Fri, 31 January 2020
(2Sm.12:1-7,10-17; Ps.51:12-17; Mk.4:35-41)
“I have sinned against the Lord.”
David is the man who “took the poor man’s ewe lamb and made a meal of it for his visitor.” To feed his lust he has feasted on another man’s wife. And he sees the injustice of this; he recognizes his guilt when his sin is exposed. But why has he done it? “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this merits death!” And so David, too, has need of the true King and His cross to redeem him.
What does the Lord say to David as he “lie[s] on the ground clothed in sackcloth,” praying for the dying child he has conceived by his sin? We know what he says to God, for we have Psalm 51 to eternally express the misery of this sinner, and all sinners. We know he cries out: “Free me from my blood guilt, O God, my saving God.” But how does God respond? Is He with him? We know the Lord forgives David – Nathan tells him so – but yet “the sword shall never depart from [his] house,” and he shall have his sin later exposed in broad daylight by his own son, Absalom, who lies with David’s wives in the public eye. Much woe remains with David long after his fall, and really throughout the history of Judah and Israel. He is assured: “You shall not die,” but though his house remain and is fulfilled in the coming of Christ, what pain must be with the king in this time.
If he had called upon the Lord, as He rebukes the wind and the sea in our gospel: “Quiet! Be still!” so would God have calmed his lust upon a word from his mouth. But he “utterly spurned the Lord.” How is it such a humble and obedient king could do such a thing? How is it the disciples are so “lacking in faith” at the specter of the violence of the sea? Why do they become so “terrified”?
Would not we all, brothers and sisters? Have we not all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? Do we not all become awed by Him whom “the wind and the sea obey”? Yet we must come to Him. Yet we must beg His pardon. Yet we must seek the strength of His Spirit, of His Word within us. Yet we must fall to our knees before our priest and cry out to our God – “A clean heart create for me, O Lord, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Thus we all have need of cleansing this side of heaven; we have all brought forth children unto death.
O LORD, let us be obedient
as the wind and the sea to your command,
or we shall be overwhelmed by the waves of this world.
YHWH, why should we be so terrified at the wind and the waves? Why should we fear the prospect of death? Do you not hold both the sea and death in your hands, and are you not faithful in saving us when we call to you? Why are we then so lacking in faith?
O LORD, we are not as you. We are weak and sinful men. How can we be strong when we look out and see the depth of our sin? How can it not overwhelm us? You are all good and we have sinned against you. You are only of love, and we are but selfish. How can we stand before you in our misery?
Help us to remember how gracious you are, dear God. Help us to maintain your Spirit within us. You desire our salvation, you desire our good; help us to desire it ourselves, and to act upon that desire.
O LORD, let us not go astray. Cleanse our hearts and our hands from all our guilt and let us stand strong with you. Forgive us our sin and all the effects of our sin.
Thu, 30 January 2020
(2Sm.11:1-10,13-17; Ps.51:3-7,10-11; Mk.4:26-34)
“The seed sprouts and grows without his knowing how it happens.”
Jesus in our gospel tells us of the kingdom of God and of its gradual growth without our knowing. Seed is scattered, the Word is sown in our souls, and as we “[go] to bed and [get] up day after day,” remaining in the presence of the Lord, good fruits little by little reveal themselves in our lives – till finally at the time of judgment we are gathered into the heavenly reign. Though small and humble seed, once we are sown in the Lord’s grace, we “become the largest of shrubs, with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.” And so this man made of dust may find life eternal in Jesus.
In our first reading there is another kind of gradual growth evident: the sin of David. It is the time of year “when kings go out on campaign” with their armies, but David remains at home – and so in this sin of sloth is sown that which will grow into adultery and murder. For one evening as the king “[rises] from his siesta and stroll[s] about on the roof of the palace,” he sees the beautiful Bathsheba bathing, and lets his look linger upon her. Lust having taken hold of him, he takes her to his bed and has relations with her, despite her being another man’s wife. In a vain attempt to cover his sin, he recalls the husband from battle that he might go in to his wife and believe the child David has conceived is his own. But the man is more faithful to the troops in battle than David is to his position as king, and remains apart from his home. Finally, David resorts to arranging for Uriah’s death in battle.
O how sin has grown in the great king! From a small seed tremendous guilt is born. And now, what can the prince of the people do but seek the mercy of the Lord. In his famous psalm of repentance David begs God, “Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my guilt.” He calls out, “Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, and of my sin cleanse me.” Recognizing his plight as a member of the fallen human race: “In guilt I was born, and in sin my mother conceived me,” the king shows genuine humility, and so finds the forgiveness of God – but now the sword shall be upon his house. Though there shall be peace in the time of the son he will later conceive with the wife of Uriah, it shall not remain. Only in Christ will God’s blessing truly return again.
Brothers and sisters, from small seeds indeed great trees come. We must be ever diligent about the seed we sow, remaining always in the light of the Lord and nourished by the Spirit. When “the time is ripe for harvest,” all we have done shall be exposed; until then, let us trust in His presence alone.
O LORD, let us grow into your kingdom,
not into sin.
YHWH, let your kingdom grow among us and within us. Let not our sin grow in its place, that we shall not come unto death but new life in you.
We are sinful men, O LORD. All of us fall short of your glory; all of us have done evil in your sight. But you are good and forgiving and there is no sin from which you cannot cleanse us. David your servant has been guilty of adultery and murder. He has acted out of sloth and lust and selfish pride, yet when he calls out to you, you look upon him with pity. When he acknowledges his sin before you, you forgive. What good is beyond your power to do?
And in the place of our sin you plant the seed of your kingdom, LORD. Where once was but parched and fallow land, you bring fruitful growth. Though this seem impossible in our sight, you accomplish it in your will. Though we cannot see, though we do not know how, you work to raise us to your glory. Turn your face from our sins and let us dwell with you.
Wed, 29 January 2020
(2Sm.7:18-19,24-29; Ps.132:1-2,3-5,11-14,Lk.1:32; Mk.4:21-25)
“If your sons keep my covenant and the decrees which I shall teach them,
their sons, too, forever shall sit upon your throne.”
Yes, “the Lord has chosen Zion; He prefers her for His dwelling.” His blessings are upon His Church and its people, for “the Lord swore to David a firm promise from which He will not withdraw: ‘Your own offspring I will set upon your throne,’” and Jesus completes that promise by establishing the New Jerusalem in His Name. But we must exhibit the “anxious care” David has shown for the preservation and promotion of the house which is ours through this Son of David and fulfillment of God’s promise.
If “the eye is the lamp of the body,” as Jesus has said elsewhere in the gospels (Mt.6:22), then we must say with David: “I will give my eyes no sleep, my eyelids no rest, till I find a place for the Lord.” Always our light should be shining forth; always we should be looking to “make our call and election permanent” (as Peter has elsewhere stated – 2Pt.1:10) – always we must seek to serve Him, if ever we wish to dwell with Him. For as Jesus says so poignantly to the crowd today: “Is a lamp acquired to be put under a bushel basket or hidden under a bed? Is it not meant to be put on a stand?” Thus He encourages us to bring our light “out into the open,” to let it shine forth for all to see. For then it shall be blessed.
“Listen carefully” now to what the Lord says further: “In the measure you give you shall receive.” Here is a golden rule which must be understood and practiced. For it is so that the more we share the gifts the Lord places in our hearts and at our hands, the greater these blessings grow. As we share our faith, more faithful do we become. As we speak of Him, the more do we understand of Him. In giving ourselves away for others and the sake of the kingdom, we find ourselves present in His light. And so do we grow. And so is our place in His house assured. And so we shall dwell with Him forever.
