begin His ministry, begin plying the leaders of the people with revelatory questions so that “all who heard Him were astounded at His understanding and His answers,” now, at twelve years of age, is not known to them. Thirty is the customary age for the start of one’s ministry, is it not? And their Son has not even reached His bar mitzvah yet!
It must be noted that Jesus gives place to the customs of the race. We are told “He went down with [Joseph and Mary] and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” Though certainly the Son of God is prepared to teach even as He begins to talk, yet He does not remain in the temple at this time. He is obedient. And obedient particularly to Mary, who shall indeed indicate to Him the start of His ministry, at Cana. And He shall be obedient there to her, too, even though He says then that it is not His time.
The Son must be in the Father’s house, for more than any of God’s children His “soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. [His] flesh and [His] heart cry out for the living God.” His heart is ever “set upon the pilgrimage,” for in the temple is His home. But the truly Beloved Child of God remains among us in our mundane lives, taking the cross of earthly existence upon Himself, enduring all for the sake of God’s children. And through His Mother’s intercession even “Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” So may we all. So may we all be so obedient, so prepared for the Father’s House.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Heaven" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, remain in us and let us remain in you.
YHWH, your Spirit you give us to make us your children, to make us even your very temples. Let us remain in your House always!
One with the Holy Family let us become, blessed as Joseph and Mary, and your Son Jesus, blessed to be called your own – blessed to be one with all your chosen ones in the heavenly kingdom. O LORD, remain in us!
If we must leave our earthly family behind, so be it, LORD. If we must leave the caravan of our relatives and friends to enter your Temple, to remain with you, let us freely answer such a blessed call and dedicate ourselves to you alone. And if we must return to the house of our mother and father, let us be obedient to them in your Name. But wherever we are and whatever we do, let our lives be a holy offering to you.
Our souls yearn for your courts, O LORD; our heart and our flesh cry out for you. O let us dwell in your House! Let our prayer come to your ears that we might be your beloved children, pleasing you in all things and growing unto your kingdom.
Sat, 22 December 2018
(Mi.5:1-4a; Ps.80:2-4,15-16,18-19; Heb.10:5-10; Lk.1:39-45)
“Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
From the womb of Bethlehem-Ephrathah, from the womb of Judah, has come forth “one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.” Now “she who is to give birth has borne”; now has our Savior come. Though He has existed from time’s beginning, it is now He is made flesh in the womb of this simple virgin.
“When Christ came into the world, He said; ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.’” And so God comes in His own flesh to take away our sins. Prepared in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin, in this bright cave He is knit with sinews as we… and who could proclaim loudly enough the majesty of this humble event; who could declare in fullness the blessing of this Mother and Child? And their union is one which will save our race, as shown already in the Baptist’s leap for joy in his own mother’s womb. The Holy Spirit is working fully in the wombs of these mothers and in their children’s flesh and blood.
And so the psalmist finds answer for his prayer to God: “Rouse your power, and come to save us.” For here comes “He [who] shall stand firm and shepherd His flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, His God”; here is the One whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth.” And so shall all who trust in Him be saved.
In body He comes like a Rock upon whom our feet stand firm. In the Spirit has He been formed in His Mother’s womb. And, yes, blessed is she “who believed that what was spoken to [her] by the Lord would be fulfilled”; and blessed are all those who have faith in the Son she bears. For all time meets in this moment; all prophecy speaks with one voice of the birth of this Holy One. And so, let us pray to God the Father: “Protect what your right hand has planted, the Son of Man whom you yourself made strong,” that we might praise forever the glory of your presence, in the salvation you have made known. May the peace He is be with us always.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Baby Inside" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let the Mother of our Lord come to us, too,
that new life may stir in us as well.
YHWH, blessed is the womb of Bethlehem, of Israel, of Mary the Mother of your Son. For in her you have prepared a body, the body of Jesus, the Word made flesh, that shall be as offering for our sins. In Him we are saved, for in Him your majesty reigns, and so your glory is now in our midst.
O let us leap like John the Baptist at the approach of your Son and His Mother! Bring to life what has remained dormant for such a long time. Arouse within us the joy of new life that we might be stirred to proclaim your glory. He has come who shall shepherd us, LORD; let us be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The sacrifices of old now pass away as all prophecy is fulfilled in the flesh of your only Son. And so we pray, let your will be done. Let your greatness reach to the ends of the earth and your peace reign in every heart by the power upon Jesus the Christ. O LORD, let us be consecrated to you in His holy offering.
Sat, 15 December 2018
(Zep.3:14-18a; Is.12:2-6; Phil.4:4-7; Lk.3:10-18)
“Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: Rejoice!”
“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” Zephaniah exclaims. “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion”! Isaiah urges. And Paul is overwhelmed with the spirit of rejoicing. Why such joy? Whence such celebration? “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior,” Zephaniah declares. “Great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!” Isaiah proclaims. And Paul tells us simply: “The Lord is near.” What could bring greater joy than such a prospect?
And so we “have no further misfortune to fear.” And so we should be “confident and unafraid.” And so we should “have no anxiety.” For the Lord will “renew [us] in His love.” Our strength and [our] salvation is the Lord,” and “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Why should we not be joyful if He Himself “will rejoice over [us] with gladness,” if because of us He sings “as one sings at festivals.” Should we not match His joy poured out for our sakes and sing the song of salvation?
And it is John the Baptist who hails most clearly the song of salvation coming into our midst. It is he who “preached good news to the people” with all the power of God, exhorting them to holiness that they might be gathered as “wheat into His barn.” By him “the people were filled with expectation”; by him and by his pronouncement of the coming of Him who “will baptize [them] with the Holy Spirit and fire,” the song of joy is ignited in their hearts. He calls us all, by the Spirit that filled Isaiah, to “give thanks to the Lord, [and] acclaim His name.” It is he who “among the nations make[s] known His deeds, [who] proclaim[s] how exalted is His name.” And the souls of even tax collectors and soldiers turn to him in anxious anticipation.
And yes, what about us, brothers and sisters? Is the joy of Christ brimming over in our hearts, despite any situation? Do we hear the voice of the Baptist – and the prophets and the apostles – crying out His way of peace? And do we follow as the voice instructs? Indeed, the Lord is near; He is in our midst. Let us welcome Him with the purest of joy.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Head Over Heels, Turn Around" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your Son is coming
and we should repent of all sin
that we might be ready to rejoice and give Him praise.
YHWH, the fire of the Spirit has come to us; John has proclaimed the light in our midst. Jesus, your Son, is now among us, and what should we do but rejoice?
O LORD God, holy is your NAME, and holy is the One whom you send to us. So holy is He that we are not worthy to kneel at His feet. For He reflects your greatness, O LORD; His light is your own. How can we stand in your overwhelming glory, except that in Him we receive your promised mercy in our soul?
What mercy you bring us this day, LORD God! What grace is ours in the word the Baptist speaks. For he proclaims the Christ come among us – he proclaims the salvation of your lowly ones.
We are but your servants, LORD, unworthy to wait on your only Son. Yet you bless us with your loving mercy and invite us to perfection in Him. And so, what can we do but rejoice?
Sat, 8 December 2018
(Bar.5:1-9; Ps.126:1-6; Phil.1:4-6,8-11; Lk.3:1-6)
“All flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
Yes, at a particular point in time, in the year delineated so precisely by Luke in our gospel, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.” The Holy Spirit whispered in his ear, set his heart on fire, and so called him to cry out the coming of the Lord upon the nation. And “John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,” calling all souls to “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”; being thus inspired, what else could he do? The Spirit so powerfully upon him, of what else could he think? The long-awaited Savior is finally near – and the people must be ready.
And so, sinful flesh is made clean in the Jordan River. And so “the rough ways [are] made smooth,” “the winding roads… made straight,” for nothing crooked shall meet the Messiah. We do not come to Him in sinful garb. O “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” Plunge yourself into the waters that make new. Let all of the old man be washed away. “For God will show all the earth your splendor; you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.” “See your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God,” joyful that He has come. All the earth shall be blessed through you and the royal tree that grows in your midst.
“When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, we were like men dreaming.” How can it be our salvation has come? And now “God is leading Israel in joy by the light of His glory, with His mercy and justice for company.” In His Church this day we dwell; into His presence ever we come. Obedient to the cry of the prophet’s voice, we turn from our sins and are made anew. And now our daily bread we consume.
What joy should fill our hearts, brothers and sisters! that the Lord has come to dwell with us. We eat “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God,” and the strength we find herein He will “complete” on the day of His coming again. Let our hearts be set on fire as was John’s. Let us cry out to all flesh that the salvation of God is nigh.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Please Even Me Out" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, tear down the mountains of pride
and fill in the valleys of fear
that we might come to you on straight paths.
YHWH, how shall our flesh see your salvation? How shall we come to your glory, we poor, miserable creatures? Only because you call us to redemption. Only because you desire us to share in your heavenly majesty. And only if we make straight the way for your Son to come into our hearts.
O LORD, let us ever increase in knowledge of what is good and lasting, that we might be made pure and blameless for the day of Christ, that we might become as He is, blessed to be called your sons. O let us give glory and praise to you for such a blessing!
Restore our fortunes, dear God; may we who have been separated from you and sent into exile be brought back to your holy City, to your mountain. As on royal thrones let us be borne aloft to gaze upon your splendor and glory, O King of all the nations. Great things you have indeed done for us, for now our weeping is turned to joy and we enter your presence bearing great fruit. Alleluia!
Sat, 1 December 2018
(Jer.33:14-16; Ps.25:4-5,8-10,14; 1Thes.3:12-4:2; Lk.21:25-28,34-36)
“You are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.”
So does David sing of the “just shoot” that will be raised up after him; so does he anticipate the coming of Jesus into our midst. But, though the Messiah has been born, though He has come among us now, yet the Lord will not “fulfill the promise [He] made to the house of Israel and Judah” until Jesus returns on the last day. And so, we too await our Savior.
And how should we wait? Brothers and sisters, you know “how you should conduct yourselves to please God,” to be found “blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” You have been guided in His truth and instructed by the one who “teaches the humble His way.” “The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and His covenant, for their instruction.” And you fear Him, and so receive His instruction. Continue to do so. Continue to “increase and abound in love for one another.” Let not the sum of your good works diminish in the least, but “strengthen your hearts,” and what you have been doing for Him, “do so even more.” Until the Day He comes your justice must increase.
And “what is coming upon the world” you know as well. The end of the world is upon us and has been since Christ’s crucifixion. All is passing away and shall soon be no more. The nations will look, but they will not see the things they trusted in so vainly. Only “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” will be known; He will be all that is seen. And will you recognize Him? And will He recognize you?
Brothers and sisters, with the Lord’s own words I will leave you: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” Wait expectantly.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Salvation Army" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in your justice make us blameless in holiness
for the return of your Son in glory.
YHWH, help us to increase and abound in love even as we await the return of your Son. Though His coming be with great tribulation, let us not fear but welcome Him with open arms and heads raised to His glory.
Jesus is the just shoot you have raised up for the House of Israel; He is the fulfillment of your promise to all who strive toward you. He has come and made Himself known with signs and wonders. He has walked among us to show us the way to you. Let us follow Him in humility, LORD, and we shall reign with Him on the last day.
Guide us in your truth, O LORD; teach us your way. Let us remain constant on the path that leads to you, conducting ourselves as has your Son. His apostles exhort us to remain faithful at all times, to be vigilant and pray. His love will indeed increase within us, rising unto glory on the Day of judgment, if we do not turn away from His call, from His kindness upon our souls.
Soon shall come the end, O LORD; let us indeed be found ready and waiting.
Sat, 24 November 2018
(Dn.7:13-14; Ps.93:1-2,5; Rv.1:5-8; Jn.18:33b-37)
“My kingdom does not belong to this world.”
“The Lord is King, in splendor robed,” our psalmist cries. “King” is our word for our great Lord; it is the best our imperfect thoughts and pale vocabulary can utter. But much more than king is our Lord Jesus Christ, for kings do come and go but “His kingship shall not be destroyed”; His “throne stands firm from of old” – it is “from everlasting” to everlasting. More than a king… He is God.
“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.’” He has no beginning or end but is Himself the beginning and end of all things. He “came into the world to testify to the truth,” and now His truth is spoken, and His kingdom is coming. “Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the people of the earth will lament Him. Yes. Amen.” None shall be able to hide from the Truth, from the King of “all peoples, nations, and languages.” And the same vision as John has Daniel had so many centuries before: “I saw one like a Son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven,” He whom the Ancient One gives “dominion, glory, and kingship.” And the testimony of two witnesses holds truth, cannot be broken. He is coming, and all are called to “serve Him.”
Brothers and sisters, He “loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood,” which He offers without a fight before Pilate this day. By His sacrifice He “has made us into a kingdom, priests for His God and Father.” And the kingdom we are is not of this earth, is “not here”; and the sacrifice we offer now is heavenly – it comes down to us from above… this miraculous blood we drink and shed ourselves in His Name.
Here our King stands before us, standing in the hearts of all His holy ones. He who lives forever now draws us into the kingdom where He ever remains. Not of this world, we come before His radiant majesty. “To Him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Vision of Children" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, your Son’s kingdom is not here,
is not of this world, but remains forever in Heaven –
let us meet Him in His reign.
YHWH, from you Jesus has received dominion, glory, and kingship. From all eternity He is your Son. To Him be glory and power forever, and may we join Him at your side.
To testify to the Truth He came into the world, to reveal your presence unto us, dear LORD. And so that we might become holy as He, as you, He died to take away our sins. May our hearts be set upon the Truth you are, the Truth He declares by His very presence among us, and may we follow Him through this world on His way to Heaven.
To this world He does not belong, and so should we transcend this place. Its honors and its power are as the dust, but with Him is life everlasting. He is the One who is and who was and who is to come – He is all things, dear God. And with Him we shall be made into a kingdom, and share in your eternal glory.
Sat, 17 November 2018
(Dn.12:1-3; Ps.16:5,8-11; Heb.10:11-14,18; Mk.13:24-32)
“He will send out the angels
and gather His elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”
On that Day “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky.” On that Day we “will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory.” “It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress,” but “everyone who is found written in the book” of Life “shall escape”; all His chosen He shall rescue. For He will not “suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption,” but “show [him] the path to life” and give him “fullness of joys in [His] presence.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord has taken “His seat forever at the right hand of God; now He waits until His enemies are made His footstool.” Though “He has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated” and “there is no longer offering for sin,” the time is yet to be fulfilled for all His chosen to partake of His “one sacrifice for sins” – He who is our “allotted portion and [our] cup” must be drunk to the full by all His elect, must be made perfect as He by joining in His sacrifice. And though “He is near, at the gates,” ready to break in upon our world in His time and according to His ways, yet “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place”: all the tribulations must come upon this earth, and all His children must be made ready for His Day.
