Tue, 30 October 2018
(Eph.6:1-9; Ps.145:10-14; Lk.13:22-30)
“Do God’s will with your whole heart
as slaves of Christ.”
These words Paul addresses to the slaves of his time, instructing them to “obey [their] human masters with the reverence, the awe, and the sincerity [they] owe to Christ,” but they apply well to us all, who are in all things to serve the Lord. Always we should “give [our] service willingly, doing it for the Lord rather than men.” This is as “the narrow door” of which our Lord speaks; this is what will bring us into His heavenly kingdom. For it is certain that “each one, whether slave or free, will be repaid by the Lord for whatever good he does.”
Brothers and sisters, the Lord’s “kingdom is a kingdom for all ages, and [His] dominion endures through all generations.” It matters not when we live or where, or what position we have in society – none of these things pertain to the reign of God. For those who are to be saved shall indeed come from the four corners of the universe and from every period of time, and as Paul says to masters of their slaves: “You and they have a Master in heaven who plays no favorites.” So if you think that any honor or preference of this earth will smooth your way into the kingdom, you are surely mistaken and risk the grave disappointment of discovering that “some are first who will be last,” or finding yourself barred from His House for failing to serve the Lord with all your heart in all the things of the world. For He has come to serve and not to be served, and He “lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”
Jesus goes “through cities and towns teaching – all the while making His way toward Jerusalem.” Even unto the cross He offers instruction to those who would follow Him. He is as the fathers Paul instructs to “bring [their children] up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord.” But we must heed His words; we must honor and obey the Lord as children are expected to honor and obey their parents. For His words are wise and they carry the greatest promise: “That it may go well with you, and that you may have long life,” not so much upon this earth, but in the heavenly kingdom.
Do all things in His name, brothers and sisters. Honor Him. Obey Him. Serve Him well that He might see you and “know where you come from” and thus honor you “at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
O LORD, let us follow in your narrow way
that we might be saved;
let us honor you with all our lives.
YHWH, all are one in your kingdom, for you do not play favorites with your children but call all the same to your presence. And so the lowly you raise from the dust and the exalted you tear down… for all must come to you on an even path. The narrow way that leads to your glory is not dependent on the concerns of this age.
And so slaves are no less your children than their masters; masters no less than their slaves – it matters only their devotion to you. All are called to serve you, LORD, to follow the command you give to each one. And so father and son may come equally unto Heaven if they do as fits their role, as fits your call.
Let children obey their parents and parents nurture their children in the faith. Let workers perform their tasks with zeal and those over them treat all with respect and love. Let all discourse of your glory by their service to you, giving you thanks for the splendor of your kingdom, to which they thereby come. Praise you, LORD, for your goodness toward all!
Sat, 27 October 2018
(Jer.31:7-9; Ps.126:1-6; Heb.5:1-6; Mk.10:46-52)
“They departed in tears,
but I will console them and guide them.”
Through Jeremiah the Lord prophesies that His people Israel “shall return as an immense throng,” that He will “gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst.” And in our gospel we see Jesus “leaving Jericho with His disciples and a sizable crowd,” picking up the blind Bartimaeus along the way. How the Lord fulfills the ancient prophecies. And now Jesus stands as our high priest in heaven, “offer[ing] gifts and sacrifices for sins,” bringing all by His cross to the kingdom of God.
“Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.” Brothers and sisters, we are all like the blind Bartimaeus, sitting “by the roadside begging,” calling out to the Lord for forgiveness and guidance, saying to Him as He calls us before Himself, “Master, I want to see.” How blind we all are, how deaf and how lame. How we need our vision renewed by the Lord of all, that indeed we might see as He sees, with a purity beyond the scope of our race, to penetrate the mysteries which shroud us like the blind man’s cloak in this life. We must throw off the darkness, cast aside the shroud of death that weighs upon our shoulders by our sins and take upon ourselves the cross of Christ and walk with Him “on the way,” on the road to the New Jerusalem. How shall we know the “brooks of water” which satiate our thirst, “the torrents in the southern desert” that cleanse our arid souls and bring them to life once more, except by the tears we cry, except with hearts reaching out and voices reaching up to Him who is so far above our ways? In His way alone we will find the “level road” on which “none shall stumble.” Only by this cry will we know the graces our high priest offers all our lives.