Let us pray with David in our first reading, brothers and sisters: “Bless the house of your servant that it may be before you forever,” that what the Lord has promised each of us through the Son of David may come to light. As David simply asks the Lord to accomplish what He has graciously vowed to do – “Confirm for all time the prophecy you have made concerning your servant and his house” – let us beg the Lord to grant the same to His Church for the salvation of all souls who worship Him in truth and serve Him in strength. Alleluia.
O LORD, dwell in us as you have promised
that we might shine your light forth.
YHWH, who are we that you bless us with a place in your kingdom, that you shine your eternal light in our eyes? How can we know you, how can we even approach you, we who are but useless servants….? And yet you make us your sons. Let us cherish the blessing you give us and shine the light you provide.
Your House is a house for all peoples, LORD, and all peoples you would draw into your sanctuary. The promise you made to David comes to us all through the Son you place upon his throne. Now that Jesus is with us, help us to be as generous as you and serve to extend your blessing to all men. O what a blessing it is to share your love with others! Let us not be afraid or hide your light away.
All we have let us give, O LORD, for all we have is a gift from you and it is increased only when we give it to others. May all come into your presence.
Tue, 28 January 2020
(2Sm.7:4-17; Ps.89:4-5,27-30; Mk.4:1-20)
“Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.”
David seems intent on establishing the Lord’s presence forever by building a permanent house in which He might dwell, but how well our God answers the great king’s thoughts with the promise of making “his posterity endure forever.” It is the Lord who establishes all, and so He states, “I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance,” to show that He thinks of us and loves us first. Though He approves and blesses our desires to care for Him and make Him known, as He shows by revealing to David that his son “shall build a house to [His] name,” He cannot be outdone in His love for us.
Solomon will build the temple of the Lord, yes, and it will be a great house in which all shall worship God and through which all shall find blessing from God. But the true Son of David upon whom the Lord’s favor rests eternally is Jesus Himself. It is His kingdom which truly “stands firm” forever. It is through Him the Lord will “destroy all [our] enemies” and grant us peace round about. He is the seed of David come to full growth, the promise of the king come to fulfillment. This is He whom the Israelites truly sought when first they asked for a king – this is God’s blessed answer to their request for one of their own to rule them.
It is clear that David is as the seed “sown on good soil” which “yield[s] thirty- and sixty- and a hundredfold.” Satan shall not come to carry off what is sown through him, nor shall he “wither for lack of roots” or be choked off by the cares of this world. For as the Lord says of him, “I have been with you wherever you went”; and so His nourishment, the Spirit of the Lord which rushed upon David from his first anointing, remains, too, upon this chosen king. And though he shall sin, and though his sons shall turn away from worship of the true God, yet the Lord’s blessing remains. And in the enduring of the Lord’s correction “with the rod of men and human chastisements,” Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God, by His crucifixion and death opens the way for all children of David, all children blessed by God, to return to the Lord of all and remain with Him forever. The kingdom of Jesus is now established; let us come to this Temple and be saved.
O LORD, let us take to heart your Word
and align ourselves with your will
that we might reign forever with your Son.
YHWH, a House you make for us in the Person of your Son. His throne endures forever, and we with Him.
O LORD, make us fruitful in your NAME, in the flesh and blood of Jesus. We are worth nothing without your grace, without your blessing upon our race – without your help all our words and deeds would fall to dust. Maintain your kindness toward us, keep the teaching of your Son in our hearts, or we shall be cast from your presence.
How shall we hear the Word you wish to impart to poor souls? How shall we learn the lesson of obedience and realize it is you who establish us, who give us a House in which to dwell? You are our Father, our God, our Rock and Savior. In your Son we are made your children and so endure forever in the light of your face. Be with us now and remain with your faithful. Let us be good soil and produce fruit for you.
Mon, 27 January 2020
(2Sm.6:12-15,17-19; Ps.24:7-10; Mk.3:31-35)
“Lift up, O gates, your lintels;
reach up, you ancient portals,
that the King of glory may come in!”
In our first reading David leads all the Israelites in, “bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn.” “Dancing before the Lord with abandon,” he brings the ark into Jerusalem and sets it within its tent or tabernacle. All celebrate this day as they surround the ark on its journey and as David “offers holocausts and peace offerings before the Lord,” the ark having come to its place in the city of David. The Lord is in their midst, and so all the people rejoice.
In our gospel the ever present crowd of people is assembled, seated “in a circle” around Jesus. They surround the Lord as once the Israelites surrounded the ark – and how their hearts must celebrate at His presence in their midst. And how indeed their hearts must leap up to hear what is said of them: “These are my mother and my brothers.” For thus the Lord gathers them into His arms; thus He feeds them better than with the meat of any holocaust – thus they are protected forever by His holy presence.
“Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.” He blesses and protects all His children; He makes all who worship Him His own. And what need we do but celebrate; what need we do but shout for joy? For He is present before us. For He enters into us, into the New Jerusalem in which we dwell. Here in His Church we have His Blessed Sacrament to feed us on our way to Him. In this He is already with us, as He is in His teaching and in His priests and in all His brothers and sisters and mothers – “whoever does the will of God” becomes one with Him.
We love you, Lord our God, for your presence among us! We praise you, dearest Jesus, for your presence within us! O brothers and sisters, make room for His entry into your hearts and minds, bodies and souls, that you might enter in with Him to His heavenly kingdom. He stands and knocks at the door even now. Will you open and welcome Him into your home?
O LORD, let us rejoice before the ark of the Covenant
come into our midst in Jesus our King and Brother.
YHWH, come into our homes, into our hearts, that we might be your House, one with your Son. He is truly your Temple; let us open wide our gates that He might enter in and make His home with us.
Mother and brother and sister of Jesus let us be, O LORD, surrounding Him as His holy family. Let us rejoice at His Word and so follow your will in all things. May He look upon us with mercy and give us of Himself to eat.
What should we do but dance and sing and praise your holy NAME for your presence in our midst, for your entering our poor souls and remaining ever with us? O let us offer ourselves to you in sacrifice! that indeed your will might be done in our lives. Come and make your home in us, dearest LORD and God.
We feed upon your Word, O LORD, and on His body and blood. May He serve as King over us that we might enter your reign.
Sun, 26 January 2020
(2Sm.5:1-7,10; Ps.89:20-22,25-26; Mk.3:22-30)
“Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”
How different are the scribes who come to Jesus from the Israelites who come to David to crown him king. “The tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: ‘Here we are, your bone and your flesh.’” So united would they be to him whom the Lord had said would “shepherd [His] people Israel,” so well do they remember his leadership in war, that they wholeheartedly invite him to rule over them. They believe what God has said of His chosen king: “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him,” and they confirm his anointing among them.
But the scribes would drive Jesus from their midst. And as the Jebusites vainly threatened David before he took the stronghold of Zion and began his reign in Jerusalem, so these blind leaders of the people vainly attack Jesus before His entering and taking hold of the New Jerusalem. If David was anointed by God, how much more is the Father’s anointing upon His only Son? If David’s deeds in war deserved respect and praise, how much more Him who came to teach and heal the nation? And if these scribes should not only reject Jesus but designate the holy deeds He has worked among them as coming from the prince of demons, what hope have they but to join the prince of demons in eternal damnation? For if they call the good evil, how shall they come to accept the goodness of God and enter His reign? Shall they not rather fling themselves toward the fires of hell, as even they do here, taking the evil for good, led astray as they are by their pride and jealousy?