Brothers and sisters, He “hold[s] fast [our] lot” and “with Him at [our] right hand [we] shall not be disturbed.” “Heaven and earth will pass away, but [His] words will not pass away,” and it is in His word we trust. So let your heart and soul rejoice and your body abide “in confidence” for “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament” on the Day of the Lord’s return. We shall not join those who “shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace” but “shall live forever” in the light of His face. Hear the word the Lord speaks to your heart; see the signs before your eyes. Join yourself to His holy sacrifice, and you shall know “the delights at [His] right hand forever” in heaven where He now reigns.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Salvation Army" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us shine brightly in Jesus’ presence
when He comes.
YHWH, how could we escape the judgment coming upon the face of the earth and stand in your presence forever except that Jesus has offered His sacrifice for our sins and now waits with you in Heaven for us to turn to Him and join you there? He is our assurance of your blessing. When He returns again may we be found ready to be gathered to you.
Send your angels forth, O LORD, to save us from all tribulation, to strengthen us to stand in peace even as the stars fall from the sky. The darkness let us not fear; rather, let us be purged by it of all our attachment to this forsaken place. O let us not be counted among those who have forsaken you! Abandon us not to the nether world, but let our souls rejoice in the light of your face – let us shine with you forever.
The path to life you show us, LORD, that we might find the fullness of joy in your presence. Open our eyes and hearts to your glorious coming.
Sat, 10 November 2018
(1Kgs.17:10-16; Ps.146:1,7-10; Heb.9:24-28; Mk.12:38-44)
“She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”
Jesus sits in the temple and watches as “the crowd put[s] money into the treasury.” When He sees “a poor widow… put in two small coins worth a few cents,” He calls His disciples over, and speaks the truth to them: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.” Whatever wealth anyone else might have stuffed into the box cannot begin to compare to her whole sacrifice – it mimics His own.
And in our first reading we find another poor widow sacrificing her livelihood to the Lord and His prophet. It is the time of a great famine upon the land (called down from heaven by Elijah himself) and the widow has nothing left to eat but “a handful of flour in [her] jar and a little oil in [her] jug.” She tells us her situation: “Just now I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die.” A last supper. Straits most of us can only imagine. Yet when the prophet Elijah asks her, “First make me a little cake and bring it to me,” invoking the name of the God of Israel and promising His blessings, this woman who is not even of the house of Israel does not hesitate to give first to this stranger of the only sustenance she has for herself and her son. Another sacrifice mimicking Christ’s own.
Both widows’ sacrifices shall be blessed by the Lord; we can be assured of this. For “the widow He sustains”; it is He who “gives food to the hungry” and “protects strangers”… and any offering made in His name can only be multiplied. Indeed, Elijah proves himself not to be as the Pharisees who “devour the houses of widows,” for by his presence with his benefactor “she was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well,” the flour and the oil remaining until the rains returned. “The Lord keeps faith forever.”
Brothers and sisters, Christ “has appeared at the end of the age to take away sins by His sacrifice.” He does this “once for all,” and so does not “offer Himself repeatedly.” But we, brothers and sisters, we must join with that sacrifice – it is for us to offer ourselves as He has, as these widows have, if we are to partake of its graces. As it is manifested on our altar each day, we renew our commitment to be sharers in the blood He shed. As we drink from His cup let us remember always that it is our very lives that we are giving up. And the Lord will bless us as His own. And with these widows we shall sit at His table in heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Under God" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, we must give what we have to you
or we shall have nothing.
YHWH, help us to give our whole livelihood to you, to join in the sacrifice of your Son. For you will not abandon those who hunger for your love but bless them with all they need for their journey to Heaven.
The widow you sustain, dear God; those who believe in you, you indeed bless. And we must show that we eagerly await the Second Coming of your Son by not being attached to the things of this passing earth. We must rather make known our faith in you by entrusting all into your hands. For Jesus, who has entered Heaven on our behalf, taking our sins with Him that we might be purged, will not abandon us on the last day if we offer ourselves in union with His sacrifice.
All we have let us give to you, O LORD, even our food for the day, and you shall feed us from Heaven with the Bread that sustains all poor souls unto eternity. Our jar of flour shall not go empty nor our jug of oil run dry, for in them are the Body and Blood of your only Son.
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.
Sat, 3 November 2018
(Dt.6:2-6; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; Heb.7:23-28; Mk.12:28-34)
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
If you “fear the Lord, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all His statutes and commandments,” you will have “long life”; the Lord will “give you a land flowing with milk and honey.” The promise spoken by Moses to the people stands true, and truer, today. If we “take to heart these words which [both Moses and Jesus] enjoin on [us] today,” the kingdom shall indeed be not far from us. For these words are life-giving, they are the heart of the law, the heart of God’s love, and so breathe the breath of life upon the obedient soul: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (And the seconding of the Commandment is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”) This Command, this word of Truth and Life, the ancient Israelites inscribed upon their doorposts and lintels, and wore upon their person, never to forget what wisdom had been imparted unto them.
And now we, where shall we wear this essential Command, which silences even the hardest skeptics…? It should be inscribed upon our hearts. It should pour forth as praise from the mouth of all, all the faithful exclaiming with David in song, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” “The Lord lives! And blessed be my rock!” Our hearts indeed should overflow with love of God, who is so near us.
Oh brothers and sisters, do you not know how near He is to you now? Do you not know that Jesus “is always able to save those who approach God through Him, since He lives forever to make intercession for [us]”? Do you not know that you have a high priest who is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens,” and that He draws you unto the Heaven where He dwells? No longer do we turn to weak men, as even Moses was, but to “a Son, who has been made perfect forever.” And His Sonship we share even this day when we love as He has loved.
Love God, brothers and sisters. Love Him with heart and soul, mind and body. Let the four corners of the universe declare His praise and honor His Name in unending love of all. It is Jesus’ blood, Jesus’ love, which courses through our veins now. How much closer can we come than this Bread of Life? Heaven has come to earth in flesh of love, and raises these earthen vessels we are unto the gates of the kingdom. On the doorstep you stand; only enter in.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Love, The Meaning Of (Liars Don't Love, Lovers Don't Lie)" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we love you and our neighbor,
indeed we draw close to your kingdom.
YHWH, if we but keep your Word, we shall be blessed; if we but love you, O LORD our God, we shall know your love. If we worship you alone, we shall soon come to Heaven. O let your love fill us with praise of your NAME! And may that love overflow to all souls.
We love you, O LORD; we praise your holy NAME. You are exalted above all gods and your reign endures forever. And that reign you would share with all who are obedient to your Word, to your call to love.
And so your Son has come among us as our high priest; as priest and victim He stands in our midst and calls us to your kingdom through His holy sacrifice. Once for all He offered Himself that we might be saved, that He might live to make intercession for us all our days – that we might learn to love as He loves, as you love, dear God, giving all our lives for your sake and that of our neighbor. Alleluia!
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!
Sat, 27 October 2018
(Jer.31:7-9; Ps.126:1-6; Heb.5:1-6; Mk.10:46-52)
“They departed in tears,
but I will console them and guide them.”
Through Jeremiah the Lord prophesies that His people Israel “shall return as an immense throng,” that He will “gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst.” And in our gospel we see Jesus “leaving Jericho with His disciples and a sizable crowd,” picking up the blind Bartimaeus along the way. How the Lord fulfills the ancient prophecies. And now Jesus stands as our high priest in heaven, “offer[ing] gifts and sacrifices for sins,” bringing all by His cross to the kingdom of God.
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” Brothers and sisters, we are all like the blind Bartimaeus, sitting “by the roadside begging,” calling out to the Lord for forgiveness and guidance, saying to Him as He calls us before Himself, “Master, I want to see.” How blind we all are, how deaf and how lame. How we need our vision renewed by the Lord of all, that indeed we might see as He sees, with a purity beyond the scope of our race, to penetrate the mysteries which shroud us like the blind man’s cloak in this life. We must throw off the darkness, cast aside the shroud of death that weighs upon our shoulders by our sins and take upon ourselves the cross of Christ and walk with Him “on the way,” on the road to the New Jerusalem. How shall we know the “brooks of water” which satiate our thirst, “the torrents in the southern desert” that cleanse our arid souls and bring them to life once more, except by the tears we cry, except with hearts reaching out and voices reaching up to Him who is so far above our ways? In His way alone we will find the “level road” on which “none shall stumble.” Only by this cry will we know the graces our high priest offers all our lives.
“Although [we] go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, [we] shall come back rejoicing, carrying [our] sheaves.” For the Lord shall not forget us; He will not pass us by and leave us in our tears alone. But through our tears we shall see His holy light descend like a dove of peace upon our souls. Yes, we shall see; our eyes will be opened and our path will be set. And He shall guide us every step of our way. And “our mouth [will be] filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing” on that holy Day. Praise our merciful God!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "No Paranoia" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us follow Jesus on the way to the Cross
that we might follow Him to Heaven.
YHWH, in Jesus your Son we are returned to sonship with you; we who had been exiled because of our sins are brought back to your presence, and as a Father you embrace us and open our eyes to see your glory.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD. In tears we come before you, to your Son we cry out for mercy, and He cannot but hear and answer our call, He cannot but call us before Himself and grant the desire of our heart. O let us have the faith needed to believe in Him and so find the blessing only He holds.
Jesus, you are our high priest, you are Son of David and Son of God. Let us run to you for healing of our blindness and lameness that we might see you and follow you along the way to the New Jerusalem. In the peace of the Father let us rest, in the joy of our salvation.
With all your saints let us enter your gates, O Father in Heaven, by the grace that comes to us in your only Son.
Sat, 20 October 2018
(Is.53:10-11; Ps.33:4-5,18-20,22; Heb.4:14-16; Mk.10:35-45)
“We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God.”
And this is He who is both priest and victim, for “He gives His life as an offering for sin” – He Himself is our sacrifice. Here is one who is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses… one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Here is He who has suffered the affliction of our fallen state but to raise us up with Himself from the mire, from the lowly condition we have come to know as our own. Here is He who “give[s] His life as a ransom for many.”
But why? Why is the Lord “pleased to crush Him in His infirmity”? Why is our high priest so humbled in the sight of all? Why is there such suffering in the world…? Why need you ask? Why need you question the will of God? Do you not believe that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy”? Do you not realize that the Lord looks with kindness upon all “those who fear Him… to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine”? Do you trust your own eyes more than the vision of God?
But if you must know, the Lord God tells you, “Through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt He shall bear.” If you must inquire, hear that it is for your sin there is suffering in the world and the Lord and His followers must carry the cross. You need look no further than the blood on your hands… But seeing this, do not fear – rejoice. Rejoice, for now we may “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” Now the Savior does “lord it over” us by His sacrifice. Now this “slave of all” has “authority over [us]” by the suffering He has undergone. And now we must join Him on this cross.
“The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” – His words to James and John are spoken to us all. Glorious is the sacrifice to which we are called. For He who is both priest and victim would now lift us with Himself through the veil of pain to the holy heavens, that knowing the fruit of “His affliction,” with Him all might “see the light in fullness of days.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord”; it suffers with Him. And it is not disappointed by the sacrifice it shares.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Sunset Bleeds Me Clean" (2nd half) from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, He who is slave of all,
He who has shed His blood to save our souls –
with Him let us be one.
YHWH, your Son has given His life as a ransom for sin, that we might approach the throne of grace and find mercy, and find the blessing of your kindness upon our souls. He has borne our guilt, and so from it we are freed. But we must bear the Cross with Him if we are to find our way to Heaven.
This is the greatest grace, is it not, O LORD – that we are called to share in the suffering of your Son, to drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism? We are called to serve as He has served, to give our lives with Him, and so to come to the place He has come, to your right hand in the kingdom. O if we could only be as slaves of all!
By His death He has ransomed many. Sharing in our weakness, suffering for our sakes – bearing His affliction, He shall see the light in fullness of days. And we poor souls who trust in Him find our hope fulfilled, dear LORD, in that same light of your face.
Sat, 13 October 2018
(Wis.7:7-11; Ps.90:12-17; Heb.4:12-13; Mk.10:17-30)
“The word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword.”
“Penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart… everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.” Here is His Spirit of Wisdom, whose “splendor… never yields to sleep,” who has “countless riches at her hands.” It is this penetrating Wisdom we must pray to be with us, if we are to save our immortal souls. Without her nothing has any worth at all.
How shall we “number our days aright” and “gain wisdom of heart”? How shall we walk the road the Lord leads us upon and find His “gracious care” to “prosper the work of our hands”? How shall we avoid the emptiness the riches of this world inevitably bring and acquire the conviction needed to follow the Lord? The allure of gold, of mammon, is so great, is so easy to set our hearts upon – how shall we hear what the Lord says in love to the man who falls on his knees before Him: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven”? How shall we give up house and family and lands all “for [His] sake and for the sake of the Gospel” to find “a hundred times more” these things, “with persecutions, and eternal life in heaven”? Only by the Wisdom that comes from God, never by the thoughts of our own heart.
Clearly the disciples do not yet understand this or they would not ask with such amazement, “Then who can be saved?” when told of the difficulties riches bring. For still, though not for long, their hearts are set on the things of this earth, and still they judge with a worldly eye. The vision that comes of the pure light of Wisdom will not be theirs until the flame of the Holy Spirit burns in their souls. Then their own spirits will be one with the Lord and they will be able to discern that “all gold, in view of her, is a little sand.” Then the length and breadth and depth of their mission they will comprehend.
Let the word of God be heard by all, spoken by all His prophets and priests. Let it pierce many hearts, that some may be saved by the grace that enters where it bleeds. Here is the only way to life.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "In Your Eyes" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, do we desire life with you,
or the riches of this world?
YHWH, your Son stands in our midst looking at us with love. To Himself He calls us that we might enter the kingdom. And who would not follow? What riches of this age are greater than the divine riches He offers? What else could we need if we have eternal life? With Him is true wisdom; let us give up all to follow in His way.
O LORD, all gold is as a little dust to the one who has been blessed to see with your eyes, to the one who has been graced with your Wisdom. Though it be painful to stand in your light and be pierced by your sword, what glory it brings to your children! Your truth upon our souls, we have all the food we need.
And so, what can persecutions bring us but greater joy? What can we lose in your Name that we will not regain a hundred times over? All things are in your hands, O LORD, and we live in your eyes. Pierce us with your Wisdom, that we might number our days aright.
Sat, 6 October 2018
(Gn.2:18-24; Ps.128:1-6; Heb.2:9-11; Mk.10:2-16)
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh.”
The beauty and blessing of marriage, the marvel it is, and how it reaches unto heaven.
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” This is the loving thought of our Lord God while looking upon the man He has created. And so from the body of the man God creates woman. How indelibly one are these two, in origin, in destiny, and in the eyes of their Creator. Inseparable should they be: “one flesh.”
And if it were so, if these lived as He intended, the blessings sung of by our psalmist today would be upon all: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.” Then would we reflect the glory of God and His love for His Church and its children. Then would we “see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of [our] life.”
