Sat, 26 September 2020
(Ez.18:25-28; Ps.25:4-9; Phil.2:1-11; Mt.21:28-32)
“Tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.”
Why? How can it be that such sinners gain such privilege, such grace? Is it for their sins? Shall we all become as they? We should be like them, but not in sin – in repentance. For it is because they have “turned away from all [the] sins that [they] committed” that they are saved; it is because they are “tax collectors and prostitutes” no more. And so we are all called to turn away from the sin which each of us surely has.
David sings beautifully of this in our psalm: “The sins of my youth and my frailty remember not,” as he begs the Lord for His kindness. For all that we have done in our ignorance and our weakness we should seek the Lord’s mercy, for He assures us throughout our readings that “He shows sinners the way” when they come humbly before Him.
When the first son in Jesus’ parable responds to his father’s request for him to work in the vineyard, “I will not,” what does this son do but sin against his father? – just as each of us sins against our heavenly Father when we turn from His will to blindly follow our own. But what did the son show when he “afterwards changed his mind and went” but his contrition and repentance at his insubordination, thus illustrating the manner in which our consciences should lead us from our own disobedience? And as Jesus makes clear, it was this son who “did his father’s will” and so will be blessed by him.
Our reading from Ezekiel makes this theme of turning from sin and finding blessing even clearer. It states in certain terms of the wicked man that “if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” With such assurance, why should we delay our own conversion, which must be effected day to day?
St. Paul presents the attitude we must have before others and God in order to find the Lord’s grace. He states: “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,” and then gives the clear example of the most humble of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, who “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness.” He so “humbled Himself” that He became “obedient even unto death, death on a cross.” And so should we be proud? Should we harden ourselves in our sin, or rather turn and empty ourselves of all that is not of Him? The salvation repentance finds is indicated also in the fact that, because of Jesus’ humility, “God exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every other name.” So let us not hesitate to join the tax collectors and prostitutes among us who bend the knee before Him; let our “tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” and we shall know His reward.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Where's My Brother?" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, turning away from all our sins
and humbling ourselves before you,
let us but do your holy will.
YHWH, help us to turn from our sins and do your holy will. May we be obedient as your Son, who gave His life to save others. Let all souls repent of their wickedness and walk in His way, that all might find salvation in His Name.
If we could but be humble before you, LORD; if we could but admit our failings, our selfishness and pride, our blindness to your call for our lives… then we would be blessed by you and become your faithful sons. Break our hardened hearts that we might love, that we might look upon you who are love itself.
O let us be empty, LORD, of all we would possess, of all that we would grasp with our own hands. Let us indeed be blessed to recognize our sinfulness and find your mercy and forgiveness. You but want for us to turn to you that you might embrace us as your own. May your compassion be known in our hearts this day.
Fri, 25 September 2020
O highly honored martyrs
whose tomb drew many pilgrims
and brought about many miracles,
you laid down your lives as one in the Lord,
taking up His bitter and saving cup
all for your faith in Him and His Church,
and so, precious in His sight
was your death in His name –
from beyond the grave
pray for us this day,
that the healing blood of Christ our Savior
be poured upon our souls,
that we too might be raised by His sacrifice,
redeemed by the death He endured;
for He has overcome the world,
and you with Him in His blood.
Pray that we who are so weak of faith
may by the Lord’s grace and your intercession
bear witness to Jesus by our own deaths
upon the Cross with Him.
Fri, 25 September 2020
(Ec.11:9-12:8; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Lk.9:43-45)
“The dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.”
“As a watch of the night” is our life, passing unnoticed while souls slumber. “You make an end of them in their sleep,” Psalm 90 prophesies (as we hear the same verses of this same psalm for the second time in three days); indeed man lies unaware of his coming death, ignorant of the day which passes. For though in our youth we “follow the ways of [our] heart, the vision of [our] eyes,” and seem to “ward off grief” at will, yet “the next morning [we] are like the changing grass”; so quickly does our flower fade. And so little of this do we see.
