Sun, 31 May 2020
O prophet of the Lord
who spoke in His defense
even before the bench of death,
who professed the wisdom of the Cross
over the intelligence of our race
and all the ideas
it could conceive,
who chose true worship
of the One God
even over life itself
and taught us also
His way in His Church –
pray we shall merit with you
the name of Christian,
the name above every other name,
upon our lips and hearts,
that we shall follow in His steps
seeking always the truth
and His love;
pray we shall worship Him
who deserves all worship and praise
and serve Him and His Church
even with our last breath on this earth.
Sun, 31 May 2020
(2Pt.1:2-7; Ps.91:1-2,14-16; Mk.12:1-12)
“I will deliver him and glorify him;
with length of life I will gratify him
and will show him my salvation.”
So the Lord speaks of us through prophecy of His only Son. So the Lord seeks to accomplish in everyone who “acknowledges [His] name.” So indeed He has sent “the Son whom He loved” for our salvation. So He prays with Peter, the Rock of His Church, “May grace be yours and peace in abundance through your knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.” For “by His own glory and power… He has bestowed on us the great and precious things He promised, so that through these [we] who have fled a world corrupted by lust might become sharers of the divine nature.”
Brothers and sisters, “that divine power of His has freely bestowed on us everything necessary for a life of genuine piety through knowledge of Him.” He has come into this world, He has entered the vineyard despite the threat of death, and has indeed been “beat[en],” “treated shamefully,” and “killed,” all that He might found His Church among us; and His grace is for us “marvelous to behold.” Should we not then “make every effort” to employ the gifts He provides by the Holy Spirit and the Church He has made? Should gift not build upon gift so that in this house of ours we grow from the foundation of faith unto the divine love of all?
Let us not be like those tenant farmers who acted out of jealousy, who could only say of the Son: “Here is the one who will inherit everything. Come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance will be ours.” For the Lord has indeed “come and destroy[ed]” these faithless servants “and turn[ed] His vineyard over to others.” We are those others. And we “inherit everything” with the Son if we “say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Yes, brothers and sisters, it is we who “dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Let us be most conscientious in our work in His name; let us be ever ready to provide Him “His share of produce from the vineyard.” For the vineyard is all His, and we are all His, and He is with all of us and with all we do and are – and He will deliver us and glorify us in the eternal life to which He has come to lead us. In His Son is our salvation.
O LORD, on your Son we find our blessed foundation; in Him let us grow to perfection,
to union with you.
YHWH, your Son who was rejected by man, who was despised and put to shame and to a painful death, be the foundation of our lives – let our hearts be set upon Him alone that we might become sharers of His divine nature, as is your will.
Let us build our house on faith in you, O LORD, and grow in every virtue by increasing knowledge of your power and participation in your great love, till we come to rest with you in your eternal kingdom. That kingdom you build upon this earth this day, both in the hearts of all believers and in the Church you ordain to bear your NAME, to produce fruit by your grace. Let us remain ever in this House, in this vineyard you plant, that our houses may be like your own.
O LORD, take our souls unto yourself as we give all things over to you who are the source and deserving recipient of all good things… O let us dwell in your holy House in your surpassing peace all the days of our poor lives, and so become holy as you.
Sat, 30 May 2020
(Acts 2:1-11; Ps.104:1,24,29-31,34; 1Cor.12:3b-7,12-13; Jn.20:19-23)
“Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.”
What our first reading captures in all its dramatic moment, David’s psalm declares in clarity – “When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” – and our gospel defines in Jesus’ word and action with His apostles: “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The Spirit comes from heaven above, through the only Son, to redeem, renew, and strengthen all on the face of the earth.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” and they all spoke “of the mighty acts of God,” and each one of those gathered there “from every nation… heard them speaking in his own language.” For the language in which they spoke was the language of the Spirit, the language all understand. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body… and we are all given to drink of one Spirit,” and what does this Spirit say but, “Jesus is Lord,” the truth to which all are called, for which every heart yearns.
And though all find life in “the same Spirit,” though all declare as one that Jesus is Lord, for each of us “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts.” As David exclaims, “How manifold are your works, O Lord!” And is not this call to “different forms of service” revealed in the fact that “there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them”? Each is thereby given his own “theme,” his own song to sing to please the Lord, and our prayer should therefore always be, “May the Lord be glad in His works!” (And for those who deny that man has been given the gift of forgiving sins, do they not read the Lord’s straightforward words to His disciples at this most decisive moment: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”?)
Praise God for the gifts He imparts to all His children. Praise Him for the peace He leaves us and the mission on which He sends us. But praise Him most especially for the breath of the Holy Spirit which animates our very beings, for “if [the Lord] take away [our] breath, [we] perish, and return to [our] dust,” but with this Spirit we share in the very power of God.
Fill this house, O Lord, with the power of your Spirit.
Let the Church always proclaim your praise.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (final part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us be baptized in your Spirit,
renewed for the proclamation of your love.
YHWH, comes the driving wind from Heaven, the Spirit Jesus breathes upon His apostles, and so we are made your sons, dear Father, and declare your glory unto all. May your Church with one voice offer you due praise and teach the nations of your eternal call.
We must leave our sins behind and accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit, living as one with the Son of God. If we keep His commandments, we shall dwell with you forever, O Father God. For He is with you and through Him you send the Spirit; all who desire to be your children you bless with purging fire this holy day.
Now the promised gift of the Spirit falls upon our immortal souls and we are refreshed and made new creatures, formed in the image of Jesus, your Son. One you make us in Spirit and Body, free from all the works of the flesh. Your Son stands in our midst and offers us His peace; the Advocate now testifies to all Truth… Come and make your dwelling in us, O glorious LORD and God.
Fri, 29 May 2020
(Acts 28:16-20,30-31; Ps.11:4-5,7; Jn.21:20-25)
“I wear these chains solely because I share the hope of Israel.”
The hope of Israel indeed wears chains. The Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the nation, is fixed to a cross. This is the call of all who follow Jesus – to die.
But, Peter is prompted to ask as he walks with Jesus and the Lord explicates his dual call to serve as leader of the Church and to die for his faith, “What about him?” What about John, who follows them? The question pertains not simply to whether or not John also must suffer a martyr’s death, but principally – as the principal call of Peter is to feed the Lord’s flock – to why Jesus does not call John to serve as His first of priests, standing in His stead, for it is clear to all that John is “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus responds, “Suppose I want him to stay until I come,” suppose He does not want John to pour himself out as a libation on His holy altar… that should be of no concern to the Rock of the Church. Jesus calls whom He wills to what He wills for His blessed purpose. And John is not called to die, or to lead.
John is, in fact, the only one of the Twelve who does not suffer a martyrdom of blood. He does remain until a very old age. His martyrdom is white, that of suffering a long life. And in several ways he remains ever with the Church on earth, in a sense, as the Christ’s beloved Church. It is he to whom the Blessed Mother is entrusted, she who is with us always to nurture us here on our journey. And in our gospel today, the principal call of John is most evident: he is called to “witness to… the things that Jesus did” and to “record them.” “It is he who wrote them down,” he who is the great Evangelist – he whose words remain with us even today as we read his gospel throughout the most blessed season of Easter. And, of course, it is he who, in his old age, while exiled on the island of Patmos, will receive the great vision that has become the Book of Revelation, thus telling us so thoroughly not only of Jesus’ life on earth, but also of His life in heaven.
In our first reading, Paul is “allowed to take a lodging of his own.” Though “a soldier was assigned to keep guard over him… with full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, he preached the reign of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” What Paul does in earthly chains for two years – for soon he, too, shall be martyred for the faith – John does, in a sense, endlessly, or at least until its natural end.
