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.