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, 25 August 2018
(Jos.24:1-2a,15-17,18b; Ps.34:2-3,9,16-21; Eph.5:21-32; Jn.6:60-69)
“Do you also want to leave?”
How like the questions pertaining to the marriage vows is our Lord’s inquiry of the Twelve, and Joshua’s statement to the Israelites he has just brought out of the wilderness into the Promised Land. “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve,” Joshua says, “as for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” And Jesus seeks to find from His apostles if they will be like “many of His disciples [who] returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him” after His teaching on the Bread of Life.
Do you take Jesus to be your husband? To honor and obey, to love… to “become one flesh” with Him who is “the Holy One of God”? You are free to leave, or you are free to come unto Him. Though He knows your heart and your choice, yet you are free to make it as you please. How shall you answer the Lord?
Paul renders a beautiful account of the love of husband and wife, relating it well “to Christ and the Church.” “Husbands should love their wives as their own bodies… no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the Church.” And what can the good wife do when loved “as Christ loved the Church and handed Himself over for her,” bleeding and dying on the cross to wash away all our sins – what can she do when confronted with such utter sacrifice for her sake alone but revere her husband and respect his every wish? In loving such a man she finds her joy. (How the wife of Joshua must have beamed to hear her husband’s public declaration that he and his household would follow the Lord! Who could argue with such blessed authority?)
And now, what of you and I, brothers and sisters, we who have the most faithful husband of all? Do we “bless the Lord at all times”? Does our “soul glory in the Lord” as King David’s today? Do we realize how He “watches over all [our] bones” and makes them pure as His own? Or will we be fool enough to leave His loving embrace? The words must come from your mouths as well, and mean them: “We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
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, to whom else shall we go,
to whom else shall we be wed…
for you alone are God?
YHWH, let us never leave you but be wed to your Son and become as His Body in this world. O let His Spirit be upon us to bring us to eternal life! What need we do but be obedient to Him and serve one another in His love? You will certainly watch over and guide us safely in all things if we are united to Jesus.
He left you, O Father in Heaven, to be joined to us, to save us, to pour out His blood as a cleansing shower to purify us from all sin, that we might be able to join you in Heaven with Him. In splendor may He present us to you; let us be faithful until the coming of His Day.
Flesh of His flesh and blood of His blood, you cannot but look upon us with favor, dear LORD. And so, let us praise you all our days, never turning from worship of you, the one true God. Let all your children serve you alone.
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.
Sat, 11 August 2018
(1Kgs.19:4-8; Ps.34:2-9; Eph.4:30-5:2; Jn.6:41-51)
“Strengthened by that food he walked forty days and forty nights
to the mountain of God, Horeb.”
As the forty days and forty nights Noah found himself protected from the rains by the Lord; as the forty years the Israelites were guided through the desert; as the forty days Jesus found strength in the Word of God while fasting in the wilderness… as Elijah is fed for his journey, so we for the fullness of our days feed upon “the bread of life” as we travel to the heavenly kingdom of our Lord. Here is our ark; here is our manna – here is all the strength and protection we need. He is our food.
“His praise shall be ever in my mouth,” for His food is ever on our altar, and this Sacrament fills us with nothing but joy. If we had not this food, indeed “bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling” would come from our mouths so poisoned by the fruit of the world. But as it is “Christ loved us and handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma,” and thus we “taste and see how good the Lord is” and cannot but “glorify the Lord” and “extol His name.”
That “the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them” is illustrated clearly in the trials of Elijah. Overwhelmed by “all [his] fears,” the “afflicted” prophet “prayed for death, saying, ‘This is enough, O Lord! Take my life.’” But “from all his distress [God] saved him,” for an “angel of the Lord… touched him, and ordered, ‘Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!’” And Elijah “got up, ate, and drank” the food and water the Lord provided, and made it safely to the mountain where the Lord God would speak to him.
“This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.” All strength and blessing come from the Lord through His only Son. And being drawn to Him and so discovering the Father of all, what can our faces be but “radiant with joy,” the joy of His eternal, loving presence? Let us come this day to the holy mountain of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Body of Christ" from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, you give us the flesh of your Son
that we might live,
and you send your angels to guard us.
YHWH, your Son has given His flesh as a sacrificial offering that we might eat of this Bread and be strengthened for our journey to eternal life on your holy mountain. Help us to walk with you, to walk with Him as your beloved children, your angel at our side, your Holy Spirit within us to bless us and keep us faithful to you until the Day of redemption is fulfilled. O let us be taught by you! Let us come to your Son and be fed with His Body and Blood, with the Word He is, offered for our salvation.
Why should we murmur among ourselves, dearest LORD? Why should we doubt and fear your presence among us and your care for us? Why do we court death in our despair? You are near! You hear the afflicted man when he calls out – you have delivered us from death by sending us your Son. Let us glory in the gift you give us. Let us taste your goodness this day.
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, 4 August 2018
(Ex.16:2-4,12-15; Ps.78:3-4,23-25,54; Eph.4:17,20-24; Jn.6:24-35)
“Do not work for food that perishes
but for food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.”
Their bellies rumbling in the desert, “the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron,” calling out for food to satiate their hunger. How they long to be beside their “flesh pots” in Egypt, where they “ate [their] fill of bread” – even if they should die there. Their great concern is for the food which perishes.
And in our gospel, too, Jesus upbraids the crowd who follow Him, saying, “You are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled,” the Lord having just fed the five thousand. They, too, seek the satiation of their physical hunger while remaining blind to the spiritual food Jesus is.
This lack of comprehension of the life in the Spirit the Lord would impart is exemplified in the name the Israelites give the bread from heaven God has provided for their pilgrimage. “Manna” they call it, after the question they “asked one another, ‘What is this?’ for they did not know what it was.” And how little do those who question Jesus understand of “the bread of God… which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Even as they say, “Sir, give us this bread always,” they do not see that He stands before them, and that they have already partaken of the bread He is. And so, most will turn away, their hearts more set upon the belly than the spirit. And so, with the belly many will perish.
Brothers and sisters, “You should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way of righteousness and holiness of truth.” Listen to your brother Paul, for he speaks of Jesus and the new life He brings. Here on our altar is “the bread of angels”; and would you turn to eating rotting flesh? The Lord calls you into the heavenly kingdom; and would you choose slavery in the land of sin instead? “Abundance” of food in “His holy land” is now set before us by the Son of Man – partake of this bread of everlasting life, the flesh and blood of Christ.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Spirit Rules the Body" from Breath, the Apple Rises, fifth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us eat the Bread you give us,
the food that endures to eternal life.
YHWH, let our minds be renewed, our hearts set on you, on the Bread from Heaven you give us in your Son. Why should we be concerned for the things of the belly and the corruption it brings? Let us be men of the Spirit eating the Bread of angels, not of beasts.
If it is upon the flesh we set our sights, if we desire the food that perishes, we will perish with it. But if, O LORD, we long for the food that endures to eternal life, eternal life will be ours by the grace at your hand. O let us do your works and not those of the devil!
If we come to your Son, O LORD, He will feed us with His Body. If we but believe in Him, He will quench our thirst. We shall never be in want again if we but embrace the One you have sent.
O Jesus, let us look for you and we shall find the truth you are and no longer live in futility but have abundance in your Father’s holy land.