“The Lord is in His holy temple… His searching glance is on mankind.” He calls all to the martyrdom He chooses. Let us each wear the chains He provides, each find the place in the kingdom to which He leads us, knowing always that “the upright shall see His face.”
O LORD, however much we speak of you,
there is more to tell;
you far surpass our poor witness, O hope of Israel.
YHWH, if we must stay here in rented lodgings, let us witness to you with our lives. If today we must die, let our blood be shed upon your altar of sacrifice. Whatever we do, whether we live or die, let it be done for you.
We do not know how long we shall dwell upon this earth, O LORD. We do not know when we shall die and come with you to Paradise. But we know that your call is upon our souls, that while here we wear your chains and before us is set your Son’s Cross. And we know the source of both the chains of this life and the death we must die is the hope we bear in our souls, the hope of entering into your reign. And we know that your reign is alive in us even this day.
Peter is the first of priests, sacrificing himself in the place of your Son upon your holy altar. John, your beloved, witnesses to you with his love and in the words he speaks to us. If we must stay and write, O LORD (vision of you upon our souls), or if we must bleed and die, let all be done for you who dwell on high… and let us join you in your Temple.
Thu, 28 May 2020
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.
Wed, 27 May 2020
(Acts 22:30,23:6-11; Ps.16:1-2,5,7-11; Jn.17:20-26)
“I set the Lord ever before me;
with Him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.”
Yes, “the Lord appeared at Paul’s side” at night, in prison, after his testimony and the near riot it caused in Jerusalem. He comes to encourage him, to strengthen him for further trials; and through all Paul shall remain strong.
“Keep me, O God, for in you, I take refuge,” David prays, and sings of the confidence his heart and soul find in the Lord, his “allotted portion and cup… who hold[s] fast [his] lot.” He knows deep in his spirit that the Lord “will not abandon [his] soul to the netherworld, nor will [He] suffer [His] faithful one to undergo corruption.” And certainly, the same faith Paul exhibits; the same trust in the Lord, Paul holds in his own spirit. He, too, is not disturbed, though he finds himself “on trial now because of [his] hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
And whence comes such confidence? How can a man so attacked, a man so beaten and cursed, be so without fear? Does not Jesus answer this question in His prayer to the Father, which we are all blessed to hear? Here He prays that we be one in Him even as He is one with the Father. Here He asks that our “unity may be complete.” And if our unity is complete with the Father and with the Son, as well as with one another, what, brothers and sisters, have we to fear? If the love of God which the Father “bore [the Son] before the world began” is in our hearts now, what can disturb them? “That your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them” is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for us all – and do you think the Father does not listen, does not answer His Son? He would have us in His company where He is, gazing upon His glory – and this is where Paul dwells. And so he cannot be moved.
“You will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” The Spirit brings us now that of which David sings, that which Paul knows, that all might know the glory of God, that all might be one in Him, and so, safe from all harm. As Jesus is resurrected from the dead, so shall we all be. What have we to fear? We must but set Him before us always.
O Lord, let your love live in us
that we might make your Name known
with faith and courage.
YHWH, in you we take our refuge, and so we pray that you keep us ever close by – with you at our right hand we shall not be disturbed. Please answer your Son’s prayer that we be in His company where He is, with you in eternal glory. You will not abandon our souls to the nether world, and so, encourage us as you have Paul, with your presence at our side. In your Spirit may we find confidence to bear witness before all.
Jesus has been resurrected from the dead and with Himself He would bring us to your glorious presence. What need we fear with His power upon us? Why should we be afraid when His Spirit is with us, showering on us your love? In you we should but rejoice for the eternal protection you give us in your holy NAME. To life we shall come even this day, O LORD, for we have believed in your Son and so share in the glory of His resurrection.
Tue, 26 May 2020
(Acts 20:28-38; Ps.68:29-30,33-36; Jn.17:11-19)
“O Father most holy,
protect them with the name you have given me.”
In our gospel today Jesus prays to the Father, “who rides on the heights of the ancient heavens,” to “guard [His disciples] from the evil one.” And the parallels continue between His and Paul’s parting words, as the Apostle warns his own disciples, “When I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock,” and therefore exhorts them to “be on guard.”
It is the Lord’s earnest desire of the Father that we His disciples “be consecrated in truth.” If truth be with us, if the Holy Spirit He promises to send be ours, the “careful watch” Jesus has kept “as long as [He] was with [us]” will continue. In fact, Paul’s instruction to the elders of Ephesus to “shepherd the Church of God, which He has acquired at the price of His own blood” – blood the Lord is about to shed in our gospel – will be realized, and His apostles will become themselves those who care for the safety of the people of God. “I consecrate myself for their sakes now,” Jesus says, offering Himself, His blood, as sacrifice for the Church; and Paul commends his disciples to this same Lord, “to that gracious word of His which can enlarge [them], and give [them] a share among all who are consecrated to Him.” In His name all are saved.
“Awesome in His sanctuary is God, the God of Israel; He gives power and strength to His people.” David sings mightily of the majesty of God, whose “voice resounds, the voice of power,” and calling all to “confess the power of God!” indicates how we share in that great power. In declaring of the Father, with Jesus and with Scripture, “Your word is truth,” that truth in essence becomes our own; we are thereby consecrated to it. And so Paul can exhort those he has placed in positions of power: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard,” for he knows as long as (like Paul) they do not “set [their] hearts on anyone’s silver or gold,” as long as they work tirelessly to “help the weak,” to serve the Church, they shall indeed be sharing in the power and authority of God.
Brothers and sisters, we “do not belong to the world” but to God and to His truth. His Spirit is with us to guide us and protect us here on our journey through death to life. As we humble ourselves in prayer before Him, He hears and answers all our needs. Remain in Him this day.
O LORD, shepherd your flock in the truth;
keep all falsehood from us.
YHWH, let us be consecrated in your Word, in your Word of truth, that we might share in your might and power, that we might be protected by your Name. As your Son sends His apostles forth, so these apostles send others forth, all sharing in the power that comes from you by the Spirit upon your Church. May we all be one with your Son as He is one with you, and so may we all do your will despite the persecutions of this world.
We do not belong to the world, O LORD, but to the One who has left this world to come to you in your kingdom. Help us to follow where He leads by your power from on high. Your Spirit fall upon us this day to give us strength to accomplish the work you set before us. From your sanctuary come to us and with us here remain, that we shall never turn from you along this narrow way. From generation to generation let your Word go forth till all your children are consecrated in your truth.
Mon, 25 May 2020
(Acts 20:17-27; Ps.68:10-11,20-21,33; Jn.17:1-11)
“Father, the hour has come!
Give glory to your Son that your Son may give glory to you.”
A day of departures. A day of final words and commendations. Paul bids farewell to the leaders of Ephesus, declaring his faithfulness to them; and Jesus prays to the Father in the hearing of the disciples, calling the Lord’s blessing upon them.
“The Holy Spirit has been warning me from city to city that chains and hardships await me,” Paul confesses as he makes his way to Jerusalem; Jesus now has the cross directly before His eyes, having supped for the last time with His disciples. “Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good, or from teaching you in public or in private,” Paul reminds his disciples; while Jesus states to His Father: “I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world.” “I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety,” Paul declares; “I have given you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do,” Jesus says to the Father. And as Paul hopes, “If only I can finish my race and complete the service to which I have been assigned by the Lord Jesus, bearing witness to the Gospel of God’s grace” – not caring for his own life or any suffering ahead – Jesus’ only concern as He moves toward His own death and His return to the “glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world began” is that the Father will bless His disciples, for, as He says, “It is in them that I have been glorified.” These who remain in the world, as has Paul, are those who bring His glory forth, even as Jesus has revealed the glory of the Father.