In our gospel the Lord speaks again to His disciples of His imminent death, and so, really, the death we all must undergo; but though He makes a clear point that they should listen carefully, saying, “Pay close attention to what I tell you,” yet they seem unable to hear His words. Our gospel tells us, “They failed… to understand this warning; its meaning was so concealed from them they did not grasp it at all.” He repeats what He has said before in no uncertain terms, and yet they are deaf to His word; yet they are blind.
How like us all the disciples are. When confronted with the coming of death how easily we shut our eyes. Though it draw upon us inevitably, how desperately we hold to the vanity of these passing things, unwilling to hear of the day when “the sun is darkened… and the strong men are bent… and the sound of the mill is low.” “Man goes to his lasting home, and mourners go about the streets” – so Qoheleth paints the image of the time when “the clouds return after the rain.” How compelling his verses are, and how ominous… and of this darkness we must hear. It is not wise to remain blind to the passing of this life, or with it we shall die when it ends. Though none of this should touch our souls, yet we must learn to let the body go.
O Lord, “you return man back to dust, saying, ‘Return, O children of men,’” yet you hold each of us in your loving hands. And so we cry unto you this day, “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” For we wait with expectant hearts for Him who has risen from the dead to come to us again. Let your Spirit breathe upon us now and turn this dust into the image of your Son. May it be your Day which comes to us, even as we die.
O LORD, we conquer death
through the death and resurrection of your Son –
be with us as we wait for His return.
YHWH, death comes inevitably to all. It draws near to us like the setting sun. We are mortal, the subjects of our own sin. And so to dust we return.
But your Son has subjected Himself to this death of ours, LORD; He has undergone its torments. In our place He has stood, and been broken for our sakes. He who lives with you in eternity has been delivered into the hands of men and suffered the darkness upon their souls. And so, may we not be born again?
O Jesus, you have overcome the darkness with your unending light; you have come to rescue us from falling into the well, that the clouds might not return again after the rain but that we might know new life with you in the morning after this world passes away, in the glory of your coming Day.
Help us, O LORD, to overcome our fear, to conquer the bonds of this dark place and our own mortality. Let this not be our lasting home, but raise us to your presence that even this day we might rejoice in you.
Thu, 24 September 2020
(Ec.3:1-11; Ps.144:1-4; Lk.9:18-22)
“He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts.”
Yes, “there is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens”; and there is a time for time to cease and the timeless to come to the fore – a time for the things above the heavens. And that fullness of time has come upon the earth, for the Son of Man has known His “time to be born”; and in man’s discovering “the work which God has done,” no time for vain toil is there anymore. The time has come to make Him our “refuge and [our] fortress,” our blessed “rock” of truth.
“One day when Jesus was praying in seclusion and His disciples were with Him,” the time had come for Him to “put the question to them”: “Who do you say that I am?” And now it was Peter’s “time to speak,” to declare the faith of the Church: “The Messiah of God.” And though it was not then time “to tell this to anyone,” for the Son of Man had yet to know His “time to die,” soon the time would come for the Son to rise, and then there would be no more “time to be silent.”
That time has come upon us now, brothers and sisters. Now is only “a time to plant” and “a time to build” – a time to raise the kingdom of heaven here on earth, a time to labor to complete God’s Church. For timelessness now has its time; life eternal overtakes us. And so we have only “time to love,” having broken the wheel of sin by the sacrifice of Christ and so come out from under the shadow of hatred. No return to the vanity of the things of this world is there for us, for we must do all as if doing nothing.
It is true: “Man is like a breath; his days, like a passing shadow,” but it is also so that the Lord “take[s] thought of him.” And in this earthen vessel He has placed the Spirit of life – and that Spirit is now known in full in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is “time to embrace” Him and know the “time of peace” He breathes eternally upon His creatures, letting all shadow pass away as we walk in His holy light and proclaim His holy name.
O LORD, your timelessness let us know in our hearts,
that we might overcome the world through your Son.
YHWH, in the fullness of time you sent your Son to die at our hands that we might be raised up with Him. And now that He has died for our sins, a new time has come to your people – a time of salvation.