The love of man and woman, of husband and wife, is truly as the love of God for His bride, the Church. Hear what St. Paul says of the Christ, who has come to bring “many children to glory”: “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.” Does he not say Jesus has become as our brother, made perfect through suffering – “flesh of [our] flesh”? Does the Lord not thus wed Himself to us by the incarnation and death of His only Son? And look at Jesus in our gospel, surrounded by children waist deep. He has just spoken of the sanctity of marriage and now He clearly conveys its blessed fruits, both for husband and wife on earth, and for Him and His Church. He declares of the children He has called to Himself, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these,” and then “He embrace[s] them and bless[es] them,” wedding them unto His heart.
As woman is born out of the side of man, as she is flesh of his flesh, so the Church is born out of the pierced side of the Lord, from the blood and water that flow there, becoming one with His blessed Body. And let all men and women know, every husband and wife understand, that their marriage is blessed alone by God and finds its life in Him. It is He to whom they are truly wed, and their offenses against one another offend only Him. If you seek to separate from one another, you work to separate yourself from God; for as He is love, so He is every marriage, and to Him you are beholden to bear fruit in His name. Great will be the blessing upon your home if you cherish your oneness in Him – great as the blessings upon His Church, which in His love He does now form. Make all your love one with Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Marriage" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, bring life forth in our midst
through the children you bless.
YHWH, let us be joined to you in the sacrificial flesh of your Son. Bone of His bone let us be, one with Him forever. As you join together man and wife on this earth, so join us to you in Heaven.
O let us never be divorced from love of one another or from you, dearest LORD! Then we shall be blessed; then we shall remain in your presence and know your arms around us. O let us have the faith of a child and come humbly before you to hear your Word of truth spoken of by your Son, and so let us share in His salvation. Let us never harden our hearts against your good will for our lives and we shall prosper in your peace.
We are taken from you, O LORD, and must be united with you again. But if we do not love one another and bear fruit in your Name, if man and wife do not stand as the paragon of your love, what shall become of the human race?
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.
Sat, 29 September 2018
(Nm.11:25-29; Ps.19:8-10,12-14; Jas.5:1-6; Mk.9:38-43,45,47-48)
“Would that all the people to the Lord were prophets!
Would that the Lord might bestow His Spirit on them all!”
There is of course a striking similarity in our first reading and our gospel today. In one, Joshua, “who from his youth had been Moses’ aide,” comes to his master to inform him that two men who had not gone as instructed to the mountain to receive God’s Spirit were “prophesying in the camp”: “Moses, my lord, stop them,” he zealously proclaims. And in the other, John, the Lord’s beloved disciple, conveys his message to Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us,” he, too, attempting to thwart the Spirit of God which does not go forth in channels that seem proper. But Moses’ answer above could not be more strongly stated, and Jesus says plainly to His disciples, “Do not prevent them. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” And so, let goodness go forth, unto the ends of the earth.
Indeed, Moses’ cry is the Lord’s will, and it is this will Jesus has come to realize – that all may embrace what is right and true and so come to the kingdom of heaven. However, inherent in Moses’ exclamation is also the unfortunate fact that most do not have the Spirit of God; most are not walking in His name. More often than not the “wanton sin” which James so graphically presents to our eyes and ears is the state of man; and so the horrible miseries he even more graphically represents become their fate. And so, to accomplish His work of salvation upon the face of the earth, the Christ must necessarily be severe in His speech, in His warning and His instruction: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off… If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off… If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out” – better these measures than the fires of Gehenna… better any pain on this plane than the eternal punishments of the hell wrought by the sins so much a part of all our lives.
With great wisdom David speaks of the precepts of the Lord. First he recognizes that “the law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul” and “fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever”; then, seeking to endure forever with the Lord of all, he declares to God of His laws: “Though your servant is careful of them, very diligent in keeping them, yet who can detect failings?” And even wiser is he to cry out, “Cleanse me from my unknown faults!” for he knows only this thorough cleansing will make him any prophet of God; only if he be “blameless and innocent” will he maintain the Lord’s Spirit within himself. And so the same is true for all the Lord would gather into His arms, all who seek His eternal reward.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Open Air" from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, that all were prophets!
that all would purify their souls in your undying light
and so enter into your kingdom.
YHWH, your Spirit be upon us this day. Let us turn away from all sin that we might enter your kingdom.
How perfect you are, O LORD, and how perfect is your Law. Your Word comes to us as a cleansing flame. But if we turn our hearts from love of you, that flame becomes a devouring fire. If we attach ourselves to the riches of this world, seeking its treasure by ungodly means, what can we be but separated from you on your holy Day. For all that is wicked shall be cast into flame, and from it shall not be withdrawn. But all your children will be refreshed by that flame, purified to stand in your presence.
O let us be innocent and blameless of serious sin, dearest LORD and God! And let us not lead any astray, that we might not merit condemnation. It is your will that all come to glory and you cannot but cast aside all who work against the bestowing of your Spirit upon souls.
Sun, 23 September 2018
(Prv.3:27-34; Ps.15:1-5; Lk.8:16-18)
“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
but the dwelling of the just He blesses.”
Light fills the house of him “who walks blamelessly and does justice; who thinks the truth in his heart and slanders not with his tongue,” for he who does these things is as light itself, having no part with darkness. He knows that “to the Lord the perverse man is an abomination,” and so he “env[ies] not the lawless man and choose[s] none of his ways” but chooses always the way of God and so finds the “friendship” of the Lord which is with “the upright,” which is as light shining upon him and through him.
As for the wicked, “he who has not will lose even the little he thinks he has,” for the Lord is not with him; and all he has gained by “usury” and by “bribe[s] against the innocent” shall be revealed in all its emptiness on the day the Lord shines His encompassing light – he will indeed be left with nothing, for nothing he truly has. He who has “plot[ted]… evil against his neighbor” and “quarrel[led]… with a man without cause” will never be able to stand in the light of the Lord, for he has made his home in darkness, and in darkness he shall remain. Certainly this “reprobate is despised” by the Lord, for his rebellion puts him in opposition to the kingdom of God.
And so we must “take heed, therefore, how [we] hear” the Lord’s instruction, for His instruction is as light itself and brings the light of salvation to the receptive soul. This light we must make our own and place it “on a lampstand so that whoever comes in” – whoever approaches the house in which we dwell – “can see it” and can share in it freely. All shade of sin must be removed from our souls so that without hindrance and without hesitation our light will shine forth and all will know the abiding love of the Lord. “He who does these things shall never be disturbed.” He who does these things, who reflects the Lord’s justice and love all his days, cannot but be blessed by the Lord, for he himself becomes His own.
“When He is dealing with the arrogant, He is stern, but to the humble He shows kindness.” And so, having his deeds “brought to light” is as a curse for the wicked, but to the just it means eternal blessing.
O LORD, all is known in your holy light:
help us to do good and avoid evil.
YHWH, let us walk blamelessly before you; in innocence let us dwell. Let us not turn to the paths of the wicked but remain ever in your light, walking always in your way. Then we shall be blessed with your presence.
LORD, all shall be exposed in your holy light; from you none can hide. And so, let us not be afraid to do your will with confidence, with faith in your protection and guidance. Let us not shy away from shining your light with our very lives, for in this way we shall be kept from straying.
Those who stray, O LORD, you condemn. Those whose hearts are hardened against you walk the path to perdition, and so as long as they continue to travel in sin, their destruction is assured. For darkness has no place in your kingdom of light, and those who proudly persist in their sin cannot but be cast from your presence. But let us do no harm; let us honor you by thinking and speaking only truth and remaining ever humble before you.
Sat, 22 September 2018
(Ws.2:12,17-20; Ps.54:3-8; Jas.3:16-4:3; Mk.9:30-37)
“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist,
there is disorder and every foul practice.”
And can there be any greater foul practice come from jealousy and selfish ambition than that of which we hear in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom, for here the wicked plot the death of the Son of God – here is spoken of the horrible persecutions which the Messiah and all His followers undergo at the hands of the proud souls: “With revilement and torture let us put the just one to the test that we may have proof of His gentleness and try His patience.” And so the Lamb of God shall endure His “shameful death,” according to the dark threats they breathe.
“The haughty have risen up against me, the ruthless seek my life; they set not God before their eyes,” David cries unto the Lord. He too knows those who “kill and envy,” who “fight and wage war” against the righteous one because he puts them to shame, because he “reproaches [them] for transgressions of the law,” his justice and truth ever a sign of contradiction against “the passions that make war in [their] members,” from which they refuse to be released.
But it is indeed so, as even their own words condemn the wicked, that “God will take care of [the just one],” that “God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.” “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord sustains my life,” David exclaims in the midst of his trial – for indeed the help of the Lord is ever with us; He shall always “defend [our] cause.” And the wicked shall ever be put to death for their sins against Him.
And what of the disciples today? It is true that “they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.” At this point in the journey they still are “arguing about” petty matters which lead but to condemnation, even as Jesus speaks of His imminent death. But their vain pride shall not last the day. For even in the Lord’s placing a child in their midst there is a kind of turning point; ashamed they can only be now, and soon, so soon, they will follow their blessed Lord to their own cross of crucifixion.
Set yourselves on the right path, brothers and sisters. Be not afraid to ask the Lord of His way and of the help you need to follow. But do not ask in vain or your evil desires will destroy you, and you shall not know His kingdom. Let no jealousy rule your hearts, but order your lives according to the Lord’s pure wisdom, and be “full of mercy and good fruits,” as even our “gentle” and “compliant” Lord. Keep this Child ever before your eyes.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Unbind Yourself" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, only you will deliver us
from the hands of our foes
and from our own transgressions.
YHWH, your Son was condemned to a shameful death by the haughty hearts of men, but you sustained His life, as you do our own. If we but set our hearts on serving you and the least of our brothers, if we but keep our arms around those you place in our care – if we but die with your Son and in His love, with Him we shall rise again.
O LORD, let arrogance and pride find no place in our lives. Let us not be tortured by selfish ambition or torture others because of our impatience with you and your holy will. If we fight against your goodness, allowing our passions to rule us, what shall we find but death to our souls and blindness to your glory among us? Your Son let us but follow, even on the path to crucifixion, and your protection will be with us all our days. Your arms you will keep around us, embracing us as your own dear Child. In peace we shall remain.
Sun, 16 September 2018
(1Cor.11:17-26,33; Ps.40:7-10,17,1Cor.11:26; Lk.7:1-10)
“Just give the order and my servant will be cured.”
By a word from His mouth what cannot be done? For those who have faith this is all that is needed.
Listen, brothers and sisters, to the centurion’s explication of “the meaning of an order”: “I say to one, ‘On your way,’ and off he goes; to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes; to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Do you see faith at work? Do you understand the power of a word? And if a mere centurion in the Roman army possesses such power and gains such loyalty by his commands, do you think the Lord’s words shall fall short or His servants be found lacking in obedience?
“I am not worthy to have you enter my house” are the words the centurion speaks to Jesus before our quote for the day, and they are of course the phrase we utter just before we receive the Lord in Holy Communion. That same sacrament of Communion is described for us by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians; he tells us of the Christ’s words and actions upon its institution “on the night in which He was betrayed.” “This is my body,” Jesus says; and, in Paul’s phrasing, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” And so do we partake of the Lord’s Body and Blood even as we remember His sacrifice for our sins; and so, like the centurion’s servant, we are healed of our ills.
Yet there are “divisions among [us]” regarding this central sacrament of our faith. Perhaps “there may even have to be factions among [us] for the tried and true to stand out clearly.” But the Lord is never pleased with a lack of faith. And if He decries the lack of “faith among the Israelites,” what is His thought on Christians who cannot believe in His presence in the Sacrament? Does the Lord not also have “soldiers under His command” like the centurion? Do they not also carry out His orders? Or is the word He gives them not powerful enough to carry out His will? Is it somehow impossible for the Lord to make himself present as He has promised by the intercession of His apostles, His priests – even as by the intercession of the Jewish elders the centurion gained his request from the Christ? Does your faith not fall short if you thus limit the power of God, of His Word, of the power given His apostles? “I received from the Lord what I handed on to you,” Paul states succinctly as he speaks to his disciples of the Lord’s Supper. And this meal shall last till the end of time; and it shall ever feed us body and soul with the presence of Christ.
“Behold, I come,” says the Lord. To do the Father’s will is the Son’s “delight” and the delight of all who follow Him. In body He comes and in body He remains, upon our altars and in His sons. This “justice” we “announce in the vast assembly”; we do “not restrain [our] lips.” For His faithfulness to us, we His slaves and soldiers well know; and for such love we can but proclaim: “The Lord be glorified”! For by a word from His mouth uttered through His priest – “This is my body” – He is in our midst.
O LORD, in faith let us come to you
to receive the Body and Blood of your Son,
and so find the new life He brings.
YHWH, your Son comes to us and gives us His own Body and Blood that we might partake of Him and so find our salvation in union with you. But have we the faith to see Him here in our midst; and have we the love to receive Him into our hearts?
The flesh can be such a distraction for us, O LORD; it can leave us quite blind. As we seek to feed our bellies, our souls can be greatly deprived. And so, do we not lose you by our lack of faith?
In your Word let us trust, dear LORD, not in the matter at our hands. Our hearts be set upon your grace, upon the sacrifice of your Son, that we might come to dwell in your House. O let us offer our bodies in union with His and we shall become sons as He, doing your will alone and so knowing your blessing.
Let us lay down our lives in faith, O LORD, declaring your glory to all with ears. Let our very lives be made in your image, in the image of your only Son. Let us become as He is as we eat His Body and drink His Blood.
Sat, 15 September 2018
(Is.50:5-9a; Ps.116:1-6,8-9; Jas.2:14-18; Mk.8:27-35)
“I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”
A simple enough statement made by our psalmist today, or so it seems. For what does it mean to walk with Jesus along the way of the Almighty God? What does such travel entail? Is it but to impart a word of peace and blessing to those in need, and continue merrily along? Is it but to say, “I have faith in God”? Words alone will not get us where we expect to be; we must walk in the way of the Lord, and to walk means to work.
And what is this work with which faith cannot dispense; what does it entail? It could not be more succinctly stated than it is by Jesus to the crowds and His disciples in today’s gospel: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” It is in the Lord’s steps we must walk, and, yes, those steps lead inevitably to crucifixion. This cannot be avoided. Do you not hear the Lord’s rebuke of Peter? Then how can you begin to explicate a life in Christ without His cross fixed firmly upon your shoulder? How can you think that “the land of the living” may be found by easy means? It cannot.
Listen to the words of the Servant spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard.” This and more the Lord did willingly to reveal the way you must walk – this all the children of Israel, all God’s holy ones, take upon themselves all for the sake of the Gospel.