The hour of death has come but “God, who is our salvation… controls the passageways of death” because He “bears our burdens.” The Lord Jesus Christ has borne, and will bear, all the temptations the devil can mount – the greatest of these illusions being death – and has conquered them all. And now His disciples follow in His footsteps, like Paul, who has “served the Lord in humility through the sorrows and trials that came [his] way.” By this sacrifice the Lord “restored the land when it languished,” and now all are called to “repentance before God and… faith in our Lord Jesus” to know that redemption. This life that comes from His death is the glory of the Lord that goes now forth.
O LORD, we must leave this world to come to you,
but you control the passageways of death –
let all be done in your Name.
YHWH, what do you desire of us but sincere repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus? We glorify you by glorifying Him, by keeping faith in Him and witnessing His Gospel to all. May we ever preach the kingdom as has the Apostle Paul and so complete our mission here in union with your Son.
O may we come to eternal life! May we truly know you and your Son. May we share in your glory as He has prayed. O LORD our God, may we make your Name known to all, never shrinking from your call upon our souls, and leave this place blessed by you. Keep us ever in your truth and love until the day we join you in Heaven.
The hour has come, O LORD. Your Son has been glorified by you, returning to the glory He had from before time began. And now in us He seeks to be glorified, to continue the work of eternal life here on this earth. Death is not far from any of us; may we die in you and so be freed from all the chains of this world.
Sun, 24 May 2020
(Acts 19:1-8; Ps.68:2-7,33; Jn.16:29-33)
“You will suffer in the world.
But take courage! I have overcome the world.”
“An hour is coming – has indeed already come – when you will be scattered and each will go his way, leaving me quite alone.” Yet the Father is always with Jesus, even as He faces His imminent execution, and Jesus is with us by the power of the Spirit through all the trials we face.
“In me you may find peace,” the Lord assures us, bearing out the words of David’s psalm: “The father of orphans and defender of widows is God in His holy dwelling. God gives a home to the forsaken; He leads forth prisoners to prosperity.” Such the Father does for the Son, who is brought from being utterly forsaken and alone upon the cross to the absolute fruitfulness and glory of heaven; and so the Son does for His sons, as from His place in the kingdom He delivers us the same grace of salvation and prosperity in His name.
In the Lord Jesus, Paul finds his peace and his inspiration, fearlessly defending the Gospel in all synagogues “with persuasive arguments”; and this same fire of the Holy Spirit he imparts to the disciples by Baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus” and by laying his hands on them. In these, as in us all to this day, God’s grace and power go forth: “The Holy Spirit came down on them and they began to speak in tongues and utter prophecies.” More than just repentance for sins, this Baptism in the Spirit prepares all to do the work of the Lord despite any difficulties in the world. It convinces us of the divinity of Christ and causes us to declare in truth to our Lord, “There is no need for anyone to ask you questions. We do indeed believe you came from God.” And it enables us to prove such complete faith and trust in the One the Father has sent.
When the Baptism of the Lord comes upon us, God’s “enemies are scattered”; all doubt and fear are driven from us “as smoke is driven away… as wax melts before the fire.” And though we need be refined in the crucible that is our earthly life, yet at every moment God is near to preserve the grace and peace He has planted in our souls, to see that our faith does grow.
Lord, be with us always. Send your Spirit forth.
Let the ends of the earth be convinced of your loving presence
and the salvation it brings to all hearts.
O LORD, let us be baptized in the Name of Jesus
and receive the Holy Spirit
that even in this world we shall live in your peace.
YHWH, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, our enemies are scattered, driven away like smoke, and we conquer the world. His fire burns up every evil and we can but rejoice in your presence, singing praise to your Name. O let that holy fire be upon us even this day!
In the world there are indeed many troubles, many temptations which would cause us to be scattered, separated from you. But Jesus has indeed overcome the world, O LORD; by His death He has put to death all the wiles of the devil, and so in Him we may take great strength. Through belief in Him the power of the Holy Spirit is upon us.
Dearest LORD, let us not be scattered but indeed by your Word upon us scatter all those who hate you. Help us fearlessly defend your kingdom that all poor souls might make their home with you.
Sat, 23 May 2020
(Acts 1:12-14; Ps.27:1,4,7-8,13; 1Pt.4:13-16; Jn.17:1-11a)
“One thing I ask of the Lord; this I seek:
to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”
Obedient to the instructions of the Lord, the apostles returned to Jerusalem, where they gathered together in “the upper room” and “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer,” waiting for the promised gift of the Spirit of God. With David they long to “gaze on the loveliness of the Lord and contemplate His temple,” and so, with him they sing, “Of you my heart speaks, you my glance seeks.”
The Pentecost is soon to come; the Spirit shall soon fall upon the apostles and fulfill their longing for union with God. But as they wait, they suffer, as do we all, for waiting means to suffer – finding patience is to share in the passion of Christ, in the absolute subjection of our wills to the Father and so the death of our own ways. But Peter’s words come as comfort to us as we ourselves wait for the glory of God to come to us: “Beloved: Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” He knows of what he speaks. For his patient waiting, his dying to self, has been rewarded by the gift of the Spirit now with him as he speaks… and each day his continued suffering brings renewed joy. He is able to sing with full voice the words of David’s psalm: “The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” And to such fullness of the glory of God we all should come.
In our gospel Jesus calls down the glory of the Father upon Himself and so, in turn, upon all who love Him, that He may “give eternal life to all [the Father] gave Him.” As the Son has glorified the Father on earth, now He seeks to be glorified by Him in heaven, and not for His own sake, but for the benefit of those who listen as He prays to His Father. In our midst He prays for us that the power of the Holy Spirit might make us one with Him as He is one with the Father, that we might share in the glory of God.
“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” “Out of the world” He calls us, away from its darkness He brings us, that “in the world” we may be, sharing His glory with all… so to find eternal life, so to find ourselves in the hand of God, in His Temple, gazing always upon the light of His face. Alleluia!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (second part) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, if we remain devoted to prayer
and to carrying the Cross,
we shall rejoice forever in your House.
YHWH, how we wait for your glory. How we pray we shall be ready to receive the fullness of your gift from on high. The Spirit promised your chosen ones be upon us this day to lead us to the glory of your Temple.
O LORD, give us light that we might see, that we might gaze on your loveliness, that we might contemplate your presence. To eternal life let us come. Through the persecutions of this world, through our sharing in the Cross of the Christ, let your Spirit rest upon us and we be joined to your glory.
It is Jesus’ desire that we be joined to Him, that we be with Him in your glory. He prays for us as we pray for your Spirit to come and anoint us with that glory. Hear our prayers, O LORD. May Mary and all your holy apostles pray for us as well, that together our prayers might rise unto you and we rise with them to eternal life.
Fri, 22 May 2020
(Acts 18:23-28; Ps.47:2-3,8-10; Jn.16:23-28)
“He went about establishing from the Scriptures
that Jesus is the Messiah.”