All time pointed toward Him and all time flows from Him, and all time is in Him who is all that is. O LORD, let us make our home in Him and in His resurrection.
You are timeless, O LORD and God, and so how can we poor creatures so bound to time, so subject to the dust of this earth, come to know you who are beyond the heavens? We could never have discovered your hand at work among us if you had not sent your only Son to redeem us and reveal to us your glory. And so, let us embrace this gift you offer that we might mourn and weep no more but rejoice ever in your presence, despite the Cross that comes. Let us be raised on the Cross with Him that we might be raised unto His eternal reign.
Wed, 23 September 2020
(Ec.1:2-11; Ps.90:1,3-6,12-14,17; Lk.9:7-9)
“See, this is new!”
Here is He who is “new under the sun.” For it is not so that “John has been raised from the dead,” nor that “one of the prophets of old has arisen”: He has not “already existed in the ages that preceded us.” He is the Christ! He is the Messiah! He it is who has come to “fill us at daybreak with [His] kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.” In Him the dark of the night veiling our eyes is banished from our midst.
O Herod, drowning in your debauchery; O Qoheleth, pursuer of your passions in all their vanity, why do you race to catch up with the sun as if it should stand and wait for you? What makes you think you could hold the wind in your hand? Why would you see end of the rivers’ path to the sea? Why do you toil so blindly, taking your refuge in created things and frustrated when you cannot control them to your own ends, when they betray the peace you seek? “Back to dust” you shall indeed return, and the sun and the wind and the sea still stand; and above them all does reign our God, for whom “a thousand years… are as yesterday, now that it is past.” In Him you should have taken refuge.
Herod, do you too now begin to see the ends of your debauchery; does its emptiness now overtake your soul? Do you remember the words the prophet delivered to your ears? What is the cause of your curiosity, and will you listen now to the voice echoing through your halls? The kingdom of the world crumbles before our eyes and no “profit has man from all the labor which he toils at under the sun,” unless it is the Lord who “prosper[s] the work of our hands for us.” Dead we are and alone will ever be in our profligacy, the emptiness upon us.
Qoheleth, your words are proven wrong: it is not so that “there is no remembrance of the man of old,” for we read your thoughts with diligence today; and three thousand years after your time you teach us still of the dark vision of life without the Christ. And of Him who has come after thee there is great remembrance, and more than this, for His breath is now upon us. In Him is “the ear filled with hearing” and the eye “satisfied with seeing,” for now truth and light do walk with us, even under the sun. And though our body “by evening wilts and fades” as of old, our soul “at dawn springs up anew.” For “the gracious care of the Lord [is] ours” and He “teach[es] us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” And this wisdom is true; this wisdom is new: this wisdom bears us light to transcend the vanity of a worldly life and come to the kingdom of heaven.
O LORD, your Son is He who makes all things new –
let us live and work in the light of His presence.
YHWH, your Son is new under the sun; into our midst He has come. May we be more than anxious to see Him: may we be made new in Him.
In days past, LORD, the world and men toiled in futility for their sin against you, for their separation from you. You were ever new and ever calling us to life in you, but we labored in vain, going our own way – the way of darkness that leads to death, the way that is indeed apart from you. Return all souls to your light, your life, known to us now in your only Son.
You reign over all, LORD our God, all of time is but a moment to you and all the world is as a speck of dust. Have pity on us, LORD, for we are quick to wilt and fade. At daybreak may we rise with Jesus and walk in the light of your new day, dwelling forever in your reign, living and working always in your presence.
Tue, 22 September 2020
O holy priest
who bore the wounds of Christ
in your hands
and in your ministry,
who served the Lord so greatly
in casting out many demons
in your confessional,
and whom He thus blessed
with miracles of the Spirit –
pray for us of lukewarm faith
who falter day to day
in following our dear Jesus’ path.
So close to Him you were
in His suffering and His love;
so far are we
from His Cross and so His grace.