The Lord’s hand is always with His Chosen One, “that [His] arm might make Him strong.” It is in that strength we take refuge; it is in the blessing upon Him we find life. We must invite Him who is good to rule over us – His works must be our own. If we do not recognize the truth of His words and the grace in His deeds, what hope will we have of finding the fountain that washes us clean of our sins and prepares us for the holiness of paradise? What can these scribes do but “carr[y] the guilt of [their] sin without end,” for they utterly reject Him.
Brothers and sisters, we choose life or we choose death. We choose to side with the good or turn to become one with the evil. Wickedness has no place with the grace of God and His goodness allows no evil to enter in. Jesus destroys evil: speak only the truth of this Word. The Spirit knows nothing of lies.
O LORD, may your Son rule over us all
and make us strong.
YHWH, Jesus shall shepherd your people Israel; the blind leaders cannot prevent Him from taking hold of the holy City. For your anointing is upon Him, and it is your arm that makes Him strong. O let us enter Jerusalem with Him, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh!
May the house of Satan be plundered by Him who is stronger than he; let his property be despoiled, all the accusations with which he would attack your holy ones. O let the Holy Spirit be upon us! the truth that cannot be denied. Your goodness be upon our souls, O LORD, to lead us to all light.
David was your servant, LORD, the figure of Christ, your Son. From his youth you blessed him with your grace and power, with the anointing of your Spirit. Now that Jesus has come to fulfill this blessing among us, let us welcome Him into our homes, that we might be welcomed into your House, your forgiveness in our hearts. Let none turn away from your truth.
Sat, 25 January 2020
(Is.8:23-9:3; Ps.27:1,4,13-14; 1Cor.1:10-13,17; Mt.4:12-23)
“Light has arisen.”
“Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.” Yes, “a light has shone”; Jesus has come. No longer do we walk in darkness. So we should proclaim with David: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”; we should long to dwell in the Temple He has built, “gaz[ing] on the loveliness of the Lord.” Here in His House we “see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.” Here in His Church we come to the paradise He has come to establish in this land of darkness.
The light dawns as Jesus calls His disciples to His side. Here are the beginnings of His Church, the coming of light to this earth. The Lord calls Peter and Andrew, and James and John, and they respond, and they follow the light. And the light goes forth as He goes “around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.” Do you see how the light grows? Do you know the light reflected in the disciples’ eyes, which shall take root and become known to all the world? Here indeed is the Church begun, the holy House of God – the New Jerusalem. And nothing shall disturb its growth; nothing shall dim or block the light that has come.
Yet what division is upon the Church Christ has founded here on the shores of Galilee. How has it come to be that we are so disobedient to Paul’s instruction “that there be no divisions among [us], but that [we] be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.” How many more rivalries have we than the Corinthians. Not only do those separated from the Church declare their peculiar allegiance to various people or nations, saying, “I belong to Luther,” or “I belong to Calvin,” or “I belong to England” – and now there are some 360 different denominations, one for every day of the year, it seems – but within the Catholic Church deep divisions arise between “liberal” or “conservative” theologians, thus bringing darkness upon God’s people. The Church remains, and nothing shall overcome it, but what a poor sign it is to the world as the devil has his day in its division.
The Lord has come bringing “abundant joy and great rejoicing” for those who remain in His light. The unbroken flame rises up from these first apostles Jesus called on this one morning by the Sea of Galilee. The net extends from their hands and draws in all who truly seek to dwell in the presence of God.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Mirror of Knowledge" (2nd part) from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the Gospel be proclaimed
in strength this day
in your Son’s holy Name.
YHWH, your light has dawned upon this dark world; in Jesus your Son our salvation has come, and now we may dwell in your House with Him. Beginning on the shores of Galilee, your Word goes forth, calling all men to your kingdom. May we repent of our sin that we might enter there.
Today your Son calls the first apostles from their boats to dry land that they might be fishers of men. And so He works through His apostles even to this day. A great light shines upon those who walked in darkness – we who were sinners now come to your Temple, LORD, there, we pray, to remain all our days.
Let there be no division in your Church, dear God, but let us be united in the flesh of your Son and preach His Gospel with one voice (His own) to the ends of this dark earth. O let your holy light now shine through all He calls to be His disciples! The yoke of sin that has enslaved us be smashed, we pray, that we shall no longer be afraid, that we shall no longer walk in darkness.
Thu, 23 January 2020
(1Sm.24:3-21; Ps.57:2-4,6,11; Mk.3:13-19)
“Sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”
Today we see David at perhaps his most humble and obedient in the sight of God – we see why he is the great king of Israel.
David is being hunted down by Saul once again in his jealousy. His psalm, our psalm today, is his cry for protection from the Lord in whom he trusts: “I call to God Most High, to God, my benefactor. May He send from heaven and save me.” To the cave in which he hides, God sends his pursuer, vulnerable and at arm’s length. But this man who will be king of the Israelites by God’s ordination refrains from taking the sword into his hand to kill the man who would kill him. Why? Because Saul is yet the king, “the Lord’s anointed,” whom David even calls “a father to me” despite the threat he is to his life. Such an act of respect, such an understanding of the obedience due God and His will is unparalleled in Scripture. This is David. This is the king.
And how tragic a figure is Saul. Upon having his eyes turned inward to his very soul and the injustice he wreaks upon David, he weeps aloud in recognition of his sin: “You are in the right rather than I; you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.” It is he who speaks the words of our quote today, he who recognizes the truly kingly nature of David… Yet for all his penance and insight it shall not be long before his jealousy leads him to pursue David unrighteously once again. He cannot escape his envy for David’s blessing.
And in our gospel we read of the blessed apostles of Christ, those “men He Himself had decided on,” whom He summoned and “who came and joined Him.” These “He would send to preach the Good News”; these would “have authority to expel demons.” They are named by name for us today: here is the foundation of the Church in which God dwells. Here are His blessed kings of the New Jerusalem. Let us not be jealous of them. Let no man attempt to breach the authority given them; for pursue them as one would, none shall take their blessing away – it is they who are ordained by God for His service. Humbly let us join them in their sovereignty over Israel. Obediently let us come into the Lord’s kingdom.
O LORD, though your justice is beyond our reach,
in your mercy make us your disciples.
YHWH, those whom you appoint must be respected. It is you who anoint the king and ordain apostles. Jesus is your only Son and He has chosen the Twelve to follow Him. Who are we to go against His will and pursue them and those who continue in their stead?
O LORD, you have made Peter the rock of your Church and given all your apostles power to preach the Gospel and expel all demons. At their hands your presence becomes real, of your Son’s flesh and blood we partake, and we are forgiven our sins. If David your chosen could not kill an unjust king because of your blessing upon him, how much less can we usurp the power of the bishops and priests who stand this day in the very place of Jesus? O let us learn the respect and obedience to your will that King David has clearly shown!
You protect your righteous ones, dearest LORD and God. And so we need have no fear as long as we take refuge in your justice.
Wed, 22 January 2020
(1Sm.18:6-9,19:1-7; Ps.56:2-3,5,9-14; Mk.3:7-12)
“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”
And Jesus His millions. He slays an untold number of “unclean spirits [who] would catch sight of Him, fling themselves down at His feet, and shout, ‘You are the Son of God.’” “A great crowd followed Him from Galilee, and an equally great multitude” from all the surrounding regions. So great were their numbers He needed a boat to escape the press upon Him. For He “cured many,” and many more desired to be touched by Him.