But lest you lose heart in the face of all you must undergo, all the suffering you must accept to gain the kingdom, let me tell you something else. All those who take up the cross say also with the Servant, “He is near who upholds my right.” Do you hear what He says? “The Lord God is my help”! Do you understand its significance? We are with Christ and Christ is with God and so none of the blows of this world can hurt us. Indeed, they do not touch us, for it is Jesus who suffers all these blows for our sake. Though the cords may lacerate our skin, they cannot approach our soul, for the Lord indeed takes from us all “distress and sorrow” and saves our very lives. Thus the psalmist sings, “He has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” For He in whose sight we live our lives has already endured all evil, and now preserves us from its clutches. And so in this cross which seems so dark and foreboding, there is ultimate joy.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Weightless Crucifixion" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to lose our lives
for the sake of the Gospel;
if we take up our cross, you will certainly defend us,
and bring us to everlasting life.
YHWH, your work accomplish in us; the path of your Son let us walk. If we walk with you unto the Cross, we shall walk with you in Heaven. If from the Cross we turn, where shall we find our salvation? It is in suffering for the sake of the kingdom we find our freedom – let us lose our lives for you and your Son’s Gospel.
We must not think as men do, dear LORD, but as your Son instructs. If we wish to come to you, we cannot follow the way of the world. You are in Heaven and if to Heaven we wish to come then die we must to this empty life. Let not the darkness of this place encompass us, let it not touch our hearts, but let us take our refuge in the death of your Son and we shall be raised from the nether world.
Buffets and spitting may be our fate in this life, but if we endure all with faith in you, with your Son we will be made strong, and be justified in His Day.
Mon, 10 September 2018
(1Cor.6:1-11; Ps.149:1-6,9; Lk.6:12-19)
“You have been washed, consecrated, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Yes, “power went out from Him which cured all.” And as all were “healed of their diseases” and “those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured” by His touch, so we, too, are made whole in His sight; so we now become His holy children of light. For “the unholy will not fall heir to the kingdom of God,” and His kingdom being the desire of our hearts, we come with “the whole crowd… trying to touch Him,” trying to reach His presence upon the mountain of God.
And He calls His apostles; He selects the Twelve. And the power to teach and to heal He bestows upon them and upon their descendants. His wisdom and His grace He imparts upon those to whom His Father leads Him; and this same power rests upon all those baptized in His name into His Spirit. And so, as these Twelve who are the foundation stones of the New Jerusalem sit in judgment of the twelve tribes of Israel, so it is that the redeemed of the Lord are, as Paul tells us, “to judge angels.” Yes, “the believers will judge the world.” This power which is the Lord’s alone He gives to all in the world to come, for all are to be infused with His wisdom, and His love.
And so are we not therefore “up to deciding everyday affairs”? “If the judgment of the world is to be [ours], are we to be thought unworthy of judging in minor matters?” And not only in cases “between one member of the Church and another,” but in all the details of our lives. If we are to judge with the wisdom and grace of God in heaven, we must here be able to see clearly the right from the wrong, or we have not His Spirit upon us – or we stand in opposition to His Truth and to His Church. “Do not deceive yourselves: no fornicators, idolaters, or adulterers, no sodomites, thieves, misers, or drunkards, no slanderers or robbers will inherit God’s kingdom.” If your conscience tells you otherwise and you do these things or fail to condemn these things, you are sadly misinformed; and rather than judge the nations with the Lord and His apostles, you shall be judged by them.
Come only unto His Word, brothers and sisters; come only unto His Hand. And you shall be cleansed of all evil and be made able to stand here in this world as in His kingdom. And you shall sing His “praise in the assembly of the faithful” and with them “exult in glory” before your “maker” and “king.” “This is the glory of all His faithful”; His holy song is sung by all the redeemed.
O LORD, your power is upon your apostles
and all your holy people;
for this grace let us praise your NAME.
YHWH, who can judge but those who are like you, those who are holy, those washed clean in the blood of your Son with the power of your Spirit upon them? No sinner can judge, for no sinner can see; he is blinded by his sin and immersed in selfishness, and so, how can he be just?
O LORD, anoint us as you have the apostles, with your Spirit, with your blessing, with the blood of your Son. Let healing graces pour forth from our souls as we walk the way He has shown. Then all shall rejoice at His coming, all shall exult in your glory, as all are judged fairly in your sight.
We are but poor creatures, LORD, and yet by your grace you make us as yourself, you call us to you… even to judge angels with you. Certainly it is never we who judge but you; we can only give our wills over to you and allow you to work for our good. For only you are good, and so only by you are we made good and able to do anything at all. Let us be your faithful disciples even this day.
Sat, 8 September 2018
(Is.35:4-7a; Ps.146:2,6-10; Jas.2:1-5; Mk.7:31-37)
“He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
The Lord makes all whole. He “sets captives free” from all their afflictions as He redeems us from all our sin. “Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you.” This is He who “has done all things well”; this is the Lord Jesus Christ.
“And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.” By a word: “‘Ephphatha!’ – that is, ‘Be opened!’” the deaf mute is healed by Jesus, causing all to be “exceedingly astonished.” And in their astonishment their eyes are opened, for “the Lord gives sight to the blind.” And so He who sustains “the fatherless and the widow” and “gives food to the hungry” stands before the eyes of all now; and so indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared… Then the tongue of the dumb will sing.” And so streams “burst forth in the desert” and “the lame leap like a stag,” for He comes – He comes to heal all nations.
Brothers and sisters, God chose “those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He promised to those who love Him.” He chose the blind; He chose the lame; He chose the deaf and the mute – He chose the hungry and oppressed. He chose you and me in all our sin, in all our weakness before Him, and came to release us from all fear. Making no distinction except to favor the soul who thirsts for Him, He came bringing “springs of water.” And these waters heal. And these waters set us free. And these waters remove our “shabby clothes” and don us “with gold rings and fine clothes” spun by the hand of God.
Brothers and sisters, “adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” For He is glorious indeed, and coming into His assembly with all your imperfections purged from your soul, you shall know such glory and not be able to withhold yourself from proclaiming such glory. Yes, you shall be one with “the Lord [who] shall reign forever.” He shall be “your God, O Zion, through all generations,” and with tongue loosened and renewed you shall sing “Alleluia” to the Lord forevermore. Know now His power upon you.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder" (2nd half) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, open our ears that we might hear your voice
and follow in your way.
YHWH, you chose the poor to inherit your kingdom. The deaf, the blind, the lame – to these you bring your healing touch. You come to those who recognize their need for you and take them to yourself. In your Son you fulfill your will for the good of all who desire you. For this we can but praise you.
O LORD God, you keep faith forever, you eternally offer forth love to us, the rivers of grace known in the work of Jesus. You can but love us; you can but desire our good. For you are all good, you are all love, and so you look with pity upon those in need, upon fallen man so separated from your love.
O may we all be cleansed of our sin! O may we all be made whole in your sight! Let the touch of your Son be upon us, dear LORD, that we might sing of your glory forever. O let our hearts be open to your love!
Sun, 26 August 2018
(2Thes.1:1-5,11-12; Ps.96:1-5; Mt.23:13-22)
“Which is more important, the offering
or the altar which makes the offering sacred?”
The Pharisees in their blindness taught: “If a man swears by the altar it means nothing, but if he swears by the gift on the altar he is obligated.” Indeed, “How blind [they] are!” For what do they do but exalt that which is secondary beyond that which is primary? What do they do but invert logic?
And what is the significance of their blindness? Why does it bring them “an evil day”? What the Pharisees essentially do in their thinking and their teaching is place the created ahead of the Creator, themselves before their God. For we are the gift upon the altar and the Lord Jesus the altar that receives and consumes our offering. It is He who makes us holy, and not we Him; it is we “who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” and not vice-versa. He is above; we are below. The divine order of things must not be skewed. Yes, “the Lord made the heavens” and we who dwell below the heavens, and we must bow down before Him and praise His name.
“Awesome is He, beyond all gods.” Above every created thing He stands, He towers, for all these things, including our souls, are in His almighty hands. “All the gods of the nations are things of naught,” idols of so much dust and sand, devised alone by human hands and serving to inflate the pride of those who make them. These we must leave aside. Our false ideas we must abandon. To Him alone must we come.
“Tell His glory among the nations,” brothers and sisters, “for great is the Lord and highly to be praised.” It is He who is “seated on [the] throne” of heaven, He alone who merits our songs of praise. So let our song rise up to Him from our place upon His altar; let our offering be acceptable in His sight. Let us pray “that our God may make [us] worthy of His call, and fulfill by His power every honest intention and work of faith,” that “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [us] and [we] in Him, in accord with the gracious gift of our God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” May He make us holy.
O LORD, let us sing of your salvation
as we strive to put you before all things
and grow constantly in your love.
YHWH, you are seated on the throne of Heaven, far above all gods – you alone are worthy of our praise, for you alone are holy. All things of this world let us leave behind to find your glory.
LORD, bless our work and make us worthy of your call; in faith let us endure every persecution and trial and be fruitful in your sight, that we might be found in your kingdom. There is nothing but you that we should desire – may you alone be praised by all the ends of the earth.
How shall we lose our blindness, LORD, and come to see that you are all in all? How shall we learn to put you first at all times, always remembering your holy NAME? How might we be blessed to announce your salvation in all we think, say, and do?
By you alone let us live our lives, O LORD and God, striving to do your will in all things by the grace of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him we shall know you and find you; through His Cross we shall come to your kingdom.
Sat, 18 August 2018
(Prv.9:1-6; Ps.34:2-7; Eph.5:15-20; Jn.6:51-58)
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood,
you do not have life within you.”
Wisdom “has spread her table”; “she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine.” And now she sends out “her maidens,” calling “from the heights out over the city… ‘Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!’” Let the simple hearts, those who seek understanding and refreshment, “turn in here.” Here is bread that He gives “for the life of the world.” Yes, His “flesh is true food, and [His] blood is true drink.” Jesus, the only Son, has come “down from heaven” and now spreads the table before us, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, in answer to all prayers.
Are not our priests His maidens calling souls forth to the altar where we feed? Is the Church not His city where His voice resounds, where His blood is outpoured? And so we should heed the instruction of Paul today and “watch carefully how [we] live, not as foolish persons but as wise,” seeking the precious bread that opens all eyes. “Do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery”; rather, “be filled with the Spirit” that comes to you in this wine made holy, in His sacred blood.
Brothers and sisters, let us “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in [our] hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” For what greater joy could there be than this Blessed Sacrament? And so, “glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol His name,” that we may indeed be “radiant with joy, and [our] faces may not blush with shame.” For the wise come to this table and eat, and so have life everlasting. For the Lord is here in our midst, in flesh and blood. Here is the house with “seven columns” in which His children ever dwell. The foolish may fall by the wayside, but the wise receive eternal life.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Love, the Meaning of" part c. "Love" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood,
we gain understanding, we come to eternal life…
and so our mouths are filled with praise!
YHWH, feed us with the flesh and blood of your only Son, this spiritual bread and wine that nourishes us to eternal life. The days are evil and the food the world offers brings man only death – give us wisdom to see the emptiness, the foolishness of feasting on such corrupted fare, and come to your table today.
O LORD, we praise you for your goodness to us, for when we sought you, when we recognized our lack of understanding and turned to you and to your Son, our shame you took from us and made us radiant with joy. May Wisdom remain with us always; your Spirit ever sing in us of your surpassing glory.
To the banquet let us come, to the feast Jesus prepares for us by His sacrifice. Let us eat His Body and drink His Blood and live forever in your heavenly kingdom.
Fri, 17 August 2018
(Ez.18:1-10,13,30-32; Ps.51:12-15,18-19; Mt.19:13-15)
“Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed,
and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”
“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me,” David cries out in his psalm. Ezekial speaks of the same cleansing needed to find the life of God. And Jesus amongst the children reveals the purity to which we are all called.
“Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you,” the Lord exhorts us through his prophet today. Through Ezekial it is revealed that we are judged “each one according to his ways” – the sinner according to his sin and the virtuous according to his “right and just” acts. And the sinner “because he practiced all these abominations… shall surely die,” while the just “shall surely live.” This is the Word of the Lord God.
But the Word continues. Ezekial also reveals that the Lord God “takes no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” that it is His desire that all should live. And so he cries out, “Return and live!” for the Lord is a forgiving God and will indeed wash clean all who turn from their sin.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” Here is the truth of our Lord: He does not desire to cast us “out from [His] presence,” but wishes us to come as children before Him, to know His love, to discover the kingdom of God which belongs to “such as these”… for these are as He is – humble as Jesus, the Child of God. Marvelously our sins He shall wash away, and we shall live! We shall know “the joy of [His] salvation” as children in His sight.
O Lord, we pray that “sinners shall return to you.” We pray that none shall die. We pray that you take our own lives and let them witness what it is to be a virtuous child of God. In your hands may our hearts be: “a willing spirit sustain in me.” Lay your hands upon our heads before you leave this place; let all our sin be cast away.
O LORD, make for us a new heart and a new spirit,
that we might be as children in your kingdom.
YHWH, make us pure and innocent as children before you that we might not be judged guilty of sin, that we might not be deserving of death. Lay your hands upon our head, and make us clean.
You judge every soul according to his deeds, LORD, but you are merciful to those who turn from their sin. Indeed, you desire the death of no one and so long for our hearts to turn to you. May we be truly contrite and humble; may we sincerely desire to return to you, and so reform our ways.
To each man you give a soul, O LORD, a free will to decide his fate. If he goes along the way you direct him, worshiping you alone and loving others as you do, he shall indeed be saved and live with you forever. But if in pride he casts aside your words of instruction, worshiping gods that are not you and despising his neighbor… he cannot but die.
O LORD, take away all our empty pride, and let us come to you as a child.
Sun, 12 August 2018
(Ez.1:2-5,24-28; Ps.148:1-2,11-14; Mt.17:22-27)
“His majesty is above earth and heaven.”
Gleaming like gold or silver, shining forth like burning fire, splendorous as “the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day” – “such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord” given the prophet Ezekial. And this is but His likeness; nothing could describe the glory of the One who has beneath His feet the four living creatures whose wings beat “like the roaring of mighty waters, like the voice of the Almighty.” These eyes cannot see God.
But His only Son we can see, for He whose greatness is as the Lord’s own has deigned to walk amongst us in human form. Though His place is at the throne of the Almighty God, though His glory is itself exalted above earth and heaven, yet the Son of God becomes also the Son of Man. And not only does He walk in our skin, but even dies for our sin. How humble is our glorious God!
And though He Himself is the Temple of God, though it is by His hands only the temple on earth has been built, yet He does not presume exemption from paying tax to those who are but its caretakers. For He subjects Himself entirely to our laws, as well as to our scourges. (And notice that the coin Peter will find in the mouth of the fish is “twice the temple tax,” to pay simultaneously for himself and Jesus. Thus is Peter equated with the Lord in the exemption of sonship, in authority over the temple – for it is he who shall be at the helm of the new Temple.)