“Although [we] go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, [we] shall come back rejoicing, carrying [our] sheaves.” For the Lord shall not forget us; He will not pass us by and leave us in our tears alone. But through our tears we shall see His holy light descend like a dove of peace upon our souls. Yes, we shall see; our eyes will be opened and our path will be set. And He shall guide us every step of our way. And “our mouth [will be] filled with laughter, and our tongue with rejoicing” on that holy Day. Praise our merciful God!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "No Paranoia" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us follow Jesus on the way to the Cross
that we might follow Him to Heaven.
YHWH, in Jesus your Son we are returned to sonship with you; we who had been exiled because of our sins are brought back to your presence, and as a Father you embrace us and open our eyes to see your glory.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD. In tears we come before you, to your Son we cry out for mercy, and He cannot but hear and answer our call, He cannot but call us before Himself and grant the desire of our heart. O let us have the faith needed to believe in Him and so find the blessing only He holds.
Jesus, you are our high priest, you are Son of David and Son of God. Let us run to you for healing of our blindness and lameness that we might see you and follow you along the way to the New Jerusalem. In the peace of the Father let us rest, in the joy of our salvation.
With all your saints let us enter your gates, O Father in Heaven, by the grace that comes to us in your only Son.
Sat, 20 October 2018
(Is.53:10-11; Ps.33:4-5,18-20,22; Heb.4:14-16; Mk.10:35-45)
“We have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God.”
And this is He who is both priest and victim, for “He gives His life as an offering for sin” – He Himself is our sacrifice. Here is one who is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses… one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” Here is He who has suffered the affliction of our fallen state but to raise us up with Himself from the mire, from the lowly condition we have come to know as our own. Here is He who “give[s] His life as a ransom for many.”
But why? Why is the Lord “pleased to crush Him in His infirmity”? Why is our high priest so humbled in the sight of all? Why is there such suffering in the world…? Why need you ask? Why need you question the will of God? Do you not believe that “upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy”? Do you not realize that the Lord looks with kindness upon all “those who fear Him… to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine”? Do you trust your own eyes more than the vision of God?
But if you must know, the Lord God tells you, “Through His suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt He shall bear.” If you must inquire, hear that it is for your sin there is suffering in the world and the Lord and His followers must carry the cross. You need look no further than the blood on your hands… But seeing this, do not fear – rejoice. Rejoice, for now we may “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” Now the Savior does “lord it over” us by His sacrifice. Now this “slave of all” has “authority over [us]” by the suffering He has undergone. And now we must join Him on this cross.
“The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized” – His words to James and John are spoken to us all. Glorious is the sacrifice to which we are called. For He who is both priest and victim would now lift us with Himself through the veil of pain to the holy heavens, that knowing the fruit of “His affliction,” with Him all might “see the light in fullness of days.”
“Our soul waits for the Lord”; it suffers with Him. And it is not disappointed by the sacrifice it shares.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Sunset Bleeds Me Clean" (2nd half) from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, He who is slave of all,
He who has shed His blood to save our souls –
with Him let us be one.
YHWH, your Son has given His life as a ransom for sin, that we might approach the throne of grace and find mercy, and find the blessing of your kindness upon our souls. He has borne our guilt, and so from it we are freed. But we must bear the Cross with Him if we are to find our way to Heaven.
This is the greatest grace, is it not, O LORD – that we are called to share in the suffering of your Son, to drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism? We are called to serve as He has served, to give our lives with Him, and so to come to the place He has come, to your right hand in the kingdom. O if we could only be as slaves of all!
By His death He has ransomed many. Sharing in our weakness, suffering for our sakes – bearing His affliction, He shall see the light in fullness of days. And we poor souls who trust in Him find our hope fulfilled, dear LORD, in that same light of your face.
Sat, 13 October 2018
(Wis.7:7-11; Ps.90:12-17; Heb.4:12-13; Mk.10:17-30)
“The word of God is living and effective,
sharper than any two-edged sword.”
“Penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart… everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must render an account.” Here is His Spirit of Wisdom, whose “splendor… never yields to sleep,” who has “countless riches at her hands.” It is this penetrating Wisdom we must pray to be with us, if we are to save our immortal souls. Without her nothing has any worth at all.
How shall we “number our days aright” and “gain wisdom of heart”? How shall we walk the road the Lord leads us upon and find His “gracious care” to “prosper the work of our hands”? How shall we avoid the emptiness the riches of this world inevitably bring and acquire the conviction needed to follow the Lord? The allure of gold, of mammon, is so great, is so easy to set our hearts upon – how shall we hear what the Lord says in love to the man who falls on his knees before Him: “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven”? How shall we give up house and family and lands all “for [His] sake and for the sake of the Gospel” to find “a hundred times more” these things, “with persecutions, and eternal life in heaven”? Only by the Wisdom that comes from God, never by the thoughts of our own heart.
Clearly the disciples do not yet understand this or they would not ask with such amazement, “Then who can be saved?” when told of the difficulties riches bring. For still, though not for long, their hearts are set on the things of this earth, and still they judge with a worldly eye. The vision that comes of the pure light of Wisdom will not be theirs until the flame of the Holy Spirit burns in their souls. Then their own spirits will be one with the Lord and they will be able to discern that “all gold, in view of her, is a little sand.” Then the length and breadth and depth of their mission they will comprehend.
Let the word of God be heard by all, spoken by all His prophets and priests. Let it pierce many hearts, that some may be saved by the grace that enters where it bleeds. Here is the only way to life.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "In Your Eyes" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, do we desire life with you,
or the riches of this world?
YHWH, your Son stands in our midst looking at us with love. To Himself He calls us that we might enter the kingdom. And who would not follow? What riches of this age are greater than the divine riches He offers? What else could we need if we have eternal life? With Him is true wisdom; let us give up all to follow in His way.
O LORD, all gold is as a little dust to the one who has been blessed to see with your eyes, to the one who has been graced with your Wisdom. Though it be painful to stand in your light and be pierced by your sword, what glory it brings to your children! Your truth upon our souls, we have all the food we need.
And so, what can persecutions bring us but greater joy? What can we lose in your Name that we will not regain a hundred times over? All things are in your hands, O LORD, and we live in your eyes. Pierce us with your Wisdom, that we might number our days aright.
Sat, 6 October 2018
(Gn.2:18-24; Ps.128:1-6; Heb.2:9-11; Mk.10:2-16)
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh.”
The beauty and blessing of marriage, the marvel it is, and how it reaches unto heaven.
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” This is the loving thought of our Lord God while looking upon the man He has created. And so from the body of the man God creates woman. How indelibly one are these two, in origin, in destiny, and in the eyes of their Creator. Inseparable should they be: “one flesh.”
And if it were so, if these lived as He intended, the blessings sung of by our psalmist today would be upon all: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; your children like olive plants around your table.” Then would we reflect the glory of God and His love for His Church and its children. Then would we “see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of [our] life.”
The love of man and woman, of husband and wife, is truly as the love of God for His bride, the Church. Hear what St. Paul says of the Christ, who has come to bring “many children to glory”: “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.” Does he not say Jesus has become as our brother, made perfect through suffering – “flesh of [our] flesh”? Does the Lord not thus wed Himself to us by the incarnation and death of His only Son? And look at Jesus in our gospel, surrounded by children waist deep. He has just spoken of the sanctity of marriage and now He clearly conveys its blessed fruits, both for husband and wife on earth, and for Him and His Church. He declares of the children He has called to Himself, “The kingdom of God belongs to such as these,” and then “He embrace[s] them and bless[es] them,” wedding them unto His heart.