The women sing of David’s greatness upon his return from slaying the Philistine. Their rightful attribution of praise for David, through whom “the Lord brought about a great victory for all Israel” and so for its king (who had himself sought someone to stand against the giant Goliath), does nothing but provoke resentment and jealousy from King Saul. His anger even leads to his plotting to kill the man who has saved his kingdom; and though he sets aside his plan “of shedding innocent blood by killing David without cause” for the moment, the plot never leaves his heart and shall repeatedly surface with greater intensity. Thus Saul proves his inability to serve as king of the Lord’s people. Thus his pride shall be his demise.
And rightfully does Saul claim of David that “all that remains for him is the kingship,” for in fact he has already been anointed king in place of Saul by Samuel the prophet. And though as with the kingship of Jesus, who silences the demons from revealing “who He was,” David’s crown shall remain hidden for a time, inevitably – again, as with the Lord’s reign – those who “press their attack against” the Lord’s anointed shall be turned back and the true king shall “walk before God in the light of the living.” It is inevitable for it is God’s will, and neither the jealousy of Saul nor the plotting of the Pharisees – the jealous kings who would be overthrown by Jesus – can turn aside what God has ordained.
The Lord is with David. Though his “adversaries trample upon [him] all the day,” he sings in praise of God in his psalm: “You have rescued me from death.” And so we see how our psalms sing of Jesus Himself and why He is called Son of David. For the greatest victory the Lord God shall achieve will be the resurrection of His Son from the dead, and the redemption of the many souls who shall follow Him.
O LORD, we press upon you with our afflictions,
and by your Son’s intercession we are saved.
YHWH, how many evil spirits have you slain? How many enemies have you turned back for those who trust in your NAME? Though many fight against us, we are saved when we call out to you – forever we shall be safe from the malice of the wicked.
Your Son has come to our shores and cured us of our afflictions. By His grace He has freed us from all sin and evil. His power is greater than that of the devil though the devil sit on the throne of a king. For the spirit is greater than the flesh, and trusting in your Spirit, O LORD, we are released from the weakness of the flesh upon which the devil preys and made victorious in your NAME.
Thousands may we too slay if we keep our vows to you and in you find our strength. Then on the Day of your Son’s return, the angels shall sing of the glory which is ours in you and in Him, O LORD, as we enter your reign.
Tue, 21 January 2020
(1Sm.17:32-33,37,40-51; Ps.144:1-2,9-10; Mk.3:1-6)
“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you in the name of the Lord.”
“The battle is the Lord’s” is the simple truth David proclaims to all those who stand in arms. To “all this multitude,” he declares “that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves.” Thus with David’s defeat of the Philistine giant is emphasized what has already been revealed in the anointing of this ruddy youth as king and the loss of that kingship by the tall-in-stature Saul: the exalted are humbled and the humbled exalted. For God blesses those who make Him their “rock,” trusting not in their own wealth or strength. “My refuge and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me,” David chants in praise of the Lord in his holy psalm. And so should we all take refuge in the Lord, and find strength in praising His Name.
And in “hoping to be able to bring an accusation against Him,” do not the Pharisees come, too, with sword and spear against God’s holy one today in our gospel? And do they not make this violence clear in their turning “to plot with the Herodians on how they might destroy Him”? They are defeated in battle by the Word of truth which issues forth and indeed is embodied by the Christ of God, Jesus, Son of David, Son of God. They cannot contradict the authority of His teaching or the blessing of the healing He brings from the Father on high, but yet they harden their hearts and close “their minds against Him,” seeking to confirm their trust in the warring hand of this world in the capture and crucifixion of their Savior. But the battle is the Lord’s, and their attempts to destroy Him shall prove the fruitlessness of such trust in violence – indeed, their killing Him with sword and spear shall be the instrument which leads to His resurrection, bringing the dawn of new life in whose light death itself, and the pride of man, shall be destroyed forever.
Let all know it is the Lord who fights for those whom He loves, those who trust in Him and His ways, who seek to do good and not evil, to “preserve life” and not “destroy it.” The question Jesus poses to the Pharisees He presents to us: do we cherish the saving power of the Lord of life and take refuge and joy in Him, or do we reach for the weapons at our side to destroy Him? The posturing of this world is vain, for it is God who holds life and death in His Hand.
O LORD, you save us from the clutches of evil men.
YHWH, the battle is yours. You strengthen our hands against the enemy and give victory to your chosen ones. Despite the plots of those who surround us with evil intent, despite the might of the armies arrayed against us, you give confidence to those who trust in you, for with you the faithful soul triumphs over the powers of this world.
You deliver us in the day of battle, dear God; you are our refuge, our stronghold, and by your hand we destroy those who come at us with closed minds and hardened hearts, railing against your holy One. They cannot stand before your awesome power – their swords and spears are broken by the Word that issues from your mouth.
The head of the snake shall be cut off, crushed by the feet of your lowly ones, and we shall sing your praise, O LORD. Forever we shall be preserved from the violence of the enemy.
Mon, 20 January 2020
(1Sm.16:1-13; Ps.89:20-22,27-28; Mk.2:23-28)
“Man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”
Indeed, how different the vision of God from the vision of man, and how well the Lord illustrates this in His rejection of Saul and His choosing of David. When Samuel sees Eliab, whose appearance and “lofty stature” are reminiscent of Saul, even this great seer is blinded by his eyes and must be directed by God to look beyond what is apparent to his sight. All seven sons brought to the feast are rejected by the Lord, and the youngest, “who is tending the sheep,” must be sent for. Jesse, his father, did not think David worthy of coming to the sacrificial banquet, but it is he who is the centerpiece of the celebration. This ruddy youth is the one chosen by the eyes of God.
And lest we think that there is some kind of diametrical opposition between physical beauty and interior loveliness, we must note that David is not ugly to behold and the Lord does not choose him for a poor appearance. He too was “handsome… and making a splendid appearance.” But the beauty of David finds its source not in the skin but in a heart set on God, and it is this faithfulness and dedication to Him upon which the Lord gazes and, so, chooses, and not upon the curls falling around his face. David’s appearance is beautiful because his soul is beautiful, and his soul is beautiful because it finds its life in God. And so, from the day of his anointing by Samuel, God’s prophet, “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David” and there remained, for it had found its proper home.
In our gospel we have a quote like unto the one separated out for this day, and expressive of a similar lesson: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the sabbath,” Jesus tells the Pharisees critical of His disciples picking, peeling, and eating heads of grain on the Lord’s Day. For what do the Pharisees do but judge the law by its appearance alone, and fail to look into its heart. The law is indeed beautiful to behold and was made for man for his benefit, to draw him close to God; but how far from its purpose these leaders of the people have come, and so, how distant from the Lord they stand – unable to recognize Him as He stands before them. The sabbath itself was made for man’s rest and refreshment from labor, and yet when the disciples of Christ pick and eat to allay their hunger, to find refreshment for their failing bodies, these Pharisees deem it evil. Again one wonders how they can be so blind. Again it is apparent that they are unable to see beyond the surface. Empty indeed are their hearts.
As He has done for David, the Lord makes us strong, makes us fruitful and beautiful. He blesses our works as the works of this “highest of the kings of the earth,” if those works are founded in Christ. If we truly say with David, “You are my father, my God, the rock, my savior,” the Lord will hear us, and finding His presence in our hearts, He will bless us, even as His only Son.
O LORD, your Spirit be with us as with David,
as with Jesus.
YHWH, give us eyes to see what you see, hearts to understand your will. Your Spirit dwell within us that we might be as your Chosen One.
O LORD, as we are presented before you, may we be acceptable in your sight. Let our hearts not be hardened to your Word but anointed by your Son’s blood. O that we might call you our Father and know Jesus as our Savior! Give us your Wisdom that we might radiate your beauty to all who look upon us this day.