The disciples are “overwhelmed with grief” at hearing of their Lord’s coming crucifixion. They have known the glory of God so wonderfully as wedding guests, as the best men of the bridegroom – as the blessed disciples of the Son – and now the thought of His dying is beyond their comprehension. (So much so that they do not even hear that “He will be raised up on the third day.”) They want to maintain the glory they have known, which is indeed heavenly. But Jesus’ humbling of Himself is not complete, as neither is His glory. Remain on this earth He cannot, but must return to the right hand of the Father. And the only way to this fulfillment of glory is through the cross – only this will bring Him to resurrection, and bring us all from our sin.
“Praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” Let all that lives and that breathes praise our Savior, Jesus. For it is He who brings us to the majesty of our Father.
O LORD, your Son is the Temple in which we worship;
He is our heavenly King –
may we offer our lives with Him this day.
YHWH, your majesty is above earth and Heaven, far beyond our comprehension; Ezekiel’s vision gives us but a glimpse of your surpassing glory. Our eyes could not look upon the perfect wonder of your presence.
But to us you send your Son, LORD, for Him we may look upon. And looking at Him on the Cross we see the Temple of Heaven open up for us; our vision is cleansed and we know thus the glory that is with Him, that He is your Son, and that it is He who leads us to your throne. And so, your majesty becomes our own.
Indeed, we cannot fathom this great gift you grant to your children, LORD; we cannot say how unworthy we are of your presence. And yet, by His humility, by His uniting Himself to us, we become as the Temple your Son is – we find His Spirit upon us. In your Church you make your home, making us as your sons. Your praise resound from the ends of the earth; on the third day may we too be raised.
Wed, 8 August 2018
(Jer.31:31-34; Ps.51:12-15,18-19; Mt.16:13-23)
“I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.”
Do not the days come to pass, is not this promise made through Jeremiah fulfilled, when the Lord declares to Peter, “On this rock I will build my Church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it”? Does Jesus not hereby wrest the covenant from the hands of the leaders of the Jews and thus make His people anew, here founding His New Covenant and His new Church upon Peter and the apostles? Does not all that has been declared to the Chosen now come to pass in the Christ and in those who follow Him? Are we not, as it were, true and complete Jews, basking in the light of the Messiah?
And what is it this New Covenant is like? The Lord says, “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people.” Indeed, all shall “know the Lord.” And how shall this come about? Is this not the answer to David’s heartfelt prayer when drowning in the midst of sin: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me”? Is it not by His cleansing us of all our transgressions that He shall “remember [our] sin no more”? Is it not in this way our hearts are prepared to receive Him, and He comes to make His home with us? Is this not why Jesus has come?
“Your Holy Spirit take not from me,” David cries out, and his “heart contrite and humbled” the Lord responds to. For upon Peter and His Church He places His Holy Spirit, never to be removed, and all who dwell within this House shall indeed never be “cast... from [His] presence.” Later He shall breathe upon the apostles; later the Spirit shall fall mightily on them. Now He is still teaching them to make “God’s standards” their own; now He is still making room for His love in their hearts. But still, here is the declaration that His Church shall be, and shall grow unto eternity.
May we all take refuge within the blessed walls formed by the Lord’s hands, anointed by His Spirit. May our hearts all be set upon Him. And His power shall be in our hands; and we will be His own... and the New Covenant of love will be known.
O LORD, write your NAME upon our hearts,
that we might be made holy like you.
YHWH, write your NAME upon our hearts, that we shall never forget you. Let us be blessed to remain in your Church, faithful ever to your New Covenant.
Your promise fulfill among us, LORD, in our obedience to Peter and all your apostles. I pray we shall learn to judge by your standards, and not according to our selfish concern.
Reveal to us your Word and your Way, LORD, and let us follow Him to the end. Though we must travel through Jerusalem, may our joining in your Son’s sacrifice but serve to make us holy in your sight.
Take not your Spirit from our hearts, LORD; never let us be separated from you. But be pleased with our humility, and remember our sins no more.
The joy of your salvation shall be ours, if we build our house upon your Rock. O LORD, day to day may we be released from all bonds, washed ever in the blood of the Messiah.
Mon, 6 August 2018
(Jer.30:1-2,12-15,18-22; Ps.102:16-23,29; Mt.14:22-36)
“His assembly before me shall stand firm.”
The words of the prophet Jeremiah are fulfilled in the Apostle Peter and in the Church, for upon this Rock we have our firm foundation.
“The Lord looked down from His holy height, from heaven He beheld the earth”; and when the time had come, He sent His only Son. And that Son, in all His wisdom, chooses those who would follow Him, making certain thereby that indeed “the children of [His] servants shall abide, and their posterity shall continue in [the Father’s] presence,” thus fulfilling the word of the Lord: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Yes, Jeremiah declares of the New Jerusalem, the “city [that] shall be rebuilt upon [the] hill”: “His leader shall be one of his own, and his rulers shall come from his kin.” Jesus is of our kind, a man like each of the Lord’s children, and so is the apostle He chooses – and all who likewise follow. All bishops and priests, all the descendants of Peter and the apostles in the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the flesh of Christ, all come from our midst and are our very brothers. And the Church is ruled by them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of our gospel today we find Jesus much as He was the night before choosing His apostles – “He went up on the mountain to pray, remaining there alone as evening drew on.” John the Baptist has been killed and the time has come now for our Lord’s mission to increase, and so He prepares Himself for this next step in His ministry. And so it becomes His primary concern to be sure that when the time comes for Him to die, His successor shall be readied. And so the test and teaching He brings His Rock, Peter.
“When I summon him, he shall approach me; how else should one take the deadly risk of approaching me? says the Lord.” Again Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled, for Peter does not come to Jesus on his own, but first states, “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you across the water,” and waits for the Lord to exclaim: “Come!” And what happens now, what miracle? “Peter got out of the boat and began walking on the water, moving toward Jesus.” Yes, our Rock walks miraculously with the Lord! Then why does he begin to sink? you say. It is the Lord’s will to teach our leader, and all of us, of our dependence on Him alone and our need to cry out, “Lord, save me!” (Oh how sweet and instructive are the words Jesus whispers loudly into the apostle’s ears – “Why did you falter?”)
O may the Lord ever bless His Church with the firmness of faith found only in Him! May we ever stand in His presence, unshaken by the winds of the world and our own human weakness. Yes, may we be His children.
O LORD, let us stand in assembly before you,
healed of all our wounds.
YHWH, make us your people that you may be our God. Call us to you, for how shall we approach your majesty except at your invitation? If we have not word from you, surely we shall sink in the sea, for our hearts are terribly afraid of the winds of this world and the prospect of your punishment. But trusting in you, we may follow Peter walking on the water; we may become as your children by the grace of your Son.
How great is your mercy toward us, dearest LORD, for you hear us as we cry out to you; from the darkness of this prison you release our souls. Even in the night you come to us, well aware of the troubles we encounter in doing your will. Great pity you have for us as you look down from your holy height, and to the heights of Mount Zion you would draw us, that we might join your Son in prayer and praise of your NAME. By you alone shall we be glorified, and remain in your presence always.
Sat, 28 July 2018
(2Kgs.4:42-44; Ps.145:10-11,15-18; Eph.4:1-6; Jn.6:1-15)
“They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”
O Lord, “the eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give them their food in due season; you open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” You are He who is “just in all His ways and holy in all His works,” and eating the food you offer, we become holy as well.
Brothers and sisters, if we “live in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace,” what shall not be ours? Will the cup upon our table not overflow? For then we shall be holy as He is holy. And what does it mean to be holy but to be perfect, to be complete? Did not those reclining on the grass eat as much bread “and also as much fish as they wanted”? Is it not true that they “had their fill”? And will those who come to the table of the Lord today, to partake of the sacrifice offered on His altar, be found wanting? No, certainly not. For as far as Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves surpasses Elisha’s feeding the hundred with twenty loaves, thus far and more does Jesus’ feeding our bodies and souls with His Bread and Wine surpass the miracle we hear of today in our gospel. For now billions eat. Now all who come are fed. Without limit souls are satisfied, and satisfied unto heaven.
Two notes I would make regarding our readings today. The first is that when Jesus performed this miracle of feeding the five thousand, “the Jewish feast of the Passover was near.” The Evangelist does not state this in vain: it is on the feast of the Passover Jesus shall offer Himself as the new Lamb of whose flesh all must partake – it is this day He shall institute the Eucharist. And note, too, Elisha’s immediate words upon being offered the twenty barley loaves as a gift: “Give it to the people to eat.” What is given him he offers to all, and so prefigures our Lord’s generous sacrifice of Himself – and so exemplifies the attitude we all must have to whatever the Lord provides. For then it is we show faith in our God’s providential hand; and it is then we participate in the abundant outpouring of His gifts upon all who await His blessing. “One body and one Spirit” are we all, and to this oneness there is no limit.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Whole Whale" (first third) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, it is by your hand we are fed –
let us look not upon the things of this earth.
YHWH, in our hunger our eyes look hopefully to you, and you do not disappoint our longing; you feed us by the hand of your only Son – upon His Body we feast. For He gives Himself to us that we might never hunger again, for to the abundance of this food there is no end. All who desire shall eat, and there shall be some left over.
We need not fear that the food you provide shall run short and we be left alone in a desert place. No, to all who call upon you in truth you are very near, O LORD, very ready to answer our pleas. How much closer could you be to us than in the flesh and blood of your only Son? What more could you give us to eat than His presence?
We are one in you, O LORD, one in body and one in spirit through your Son; we are all your children, dear God and Father, and in the love of Jesus that oneness is fulfilled. And so we praise your surpassing glory.
Fri, 27 July 2018
(Jer.7:1-11; Ps.84:2-6,8,11; Mt.13:24-30)
“Reform your ways and your deeds,
so that I may remain with you in this place.”
We hear again today of the failure of “the temple of the Lord” and its sacrifices to bring the Israelites to the eternal presence of God. For though the Lord “sowed good seed in His field,” though He made His temple a house of prayer, it has become “a den of thieves” in the eyes of His chosen. And the Lord “see[s] what is being done.” And because they “steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, [and] burn incense to Baal,” the Israelites break the covenant upon which the temple is founded, and it can but fall to ruin. The Lord spells out what they must do to preserve the integrity of His temple: “If each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm…” but though He repeatedly warns them of what it takes to maintain His presence in their midst, yet they repeatedly turn from His blessings and the words the prophets offer. Unable to “thoroughly reform [their] ways and [their] deeds,” they cannot but lose the temple.
But, again, there is hope. For what has not been preserved on earth shall be made permanent in heaven. Though “an enemy came and sowed weeds through His wheat,” and though in this world they are not rooted out from our midst – though our worship fall short of the Lord’s eternal glory, yet Jesus comes to perfect God’s will in us, drawing us to the Temple not made by human hands… and with Him the weeds are no more. Yes, because of our sin we lose His blessing; but by His grace our worship is made whole in His sight.
“My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” In the heart of Jesus I would dwell; in His flesh we find the Temple. And His Temple we become as we eat His Body and drink His Blood. As we follow this Word made flesh, we are redeemed and our home with God blessed permanently. And so in truth and with His love welling up in our souls, we cry with our psalmist: “I had rather live at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked”; and so, “happy” indeed we are. Praise the Lord for His eternal goodness, for in Him “even the sparrow finds a home.”
O LORD, the weeds are bundled for burning,
for sin cannot stand in your sight;
only the pure of heart enter your House.
YHWH, be with us in this place; gather us as wheat into your barn. Make our bodies the temple of your Spirit, that we shall be pleasing to you and so with you remain.
There are weeds among your wheat, LORD, and there are sins that prick our hearts and move to separate us from you and your love, and your presence with us. O let us reform our ways and our deeds! that our lives may find your blessing and we dwell forever in your holy Temple.
Our heart and our flesh cry out to you, O living God, that we might live in your sight, that we might be as your own precious children united in heart and flesh with you. Even in this land let us be with you; let this land become as Heaven by your Body and Blood among us, by our joining ourselves in joy with you… by the reform of our lives according to your Word.
Sat, 21 July 2018
(Jer.23:1-6; Ps.23:1-6; Eph.2:13-18; Mk.6:30-34)
“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow.”
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose.” How true to Isaiah’s prophecy are King David’s words; and how true is Jesus as the “righteous shoot to David” who “shall reign and govern wisely,” who shepherds the people of God. And how blessed “the house of the Lord” in which we dwell “for years to come.”
Brothers and sisters, is not that shore onto which Jesus disembarks in our gospel today the place where He “refreshes [our] soul”? Does He not make these “restful waters” for all who are “like sheep without a shepherd”? For is He Himself not the ocean in which we are cleansed and so find our peace; does His teaching not shepherd our wayward hearts into secure pastures?
“He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” Is Paul not true in his preaching when he claims that through Jesus all “have access in one Spirit to the Father”? Though before there may have been Gentile and Jew and a “dividing wall of enmity” between the two, though still division may persist in the nations of man, yet the Son has come “that He might create in Himself one new person,” that He might reconcile both with God.” And so all are one in His peace which He offers “through the cross.”
“This is the name they give Him: ‘The Lord our justice,’” for He does “what is just and right in the land.” To this land He has come; upon this earth He has disembarked. And now “moved with pity” He teaches us truth; “He guides [us] in right paths for His name’s sake.” And faithful is He in His promise to “appoint shepherds” to lead us in His grace. Already in our gospel we see the apostles rejoice in “all they have done and taught” by His authority. And so, peace we should find now in the walls of His Church, our daily bread offered at His pulpit and upon His altar.
Thank you, Lord, for fulfilling your promise in our midst each day.
Thank you for shepherding us to eternal glory.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "We Are God's Breath" (first half) from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, in Jesus we find our peace this day,
for He shepherds our souls with care.
YHWH, we are like sheep without a shepherd, scattered to the four corners of the earth, but your Son comes to gather us into His arms and make us one in His flesh. For He looks upon our lost souls with pity and leads us kindly to your House. In His blood let all be anointed, that we might find peaceful repose with you.
How blessed are those whom you look upon in your goodness, LORD; how blessed those who seek your Son. For they shall find Him ready to bless them with His presence and the Word from His sacred lips. And no longer shall we be wanting for anything – if we have Him we are indeed at peace.
To restful waters let us come with Him, He whom you raise up to do your will. Then our souls shall be refreshed, LORD, and in security we shall ever dwell. O the justice that rains down upon us by His presence in our midst! Through His Cross, from all enmity we shall be set free.
Sat, 14 July 2018
(Amos 7:12-15; Ps.85:8-14; Eph.1:3-14; Mk.6:7-13)
“Justice shall walk before Him,
and prepare the way of His steps.”
And so when the disciples are sent out, the Lord “instruct[s] them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick.” The walking stick signifies that the carrier is on an itinerant mission, and the walking stick serves to support the traveler along his way. The walking stick is the cross of Christ, which does both these things and brings all the grace and guidance we need on our journey through life. The walking stick is prepared in justice, the justice of the blood of Christ, and so it brings all who take it up to the kingdom of God.