In our gospel today, Jesus again assures the disciples, “Whatever you ask the Father, He will give you in my name,” He tells them of the time when He will no longer speak to them “in veiled language,” but “shall tell [them] about the Father in plain speech.” A most fascinating quote is His statement, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” So great is our oneness with Jesus because we “have believed that [He] came from God,” that now as He returns to the Father, we go there with Him; and since we are thus with the Father through Him, He need not ask for us of the Father, but we ask ourselves. When Jesus declares, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me,” He is telling us that we are indeed one with Him in the Father’s love, and so, of course, the Father hears all our prayers.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of Apollos, who was “a man full of spiritual fervor. He spoke and taught accurately about Jesus.” His love for the Lord is most evident in His “express[ing] himself fearlessly in the synagogue,” in his “vigorous” preaching of Jesus as the Messiah. He also shows himself to be a humble man, very acquiescent to Priscilla and Aquila, who “took him home and explained to him God’s new way in greater detail.” As strong as he was, and as much as “he greatly strengthened those who through God’s favor had become believers,” he was very willing to learn of his weakness. And so he becomes a model of faith and of the oneness with God we find in the Spirit through the love of Christ. And so his words are like prayers which never fall short of the glory of God. And so the Father answers all he has in his heart.
“He is supreme,” brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus now sits on the throne of God in the highest heavens. And we who believe in Him become one with Him, and so, one with the Father of all. And thus do we find all our prayers answered; thus do we find all our work blessed. Thus do we find ourselves moving as one with the will of God by the love the Father shares with all of us through our faith in His Son. As great as Apollos and Paul and all the apostles are, we can be, if we but believe that Jesus is God and so share in the Father’s love, and so hear the Holy Spirit speaking plainly to our hearts.
O LORD, Jesus is your Christ;
He reigns with you over all the nations –
thank you for sending Him to us
that we might be united to you.
YHWH, you are King of all the earth, reigning in highest Heaven, and Jesus is the Messiah you send, one with you and born for us that we might be one with both of you through the power of the Holy Spirit. As your Son returns to you, He brings us with Himself; insofar as we love Him and believe in Him, you love us and so unite us with yourself. What can we say of so great a gift but, Alleluia! Praise you, LORD!
May the Name of your Son be preached with zeal to all towns, to every soul that longs for salvation, that none shall be left without instruction but all realize the glory to which we are called in you. With you, O Most High God, may we be joined by the grace found in your Son.
All we desire may we ask for this day in the Name of your Son. And so, O LORD, all shall be as you desire – all will be gathered together as your children.
Thu, 21 May 2020
(Acts 18:9-18; Ps.47:2-8; Jn.16:20-23)
“Go on speaking and do not be silenced,
for I am with you.”
As Paul continues his missionary journey, his fears are calmed by the Lord, who assures him: “No one will attack you or harm you,” though he be in Corinth, whose infamous immorality is illustrated in the riotous behavior of the Jews in its court, and to which the court “paid no attention at all.” And the Lord is true to His word, protecting Paul throughout his year-and-a-half stay, and keeping him even from having to defend himself from charges in today’s first reading.
In our gospel Jesus reassures the disciples at the Last Supper, as He is about to leave them and their hearts begin to be troubled: “You will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.” And though there remains ever a measure of grief in our hearts as we labor in this world, our bodies apart from the fullness of the grace of heaven, yet we know that Jesus’ promise has indeed been kept in His sending His Spirit upon the apostles from His heavenly kingdom. It is, of course, this Holy Spirit who inspires and guides and protects Paul, making his missionary work fruitful, for he does all having been baptized by the fire of Christ. And, of course, the disciples to whom Jesus speaks today will soon have no more fear, for Pentecost is not far from them.
Pentecost is not far from any of us, brothers and sisters. The promised Spirit is come into the world to answer all questions, to calm all our anxieties. As we wait these nine days to celebrate this great feast of the Church, as we prepare again to enter into its birth in the Spirit of God, let us be assured that the Lord’s promise remains: “You are sad for a time, but I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.”
No one can take from us the promised joy we now hold in our hearts and which is renewed in this season. As Paul is emboldened even through his most difficult trials, as the apostles rejoice at their persecutions for Jesus’ sake, so we should know that the Lord “brings people under us, nations under our feet”; and so, as powerful as the world may seem in all its brazen immorality, yet we are assured that “He chooses for us our inheritance, the glory of Jacob, whom He loves.” “There are many of [His] people in this city,” here where we dwell on earth, and we must speak to them of the Lord’s glory, His love strengthening us for every task. It is He who accomplishes all in us, and so He will guide and guard our way.
O LORD, give us reassurance of your presence with us,
now and until the end of time.
YHWH, soon our hearts shall rejoice at the return of your Son and our union with you in Heaven forever. But now your Spirit is with us reassuring us of the fulfillment of this promise and guiding and protecting us along the way. We can accomplish all the tasks you set before us because of the glory that is among us even this day in our Advocate from on high.
O LORD, though there is cause for us to weep and mourn in these days we remain apart from complete unity with you, we are strengthened as we wait by the knowledge that Jesus is yet present with us in the Spirit He sends. Let us take refuge in this gift and, as we wait now again for its outpouring in a few days, let us remember your faithfulness to us and our destiny to praise you forever in your eternal kingdom. O you who sit upon the throne, shine your light upon us this day.
Wed, 20 May 2020
(Acts 1:1-11; Ps.47:1-3,6-9; Eph.1:17-23 or Eph.4:1-13 or Heb.9:24-28,10:19-23;
Mt.28:16-20 or Mk.16:15-20 or Lk.24:46-53)
“God mounts His throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.”
Three events are the subject of today’s readings. The key of these is certainly the Lord’s ascending into heaven and taking His place at the right hand of the Father. Without this the other two could not follow. And so we celebrate the Lord’s Ascension in particular; but we also hear of the coming Pentecost and the apostles’ call to go forth to the ends of the world.
“As they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.” Now He goes to heaven, returning to the Father, as He has said, to enter into glory. And as He has asked, we should be joyful, we should “shout to God with cries of gladness. For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great King over all the earth,” and now Jesus, our Savior and our brother, is with Him, and so brings us to Him. His glory becomes our own, and so His now assuming His throne in heaven should cause us to “sing hymns of praise” to Him who now “reigns over the nations.”
And from His place seated “at the right hand of God” “upon His holy throne,” the Lord keeps “the promise of the Father about which [we] have heard [Him] speak.” For “in a few days [we] will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”; Pentecost will be here, and Jesus’ words to His disciples as He prepares to ascend will be our own: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” It is from this Holy Spirit that the Church takes its strength, through whom we are all made one in “faith and knowledge of the Son of God,” and by whom we attain to “the full stature of Christ.” He it is who inspires all, and He could not come except that our high priest has entered the sanctuary of heaven – opening for us the way to enter there – and from there delivered unto us the grace which through Him comes.
And what does this inspiration, this absolute strength we take in the Spirit call us to do but to heed the Lord’s words and “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” knowing as He has said, “I am with you always, until the end of the age”? And so, apostles and prophets and evangelists and all His children go forth empowered by His Spirit that “hearts [may] be enlightened,” that all might know “the hope that belongs to His call… the riches of glory in His inheritance… and what is the surpassing greatness of His power” – that all might believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus is now seated at the Father’s right hand in heaven, “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” All things are “beneath His feet,” for “King of all the earth is God,” and Jesus is God. But though the Son has joined the Father, remember He is with us always, suffering with us still and bringing us to His side by the power of His Spirit. Wait now on His Word.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "There Is No End to Life" (1st half) from Thoroughfare, seventh album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, may the cloud
which took Jesus from our sight
soon bring Him back to us
and keep Him with us forever.
YHWH, your Son mounts His throne of glory, He ascends to you in Heaven, drawing us up into your presence and giving us the power to proclaim your glory and baptize all in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit – with you, O God, let us be made one!
