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.