David you blessed, dear God, as king of kings, as the child upon whom your favor rested. Is He not the figure of your only Son? In Him do we not see presaged the Christ who would be Lord even of the Sabbath?
And are we not called to be joined to Him, to have His anointing upon us this day, His Spirit to guide us in all things? Let us be fed by your Anointed, O LORD, that His crown might be upon our heads, that our eyes might be open to His glory.
Sun, 19 January 2020
(1Sm.15:16-23; Ps.50:8-9,16-17,21,23; Mk.2:18-22)
“Does the Lord so delight in holocausts and sacrifices
as in obedience to the command of the Lord?
The answer to the question Samuel puts to Saul is, in a word, “No.” “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission than the fat of rams.” Nothing does the Lord deem greater than our hearing and heeding His Word, than our obedience to His will. And nothing will save us, nothing will preserve our place in His kingdom like our doing what He asks of us.
Saul loses his kingship for his disobedience to the command of the Lord. The Lord has told him to destroy the enemy he invades and all that belongs to them. Saul retains some of the animals to bring back for sacrifice to God. Why waste them? Why not honor God with them? Reasonable thoughts to the human mind, but not the will of God. And in heeding these thoughts is revealed the seed of Saul’s rebellion against God, which will lead to his attempts to destroy the king (David) the Lord has chosen to replace him, and end in his own suicide.
How prone the human mind is to favor its own counsels against those of God. How foolish seem submission and obedience, especially when they go against our own logic. But David will show the humility God desires in those He would bless. “To him that goes the right way I will show the salvation of God,” He promises us. David will be one who does not hate the discipline of the Lord or cast His words behind his back. When all justification is present for his killing Saul, who hunts down God’s chosen like an animal, he forgoes every opportunity, respecting his pursuer as God’s anointed. How different his attitude from Saul’s, he who “rejected the command of the Lord” by taking matters in his own soiled hands.
The blessing obedience is, the transcendent joy of joining oneself to the will of the Lord, is evident in our gospel as well, in Jesus’ teaching that “new wine is poured into new skins” and not old. Fasting is a blessed sacrifice provided by the law and by God. But as wholesome as this practice, or any other religious observance, can be, it does not supersede being present to the Lord. If we are not present to Him, all our works become empty. The disciples are so close to Jesus, so happy to be in His company, it is as if they have stepped into heaven – and so how can the law’s prescription for fasting touch them in a place where fasting is no longer necessary? Indeed, they shall fast upon His death, and we know our great saints have performed great fasts and sacrifices in the Name of the Lord and for His glory… but first the grace of God must be with us all, or all becomes empty show.
It is the new wine of which we drink now, brothers and sisters; it is the Word become whole which is ours. Let us now be obedient to the Lord’s command, and all we do will be joy for us and for our God.
O LORD, make of us new wineskins
that we might bear your Word within ourselves.
YHWH, let us not question your Word or your will but walk in your way, for only by such obedience will we find salvation. Let us not pull away from you or presume our thoughts above your own. For in such foolishness we shall surely die – how can we remain if rejected by you?
And surely shall our rejection come if we fail to listen to your command and do your bidding. For your command is life to us, O LORD, and following in your way our means to glory; thus we will be without hope if we turn from your discipline.
Let us listen to Jesus, Him whom you have sent as Bridegroom among us. In His presence our hearts rejoice, and apart from Him we can only fast. But in feasting and in sacrifice He is our treasure; Him do we love. And so, let us be obedient to His teaching, LORD, that your blessing we might ever find.
Sat, 18 January 2020
(Is.49:3,5-6; Ps.40:2,4,7-10; 1Cor.1:1-3; Jn.1:29-34)
“I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is now my strength!”
John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is “the Son of God,” the One upon whom he has seen “the Spirit come down and remain.” And we are all His servants, made holy only in Him. John declares his own servitude, speaking of “the one who sent [him] to baptize with water,” and stating, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because He existed before me.” His witness to Jesus and the strength he takes from Him is clear, as is the case with St. Paul, who declares himself “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,” and goes on to say that, indeed, all the Church is “called to be holy” in Jesus Christ. This call from the Lord to be His servant, and that it is through His servants the Lord shows His glory, is prophesied in strength by Isaiah in our first reading, showing that even before Christ came to be born among us He indeed existed and through Him the Father called His servants, His children, to Himself. For Isaiah speaks for God, saying, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Here he speaks of Jesus; here he knows even in his time of the salvation the Lord brings.
And David in our psalm echoes the same theme of the servitude of Christ and the servitude in Christ to which all are called, and which acts as a light to this world. “Ears open to obedience you gave me,” proclaims the great and humble king, and sings as if in the voice of Christ: “In the written scroll it is prescribed for me, to do your will, O God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart!” What great blessing it indeed is to share in the servitude of Jesus, to have His song placed in our mouths, to make our lives “a hymn to our God.” He makes us His own and we share in the blood that flows through His veins when we place ourselves in the service of the Lord.
The Lord calls. He is among us now and has made His salvation known. Through the prophets, through the Baptist, through His apostles and martyrs and saints – through “all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” He reveals His glory day to day. It is His desire that we be strong in Him as we join to Him and are baptized by Him with the Holy Spirit. His grace and peace He would leave with us, His glory He would reveal through us, if His servants we would make ourselves this day. Find your strength in Him, brothers and sisters. He stoops toward you and hears your cry, and will instill His song of praise in your hearts, to be declared to all the world.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Miracle" from Listening to the Lamp, ninth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may we all testify
that Jesus is the Son of God;
by Him may all souls be saved.
YHWH, ears open to obedience give us that we might be your servants, that we might be as the Body of your only Son, doing your will in all things, ever making Him known. Let all we do testify to His presence in our midst that salvation may come to all men, even to the ends of the earth. Your apostles, your prophets, please make us, crying out your way, calling all to holiness in the Lamb of God.
Jesus is the One who is greater than us, greater than any man who has walked this earth, for only He is your Son, dear God; only He sanctifies the human race by His blessed sacrifice. Let our lips not be restrained, but let us declare His glory to all souls.
You have stooped toward us, O LORD; through Jesus you have shown us your glory. Your Servant you have called and sent among us that we all might become your servants in Him. O let your law be so in our hearts and the doing of your will our delight! Alleluia!
Fri, 17 January 2020
(1Sm.9:1-4,17-19,10:1; Ps.21:2-7; Mk.2:13-17)
“You are to govern the Lord’s people Israel,
and to save them from the grasp of their enemies round about.”
Tall and handsome, Saul gives every appearance of a king. And so God gives the people what they want in this “handsome young man” who “stood head and shoulders above the people.” But with Saul the Lord shall indeed prove that it is not upon appearances He gazes. In the failure of Saul’s reign will be revealed the emptiness of such outward attraction and our proclivity to desire what is appealing to the eye. For Saul shall not prove to be God’s anointed; His Christ shall be quite another.
It is not of Saul our psalm of David sings when it speaks of the blessings of the king. The “majesty and splendor [the Lord] conferred upon him” is as passing as his beauty. The “crown of pure gold” is to be placed upon the head of Jesus Christ alone; it is He the Father has made “a blessing forever.” His glory will be reflected in David, the ruddy shepherd youth whose son he is called, but will be fulfilled only in the Person of Jesus. It is He in whom all kings rejoice, in whom all find “the joy of [God’s] presence,” in whom all discover victory.