And let us go, O LORD, even to the ends of the earth, your Son working through us by the power of the Spirit upon us. As we wait now for your promise to fall upon us and be fulfilled in us, let us with faith set our hearts on your surpassing presence. From the bonds of this earth let us be freed, that by the power of the Spirit we might indeed join Jesus at your right hand. O let thy kingdom come!
Soon your Son shall return to us and we will sing in unending joy. But even now we are the Body of Christ, united with Him in Heaven. O LORD, send your Spirit forth that we might find the strength to call all souls unto your glory.
Tue, 19 May 2020
(Acts 17:15,22-18:1; Ps.148:1-2,11-14,Is.6:3; Jn.16:12-15)
“It is He ‘who gives’ to all life and ‘breath’ and everything else.”
“His majesty is above earth and heaven,” brothers and sisters. And so our psalmist today encourages all in the heavens and all on earth to “praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted.” “From one stock He made every nation of mankind to dwell on the face of the earth,” and it is “in Him we live and move and have our being.” And so should we, “His faithful ones,” not offer Him praise?
Brothers, be not ignorant as the men of Athens who thought “the God who made the world and ‘all that is in it,’ the Lord of heaven and earth,” as “something like a statue of gold or silver or stone, a product of man’s genius and his art.” Could man with all his intelligence make the sun or wind? Then how can it be that he might contrive the Creator of these? Such groping in darkness for the God who is “not really far from any of us” shall not be tolerated forever. For the time has come to turn on the lamp which lights the room and let all shadows flee. He who is going to “judge the world with justice” is among us now; it is He whom God “has endorsed in the sight of all by raising Him from the dead.” And it is faith in Him to which we must come.
Jesus promises the disciples that “the Spirit of truth… will guide [them] to all truth.” It is He who “will not speak on His own, but will speak only what He hears.” He receives from Jesus, who possesses “all that the Father has,” all that He announces to us. And Paul is His mouthpiece today, speaking not what he has invented by his erudite learning and fanciful imagining, but rather proclaiming the truth he hears the Spirit inspiring in his soul and burning in his heart.
We shall not get to heaven on stairs we make with our soiled hands; they cannot but crumble under the pressure of time and the weight of truth. Only by obedience to the Spirit who inspires all, shall all find the presence of the “God Unknown” to hearts of stone and minds as fleeting as a wisp of smoke. “He calls on all men everywhere to reform their lives,” for their scoffing at truth shall bring them alone to a dark room, where there shall be no breath of the Spirit. But we who know all wisdom comes from God, living in its light are made His children.
O LORD, may we know your glory in the Word
announced to us by the Spirit Jesus sends.
YHWH, the light of wisdom you alone shine by the Spirit of Truth come through your Son. You are exalted above earth and Heaven, and we cannot approach you by our minds or the work of our hands – only by faith will we come to know your surpassing glory.
O LORD, let your glory be announced to all that all might praise you in whom we live and move and have our being, that all might thus come to know themselves by realizing we are your offspring. If we do not see you, how blind we remain to everything, hopelessly groping in the dark for truth and light. We cannot make truth, we cannot make you, for it is you who have made us.
May we heed your call to reform our lives, dear LORD, that we might come to understanding, that guided by the Spirit we might come to faith in you and praise your Name forever with all your children in the heavenly kingdom.
Mon, 18 May 2020
(Acts 16:22-34; Ps.138:1-3,7-8; Jn.16:5-11)
“Immediately all the doors flew open
and everyone’s chains were pulled loose.”
“Your right hand saves me,” David sings unto the Lord this day in our psalm. Mighty indeed is His power, and so we should “worship at [His] holy temple, and give thanks to [His] name,” for He has “built up strength within [us]”; by the power of the Holy Spirit He has set us free from our prisons, from the chains of sin.
“When I called you, you answered me,” David sings. And how the Lord answers Paul and Silas as they call unto Him in song of their own. “After receiving many lashes they were thrown into prison, and the jailer… put them in maximum security, going so far as to chain their feet to a stake.” Yet what do we find these apostles doing in the deep of the night? – “praying and singing hymns to God as their fellow prisoners listened.” And God hears their prayers; they bring “a severe earthquake [which] suddenly shook the place, rocking the prison to its foundations” and setting all those inside free of their chains.
Can we have a clearer sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power than this? Well, yes, because as wondrous as earthquakes are, the truest sign of the Spirit came this night when the jailer “and his whole household were baptized.” The earthquake and the flying open of prison doors may have opened his heart to hearing the word of God, but his wholehearted acceptance of “his newfound faith in God” is the Spirit’s great work. For what is of greater importance, the stone and steel of a prison cell shaken and cast to the ground, or the salvation of the eternal soul of man?
The Lord Jesus has promised to send the Spirit as Advocate to plead our cause and prove us right about our faith in the One who saves from sin. In justice and in truth He goes to the Father, and from His exalted throne He sends forth the Paraclete to prove His presence with us still; and by the grace and power of the Holy Trinity at work in our midst, “the prince of this world has been condemned” and the prison he built to contain us destroyed.
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart.” Let us sing to Him, brothers and sisters. Let us join with David and Silas and Paul, and all the redeemed of the Lord, and “joyfully celebrate with [our] whole family,” with all the children of our God, our everlasting faith in the Father, Son, and Spirit. From prison we have been released; with the Savior we are risen. His Spirit is upon us now.
O LORD, may we believe in your Son
and so be saved from our sin,
entering your House with songs of praise.
YHWH, you have saved us from certain death, death at our own hands because of our sins. To our very foundation you have shaken us and served to make us new men. May all be baptized in your Name!
Send your Spirit forth, O LORD, to shake this place in which we dwell, that we might be released from our prisons, from dwelling in our self-made hell. The chains of this world are easily broken by your power come from above; let us turn quickly from our sin and acknowledge your power and might, and we shall be saved – we and all our household.
No fear let us have of the world’s efforts to chain your Word, O God. Despite all, let us sing your praise, knowing the devil has been condemned, and the Spirit will never die in us. And whatever darkness may surround us this day shall soon pass, and with your angels we shall sing your praise in your eternal kingdom.
Sun, 17 May 2020
(Acts 16:11-15; Ps.149:1-6,9; Jn.15:26-16:4)
“You must bear witness.”
The Spirit will come and call to your hearts to speak of the name of Jesus and His salvation. As He prompts you, you must speak the truth in love, you must go as He calls – you must bear witness. And sometimes the word you speak, and you yourself, will be accepted with the faith and great hospitality as known in Lydia (who is said to be “one who listened,” for “the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying,” and who generously invited Paul and his companions, foreigners traveling to distant lands, to “come and stay at [her] house”); and other times those who “know neither the Father nor [the Son]” will “expel you from synagogues,” will cast you violently from their midst, and “anyone who puts you to death will claim to be serving God!” It does not matter. The Word must go forth, in season and out.
How few true witnesses there seem to be today, for in the time and place in which I stand certainly the Word of God is out of season. False witnesses with strange gospels abound, but the tongue of the apostles is tied, and what is spoken seems to land upon deaf ears. Those who have no conception of the Holy Spirit and so know neither Father nor Son are emboldened to speak as messengers of Jesus, though the Jesus they know is not the Christ and what they speak but serves to lead the sheep astray. And where is His Church? Will no one stand to speak of His love?
Today instead of “sing[ing] for joy upon [our] couches… the high praises of God… in our throats,” the houses in which we dwell seem to swallow our souls, and we are left mute in the face of destruction. And it is hard to say that our faith is shaken, for who can find any faith at all? Neither persecution nor glad acceptance do we find, for we speak no word to challenge the world.