Pray we shall be strengthened to approach Him
and find healing for our weakness,
the frailty of our souls
which keeps us from knowing the Christ
and laying down our lives for Him
as He calls, as you have done…
O pray His blood be upon us!
Tue, 22 September 2020
(Prv.30:5-9; Ps.119:29,72,89,101,104-105,163; Lk.9:1-6)
“Take nothing for the journey.”
How can he who takes nothing with him for his journey be provided for? Does not such action contradict the wisdom of the king who asks in his book of Proverbs – “Give me neither poverty nor riches”? Is it not poverty the Lord recommends to His disciples?
The evangelical counsel of poverty practiced by the religious communities and striven for by all true members of the Christian faith is not the same as that which our author of Proverbs wishes to avoid (no more so than the riches he would keep far from himself are those of the heavenly kingdom). For those whom Jesus sends out never find themselves “in want,” the want which would lead the desperate to steal and so sin; rather, the only “want” His disciples have is for an increasing understanding and practice of the word of God. And the poverty they practice is meant to feed this hunger for the greatest of food.
Proverbs itself gives us answer to the means by which the Lord’s disciples taking “no bread, no money” are fed: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” The Lord is always our food. Cannot He who “endures forever,” whose word is “firm as the heavens,” care for the small needs of His creatures here below? Will not he who labors for Him have all he needs to accomplish his work? Certainly! For though the disciples take nothing, it does not follow that they have nothing – for they have the Lord with them, and that is everything.
Indeed, it is because the first of the wise king’s requests of God – “put falsehood and lying far from me” – has been answered in them that this second is accomplished. “Remove from me the way of falsehood,” our psalmist echoes, and for the Lord’s disciples this has been done. They “add nothing to His words” as “from every evil way [they] withhold [their] feet”; and so “the law of [His] mouth,” which resounds from their own mouths as they “proclaim the reign of God,” “is to [them] more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces” and feeds them abundantly.
The Word of the Lord will be received by those who seek His truth, and in turn feed the speaker as it does the hearer. So let us be wary of “being full” of the things of this world, lest we find no room for God, and let us make our psalmist’s declaration truly our own: “Falsehood I hate and abhor; your law I love.” Then all things will be provided for.
O LORD, you send us forth with your Word
to heal souls of all evil –
keep us on your way of truth.
YHWH, it is you who provide for all our needs. If we serve you, if we are true to your Word, we shall never be in want. For then all we shall desire is to be with you, and you will be faithful to this longing.
LORD, you are with those who go out in your NAME, who desire only to do your will. For they are of truth and you are of truth – you are Truth itself – and so they share in your way. And your way is a way of love and healing, your way is one that leads to life. Let us follow in this way, and we shall live forever.
You yourself hold our lives in your hand, and so what do we need but you? We cannot provide for ourselves; it is you from whom all our food comes. And if we trust in you we shall be fed, we shall have all we need to live, all we need to proclaim your Word, O LORD, and that your kingdom is nigh. Let us be a living witness to your presence among us and the care you give to all your children.
Mon, 21 September 2020
(Prv.21:1-6,10-13; Ps.119:1,27,30,34-35,44; Lk.8:19-21)
“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God
and act upon it.”
Our readings today are filled throughout with one line pearls of wisdom culminating with Jesus’ above instruction in our brief gospel. And though each individual proverb or paean to the command of the Lord seems a separate entity distinct from the others which surround it, in fact, all speak of the same sword of truth that separates the way of the wicked from that of the just. In even thousands of proverbs there is but one word – that we must be hearers and doers of the word of God.
“Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases Him, He directs it.” Oh that such blessed obedience could be all our own! Oh that we would follow Him so perfectly, for “happy are they whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord”; and they become as His only Son. “To do what is right and just” must be our constant aim, our eternal prayer. “Lead me in the path of your commands,” we must beg of our God, for in it alone we know the light of His grace; in His way alone we find all our “delight.” Only in observing His decrees, walking in His love, do we become brother and sister and mother to the Christ.