The Father “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,” and so, what more do we need than His cross, since in it “we have redemption by His blood”? And now we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession,” and thereby ready to walk the path He sets before us this day. The cross of contradiction going before us, we join the apostles who “went off and preached repentance.” Amos, too, heeded this call to chastise the people for their sins. And for this he, too, suffered the cross, being commanded by the power of the world: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!” But still he continues to preach repentance, still he is faithful to the Lord’s instruction to “prophesy to [His] people Israel.” And so must all His apostles be.
We need not fear the persecution upon us for “near indeed is [the Lord’s] salvation to those who fear Him.” To those who are faithful to His call, “the Lord Himself will give all His benefits.” We have all we need “in accord with the riches of His grace that He lavished upon us,” and we must only be “holy and without blemish before Him” – as is His desire – to find every blessing we require. And He will give us “authority over unclean spirits”; He will enable us to cast all evil from His sight. And so “to the praise of His glory” there will be “glory dwelling in our land.” His justice walks now before us; let us go in the way of His steps. His cross is all we need for the journey.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Give Me Strength" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, we have every spiritual blessing
in the heavens –
what more do we need than the Cross of Christ?
YHWH, you send forth your apostles and prophets to preach repentance, to proclaim salvation to those who turn to your Christ and wash themselves in the blood of His Cross. This is all we need to find your peace; this is all we need to make our way through this world. In the Cross let us take our refuge, and your Spirit will be with us.
O let us be healed, dear LORD! that we might praise your holy NAME for the redemption upon us. Let us not turn away from those you send in Jesus’ Name, but seek rather to walk in His steps with them. You look down from Heaven and send us your Son to be born amongst us and bring glory to this land… Let His kindness and truth meet in us that we too might know your benefits and be your treasured possession forever.
What need we but the power of truth speaking in your Son – O LORD, drive out the demons from among us.
Sat, 7 July 2018
(Ez.2:2-5; Ps.123:1-4; 2Cor.12:7-10; Mk.6:1-6)
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
And so Ezekial, though he is being sent to those “who have rebelled against [God],” to those who are “hard of face” and “obstinate of heart,” yet must declare, “Thus says the Lord,” yet must call to their rebellious hearts “whether they heed or resist.” Likely they will resist him; likely they will persecute him, as they have all the prophets, but still he must “lift up [his] eyes” to Him who is “enthroned in heaven” – despite his weakness before these lions, he must stand strong with God.
And “so are our eyes on the Lord, our God”; so do we look to Him constantly for His mercy and protection. “We are more than sated with contempt: our souls are more than sated with the mockery of the arrogant, with the contempt of the proud.” The believing Christian cannot but be persecuted by the wickedness of the world, pervasive in all men’s hearts, for he stands in constant opposition to the lust and greed and violence with which fallen man seeks to fill his soul. What can we be but weak in the face of such a hardened enemy. And yet we must make that enemy our friend; yet we must say with Paul: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ.” For we know that the power of God is with us despite our humiliation; we know that He acts just the same to thwart the wicked.
On the cross they mocked the Lord; they spurned His goodness and looked with contempt on His love, a love which died for them who beat Him. And today we see that Jesus “came to His native place… to teach in the synagogue,” despite the fact that they would “[take] offense at Him.” They cannot believe this humble carpenter’s son could teach with such wisdom: “Where did this man get all this?” they ask in doubt of His origin. The Lord’s weak appearance belies the mighty Spirit which is upon Him; and those who are blind to truth and so slow of heart to believe cannot but mock and stone Him who alone would give them strength.
Brothers and sisters, to whatever people you go let them know “that a prophet has been among them”; show them all that Christ has risen from the dead. There may be some who will turn from their sin, and even if rebuked, you will maintain the power of the grace of God within. Always remember, it is not you who speak but the Lord.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (first half) from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, though so human and weak in ourselves,
in you we are strong.
YHWH, you call us to endure the mockery of the arrogant, the contempt of the proud. Though persecuted for the Word we bring to rebellious souls, we must nonetheless speak in your NAME, content with such mistreatment. If even your Son was rejected by His kin, to whom He came working wonders, what should we expect else, we who are but weak men? Let us not be afraid to join in the suffering of Jesus, but rejoice that we are called to be as He is.
In humble stature your Christ walked amongst us, but great was your power upon Him. Though we would inevitably reject His loving call and fix Him to a cross, He did not turn from such mockery of His divinity. And so we call upon you, LORD, to give us the strength He showed, to be with us through all that comes with walking in His way. Let your grace be at work in us as we go forth to hardened souls.
Thu, 5 July 2018
(Amos 8:4-6,9-12; Ps.119:2,10,20,30,40,131,Mt.4:46; Mt.9:9-13)
“Many tax collectors and those known as sinners
came to join Jesus and His disciples at dinner.”
It is just such as these that Amos prophesies against in our first reading; it is sinners such as Matthew whom he addresses when he declares, “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” For the apostle the Lord calls today is a tax collector, one of those famous for extorting money from his fellow Jews even while standing in the stead of their occupiers, the Romans. And so are he and his kind not like those who can’t wait for an end to the Lord’s sabbath that they might “fix their scales for cheating,” greedily proclaiming, “Even the refuse of the wheat we will sell”? And so is it any wonder the Pharisees complained, “What reason can the Teacher have for eating with tax collectors and those who disregard the law?”
Our psalm itself supports the importance of following the law of the Lord, stating, “Happy are they who observe His decrees, who seek Him with all their heart.” And so, how unhappy, how lacking in God’s blessing must Matthew be to live apart from His word. And so, are not the Pharisees correct in their assessment that such as he deserve but condemnation?
They are correct. It cannot be denied. But what they cannot see is that they are just as guilty. What they do not understand, as these others do, is that before their eyes the Lord’s prophecy through Amos is being realized: “I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight,” our God makes known – and it is the sinners they condemn who are the ones who “mourn as for an only son”; it is they who now “gasp with open mouth in [their] yearning for [the Lord’s] commands”… it is they who recognize the famine “for hearing the word of the Lord” that is upon the earth and upon their souls, and turn to the Son who feeds the hungry even as He joins them at table. What these Pharisees do not see is that the justice of the Lord is not the judgment in their hearts, else all, including themselves, would be condemned.
Brothers and sisters, open your eyes to the emptiness of your soul and come to His table this day with open mouth and open heart to hear His Word and receive His Body and Blood. For it is repentant sinners such as you whom the Lord feeds quite freely.
O LORD, in the darkness of our midday,
your Son has made the sacrifice for our sins;
and so now you but desire our merciful love,
that we should long to be as Him.
YHWH, how shall we live unless you feed us with the bread of your Word? We die as in a desert when you withhold your mercy from our souls. Come to our table this day and give us the food we need to live eternally – give us your very self!
Is there not a famine upon the land, O LORD? Are we not without the light of your guidance? Do we not turn from your commands to love of gain and so lose our souls in sin? How the earth is covered in darkness!
Have mercy on us, dear God, have mercy. Open our hearts to listen to your voice of instruction; let us thirst for the words of your mouth as we abandon our wicked posts. If we seek you, we shall find you – let us set our hearts on your love.
It is your great desire to forgive our sins, to save us by your mercy, LORD. You search us out to gather us to your table. On the flesh of your Son let us feast this day. Let us be found by your grace in the kingdom of Heaven.
Sun, 1 July 2018
(Amos 2:6-10,13-16; Ps.50:16-23; Mt.8:18-22)
“Consider this, you who forget God,
lest I rend you and there be no one to rescue you.”
What we should realize from our readings today is that the Word of the Lord is severe. Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, etc. – His chastising hand is upon us in the words He speaks to our sinful hearts. He does not nod and smile as we walk our errant ways, but calls us onto the strait path He treads.
In our first reading and psalm the Lord recounts the sins of the people, “drawing them up before [their] eyes”; and for their crimes He declares, “I will not revoke my word” – they shall not escape His punishing hand. They who “sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals,” who “trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth,” will themselves be “crush[ed]… into the ground as a wagon crushes when laden with sheaves.” The sheaves of their sins are indeed heavy, and will duly lie upon their backs. Those, too, who are thieves and adulterers, who give their mouths “free rein for evil” and “harness [their] tongue for deceit,” will not their fate be the same? And you, brothers and sisters, “when you do these things, shall [the Lord] be deaf to it?” He is not evil as yourselves, and so cannot stomach your iniquity.
And do you think with Jesus you will be able to continue in your sin? Because He bears your sins upon His shoulders, because He is crushed to the ground for your sakes, do you find thereby the right to go on sinning? Do you somehow believe the way of Christ is easier than that presented through Amos? Listen to His demand: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” This He says to a seemingly willing disciple who desires to remain with his family a while, not to a notorious dictator or a profligate heathen. And do you still wish to follow Him who “has nowhere to lay His head,” Him whom the world wishes dead – Him who will be whipped and beaten and crucified for the sins of mankind? This is your fate. This is your fate, O Christian. In it will you find your joy?
The Lord has come to rescue us, indeed to exalt us on high, “and to him that goes the right way [He] will show the salvation of God.” But your sins are not forgotten by Him who sees all things; they are no light matter in His sight. And following Him is not an easy road, for He is God.
O LORD, help us to leave the sin of the world behind
and follow you wholeheartedly, lest we die.
YHWH, how can we follow you when your way is so severe and we are such sinners? Who among us does not betray your Word; who among us is innocent of crimes? Only you are without stain, without attachment to this sinful plane – the rest of us have wickedness dwelling in our hearts
Yet you call us, LORD, to follow you; yet you desire us to be where you are, to live as you do. And so, what can we do but beg your forgiveness? What can we do but thank you for bringing our sins up before our eyes? What can we do but praise you for the grace you provide?
Let our mouth not speak evil, LORD; let us not walk in the way of sinners. Let us be obedient to your word of truth, to your blessed call to our souls… and make haste to follow along your way. We cannot trust in our own strength, lest we die – let us trust in your mercy and goodness alone, and follow along the way of your salvation. Then we shall be sinners no more, crushed by the weight of our guilt, but your light burden we shall bear, your Son’s redeeming Cross.
Tue, 26 June 2018
(2Kgs.22:8-13,23:1-3; Ps.119:33-37,40; Mt.7:15-20)
“Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I take delight.”
The people of Judah and Jerusalem have been unfaithful to God and to the covenant made with Him, and so the time of their exile draws near: soon this remaining tribe of Israel shall join the others in being cast from their promised land. But today we hear of a faithful king, Josiah, who makes a kind of final effort, a final sign of faithfulness among the people, as he seeks to restore what has been so sorely lost by the nation.
King Josiah recognizes that Judah has sinned against God and so lost His blessing; and this truth is brought home to him in the clear light of “the book of the law,” which has been uncovered in the temple of the Lord, dusted off of its many years of neglect, and read in his hearing. Hearing the commands of the Lord, the Word which gives life to its hearer, the king tears his garments in penitence for what has been lacking to the kingdom, and declares: “The anger of the Lord has been set furiously ablaze against us because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.” To his great credit he seeks now to fulfill these stipulations, making “a covenant before the Lord that they would follow Him and observe His ordinances, statutes, and decrees with their whole hearts and souls, thus reviving the terms of the covenant which were written in the book.” The covenant made through Moses he looks to restore.
“And all the people stood as participants in the covenant”; a measure of the blessing does return to God’s chosen as they “turn away [their] eyes from what is vain” and find life in the ways of the Lord. Here is a final harvest of good fruit before the tree turns rotten and so must be uprooted from the Lord’s sight.
Brothers and sisters, it is adherence to the Word of God which gives all life; it is faithfulness to His call that is our bread of life. If we do not remain in Him and walk in “the way of His statutes,” we are no better than the “false prophets” who are but “wolves on the prowl” and shall be burned in the fires of Gehenna. If we are faithless how shall our tree grow? And if no growth, then no God have we, and we shall but rot.
In His light let us remain, seeking the nourishment of His Word and the Bread we break and offer at His altar. And we shall need fear no exile from the Promised Land, from the Temple that is our risen Christ… We shall be led ever in the way of Truth and grow each day unto Life.
O LORD, renew your Covenant within us,
that we might bear good fruit in your presence.
YHWH, if we but followed your Word and your way, heeding the commands you give us for the nourishment of our souls, then would we bear fruit unto eternal life; then would all be well with our lives. But in disobedience we turn from you to follow our own desires, and so cast from your sight we can only be.
Forgive us, LORD, the sins upon our hands and upon our hearts; let your wrath not blaze against us – save us from the fire! Help us to renew this day our commitment to you and to your Word of truth, that your love might return to us and feed us well. O let us return to you!
So blind we have been, so deaf to your Word, O holy LORD. And so, holiness has escaped us. Let us no longer be led astray by false notions conceived in the corruption of sin but repent entirely of our hypocrisy. Let us but serve you and not our selfishness, and you will bless us once again and we will remain standing strong in your Temple, as your chosen people in light. May your Word take root within our hearts and grow unto eternal life.
Thu, 21 June 2018
(2Kgs.11:1-4,9-18,20; Ps.132:11-14,17-18; Mt.6:19-23)
“The eye is the lamp of the body.
If your eye is good, your body will be filled with light;
if your eye is bad, your body will be in darkness.”
And “how deep the darkness” is upon Athaliah. For her eye is evil, her “light is darkness,” as so desperately she seeks to “lay up for [herself] an earthly treasure” by unjust and murderous means. Seeing that her son, the king of Judah, has died, she attempts to hold on to his crown by killing all the rightful heirs to his throne, caring more for the things which “moth and rust corrode” than for the righteousness of God. And she succeeds, though only briefly, as, true to the words of our gospel today, “thieves break in and steal” the kingship she has herself stolen away. And how great is her woe upon seeing all she has so anxiously and vainly sought removed from under her sight. How deep indeed is her darkness, deeper than the death she is about to endure.
In our psalm today we are reminded of the promise the Lord has made with David, king of all Israel: “If your sons keep my covenant and the decrees which I teach them, their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.” For in Zion the Lord vows to “place a lamp for [His] anointed,” and declares that upon His chosen one His “crown shall shine.” This crown, this lamp, is for all the Lord’s children to receive, to shine forth in His holy presence. All who keep to His ways shall know such blessing. But, clearly, those who turn away lose the light the Lord deems to give to us as followers of His One Light, Jesus Christ. And however boldly or by whatever anxious means we attempt to hold on to it, it shall be removed from us like the passing day. Only remaining in Him are we saved.
In our first reading the people, led by Jehoiada the priest of God, renew the covenant “by which they would be the Lord’s people.” Terribly they have fallen from it and its grace and seek to regain what has now, and so often, been lost. Continually, in fact, the Israelites fell away from the Lord’s command and so were abandoned to their sins – thus necessitating the coming of Christ – but continually the Lord returns them to the light when they return to Him, until finally Jesus does come.