As woman is born out of the side of man, as she is flesh of his flesh, so the Church is born out of the pierced side of the Lord, from the blood and water that flow there, becoming one with His blessed Body. And let all men and women know, every husband and wife understand, that their marriage is blessed alone by God and finds its life in Him. It is He to whom they are truly wed, and their offenses against one another offend only Him. If you seek to separate from one another, you work to separate yourself from God; for as He is love, so He is every marriage, and to Him you are beholden to bear fruit in His name. Great will be the blessing upon your home if you cherish your oneness in Him – great as the blessings upon His Church, which in His love He does now form. Make all your love one with Him.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Marriage" from The Innocent Heart, first album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, bring life forth in our midst
through the children you bless.
YHWH, let us be joined to you in the sacrificial flesh of your Son. Bone of His bone let us be, one with Him forever. As you join together man and wife on this earth, so join us to you in Heaven.
O let us never be divorced from love of one another or from you, dearest LORD! Then we shall be blessed; then we shall remain in your presence and know your arms around us. O let us have the faith of a child and come humbly before you to hear your Word of truth spoken of by your Son, and so let us share in His salvation. Let us never harden our hearts against your good will for our lives and we shall prosper in your peace.
We are taken from you, O LORD, and must be united with you again. But if we do not love one another and bear fruit in your Name, if man and wife do not stand as the paragon of your love, what shall become of the human race?
Mon, 1 October 2018
(Job 3:1-3,11-17,20-23; Ps.88:2-8; Lk.9:51-56)
“My soul is surfeited with troubles
and my life draws near to the netherworld.”
After sitting in silence seven days, scraping the boils from his skin, finally, “Job opened his mouth and cursed his day.” Finally he cries out against all his troubles, asking, “Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?” Only so much can mortal man bear, and so Job seeks now only the tranquility of death, wherein “the weary are at rest.”
How well our psalm today describes Job’s state, he who is among those “whose path is hidden from them, and whom God hemmed in.” For he truly finds himself now “numbered with those who go down into the pit… a man without strength” from whom all blessing has been taken. His “couch is among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom [God] remember[s] no longer and who are cut off from [His] care.” And so he prays for an end to his misery; so he seeks the forgetfulness of death to remove its pangs from his body and his heart.
And is it not these same pangs James and John would inflict upon the Samaritans who refuse to welcome Jesus: “Lord, would you not have us call down fire from heaven to destroy them?” Would they not plunge them “into the bottom of the pit, into the dark abyss” where Job sits in his innocence? Is it not right that God’s “wrath lies heavy” upon such as these? Let God’s “billows” “overwhelm” them, they declare.
But Jesus has another answer. He would not see even the guilty suffer the fate of the righteous Job. For He is now “firmly resolved to proceed toward Jerusalem,” where His crucifixion awaits. He is now upon the fulfillment of His mission here on earth, and it has nothing to do with punishing the sins even of His persecutors – it has only to do with His death. It is He upon whom God’s wrath shall be heavy, He who will be plunged into the pit… He who will suffer all punishment for sin. Even for these Samaritans (even for you and me), the Lord shall suffer and die, taking upon Himself the punishment James and John see rightly due them, rightly due to all. His cross completes the pangs inflicted upon Job. And through this cross the troubles shall be overcome.
Brothers and sisters, let us no longer cry for relief from our suffering, for that relief is at hand now in the cross of Christ; He has suffered all these things already, and we must but give them to Him to be drawn from the netherworld and set in His glory.
O LORD, let us be taken with your Son
from this world of darkness and death.
YHWH, save us from the dark abyss, from the nether world to which by our sin we come. Let us know that the price has been paid by your only Son, who has suffered all torments for us. In His sacrifice let us trust, and give to Him our cross.
Truly, LORD, this earth is a dark place, and it draws us to a darker place, an eternal abyss, where is no light. From the grave how shall we be saved, we who are mortal and decaying, we who are surfeited with troubles, with the bitterness of this disobedient age? Does it not seem to us there is no escape.
O let us not be forgetful of you, LORD, or of your love! Let us not forget that you have sent your only Son, to die not only for the righteous but also those who would cast Him out – His death means new life to all who offer Him their cross. How quickly He would take all darkness from us, how eagerly He awaits our turning to Him… O Jesus, lift all souls from the bottom of the pit; save us from the wrath we rightly deserve.