For the wicked shall not enter His embrace, shall not be counted among His family. “Haughty eyes and a proud heart” the Lord will not countenance, for “the tillage of the wicked is sin” and with sin the Holy One has no relation. Thus we may be certain “there is One who brings down the wicked to ruin.” As grandiose as his plots may seem and as adamantly as he may pursue them with “a lying tongue,” he is but “chasing a bubble over deadly snares” and shall be caught in the trap he himself has laid.
“When the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge”; he draws ever closer to the light of the Lord as he drinks in His Word. Let us be as those who “meditate on [the Lord’s] wondrous deeds.” Let us beg Him with our psalmist: “Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.” When Jesus speaks let us be quick to listen and follow in His way, that truly we may become His blessed family, one in the Church modeled by the Mother of God.
O LORD, open our ears to hear your Word
and walk in your way.
YHWH, if we are haughty of eye and proud of heart, how can we know you and become one with you? You are holy and only those who strive for holiness walk in your way. Help us, LORD, to be as your Son and follow always your blessed commands.
O LORD, let our hearts ever be directed by your hand; let our obedience be such that we simply go as your guide led ever by your Spirit. In your Son there was no question as to what should be done or whether He should do good or ill – He did nothing of His own will but only yours. Help us to be perfect as He in living your Word, in embodying your truth. Then we shall be brothers to Him, for then you shall be our Father.
Let us be made in your image, LORD, doing what is right and just in all things. Your law of love let us observe – let us thirst for your wisdom and knowledge. Nothing let us desire but to be one with you and your only Son. Then we shall be blessed as His Mother.
Sun, 20 September 2020
O faithful apostle
who so readily answered
the call of the Lord,
leaving your station in this world
to follow in His footsteps
and so find your place in Heaven,
who even with these first steps
brought others to the Christ
as you opened your heart
as well as your home
to Him and to the least of His brothers –
pray, dear brother through whom the Spirit has spoken,
that we too shall follow Jesus
and so find His grace and mercy,
and so find our way to the Father.
Pray our hearts will ever be
so open to hear His voice
and invite Him in to our table,
where He may eat and speak with us,
feeding us with His presence.
And pray we may be blessed as you
in drawing others to the Word, our God,
till all are one in His Body.
Sun, 20 September 2020
(Eph.4:1-7,11-13; Ps.19:2-5; Mt.9:9-13)
“Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.”
“Till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature,” the Word of the Lord shall be carried forth by all His “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers”; indeed, “each of us has received God’s favor in the measure in which Christ bestows it,” and each of us plays a role in bringing to fulfillment the Gospel of our “one Lord.”
“Matthew got up and followed Him.” He was called, he was chosen, and he answered the Lord’s call without hesitation. And he brought the Lord in immediately to dine with Him, welcoming Him fully at his table. And because of his openness to God and His Word, and because of his generous response, we see that it is Jesus who in fact feeds him, that he in turn might feed others with the true teaching, “the one faith” in the “one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all,” from the least of sinners to the greatest of apostles. We are all thus called to follow Jesus Christ, to find the mercy He so greatly desires to impart to our sinful lives, that we might be whole and able to serve Him well.
One day we shall come to perfection in Him; in Him it is already fulfilled. And now insofar as we share His love, insofar as we “live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received, with perfect humility, meekness, and patience,” the Spirit who is indeed the origin of our unity in Him works through us and we, even with the twelve apostles, serve to bring His blessed peace, His divine life of salvation, to the world. Yes, “day pours out the word to day, and night to night imparts knowledge,” and soon that Word will reach to the ends of the earth; and soon it will come to fulfillment in our sight.
Brothers and sisters, we are called to a great hope, and to a great mission to bring it to light. Let us keep our hearts set on the Gospel and the promise it contains, and “build up the Body of Christ” until we stand with Him, as Him, in His eternal kingdom which stands in our midst even today through the words of His apostle and evangelist, in the breath of the Spirit upon us and in its message.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Roger Fortney.
Music by Roger Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us all be drawn as one
into the Body of your Son,
that we poor sinners may become His saints.