Let us not be as the Israelites have been, brothers and sisters, so easily led into darkness and error, so easily seeking to look upon the evil of this earth. The Lord has come now to lead us away from just such things and give us a light that never fades. It is for us to remain with Him. Let your eye be sound, and so let His wisdom shine through you, O blessed one.
O LORD, let us shine like your Son
in your heavenly kingdom.
YHWH, upon what are our hearts set? Are they set on you and the doing of your will? Do we seek indeed your kingdom? Or do we look to gain whatever we can of earthly treasure, and so set ourselves in opposition to your law of love? You alone are King; your Son alone is the rightful heir to all. Let us place Him upon the throne of our hearts and rejoice at your presence there.
How evil man can be, O LORD, how blind and desperate in his selfishness. Into such grave darkness can we fall when we set our hearts on the things of this world. But how vain power and riches are; how quickly they come to an end, for these are not ours but yours alone, and they return to you at the end of the day. And so, if we would hold to them, we would find ourselves fighting you… and that is a battle we cannot win.
O LORD, have mercy on your people! Take not your light from our midst – make us your very dwelling place. Let your light shine forth from all your children as they set their hearts on Heaven.
Sat, 9 June 2018
(Gn.3:9-15; Ps.130:1-8; 2Cor.4:13-5:1; Mk.3:20-35)
“With the Lord is kindness
and with Him is plenteous redemption.”
We hear today recounted in our first reading our first parents’ tragic fall from the grace of God into the boundaries of hell – for now they tend to hide themselves from His glorious face. Oh such disobedience that has caused such painful separation of the crown of creation from the Creator’s hand! And what greater punishment than this can we know: not to be eternally in His presence as was His intent? And for such sin inflicted upon our race our psalmist is caused to plea: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice!” For release from the “iniquities” upon his soul he begs the Lord… and so is proclaimed the cry of us all.
And does the Lord hear? He cannot help but hear, for “with [Him] is forgiveness, that [He] may be revered.” He draws His children back to His paradise by the cords that are the blood of Christ, “that the grace bestowed on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.” “Knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also… we are not discouraged… For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.” Sin may well be at work within us, causing the body to die, causing us to give up our lives – forcing us to put no stock in the passing things of this life; but through this sacrifice the Lord is at work building our home in heaven. Paul sums up this redemptive process so beautifully when he says, “This momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison.” For the affliction indeed passes with these passing things, but His house is eternal.
And in our gospel we see well that Jesus has come and “plunder[ed] the house” of Satan. “He drives out demons” from this decaying house in which we dwell, dividing it against itself and breaking the hold Satan has on souls by the corrupted influence of the flesh. Anointing fallen man with the purity of the Holy Spirit, as by fire sin is consumed. What devil can stand in this light? What influence has sin upon our souls with Jesus as our God? And so we poor fallen creatures become as His own, as His “brother and sister and mother,” for by the grace that comes only from the Son, again we become one with the Father – in joy we stand before His loving gaze. “More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord,” for now has our redemption come.
Written and produced by James Kurt; read by Sylvia Kurt.
Music: "Unbind Yourself" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, with hope we look to the dawn
when we shall be freed from sin
and joined to your Son.
YHWH, how can we be forgiven our foolish disobedience, which has separated us from your presence, from the House in which you dwell? How shall we reenter there, we who are so bound by Satan because of our sin? Will you hear our cry, O LORD?
You cannot but hear our cry, dearest God; you quickly answer those who seek forgiveness and the doing of your will. You will not turn your back on those who mourn for their iniquities, who long again to see your face. Indeed, Jesus you send to us.
And from what does your Son hold back in redeeming our lives from the grave? What will He not do to convince us of your love for your wayward children? We must but accept His Word, His love, even as He hangs on the Cross for us, and not spurn the Spirit’s work in Him. He will make us as His brothers, plundering Satan’s possession of our soul and bestowing your glory upon us, if we but trust in you and your loving mercy.
Fri, 1 June 2018
(Jd.17,20-25; Ps.63:2-6; Mk.11:27-33)
“Welcome the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
which leads to eternal life.”
“As [Jesus] was walking in the temple precincts the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders approached Him.” They come to Him who is the true Temple here in the place where He teaches, but they do not come “praying in the Holy Spirit” or “persever[ing] in God’s love.” Their questions rather are those which hold condemnation. If they had come seeking truth, they would be able to speak truth when asked by Him of John’s baptism. But, far from seeking the grace of God, they desire only political advantage. And so they think among themselves, “If we say…” and “Can we say…” instead of simply baring their souls before Him who could save them. And so, answering, “We do not know,” indeed do they close themselves off from knowledge of the “authority” and “power” given to Jesus the Christ.
This cannot be our faith, brothers and sisters. Our faith must be as that sung of so beautifully by David in our psalm today: “O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.” With all our beings we must strive to know Him whom our soul loves. Knowing our own emptiness apart from Him who is Truth, we indeed turn our “[gaze] toward [Him] in the sanctuary,” we indeed long for His love and mercy. And instead of speaking ill against Him or looking to condemn Him, rather we bless Him with all our souls, singing with His servant David: “Lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name… and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.”
The baptism of John was divine and Jesus is its divine fulfillment. He is the “One who can protect [us] from a fall and make [us] stand unblemished and exultant in the presence of His glory” if we but say, “Glory be to this only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” His indeed are “majesty” and “might”; He indeed “correct[s] those who are confused” and “snatch[es] others from the fire.” He has rescued us from sin and poured the water of the Holy Spirit upon us to slake our thirst for Him. And so, “as with the riches of a banquet shall [our] soul be satisfied.” By the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, heaven is now ours.
O LORD, keep us from falling into our pride;
let us not be separated from you.
YHWH, how shall we stand unblemished and exultant in your presence? For all glory and majesty are yours, and what are we but sinful men? Take the stain from our hands and from our clothing. Only by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ will we be made ready to stand before you; only by His grace can we bless your holy NAME.
O let our lips praise you, dear God! May our souls be satisfied as with the riches of a banquet, the banquet of your eternal kingdom. Let us not doubt the glory you would share with us through our Baptism into your only Son. Let us know that He has come from you and would take us to you this day.
O LORD, we gaze toward you in the sanctuary – our hearts long to join with you on high. Thank you for making your presence known to us even on this plane, and help us to persevere in your love each day.
Thu, 31 May 2018
(1Pt.4:7-13; Ps.96:10-13; Mk.11:11-26)
“The consummation of all is close at hand.
Therefore, do not be perturbed;
remain calm so that you will be able to pray.”
As at the time Jesus walks the earth the end of the Israelite nation is at hand – a consummation signified in “the fig tree withered to its roots” at His command, a consummation that will be fulfilled in the crucifixion of the Messiah but whose coming is already evident in the fact that the temple has been turned into “a den of thieves” – so at the time of Peter’s writing, that end is about to be realized in the destruction of the temple. And more than this, the “trial by fire” occurring in the midst of the disciples refers greatly to the death of this world we face in becoming Christians, to the persecution faced by all His children and felt most genuinely at the hands of the Romans.
But as all around is cast into the sea at the command of the Lord, we should not fear. This is the time to “put [our] trust in God,” to pray in faith, to put [our] gifts at the service of one another” and “let [our] love for one another be constant.” Rather than be sad, we must “rejoice instead, insofar as [we] share Christ’s sufferings.” For it should be our joy to see the temple cleansed, to have our hearts purified of all that is not holy – to witness the power of the hand of God at work. “For He governs the peoples with equity” as “He comes to rule the earth,” so indeed “the heavens [should] be glad and the earth rejoice.”
“In all of you God is to be glorified through Jesus Christ.” His “house is to be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We are His House now; we hold His promise – and we come to His glory as we share in the trials He has known. If the end is close at hand, if the world is already dead, if the devil’s illusions are about to fade… what can this bring us but joy to know the Truth is about to be revealed and all His faithful ones are about to be gathered into His kingdom? Remain steadfast in love and prayer, and “a multitude of sins” shall indeed be covered; and the new life which has sprung from the withered roots of the fig tree shall soon be fulfilled in your sight.
O LORD, drive all evil from our midst
that we might not wither to our roots.
YHWH, you come to rule the earth with justice, to cast out all evildoers that your House might indeed be a house of prayer. And though such purgation bring suffering to our souls (for who is without sin?), uniting our trials to the sufferings of Christ and remaining true to His Word, we are indeed purged of all sin and made ready for the kingdom.
O let us love this day! Let us place ourselves at the service of one another, freely sharing the gifts we have by the grace of your Son. It is in Him we find our home, in Him we know our salvation, and so let His chastisement be upon us for good, O LORD, as we seek to join Him in your eternal glory.
All the earth shall rejoice at the coming of Jesus; the heavens shall sing praise at such wonder. For though the consummation of all be close at hand, O God, all who put their trust in you shall be remade in His image. Alleluia!
Tue, 29 May 2018
(1Pt.1:18-25; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Mk.10:32-45)
“The Son of Man has not come to be served but to serve –
to give His life in ransom for the many.”
As Jesus and His apostles make their “way up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes,” He tells them that these elders of the people “will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles, who will mock Him and spit at Him, flog Him, and finally kill Him.” He then adds, “But three days later He will rise.” Here is the Gospel in short. Here is “the living and enduring Word of God,” the “indestructible seed” which brings us to life by our “faith and hope” centered upon it. Yes, “by Christ’s blood” we “were delivered from the futile way of life” that sin wrought in us; this blood is “the blood of a spotless, unblemished lamb chosen before the world’s foundation and revealed for [our] sake in these last days.” Christ has died, Christ is risen, and in Him we come to life again.
And we must “drink the cup” He drinks; we must “be baptized in the same bath of pain.” There is no other way to His glory. Our lives on this earth must be joined in sacrifice with Him. Never are we to “lord it over” others; but always we “must serve the rest.” So Jesus instructs His apostles in this most weighty moment filled with “wonderment” and “fear,” as He stands at the precipice of His sacrifice. And Peter tells us the same when He counsels us to “love one another constantly from the heart.” Jesus’ blood is the greatest love and it is in this river we must swim; in this ocean we shall be cleansed – “by obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a genuine love of your brother,” the Lord’s principal apostle declares to all his faithful readers.
“He has proclaimed His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel,” and all these are summed up in the blood of the Lamb of God. “Swiftly runs His word” to all who seek redemption from God; swiftly it comes to pierce our hearts. And though by it we ourselves bleed with Him, by it “He has granted peace in [our] borders” – through Jesus we are “believers in… the God who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory,” and His same glory is ours as we die with Him now. Let this Word be inscribed upon your heart.
O LORD, your Son is the Word spoken by your mouth
that comes quickly to save us;
may we share in the cup He raises to His blessed lips.
YHWH, we are purified by the Word your Son speaks to us, by the Gospel preached in His Name – by His death and resurrection, which you desire us to share. Let His blood be upon us for good this day, that we might be thoroughly cleansed of our sins and come to serve you and one another.
Our faith and our hope are in you, LORD; all our desire is to join you in glory. The blessing of your way be known to us – let us walk the path to Jerusalem with your Son. For if we die with Him, if we lay down our lives in service of one another for your sake, then we shall live with you, saved from the death that comes upon all flesh.
Our lives are passing as the grass of the field; this you know, O LORD. But your Son has come to redeem our souls, to raise us from the dust that we might sit with Him in your kingdom. Let your will be done and we come by the drinking of His cup to the heavenly Jerusalem.
Mon, 28 May 2018
(1Pt.1:10-16; Ps.98:1-4; Mk.10:28-31)
“Set all your hope on the gift to be conferred on you
when Jesus Christ appears.”
“The Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.” That “which the prophets carefully searched out and examined” but was hidden from their eyes, that into which “angels long to search” is now indeed made known “by those who preach the Gospel to you, in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” Yes, “the divine favor which was destined to be [ours],” “the sufferings destined for Christ and the glories that would follow” spoken of in all Scripture by the Spirit of Christ, are now come into our midst; and it is these we wait to see fulfilled.
And as we await our salvation we must “become holy… after the likeness of the holy one who called” us. As we stay, we must share in His sufferings to find His glory. “Obedient sons” of the one Father, we must pattern ourselves after His only Son. “The desires that once shaped [us] in [our] ignorance” must be absolutely abandoned as we become holy as He.
And the same Peter who instructs us in the salvation prepared for us from all ages and the holiness which alone befits it, exclaims to Jesus in our gospel today, “We have put aside everything to follow you!” as if to plead, “Have we done enough?” And the Lord assures him all that he gives up for the kingdom’s sake shall return to him a hundredfold, and “in the age to come” he shall have “everlasting life.” For indeed, as the Lord has been, so the apostles have followed, and in these same steps we must walk – to this same cross we must come.
Here we stand at the end of salvation history, as the last in a long line of the children of God. But first we can be with the Spirit as our guide and conformed to the sufferings of Christ. Being at the end of this line we have the benefit of all the prophecy and teaching that has prepared this time; greater fullness of truth is ours than at any time before. And so, more so are we called to be like our Savior; impossible is it become for us to hide in ignorance. “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God,” the light of Christ has been cast upon all hearts, and to continue in sin becomes yet a greater torture – for our eyes are so much less blind. Now must the earth become obedient to His voice, calling so clearly in its soul; condemnation awaits otherwise. Now the simple word of truth spoken by God at the heart of Scripture must be our sure guide: “Be holy, for I am holy,” and our expectations will soon be fulfilled in Him.
O LORD, your Son has come
and now sends forth the Spirit;
let us put all aside to follow Him in holiness of life.
YHWH, your salvation you have made known to us; what the prophets declared has become so in our midst – your Son has walked among us and died for us that we might be saved. O let your salvation be fulfilled this day!
O LORD, make us holy as you are holy, that we might be where you are. Help us to walk the path to glory by fully embracing the Cross your Son provides. Help us gladly to give up all things that we might find all things anew in your presence.
What of this earth matters, O LORD? What is there we should put before our love for you? For all things are in your holy hands and only by you is anything blessed. And so, let us give ourselves to you who are holy, and you will make all things holy for us.
Thank you, O LORD, for your kindness toward us. Thank you for the blood your Son has shed. Thank you for making your love known to us, for now by your grace this love we may share. Open our eyes and our hearts to the glory of your way, and let us walk that way with Jesus.
Sun, 27 May 2018
(1Pt.1:3-9; Ps.111:1-2,5-6,9-10; Mk.10:17-27)
“Go and sell what you have and give to the poor;
you will then have treasure in heaven.”
“You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials,” for even if you are not a rich man with “many possessions” to give up, all that you have that is of the world must die before you will find “birth to an imperishable inheritance incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you.” You can have no pride, you can have no greed, you can have no lust in your heart if you are to find the kingdom of God. Your faith must be like “fire-tried gold” whose “genuineness [will] lead to praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ appears.”
Jesus’ question to the rich young man: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” is, I think, often misunderstood. The Lord is not saying not to call Him good because that title is reserved only for God, for He is God and deserves every title of praise we can utter. Rather, He is testing the young man, who kneels at this moment at His feet, to find out if he truly recognizes that He is “good”, that He is the Son of God.