Let us pray to the Lord, brothers and sisters, that He will send laborers forth, that even in this time of lethargy upon His Church, new life is beginning to grow. For until the end of time the Word must go forth; before then it shall not have reached its goal. However well the devil may fool us into complacency, we must know that it is always time to preach the Word, for ever will hearts be seeking Him – and ever hands seek to destroy Him. “The Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” This call to the humble must be heard by all.
O LORD, let us stand strong in doing your will,
praising your Name, come what may.
YHWH, help us to go forth in the Name of your Son, to speak His Word to the world, to bear witness to truth as He has. For though we be persecuted and even killed for serving you, there will be those who will listen and be saved.
Ready our hearts for what may come, O LORD, that we shall not fear in the hour of darkness, on the day the power of the evil one asserts itself. Help us to realize his power is as nothing and those who do his bidding shall pass like the fading grass. Only those who hear and heed your voice will stand on the last Day.
The faithful will rejoice in you, LORD, and sing a new song to your glory come into our midst by the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We shall praise you forever in your eternal House. Even now in prayer we come to dwell with you.
Sat, 16 May 2020
(Acts 8:5-8,14-17; Ps.66:1-7,16,20; 1Pt.3:15-18; Jn.14:15-21)
“Put to death in the flesh, He was brought to life in the Spirit.”
It is of this way to life Jesus teaches us when He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” for what is it to keep His commandments but to carry His cross – to lay down our lives, to die to the flesh, to suffer for His sake – and what is love but the life the Spirit brings. And both dying to self and loving God we find the Spirit at work in our lives; He is “the Spirit of truth,” yes, but also the Spirit of love, for He is the love of the Father and the Son, and it is by Him we become one in love with Father and Son, and so share in the oneness of the Holy Trinity.
Love and truth are really one and the same; neither exists without the other, for both are of God who is one in Himself. We know the commandment of God, which calls us by the fire of truth to kill all the sin within our souls, is simply a commandment to love, for the whole law is summed up in love. And when Peter calls us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for [our] hope” (in other words, to speak the truth of the risen Christ), he cannot but immediately add, “Do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear”; for if not spoken in love, it is no truth at all – it is but vain posturing.
Truth and love may also be seen in Philip’s work in the city of Samaria. He went and “proclaimed the Christ to them” – thus the sword of truth goes forth to pierce hearts and bleed them of sin – but the new life that is brought about by this death to the flesh is also evident, in the signs of God’s love he enacted in casting out evil spirits and in the “many paralyzed or crippled people [who] were cured.” And oh how the fullness of truth and the perfection of love came upon these converts when Peter and John “laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Alleluia! If before “there was great joy in that city” upon being “baptized in the name of Jesus,” now what joy there is for them to know this blessing would never leave.
Jesus promises to send “another Advocate to be with [us] always”; this is the Holy Spirit who confirms in us that once dead to sin, we shall live forever in Him. For this blessing let us “shout joyfully to God” and “sing praise to the glory of His name.” For indeed now by His kindness and His truth, by His grace and by His might, in love and justice He has set us free from the death of sin and brought us to life in Him. Alleluia!
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Loving Sprit" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, reveal yourself to us this day
that we might praise you with joy.
YHWH, we sing praise to your Name for all your gifts and graces but especially for the great gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love and truth, the Spirit of the Christ, ruling our lives. For sealed by the Spirit we are forever joined to you and your Son in surpassing glory. Alleluia!
How blessed are we, dear LORD, that your Son has been preached to us and we have welcomed Him into our hearts and so found healing from all that sin had inflicted upon us. What joy there is in being baptized in the Name of Jesus!
What everlasting joy we know in having the hands of your apostles laid on our heads that we might receive your Holy Spirit! For now we are filled to overflowing with your glorious praise. No longer orphans, we are joined to you, our Father, through Jesus your Son. One with you, O Triune God, we become as, put to death in the flesh, we are brought to life in the Spirit. Alleluia!
Fri, 15 May 2020
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps.100:1-3,5; Jn.15:18-21)
“I chose you out of the world.”
What is the world but heartache and sin; from this the Lord would release us.
Jesus tells His disciples: “You do not belong to the world,” and yet, as is most evident in the journeys of Paul, to all the world do the apostles go. The Master tells them, “You [will] find that the world hates you”; even so, they preach to a world which has no respect for the name they proclaim, who “know nothing of Him who sent” them. The inevitable persecution they do not fear, the death their work brings they do not flee, but face all in complete readiness.
Indeed, Paul is our example of the commitment we all must have to doing the Lord’s will in this world. With great fervor he travels from land to land and, praise God, “through all this, the congregations grew stronger in faith and daily increased in numbers.” He transmits the Lord’s Gospel message to all waiting ears and perseveres through all trials. For there are those throughout this earth who will listen to the Word that “the Lord is God; He made us, His we are,” and that Jesus is His Son – and Paul cannot help but strain forward to find these hearts which long to “come before Him with joyful song.” So great is Paul’s desire to bring the word of the Lord to those who have never heard it before that he must be restrained by the Holy Spirit. Twice today in our first reading he is prevented from entering and preaching to lands for which it is not time, finally being called in a vision to those who awaited him. Paul and the apostles’ readiness to do the Lord’s will is related clearly in Luke’s statement, “After the vision, we immediately made efforts to get across to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to proclaim the Good News there.”
We must go where we are called and move as we are led by the Spirit of Jesus the Christ. Into the world He leads us all to bring His light forth. Though never of the world, we must encourage all the world to “sing joyfully to the Lord,” to “serve the Lord with gladness.” By our words and by our lives we must show that we are “His people, the flock He tends,” and others will be drawn from the clutches of a world that hates the truth and into the protecting arms of God.
O LORD, let your Word go forth to all the world
that all might be saved from the world
and come to you.
YHWH, should we not rejoice that the world hates us, that it persecutes us and the Word we speak, for does this not show that we are of Jesus, that we are one with Him in following in His way? And is this not the path by which fruit is born, fruit that will last unto Heaven? Is this not the way souls are saved and come to rejoice in your kingdom?
Help us to remember this, LORD, to remember and desire only to do your will, to follow in the way Jesus leads and bring His Word, His Spirit, to the ends of the earth. Make your apostles as zealous as Paul to bring the Gospel to all who are open to receive salvation, to know the blessing of being your children.
May all souls be grafted onto the tree of your Chosen people. Let your Church increase in faith and numbers, LORD, until the return of your Son.
Thu, 14 May 2020
(Acts 15:22-31; Ps.57:8-12; Jn.15:12-17)
“There is no greater love than this:
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Do not Judas and Silas fulfill the Lord’s command to “love one another”; do not they lay down their lives for the Lord when they bring word “to the brothers of Gentile origin in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” of the apostles’ decision regarding those who have “upset [them] with their discussions and disturbed [their] peace of mind”? Do they not carry the love of the Lord in their persons as well as in the letter in their hands?
And are these not made friends of the Lord even as the apostles and elders, even as those who come to them? Jesus says to His disciples in our gospel, “I call you friends, since I have made known to you all that I heard from my Father.” And now in the same way these disciples “go forth and bear fruit” as the Lord has commanded by making known to the children of the nations “the decision of the Holy Spirit,” the whole Truth of God’s love, thus drawing them into the friendship of Christ.