YHWH, you are over all and work through all and in all, and your Gospel message goes out to all the world through your apostles and evangelists. O let us listen to your voice as it comes to us in the words of Scripture and through your prophets’ preaching! Let us be quick as Matthew to answer your call, that the Body of your Son might be built up on this earth and soon come to fulfillment in Heaven.
We are all sinners, O LORD; you see this and you know this. Help us to see this as you do and so come readily to the table Jesus spreads before us, a table of mercy and grace in answer to our repentance. Let us recognize that only in Him will we find our place with you in the kingdom. And help us to proclaim your love and your peace with your apostles, that in the one faith all might be baptized and come as your children to praise your Name.
You are our hope, O LORD; let your Spirit go forth.
Sat, 19 September 2020
O blessed, holy martyrs
who won for yourselves
the crown of salvation
by your undying faith in God,
who cherished well
the prize of persecution
the Lord offered your souls,
who stood fast despite the death
that raged around you –
pray we shall know as you
that all the hairs of our head
are numbered by God
and in His all-embracing providence
He has care over us all,
that we might stand as strong
in our little trials
as you did before the face
of the executioner.
To all people be a witness to the faith
that reaches ever unto Heaven.
Direct download: Sept._20_Andrew_Kim_Paul_Hasang_and_Companions.mp3
Category:Saints -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT
Sat, 19 September 2020
(Is.55:6-9; Ps.145:2-3,8-9,17-18; Phil.1:20-24,27; Mt.20:1-16)
“You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.”
Our readings today reveal that the Lord is near, merciful, and just, and that these three qualities are one in God. For the Lord’s justice is shown in His mercy, and His mercy in His nearness to us. And so we should “praise [His] name forever.”
Isaiah conveys to us that the Lord’s thoughts and ways are “as high as the heavens are above the earth” with respect to our own thoughts and our own ways. As David proclaims, “His greatness is unsearchable.” But the prophet also encourages the faithful to “seek the Lord while He may be found, [to] call Him while He is near”; and the king declares, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.” And is not the closeness of our great God – made most evident in the presence of Jesus among us – illustrated in the Lord’s parable? Does not the landowner go out at all times of day to draw laborers into his vineyard? Even to the final hour He invites us into His kingdom, coming to us always with the hope of making us fruitful workers upon His land.
And why does the Lord remain so near? Why does He call to us so incessantly? Is it not because He is so “generous and merciful,” because He is “good to all and compassionate toward all His works”? Is it not that we should turn from our idleness and the wickedness of our thoughts and ways that He ventures into the marketplace to find us? Does Jesus not come to redeem us from this world of sin? And should we not therefore “turn to the Lord for mercy, to our God who is generous in forgiving,” whose calling us to work in His vineyard is more that He should be able to give us all we need than that we might labor for Him?
And is His mercy not proven by His form of justice? For does He not give all a full day’s pay, even those with Him but an hour? Do not all who come to His kingdom know the blessings He pours forth? This is His way, this is His justice – the way of mercy and love. And it is by this love He remains so near us who may now proclaim with Paul: “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death,” for His love is inseparable from us who believe, who have entered into His vineyard and share in His blood.
And should we not be merciful as He? Should His justice not become our own? We should not be as those servants who “grumbled against the landowner” for His generosity, courting envy in our hearts, but allow the Lord to be “free to do as [He] wish[es] with [His] own money.” Should we not wish the same joy upon all souls as we ourselves have been blessed to know? Though we may have had to bear “the day’s burden and the heat,” should this limit our generosity to others who have come late? We should rather with our Lord desire all to enter His vineyard, to be close to us, that all might receive the benefit of His merciful justice. We should thank Him that His ways are not our own, for then never would He have come near to us, and empty and idle we would be standing still.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Stumblebum" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, how our envy would kill us –
let us rejoice in your mercy toward all,
counting ourselves blessed to do your will.
YHWH, truly you are generous in forgiving, gracious and merciful to all, coming even at the eleventh hour to save us from our sin and share with us all the blessings of your kingdom. Let us set to work for you this day, this hour, rejoicing always that we might labor for you.