In our gospel, Jesus, the true king, comes, not with stately train, but “walking along the lakeshore.” And crowds of people follow Him, people not of power and riches or reputation; rather, “many tax collectors and those known as sinners joined Him.” This greatly disturbed the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees – it was not according to their vision of who He should be and what He should do. “Why does He eat with such as these?” they complain to His disciples. But He has a ready answer, one which cuts to the heart of us all and reveals the nature and purpose of this true king: “People who are healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do.” And so the Savior comes into our midst, neither tall nor handsome nor desiring praise, to save us from our sin.
We are all sick, brothers and sisters! Make no doubt; have no question about it. We need Him! It is this king and the “goodly blessings” that flow from Him that must be our heart’s desire, for He alone will bring us into the joy of the kingdom; He alone will save us from the sin into which we have all fallen. Let us follow Him as Levi, leaving behind our sinful station in life, and He will govern us well.
O LORD, Jesus you have made King over us
that we might be saved from sin
and rejoice in your presence forever.
YHWH, your Son, our King, has come to call us from our sin, to save men in need of healing. And who among us is not in need of Him? Pity the poor soul who thinks himself so.
What are we in your sight, O LORD? However tall we might be, we are no more than ants. To you all men are sick and in need of a physician; you see how quickly our beauty fades.
Oh if we could only see as you see! If we could only recognize your greatness among us in the humble stature of Jesus, the holy One. Make us ready to follow Him as Matthew from his post. Somehow open our eyes to see His gaze passing before us.
Save us from the grasp of our enemies round about. Only you could govern us; only in you could we rejoice in victory. O LORD, let us join your Son in majesty and splendor – for us He is a blessing forever. In Him we find all we need. In Him we are all anointed kings.
Thu, 16 January 2020
(1Sm.8:4-7,10-22; Ps.89:2,16-19; Mk.2:1-12)
“We have never seen anything like this!”
What the Lord can do, no one else is able to do – no king, no prophet, no priest. Though all may do in His name, nothing is done except through Him. He alone forgives sins; He alone heals. He alone fights our battles, for He alone rules over us.
In asking Samuel to appoint a king over them, the Israelites reject the rule of God in their lives. If they but believed, the Lord would take care of all their concerns and they would keep all His blessings – their children, their animals, their land… as their own. But they do not trust in Him; rather, they fear the world, the surrounding nations, and seek to be like them, to fight as they do – to have one of their own to rule them. And thus they will lose what they have, for when we give all to God, He returns all we give with manifold blessing; but when we trust in man, giving ourselves to him, he swallows up our offerings.
Our psalm expresses well the attitude we should have toward God. It should be “in the light of [His] countenance” we walk. It should be “at [His] name [we] rejoice all the day.” We should say with our psalmist: “To the Lord belongs our shield, and to the Holy One of Israel, our king.” And so it is Jesus who must be our King; He alone must rule our lives, for He alone truly belongs to God; He alone is the Son of God.
The scribes were right to ask, “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” for God alone stood before them, forgiving the sins of His children. And it is now by His power, His presence, that our priests forgive men’s sins in His name. “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and He does not take that power from the face of the earth upon His return to the Father’s side in heaven: He multiplies that power – as well as the power to teach, to, in this sense, rule our lives – in His holy Church and its appointed leaders. What He granted to the Israelites because of their stubbornness of heart, He now brings full circle by blessing us with the presence of Christ: our king, our prophet, and our priest. No longer is it blasphemy for one to stand in God’s stead, for the Lord has visited His people.
And should we not praise Him, therefore, for the wonders He accomplishes in our midst? Should we not shout for joy for His blessings? For now we have a king to rule us, a king greater than any other; now we need not fear the attacks of any nation. For even Satan He holds in His hands and casts him out at will; and so we are able to return to our land, to stand up and “go home.” May “all give praise to God” for His goodness to us, turning our foolishness and sin to His grace and blessing before our very eyes.
O LORD, let us walk in the light of your countenance;
you alone are our strength.
YHWH, forgive us our sins, forgive our rejecting your rule over us. Forgive our seeking to be like other nations with one like ourselves as our king – O why do we not cherish your presence in our midst? But thank you for sending your Son to be our King, to be Lord over us, for by this grace you take our foolish desire and make it holy. By Him we are redeemed from our sin… By Him we are forgiven.
Only you, O God, can forgive our sins, and this you do through your Son. For He shares your authority – He Himself is God. And this power to forgive sins you extend to men who stand this day in Jesus’ stead. Though we be weak and sinful, in His Name all is accomplished according to your will.
And in your Church men now also teach in the Name of Jesus, and so in your NAME as well. O LORD, let us hear your Word, let us know your healing, that all the day we might give praise to you.
Wed, 15 January 2020
(1Sm.4:1-11; Ps.44:10-11,14-15,24-25,27; Mk.1:40-45)
“Our souls are bowed down to the dust;
our bodies are pressed to the earth.”
The Israelites suffer “a disastrous defeat” at the hands of their worst enemy. Not only do they lose thirty thousand men, but the ark of God – “who is enthroned upon the cherubim” which protect it – the tabernacle which holds the manna and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. This most holy ark is taken into the camp of the Philistines. How can this be? The Israelites trusted in God’s presence to save them, and they are beaten down. Our psalm addresses their plight directly: “You have cast us off and put us in disgrace, and you go not forth with our armies… those who hated us plundered us at will.” And so the psalmist cries out with the defeated Israelites, “Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression?”
The Israelites – like the thieves on the cross either side of Christ, like us all – deserved their crushing defeat. They, again, as us all, turned their faces from the Lord of hosts to worship false and empty gods. There should be no question as to why the chastising hand of God is upon any of us. But our psalm is about more than this defeat of Israel or even our own punishment for sin. Written as the voice of Jesus Himself, it reveals the suffering of the innocent Lamb of God in our stead: “You made us the reproach of our neighbors, the mockery and the scorn of those around us.” Jesus endures the scourging and the crown of thorns and the crucifixion for no other reason than to save our souls from similar fate, and worse, from condemnation. The sinless dove dies for the sinful flesh, which keeps us all in prison and pushes our faces to the dust. Though the sons of the high priest die in battle and are no more, Jesus lives, and through His death in battle for our souls, all now live.
In our gospel “a leper approach[es] Jesus with a request, kneeling down as he address[es] Him.” Here we all are as sinners, symbolized by this outcast, coming earnestly to Jesus and humbling ourselves to the ground which, without God, is our place, is the dust from which we come and to which we return. Jesus is “moved with pity.” Jesus “stretch[es] out His hand.” Jesus “touch[es] him,” and says: “Be cured.” And the man is made whole.
Yes, this leper must be each of us, brothers and sisters. Humbly, our faces to the ground, knowing our sin and being repentant of it, we must come to Him. And He will raise our souls from the dust and our bodies from the earth into which they have fallen. This is why He has come; let us come to Him.
O LORD, we come to you to beg your grace:
make us no longer the laughingstock of the nations.
YHWH, our bodies are pressed to the earth; we are bowed down to the dust. As the leper we come before you begging your healing touch. May your Son reach out to us that we might be saved from all evil.
Disastrous defeat we suffer at the hands of the devil for we have sinned against you, O LORD our God. Our enemies overcome us for you do not fight with us, and so we are without a savior. Our courage fails for we are alone and have no help from you.
What can we do on our own, dear God? Of what worth are our souls left to their own device? Where shall we find the strength to withstand the attack against us? Our oppressors bring us to woe, we are put to disgrace, for you have cast us off and we cannot enter battle alone.
O LORD, if you will to do so, you can cure us! Turn with pity to your wayward sons. Hide not your face from us, but let us know the merciful gaze of Jesus.