The apostles and elders, who call themselves “brothers” of those of Gentile origin, “have unanimously resolved to choose representatives and send them” to witness of the Lord’s love for them; Paul and Barnabas are called by the apostles, those “who have dedicated themselves to the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ” – there is left no doubt of the strength of the decision that is made and the authority by which it comes. And so “there was great delight at the encouragement [the letter] gave,” for it and those who read it hold indeed the love of God, the absolute truth of the Holy Spirit, by whose power they have been freed from the burdens being imposed upon them and brought into the fold and friendship, the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
“I will give thanks to you among the peoples, O Lord, I will chant your praises among the nations.” With David, the Gentile disciples “sing and chant praise” to the living God who is “exalted above the heavens” and “above all the earth.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon them now by the love that has been laid down before them, and now they too are called to lay down their lives in the Lord’s love, as are we all, that friends of Jesus, sons of the Father, may ever be drawn into His holy fold.
O LORD, your love is all we need –
help us to worship you with our very lives.
YHWH, let us all live in your love and rejoice in the blessing of the Holy Spirit; let us dwell with you in the glory that is above all the earth. Obedient to your Word, to the rightful authority of your Church, we follow in the way of the Spirit and find ourselves as friends of your Son.
You do not make the way difficult for us, but quite simple. You simply call us all to love. To lay down our lives for one another, even as Jesus has done, may seem impossible to our corrupted hearts – but in you all is made very easy, for your yourself are love. O LORD, help us to walk in the footsteps of your Son and so bear the fruit of eternal love.
It is clear, dear God, that you desire all to share in your great blessings. You long to give us all we ask for. You wish for us peace of mind and heart, and you know this is found only in doing your will, for your will is only love. Let us heed your command to love, and so chant your praises in the kingdom.
Tue, 12 May 2020
(Acts 15:1-6; Ps.122:1-5; Jn.15:1-8)
“I am the vine, you are the branches.”
And within Him we must remain; nurtured by the Church He has planted we must always be. We must have His blood flowing in our veins and His Word inspiring our souls. There can be no separation from Him and from His teaching if we are to bear fruit abundantly, as is the Father’s desire.
Paul and Barnabas bear fruit abundantly. As “the church saw them off… they made their way through Phoenicia and Samaria, telling everyone about the conversion of the Gentiles as they went.” And to each branch of the vine they went, “their story caused great joy among the brothers.” Here is the vine’s growth evident, the blood of the Lord coursing through its veins. “When they arrived in Jerusalem they were welcomed by that church,” too, and there they “reported all that God had helped them accomplish” to the apostles. Why have they come here to Jerusalem? Because “in it are set up judgment seats.” As great as their work had been, yet they knew the necessity to be obedient to the structure of the vine the Lord tends by His hand. And so when a controversial question arises, Paul and Barnabas “go up to see the apostles and elders in Jerusalem” to find answer.
Why Jerusalem? Because the Church, the New Jerusalem, is “built as a city with compact unity,” and still at this time the Rock, Peter, and the foundation stones, the twelve apostles, reside in this place. If one separates oneself from the roots of this vine, one effectively separates oneself from Jesus and becomes “like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt.” “No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me,” Jesus instructs His disciples. And Paul and Barnabas know the order that must be preserved if the vine is to remain whole, if their work is to be truly fruitful. So here as to the question of circumcision, the first major controversy in the early Church, “the elders accordingly convened to look into the matter.”
“If you live in me, and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will – it will be done for you.” The Lord’s promise is great. But to receive such grace we must keep our feet firmly planted within the gates of the New Jerusalem, in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church He has founded. We should rejoice to “go up to the house of the Lord,” for there we shall find Jesus, there we shall find His vine spreading faithfully to the ends of the earth – in it we shall always be nourished by truth.
O LORD, may your Church bear much fruit
in you and in your Son;
with you let us be one.
YHWH, to your House let us come; in your City let us dwell – in the New Jerusalem let us make our home and we shall ever remain united to your Son and bear fruit in His Name. Apart from Him we can do nothing, and if we separate ourselves from the Church He founded, we separate ourselves from Him… and His blood does not course through our veins.
O LORD, let us display the obedience of Paul and Barnabas to the rightful authority you set up to stand in the stead of your Son. If we listen to these, we listen to Him, and thus your will is done. If we take matters into our own hands, what hope have we of salvation, for what does man make but destruction? Let us not be unfruitful branches fit for the fire but be pruned of all uncleanness of heart by the Word your Son speaks through the apostles and elders of holy Church. Only in this way will we be one with one another and with you.
Mon, 11 May 2020
(Acts 14:19-28; Ps.145:10-13,21; Jn.14:27-31)
“We must undergo many trials if we are to enter into the reign of God.”
“With this instruction” Paul and Barnabas “gave their disciples reassurances, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith.” Their apostolic journey has been a witness that the road to the Lord is wrought with difficulties, but that it bears great fruit. These apostles are pursued from towns in which they have preached by those who would destroy them and their word. Paul is stoned, seemingly unto death. But their trials do not dissuade these apostles from retracing their steps through the very towns from which they have been ejected and installing elders, priests, in each one, “commend[ing] them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” And so they arrived again at the place “where they had first been commended to the favor of God for the task they had now completed.” Now they are able to relate in joy “all that God had helped them accomplish, and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles,” perhaps the greatest feat of the growing Church, the Body of Christ on earth.
Of course, Jesus’ words to His disciples are the same as Paul’s: “‘Peace’ is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you,” Jesus says, and adds, “I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.” For the peace Jesus gives is deeper and abides eternally; it remains through any trial of the world for it is not dependent on the consolations that come from earthly things. And so He can assure them, “Do not be distressed or fearful.” He can freely invite them into the peace He possesses and to which He returns, as He retraces His steps back to the Father from whom He has come, whence He had first been commended to the favor of God for His mission. He knows they will suffer, even as He is about to suffer death at the hands of “the Prince of this world.” But He knows the devil’s power “has no hold” on Him, and would have us know Satan has no power over us either. For we are with Jesus; we are with the Father in heaven. And though we be as Paul in his persecutions, though we be stoned and “dragged… out of town” and left for dead, the Lord’s angels will surround us as Paul’s disciples surrounded him – as they come to Jesus in the tomb – and like Paul, and like our Lord, “before long” we shall get up and return to our call; and ultimately we shall rise from the dead to eternal life with Jesus, coming to the home He now prepares.
“I go away for a while and I come back to you,” Jesus assures His disciples, and asks them to be joyful that He returns to the greatness of the Father, whose “dominion endures through all generations.” And so, brothers and sisters, may our “mouth[s] speak the praise of the Lord” all our days; “may all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” Let us do as He commands and “discourse of the glory of [His] kingdom and speak of [His] might,” and that power will enable us to endure all things, and we shall be brought at last into His reign.
O Lord, though it mean we must die,
let us be obedient to your command,
that we might enter your reign.
YHWH, let us discourse of the glory of your kingdom; let us carry your Word to the ends of the earth. Let us not fear the trials that must come to all who enter your reign but hold the peace Jesus offers ever in our hearts. Let us, too, come to you in Heaven.
Though we be stoned and left for dead, we shall rise up again, for you, O LORD, are with your disciples, surrounding them with your grace and protection. As Paul returned even to the towns from which he had been cast out, so let us be ready to enter every battle this world presents, knowing the power you give us is greater than any of this earth, for it overcomes even the Prince of darkness.
Let us give you thanks, O LORD, in all the works we do and so make known to all men your glory.
Sun, 10 May 2020
(Acts 14:5-18; Ps.115:1-4,15-16; Jn.14:21-26)
“May you be blessed by the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.”
“Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him.” Thus are we blessed, by keeping the word of the Lord. Thus we know His love, for thus we accept the love He offers by His instruction and by His presence.