O LORD, we thank you that your ways are far above our ways, for where we would condemn, you would forgive, and so we would ourselves be condemned without your mercy. It is indeed your desire to save all souls and we need but turn our desire to you to find you present to us. Help us to leave the ways of this world behind and follow in the way of your Son, embracing the Cross as though it held all treasure for us, as if it is the greatest gift you give… as if it were the way to Heaven, which it is.
O LORD, why should we complain against your generosity, your mercy? Should we not rather seek to be like you? Then we would share in all the riches of your kingdom with nothing to keep us from praising your Name.
Fri, 18 September 2020
O protector of your sheep,
you laid down your life
giving your blood
for the service of souls
that all might witness
the surpassing love of the Lord
and the glory that awaits
those who die in Him –
pray for shepherds
who feed their sheep,
not lording it over them
or seeking what gain they might find
taking the milk and wool
of their flock
and leaving them naked and lifeless…
but living the call of Christ
as you, dear shepherd, have done.
Pray those who govern God’s Church
will be ready even to die for Him
and the people they serve.
Let all be protected by the blood of the Lamb.
Fri, 18 September 2020
(1Cor.15:35-37,42-49; Ps.56:10-14; Lk.8:4-15)
“Just as we resemble the man from earth,
so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
It is not difficult to recognize our earthly bodies. They are with us always, and make themselves known in the “weakness” that befalls us. Adam’s sin is upon us his children and reminds us always that we are human, of the earth.
But as we know this body of the earth so “subject to decay,” so “ignoble” in itself, so we should know the “spiritual body [that] comes up” as this “natural body is put down” by us. Here is the meaning of Jesus’ teaching that we must lay down our lives, that we must die to this world to be raised up in His presence. For the earthly form we know so well by the weakness and sin inherent in its confines we must set aside, not nourish in its passions, that ever the Spirit might take shape in our lives… that we might take on the likeness of Christ. And so even our corrupted nature may bring growth and fruit of great significance when we sow it in the ground, when we place it back whence it has come. In this death is life.
“A farmer went out to sow some seed.” This farmer is, of course, Jesus, the spiritual Man who casts seed of the Spirit for all waiting hearts to receive and nourish to growth as a “full-blown plant” in the Father’s light. If we heed the Word He proclaims to us with exclamation, if we become ourselves as “the seed sown on good ground,” given rebirth in the Gospel of Christ, resurrection of our weakened form we will know; even now it shall begin to mature within us. But if we are empty as “those on the footpath” or rootless as “those on rocky ground” or stifled as “the seed fallen among briars,” how then shall we escape the natural body and its corruption and reach up to the kingdom of heaven? It cannot but be that we shall die – and in this death there will be no resurrection to life.
O brothers and sisters, let us be as David, who declares in faith, “Now I know that God is with me” and asks with such confidence, “What can flesh do against me?” How indeed can the flesh hold us down, pressed to the earth though it may be, if we have God’s Word in us growing so surely? In God let us “trust without fear,” and on the day of full growth, when this “earth formed from dust” has died completely and the Man of Spirit has His kingdom revealed, we shall rejoice with David and sing: “You have rescued me from death… that I may walk before God in the land of the living.” Then the Spirit so real we shall know.
O LORD, let your Word take root in our hearts
and grow unto your heavenly kingdom.
YHWH, let your Word be firmly planted in our hearts; let us bear fruit unto Heaven. Let us be raised with your only Son and walk in the light of your presence. Let us be men of the Spirit.
Your Son comes casting seed upon this earth, dearest LORD. He seeks to plant your Spirit within our souls. O let us have ears to hear His Word! Let us have hearts open to His call. Why should we wish to die in sin? Why would we be subject to decay as our natural bodies? Should we not rather put on the body of Jesus and be thus spiritual men? O may we bear the likeness of the Man from Heaven!
Let us have no fear, LORD, as we grow with Jesus; let the flesh hold no sway against our coming to you. Help us to lay down our bodies that our spirits may rise and we may make our home in your eternal light. Open our eyes in your presence.
