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.