It is this blessing of “the living God, ‘the one who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them’” that Paul and Barnabas would bring to the hearts of the Gentiles to whom they preach. It is in the name of Jesus, Paul brings healing to the lame man who “used to sit crippled, never having walked in his life.” Indeed, the same healing he would bring to all the pagans before him who also have been crippled all their lives by the folly of worshiping “idols [that] are silver and gold, the handiwork of men” and the products of human imagination. Never have they walked in the true light of the Lord. In fact, their limitations are most evident in their desire to sacrifice to Barnabas and Paul themselves, as Zeus and Hermes; “even the priest of the temple of Zeus… wished to offer sacrifice to them,” and Barnabas and Paul must shout at them “frantically”: “We are bringing you the Good News that will convert you from just such follies as these”!
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory” is our psalmist’s refrain today, and the same is exclaimed by Barnabas and Paul: “We are only men, human like you.” Worship the living God! is their exhortation. And Jesus Himself speaks in the same humility and with the same deference to the Father: “The word you hear is not mine, it comes from the Father who sent me.” All comes from the Father and must return to Him; and so we are all encouraged to make our home with Him alone.
“Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does.” He wills to love all, to bless all, to make His home with all. To find our homes with Him, to know the blessed love the living God has for all His creatures, we must listen to the instruction of His Son, to the Holy Spirit the Father now sends in His name, and to the ones who are sent to preach the truth of the living God. May the light of His face shine upon you.
O LORD, let us keep your commands
and so live in your surpassing love.
YHWH, you come to all who love your Son and keep the Word He imparts to us. It is this Word that brings us love, and all who cherish love, cherish it, and so find your presence. May you be revealed to all souls in your only Son.
Help all wayward people to turn from vain worship to know you, O living and true God. May all your creatures give you due praise, turning resolutely from the work of their hands. Glory abides with you alone; may we find that glory by obedience to your call to love.
Let us dwell with you, O LORD; come, we pray, to dwell in us. Help us indeed to keep your commands, which are but life for our souls. Your Spirit be with us this day to lead us to all truth in your Son’s Name, that we might do your will in strength, proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all men. O let us rise from the dust to live in your Heaven!
Sat, 9 May 2020
(Acts 6:1-7; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,18-19,22; 1Pt.2:4-9; Jn.14:1-12)
“Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood
to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Peter tells us in his letter that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own.” Quoting Scripture, he calls us to “‘announce the praises’ of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His wonderful light.” The house we become, the priests we are, and the sacrifices we offer are evident throughout our readings today.
First, in our gospel Jesus tells the disciples very directly, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places” and that He is going “to prepare a place” for them, and so for us, there. And even now He draws us to that place He is with the Father, each to our own room, each with his own ministry. For, second, the priesthood all share in Christ is pictured in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. As the community of disciples grows in Jerusalem, so do the functions prescribed to its members. It becomes clear that the Twelve and their successors are to “devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word,” so in order to care for the particular concerns surrounding such matters as the daily distribution of food, they ordain “respectable men” to “serve at table,” thus instituting the ministry of the deacon. And, finally, the spiritual sacrifices all offer to God are sung of by David in our psalm: “Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting.” As this humble servant “give[s] thanks to the Lord on the harp” placed in His hands by God, so all have their place in the kingdom founded on Jesus; all have their lives to offer in praise of God by the instruments He provides.
“Whoever believes in me will do the works I do.” Yes, the Lord’s works in great abundance are given to us to accomplish through Him who now sits with the Father. The way to His heavenly kingdom has been made clear by the ministry and the sacrifice of Jesus, and we must follow in His footsteps, for we are now the Body of Christ here on this earth. In Him and through Him we offer ourselves and all we do to draw all to the House which He prepares in light, to proclaim with our beings that “of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.” Today we are encouraged to hear that “even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith,” that the priests of the Old Covenant were now finding themselves true priests under the New. And so we should realize the manner in which we are all called to service in the Temple of the Lord as members of His own Body, giving praise to the Father of us all through His only Son.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Blood in My Palate" from Loving Spirit, third album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, let us live in your Son and so in you
that we might do your works in this world
and praise you forever in Heaven.
YHWH, let us be built into and grow as the Body of your Son. Make us a royal priesthood, a holy nation – your Church. Into your House let us come and dwell, eternally praising your Name.
Jesus is in you and you are in Jesus, and those who believe in Him and so in you become one with Him, and so with you, dearest LORD and God. O Father in Heaven, to Heaven let us come, to oneness with you. Let us do your works on earth and so find our way to your kingdom.
Why should we be troubled when we have the promise from Jesus that He prepares a place for us? Why should we fear when He is near in the power of the Holy Spirit? Let us follow closely the way He leads, that indeed we might exult in your presence forever.
Sat, 2 May 2020
(Acts 2:14a,36-41; Ps.23:1-6; 1Pt.2:20b-25; Jn.10:1-10)
“Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.”
Jesus says in earnest to the Pharisees, “I am the gate for the sheep… Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” But they are as the thief who “comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.”
Today, too, brothers and sisters, the thief is among us, those teachers who do “not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climb over elsewhere.” For neither seeing nor caring to seek the wholeness of Scripture, that it is here that God speaks, they attempt to enter another way, relying on their own devices. So it says in the commentary of the missal I read: “the author of the First Letter of Peter” and “the author of John’s gospel,” for the author here shows he knows not the Word of God. Like the Pharisees who were so preoccupied with the words of the law that they could not see the Author of Life standing before them, so these are blind to the voice of Jesus and His apostles speaking in this Holy Book. As they piece together the fragments of supposed facts gleaned by their fanciful imaginations, the wholeness of the Word, holiness itself, entirely escapes them. How can they hear His silence amongst such chatter?
And so the false shepherds strip the “verdant pastures” and pollute the “restful waters” of Holy Scripture. On wrong paths for their own sakes they lead others into the “dark valley” with no “rod” or “staff” of the Lord to give “courage.” Only coming before the Word of God as children will they “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and so see the truth of prophecy – but this is entirely too shameful to their pride. By their own minds must they live; in their reason alone they seek their refuge, caring not to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and have His “goodness and kindness follow” them. They need this not – they are quite self-sufficient.
Brothers and sisters, my prayer is that you “save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” that you “run away” like sheep at the “voice of strangers,” saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” And as for these blind guides, I pray that they shall cease their vain effort to crucify the Lord again by making Him and His Word into a metaphor, a symbol – an empty construct of the human imagination – rather than the flesh and blood of God He Is. May they be “cut to the heart” as those at Peter’s preaching, and like the rest of the faithful who “had gone astray like sheep” now return “to the shepherd and guardian of our souls.” Entering through the gate that is Jesus, may they recognize the voice of God as He speaks through His Rock and His Beloved.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Lose the Pretense, How Do We?" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, the innocent Lamb is Himself our Shepherd;
may we find salvation at His side.
YHWH, let us enter into your presence through your only Son, who is the true Shepherd guiding us to you. May we follow in His steps. Even though it lead to the Cross, may we remain near Him, ready to give our lives as He has, as the innocent Lamb for our salvation. Though we are cut to the heart by the truth He speaks in His Word and through His apostles, let us turn to Him in repentance and find His comfort and peace – let us thus find ourselves in your holy arms.
O LORD, let our ears be open to hear His voice and His voice alone. Let us not be led astray by false shepherds, false prophets who seek only their own gain and not the welfare of your sheep. It is to sacrifice you call us, not to selfishness, and by laying down our lives, by entering the wounds in His flesh, we shall find eternal rest in your House. Let us be washed clean in His blood and so be saved from corruption.