Tue, 14 January 2020
(1Sm.3:1-10,19-20; Ps.40:2-5,7-10; Mk.1:29-39)
“To do your will, O Lord, is my delight.”
O how Samuel shows the “ears open to obedience” we all must have. For when called, even from sleep, he immediately and repeatedly rises and presents himself for service to the Lord. Even from his youth he is with the Lord and in His will. Such readiness to serve is also revealed in Peter’s mother-in-law, who, when touched by Jesus, “immediately began to wait on them.” She, too, rises quickly from bed (and sickness) to do the work of the Lord.
And certainly Jesus Himself is our greatest example of readiness to do God’s will, for He and the Father are indeed one and all He does is according to the Father’s word. After healing the “whole town” of their afflictions, working to exhaustion to arouse those imprisoned by the darkness of demons and bringing them into the light of God for service of the good, He rises “early the next morning” and goes “off to a lonely place in the desert,” where “He was absorbed in prayer.” When the disciples find Him, He is prepared to move on to the next town and the same exhausting work in service of the will of God, saying of the need to “proclaim the good news”: “That is what I have come to do.”
It is said of Samuel: he “grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.” And so, well does this great prophet presage the coming of Christ – He who fulfills the will of the Father – and the faith of all those who follow Him. For all those who wait for the Lord, He stoops toward. To all those who say, “Behold, I come,” He Himself comes, He Himself strengthens… His greatness He makes known through His children. So it is written in the scroll and upon our hearts: so is the will of God accomplished in our lives.
Only Him do we serve, brothers and sisters. His voice alone we must hear and heed. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” must ever be our attitude toward the Creator of heaven and earth and the Savior of our souls. The Spirit’s lead we must follow readily. And He will be with us to bless and give us the strength we need to work in Him beyond exhaustion, beyond sickness… beyond death. Life will be ours.
O LORD, let your Good News be proclaimed
that all might hear and be healed
and ready to answer your call.
YHWH, to do your will is our delight, is our holy call in this world. Let us be so blessed to hear your voice and accomplish the work you set before us. Let nothing we say be without effect; let us never act apart from you. Somehow let us find you so present to us as you were to Samuel – somehow let us follow in the footsteps of your Son.
In the temple let us dwell, in your holy resting place. Before the ark of the Covenant let us keep watch – never let your light be extinguished from our hearts and minds. Ready let us be to answer your call and show ourselves your servants. O LORD, let us do your will.
Why should we be afflicted when your Son is near to cast all demons from our souls, to heal us of every illness. To His door let us come, O LORD, and He will reach out His hand to save us. Give light to these eyes blinded by age and the falsehood of this evil world. In obedience let us stand before you.
Mon, 13 January 2020
(1Sm.1:9-20; 1Sm.2:1,4-8; Mk.1:21-28)
“May the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.”
For He holds all authority. “He gives orders to unclean spirits and they obey.” “The Lord puts to death and gives life; He casts down to the nether world; He raises up again.” All He wills, He does – nothing is beyond His reach and power. And His desire is to answer your prayer. If you are faithful as is Hannah, if you come before Him in such sincerity and truth, then what you ask shall be yours; for He Himself is sincerity and truth and goodness, and when you join yourself to Him, you join yourself to His authority… and find the answer to your prayer by His presence in your heart.
And so your heart shall exult with Hannah’s. And so you shall see how “He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap He lifts up the poor.” Indeed the prayer of the poor touches His heart and He “seat[s] them with nobles and make[s] a glorious throne their heritage.” To heaven do they come, for heaven is their love.
How evident is the Lord’s will and favor to those lowly ones who seek Him in the birth of Samuel – whose very name means “asked of the Lord” – to the barren wife Hannah. None could be poorer in blessing than she; ridiculed by the world is she for the Lord’s lack of favor toward her. But as bitter as the fruit she must taste, she does not rebel against her God, but comes to Him in all humility and with a heart full of prayer and eyes filled with tears. And He loves His child. And one of the greatest men of the Old Testament becomes her son. And her song in praise of the Lord foreshadows Mary’s own.
“Jesus entered the synagogue on the sabbath and began to teach.” He comes to us now with His Word, His authority. Where Hannah sought Him, He now comes to us, offering freely the wisdom and power and grace which are His alone. And there is nothing which stands in the way of that Word. There is nothing to prevent its coming to our hearts and healing our souls of all injury, if we but listen, if we but seek His presence in our lives – if we but promise to give all to Him, He will give all we ask to us.
O LORD, you have granted what we have asked of you
in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, the needy you lift up from the dust; the barren wife bears seven sons and the poor man you seat with nobles. For you hear the prayer of those who cry to you, who believe in you despite their misery and come with a sincere heart – you cannot resist our tears. You have all authority and that authority you wield to heal those in need and teach us your way of holiness.
And so our hearts exult in you, O LORD. You give us victory over all our enemies. Sin you cast far from our souls; all unclean spirits vanish at your Word. The holy One you have sent to us, and He is our LORD and Savior.
And so we are rich in Jesus, your Son. And so a glorious throne you make our heritage. Though a moment before we may have been in the throes of evil, though so long we may have dwelt in sorrow, you give us new life and raise us to your side. In Jesus let us make our home.
Sun, 12 January 2020
(1Sm.1:1-8; Ps.116:12-19; Mk.1:14-20)
“Hannah was childless.”
And so she would “weep and refuse to eat,” for it was “a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren.”
But He will not leave her barren long. Her husband’s love for her despite her condition and her own prayers will soon be answered: she will give birth to the great prophet and priest, Samuel, who will anoint kings in Israel.
And her song of joy, which will foreshadow our Blessed Mother’s own Magnificat, is here foreshadowed in our psalm in praise of the Lord’s favor to His servants: “To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord,” as is her faithfulness in fulfilling her vow to offer her son entirely to God: “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people.” All who have looked upon her shame and sorrow shall marvel at the blessing the Lord’s “handmaid” will receive as He looses her bonds of emptiness and makes her fruitful in His eyes.
And in our gospel the Lord awakens the empty womb of the earth, stirring it to life. “The reign of God is at hand! Reform your lives and believe in the Good News!” He proclaims to a people in darkness. And children He brings forth from this barren country, the disciples He calls unto Himself, to be the first to share in His life. And they come forth, these pillars of the Church; they leave behind the world, all the world, to follow Him. Immediately, “on the spot,” they “became His followers.” “Along the Sea of Galilee,” beside this simple body of water, the waves of grace call forth from the darkness the light that shall illumine all men.
“How shall [we] make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for [us]?” How shall we poor sinners, barren of good works, unfruitful in His sight, thank Him for hearing our grieving cries? Simply, we must bear fruit in His name.
We are no longer childless.
O LORD, call us to yourself
that we might be childless no more.
YHWH, let us enter the temple singing your praise, for though we sit here in darkness weeping for our barrenness before you, you shall hear our prayer, you shall answer our weeping and make us fruitful in your sight. For now the Word goes forth to the ends of the earth, the Good News your Son brings to us through His blessed apostles, and our lives will be reformed and we made ready to enter your presence.
Look upon us, LORD our God, as here we toil in vain for the bread which cannot satisfy our souls. For you alone do we long, and long have we been waiting in tears for you to come to us and call us to your side. Hearing the sound of your Son’s voice, what can we do but rejoice? For He is our light in this darkness.
And so, let us offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving; let us leave all behind now to follow your Son, for He leads us to fruitful labor in your holy NAME. O LORD, let us die to the things of this world that we might live in glory forever.
Sat, 11 January 2020
(Is.42:1-4,6-7; Ps.29:1-4,9-11; Acts 10:34-38; Mt.3:13-17)
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.”