This is borne out by the Lord’s response as to what the young man should do “to share in everlasting life.” Jesus first lists only the latter commandments, which refer to love of neighbor, which the young man rightfully states he has kept well. “Then Jesus looked at him with love and told him,” in essence, of his need to keep the first three commandments, those which refer to love of God, in a more complete fashion. For what is He telling him in our quote above but to have no false gods, to love the Lord with heart, mind, soul, and strength – and how is this accomplished but in His instruction: “Come and follow me”? As we give up the idols which spring from the earth, as all our possessions and our trust in them are taken from us, we find the “birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” By such death we follow Him unto heaven.
Brothers and sisters, “there is cause for rejoicing here,” for on this strait path, through this “needle’s eye,” we are “achieving faith’s goal, [our] salvation.” Let us “give thanks to the Lord with all [our] heart in the company and assembly of the just.” Let us “rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory” because God “has sent deliverance to His people; He has ratified His covenant forever.” And “He will ever be mindful of His covenant” – always He will be at our side by the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to the “salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days.” Endure now the sadness and distress of the death of this life, and find therein the fulfilling of your hope for the treasures of heaven.
O LORD, you make possible
even the salvation of our souls;
let us give up all things to follow you to everlasting life.
YHWH, we praise you, for with you all things are possible, even the salvation of our souls and our coming into your eternal presence. And so, whatever we suffer here brings us only joy, for all things bring us to your kingdom.
O LORD, may we be truly consecrated to you, thoroughly confirmed in your covenant with us, that the new birth you grant through the resurrection of your Son might be fulfilled and we come to dwell with you forever in Heaven. Let nothing of this passing earth stand in our way; let nothing obstruct our worship of you, that we may be truly happy and rejoice all our days in you.
Help us, dear God, to give up all our possessions, to desire to hold to nothing but you. Take all that is not of you from our souls and bodies – let our hearts be set on your surpassing glory.
What trial can sadden us, LORD, if our love is for you? You redeem us from all evil and give new life to our mortal frame. For such grace let us ever praise you.
Fri, 25 May 2018
(Jas.5:13-20; Ps.141:1-3,8; Mk.10:13-16)
“Let my prayer come like incense before you;
the lifting up of my hands, like the evening sacrifice.”
“The fervent petition of a holy man is powerful indeed.” For indeed Elijah “prayed earnestly” and “no rain fell on the land for three years and six months.” Then “when he prayed again, the sky burst forth with rain.” And now greater things are accomplished by prayer, especially of “the elders of the Church,” our priests, who, in union with Jesus the Lord, “reclaim the one who is ill” and bring “forgiveness” to the sinful soul. Redemption itself is at our hands through the Anointing of the Sick and Confession, and all the other blessed sacraments. And prayer by all souls is a constant guard and reclaimer of lives gone astray.
And in our gospel it is made clear what our disposition should be when we pray, when we come to Jesus. The Lord encourages the little children to come to Him and states unequivocally: “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a little child shall not enter into it.” We must always come to Him as children – with faith, in innocence, of truth – if we hope to gain a hearing in His sight, brothers and sisters. If when we call upon Him we do not have the pure faith of a child, how can we expect to communicate with Him who dwells in absolute light? If our prayer and our song fall short of the love and joy of innocent praise, then we fall short of reaching Him. But if in such innocence and with such faith and of such truth we come to Him, know that He will treat us just as the children who come to Him today: “He embraced them and blessed them, placing His hands on them.” Yes, then His holy hand will be upon our lives, and His great power we will find at work within us and through us.
“Toward you, O Lord, my eyes are turned.”
Please “hearken to my voice when I call upon you.”
“In you I take refuge; strip me not of life,”
but make me as your child of light.
Our prayer comes like incense before the Lord when it is united with the sacrifice of the Son. Anointed by the Lamb’s blood, all our cries rise unto the Father of Life.
O LORD, as a child let us come to you,
in trusting prayer,
and you will hear and answer us.
YHWH, how powerful prayer is! For it unites us to you and to your great power; it makes us as your children. Let our prayer be sincere, that we might find your gentle embrace.
There is nothing we need fear, dear LORD, if we but turn to you. If we ask, you will give, and cure us indeed of every ill. And so, let us pray for one another in your NAME, desire the salvation of all souls by your grace, and the blessing of your Son’s Cross will reign here on earth and bring us soon to Heaven. Let your will be done and your kingdom come.
Let us pray especially for your priests and the special power you give them to forgive men’s sins and make your presence known among us. In your sacraments we take our refuge, LORD; let them always be celebrated in accord with your Word.
Let our prayer come like incense before you, O LORD; may it be acceptable in your sight. Let it always come from an innocent heart.
Thu, 24 May 2018
(Jas.5:9-12; Ps.103:1-4,8-9,11-12; Mk.10:1-12)
“Merciful and gracious is the Lord,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.”
And we must be like Him.
James makes clear that we must “not grumble against one another,” nor swear on earth, any oath at all,” but rather simply speak “in the name of the Lord”: “Let it be ‘yes’ if you mean yes or ‘no’ if you mean no. In this way you will not incur condemnation.” And as a sign of the endurance we must have to find the Lord’s blessing, he reminds us of “the steadfastness of Job” and “what the Lord, who is compassionate and merciful, did in the end.”
“As your models in suffering hardships and in patience, brothers, take the prophets.” And, of course, Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets, and His suffering in silent servitude the sentence of crucifixion is the fulfillment of their endurance of persecution. And in our gospel today, does He not give example of the patience we all must hold and the clarity with which we all must speak? For when the Pharisees “ask Jesus whether it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife,” how do they intend their question but “as a test”? But the Lord does not take offense at their temptation; He simply answers them, clearly and to the point: “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female; for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and the two shall become as one.” And lest there be any doubt that He is saying no to divorce, He continues, “They are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, let no man separate what God has joined.” And even when “the disciples beg[i]n to question Him about this” again later, He remains patient and gives direct answer: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.”
The question would seem a simple one and the answer easy to understand, but is it not this question that is at the heart of man’s disobedience, of his grumbling against God? Is it not this answer man seeks most to change, thus leading to his greatest sins, and really to the destruction of society? Yet the Lord’s love is greater than our profligacy, and as the father so readily forgave the prodigal son, so He waits for us to turn to Him – to His presence, to His truth. As David sings of God: “He redeems your life from destruction, He crowns you with kindness and compassion”; and so He longs to “put our transgressions from us” “as far as the east is from the west.” Indeed Jesus “pardons all [our] iniquities, He heals all our ills” – for this has the Savior come. And if we but bless Him for “all His benefits” and share in His love in our relationships with others, we shall find the merciful Lord enabling our endurance of all on this earth and making firm our place with Him in heaven.
O LORD, man and woman are one
and are brought together in your will;
in our covenants let us reflect your mercy
YHWH, give us your patience in enduring all things. You are kind and merciful; let us be like you. Help us to practice your compassion in our marriages and in all our relationships – let us be ready as you to forgive. Yes, let all our sins be put far from us.
If we endure with you, O LORD, shall we not be blessed? If with you we practice patience and kindness when put to the test, will we not share in your reward? Let us be so joined to you, LORD, that we may indeed be called your Body in this world.
O my LORD, let us never be divorced from love of one another or love of you. Let our covenants be sure as your own; for you have promised to be with us even till the end of the age, and so, should we abandon one another? Would this not be an abandonment of you?
Let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, O LORD, and let us therefore live forever in your eternal Word, in the truth and love only you hold.
Wed, 23 May 2018
(Jas.5:1-6; Ps.49:14-20,Mt.5:3; Mk.9:41-50)
“You lived in wanton luxury on the earth;
you fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter.”
“You rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries,” James warns all those who trust in their wealth. For though they were “contented with their lot,” to find which they “condemned, even killed, the just man,” yet “like sheep they are herded into the netherworld,” where “quickly their form is consumed.” “Your wealth has rotted, your fine wardrobe has grown moth-eaten, your silver and gold have corroded” – all these things in which the fool has trusted will not only die of themselves but also “devour [his] flesh like a fire,” for so greatly has he placed his heart upon them that with their destruction he is also destroyed.
“See what you have stored up for yourselves against the last days.” The rich man fattens himself for “Gehenna, where ‘the worm dies not and the fire is never extinguished.’” Thus does Jesus call us to repentance in such severe terms, for lacking of it indeed how “quickly [our] form is consumed.” It is not the body which matters, or this earth; heaven is all that matters, and so our souls. Therefore, it is indeed better to cut off hand or foot or tear out one’s eye than to “enter Gehenna with its unquenchable fire.” For what are these things, what are all the riches of the world, in comparison with the kingdom of God and its eternal riches? Do not, therefore, be led astray by your earthly passions; store up treasures for heaven.
“The shouts of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” “The wages you withheld from the farmhands who harvested your fields” are known to God. And as “it would be better if anyone who leads astray one of these simple believers were to be plunged in the sea with a great millstone fastened around his neck,” so much better would be your fate than to suffer eternally the fires of hell. For what shall your unjust wealth benefit you there? From whom shall you steal among your fellow prisoners in chains?
“The netherworld is their palace,” those who grow rich on the backs of the poor and oppressed of this world. For ultimately “death is their shepherd, and the upright rule over them.” They “shall never more see light”; but peace shall reign in the hearts of all God’s children.
O LORD, let us not be plunged in the sea
or herded into the nether world,
but let us set our hearts and minds on you
and so find life everlasting.
YHWH, let us be poor, poor in spirit, poor to this world and its deadly passions. Let us put no hope in the riches that rot, or we shall rot with them. Let us seek, rather, the riches of your kingdom by giving our poor cup of water for the upbuilding of your Church.
Take from us, LORD, all that keeps us from you. Let us not steal or walk in the paths of the unrighteous or look with lust upon anything or anyone. Take hand or foot or eye from us instead; keep us from all sin. Let our salt not rot, our lives not be worthless, but let us bear fruit in your NAME.
LORD, our God, take especially from us our foolish pride, our belief that we can do anything of ourselves. O let us not trust in ourselves or in the things of this world but only in you and help rather than hurt the just man you bless in your holy will. Let all souls be led to your kingdom.
Tue, 22 May 2018
(Jas. 4:13-17; Ps.49:2-3,6-11,Mt.5:3; Mk.9:38-40)
“Anyone who is not against us is with us.”
And whoever is not with the Lord is against Him. There are only two ways by which a man may walk. We choose to place our lives in the hands of God, or we worship the things of this earth.
Indeed, anyone who “perform[s] a miracle in [His] name” is with Him, for a tree is known by its fruit. If indeed we commend our lives into the care of the Lord, saying, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that,” then we shall find His blessing at work within us, and we shall be His children, doing His will. And demons shall be expelled at our words. And we shall never “fear in evil days when [our] wicked ensnarers ring [us] round.”
But if instead we “make arrogant and pretentious claims,” boasting reprehensibly of the profits this earth shall bring us by the power of our own hands, we are in utter danger of the destruction we think can never touch us. For “in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God.” If we “have no idea what kind of life will be [ours] tomorrow” – and who knows the turns this earth does take? – what can we do at all by our own wills? We are, in fact, utterly dependent upon God for each breath we draw, and He may withdraw such life from us at any moment.
What fool is there among you who “trust[s] in [his] wealth”? Who are they for whom “the abundance of their riches is their boast”? Have you no eyes in your head? Is there no sense in your mind? “Hearken, all who dwell in the world, of lowly birth or high degree, rich and poor alike,” and from all lands and of all times – it is in Jesus alone that you find strength to draw your next breath; it is He alone who brings light to your eyes. Your riches will rot. Even prophecies will cease. There will not be a stone here left upon another. Consecrate yourself now to the Lord of all and begin to find His grace at work within you. And each day renew the power of God at work in you for that day. In His name do all things, and you shall be with Him, and He shall not leave you.
O LORD, let us be for you,
living perfectly in your will.
YHWH, let us be with you; let us give our lives to you, doing your work in accord with your will and not following the vain path our own desires mark out for us. Let us be your own; let us be your own, your disciples in this world.
How can we do anything if you do not bless it, LORD? Where shall we end if apart from you? For we indeed are as vapor that quickly vanishes, and empty are all our plans. But with you and in your NAME, miracles we can perform. Great works we may accomplish if in humility we follow your way; for you are great and all powerful, and we become as you are when we walk with you.
O LORD, we do not know what tomorrow may bring. Even this day is a mystery to us. Let us but place this day into your hands, and tomorrow will care for itself in your will. Let us not die seeking the vain riches of this earth but come to life by your saving grace.
Fri, 5 January 2018
(1Jn.5:5-13; Ps.147:12-15,19-20; Mk.1:7-11)
“God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in His Son.”
How reassuring John is to us who believe – “I have written this to you to make you realize that you possess eternal life” – for how easily we can forget the grace that is ours “in the name of the Son of God.” How sure he is. How clear in his explanation. How loving. One has little reason to wonder why he was beloved of the Lord, for this love bleeds in all his words and leads us to that love of Christ that is eternal life.
The Father’s witness has been given clearly, “You are my beloved Son. On you my favor rests.” Mark, too, makes certain that Jesus is the Son of God. How can we forget the words of the Father? And how can we forget the blood He has shed on our behalf, and the water that flows like baptism from His side? “It is the Spirit who testifies to this, and the Spirit is truth.” If you have the Spirit dwelling in you, you know this – it sets your heart on fire, and is indeed as the breath of life. How can we know anything but eternal life when baptized in the Holy Spirit by the Lord?
“He has granted you peace in your borders,” our psalmist proclaims; and in the Spirit we have only peace – nothing lacking rest can enter there. And now “with the best of wheat He fills [us],” now that we receive His body in the Eucharist. What bread indeed we eat! Here is the bread of life. We have His Word born in the Spirit spoken to our ears, and on His very presence we sup. Such witnesses! What more need we to believe?
“Jesus is the Son of God,” brothers and sisters. This alone you need remember. When all else fails and darkness pervades, know that Jesus is with you and bringing you to life.
O LORD, let us be baptized in the Holy Spirit,
and we shall have eternal life.
YHWH, eternal life you have given us in your only Son. Peace reigns in Him, and in us, if we believe in Him. As the Spirit descended upon your beloved One, so it descends upon those who believe in the Name of Jesus. Him you have sent us that you might give us yourself.
There is none greater than Jesus the Christ, nor shall there be. There is no one else for whom we need wait. He has come. He has died for us. Now He is risen and His Spirit is with us to guide us to all life. Help us, O LORD, to remember this; help us to hold on to the blessing you have provided in your only Son.
With the best of wheat fill us, O LORD, with His Body and His Blood; His flesh let us become. Then nothing shall disturb us; then our faith will make us whole. Then we shall hear your words pronounced over us that we are your beloved children. O let the Spirit fall upon us and remain with us! Let us be cleansed of sin and believe in your Word.