And so He anoints us all in the baptism our Savior has wrought. As Jesus humbled Himself to be baptized by John, so must we bow our heads before Him and receive holy baptism at His hands. As He has laid down His life for us, so must we lay down our lives for one another. As “He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil,” so God is with us to do the same.
“The Spirit of God descend[ed] like a dove and [came] upon Him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” So Matthew recounts the Baptism of our Lord. And how similar is the beginning of our reading from Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am well pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit.” The chosen one of the ages now walks amongst us, the Spirit of God upon Him. His justice now extends to the ends of the earth, calling all into His blessed confines. None who come to Him does He reject. The “eyes of the blind” He opens, the prisoners He brings “from confinement” in the sin and darkness of the dungeon that is this world to the heavenly light of His presence walking among us in sacred flesh. “In every nation whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him,” for He loves all.
And so should we not sing out in praise of the glory of the Lord to which we are all called as did David at the completion of the tabernacle of God? For here stands the true Tabernacle, here stands its fulfillment… before us is God who calls us not only to look upon but to enter into His doors and dwell within Him in His heart, in His bosom – one with His sacred flesh and blood. The law is now written on our hearts, not only pages of a book; now the Spirit speaks to those who remain close to Him. Now we hear the “mighty” and “majestic” “voice of the Lord… over the waters”: “the God of glory thunders.” “In His temple all say, ‘Glory!’” And should we not “give to the Lord the glory due His Name”? Does not our cup overflow as Peter’s to declare the salvation that comes at the hand of our God?
Jesus has come. The Spirit is with us. Go now in the Spirit and power of God.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, may your Son, our King,
bring your merciful justice to all who dwell in darkness.
YHWH, your mighty voice is over the waters, declaring the glory of your Son to a people in darkness. Your Spirit is upon Jesus to open our eyes to your glory here now in our midst – and what should we do but praise you?
He comes humbly to us, bearing our sins and bringing peace to our troubled souls. And so, now the flood cannot overwhelm us; now we are released from the prison in which we had been trapped for so long. Now, O LORD, your will is accomplished and all are called into your holy light.
O let us be baptized with Him and so become as your beloved sons! Let us, too, hear your voice speaking your blessing over us. Fulfill all righteousness among us this day, let your work be accomplished among men – let us be known as your children. O LORD, let us be acceptable to you!
Glory to you, O God of all glory! May we be pleasing to you as is your Son. Let your surpassing justice be done.
Fri, 3 January 2020
(1Jn.3:7-10; Ps.98:1,3,7-9; Jn.1:35-42)
“When Jesus turned around and noticed them following Him,
He asked them, ‘What are you looking for?’”
Brothers and sisters, what Jesus asks the first two disciples He asks each of us who follow in their wake. What do we seek? Why are we following Him? What is it we hope to find at the place where He stays?
David makes clear in our psalm that the Son of God, “His holy arm,” has been revealed in our midst – in “wondrous deeds” He “comes to rule the earth.” “The world and those who dwell in it” should resound with joy. Him whom John the Baptist points out in no uncertainty is with us now. There is no other whom we should follow. And so we do. And so we come to Him each day, to receive our daily bread. Seeing where He lodges, we come to stay with Him.
But what does the Lord see when He looks upon us? Does He stay with us? When Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus, He “looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John; your name shall be Cephas (which is rendered Peter).’” Jesus upon looking at Peter sees the Rock on which He will build His Church. Peter’s holiness, the strength he has in God and for God, is evident to the Lord. Jesus knows what Peter seeks, and both have found what they are looking for. Is it upon our hearts as well to find the holiness of heaven, to become one with the Son of God?
“The man who acts in holiness is holy indeed, even as the Son is holy,” but “the man who sins belongs to the devil.” Holiness or sin? Jesus or the devil? The choice is clear, and must be evident in our lives. “No one begotten of God acts sinfully” and “no one whose actions are unholy belongs to God.” The first letter of John, our first reading, could not more simply state our call in the Lord: to be holy, not to sin… to love our brothers and sisters well – to be as Jesus, the Son most holy.
Jesus will turn and see us; His eyes are upon us now. What does He see as He looks upon your heart? What is your answer to His question, “What are you looking for?” Let His dwelling be all you seek.
O LORD, let us follow your Son to where He lives,
in holiness with you.
YHWH, let us stay with you and with your Son. May He turn and look upon us with kindness, with pity for our frail condition. O let this Lamb take our sins from us that we might no longer be in the grip of the devil but come to eternal life in your House!
The Messiah you have sent is in our midst this day; let us come to the altar to receive Him, to receive His holy sacrifice and become one with Him. Only thus shall we be made holy; only with Him will we find true justice and so rejoice in your presence, O LORD. O let us be ruled by Him!
Make us your children, dear LORD. Make us as your only Son. May Jesus be with us this day and we with Him that we might become holy indeed. Never let us act sinfully but ever love as you love, as your Son loves us. Let us seek your love alone and so be founded upon true Rock, in your House.
Thu, 2 January 2020
(1Jn.2:29-3:6; Ps.98:1,3-6; Jn.1:29-34)
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
“This is God’s chosen One.” This is He upon whom “the Spirit descend[s]” – who takes away our sins and makes us pure by His own baptism “with the Holy Spirit.” He who walks with Him walks in holiness, for “everyone who acts in holiness has been begotten by Him” – we have become “children of God” because we have now the grace of the only Son.
Listen to the manner in which the Baptist “sing[s] joyfully before the King, the Lord” in our gospel today: “I saw the Spirit descend like a dove from the sky, and it came to rest on Him.” How like music, like “the harp and melodious song,” is his witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. His exclamation of Jesus as the holy Lamb of God, offered as a sacrifice pure and undefiled, resounds to the ends of the earth more eloquently and with greater power than “the trumpets and the sound of the horn” of which David sings in our psalm. Here is the voice proclaiming the Truth, the message our ears have so longed to hear.
“The very reason [John] came baptizing with water was that [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel,” and “the reason [Jesus] revealed Himself was to take away sins” – all this for our salvation. Yes, brothers and sisters, “in Him there is nothing sinful.” And we must be like Him. Insofar as we sin, we have “not seen Him or known Him.” Insofar as a man “keeps himself pure, as He is pure,” he is His child, knowing Him most intimately, and may exclaim in wonder with John the evangelist: “What love the Father has bestowed on us in letting us be called children of God!”
All sin and struggle with sin all the while they are on earth. There are many times when we must admit that we do not see Him or know Him in order for Him to be revealed in our lives, in order for us to find His blessed purity. We must confess our sins that we might sing His praise. But all the while the Son is with us, the Lamb intercedes to remove our sins. And always we must look to Him whom the Baptist proclaimed to be “what we are,” to become “like Him” when His light comes to its fullness and His Spirit is all we know.
O LORD, your saving power, your Lamb,
has come to take away the sin of the world –
may all nations rejoice in such blessing.
YHWH, Jesus is your Chosen One, your only Son, the pure reflection of your Being… and we must be like Him. We must be pure as He is pure, as you are pure, as the Spirit that comes from Him and descends upon us is pure. O let us truly be pure! Let us truly be your children.
O LORD, Jesus has come to take away all sin from us. This is the mission, the work He has from you. It is for John to declare the coming of the Lamb of God, and it is for this Lamb to die for our sins. Let all be accomplished in your will. As John has made the Christ known and He has been crucified for our sakes, so let us find the purification from sin you desire for us that we might be united to you.
All the earth has seen your saving power, O LORD. Let all souls recognize that power in our midst and remain in Him who brings it.