Thu, 17 September 2020
(1Cor.15:12-20; Ps.17:1,6-8,15; Lk.8:1-3)
“Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
This is the heart of our faith. This is the “Good News,” the Gospel preached in our midst. This is our firm belief. Upon it all our hopes stand. Christ has been raised, and His disciples will follow Him. As surely as we accompany Him here in His mission on earth, so surely will we find ourselves in His presence in heaven. Dying in Him means rising in light.
But “if our hopes in Christ are limited to this life only, we are the most pitiable of men.” We could then be said to have truly wasted our time, for then the very heart of our faith would have been torn out, and what but scoffing would we have to hold? A dead Christ we would carry in our arms, and we “the deadest of the dead” with Him.
Paul speaks of this quite pointedly; he pulls no punches in this regard, declaring openly: “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.” Yet there are those today, as then, who “say there is no resurrection of the dead,” that “Christ was not raised” – and these would call themselves Christian. And in the same manner there are many who do not truly believe the resurrection, yet wear the Christian nametag. If we have doubt in our hearts, or, worse yet, if we preach against the core of the faith, what do we do but kill ourselves? What do we do but work against the very Gospel of Christ? And how then do we merit the name of Christian?
Brothers and sisters, we must know in our hearts and be assured that Jesus is risen from the dead. We must realize that God has “attend[ed] to [David’s] outcry,” that He has “hearken[ed] to [his] prayer” – that the most urgent longing of our souls has been answered by the “savior of those who hope in [Him].” With David, we of faith should say with his resolve: “On waking, I shall be content in your presence.” Has the resurrection not been indicated in the “women who ha[ve] been cured of evil spirits and maladies” and who now accompany Jesus? Does not Mary Magdalene, “from whom seven devils had gone out,” give clear example of hope in Christ fulfilled? For she is not at all as she was, and this woman once so completely possessed by death itself is the first to see the Lord risen.
We must know the resurrection in our lives on earth; this is the only way we will comprehend it in heaven. Release from sin allows us to see already the eternal fruits of the kingdom. Accompanying Him now, our sins behind us, already upon heaven’s road we tread. And we know of a certain we shall pass through these “towns and villages” even unto His kingdom.
O LORD, your Son has been raised from the dead;
may we be raised with Him and be at your side.
YHWH, your Son is raised from the dead for us that we might enter your glorious presence. Though in the shadow of the wings of the Cross on this earth we make our home, it but prepares us for the kingdom. For even here our sins are taken away, and we come to new life in the Spirit.
We cried out to you, O LORD, and you heard our voice and sent your Son to walk among us. And if we follow in His steps we shall come to where He leads – we shall come to you. The path He trod must be our own, for it is the way of salvation. Through death on the Cross we come to life, for as we die with Him so we are raised.
Let us rejoice in His resurrection, O LORD; let us have faith in the new life at work in us even this day, and look with hope to our place in your kingdom. On waking may we look upon your face and be content in your eternal presence. For your glory let us ever strive, giving all to you as we walk in your way.
Wed, 16 September 2020
O wise doctor
whose intellect served well
in defense of the Church
and her teachings,
who bore well the light yoke of Christ
that leads to eternal life
and shepherded your flock
in following you
along this path of our Lord –
speak to us this day
your words of grace
that the souls of all
within the Church’s gates
might be founded well
on the truths of the faith
and on the love of God.
Pray we shall be wise as you
in knowing the way
the Lord marks out for His sons;
pray we shall have shepherds
so blessed with His light
that all shall be saved from the wolves about
and remain secure in the Father’s arms.
Wed, 16 September 2020
(1Cor.15:1-11; Ps.118:1-2,16-17,28; Lk.7:36-50)
“I am the least of the apostles.”
Brothers and sisters, “little is forgiven the one whose love is small.” And it is in the sweet tears of repentance that we discover the love held in the merciful heart of the Lord.
Paul speaks the truth of himself when he claims that he does “not even deserve the name” of apostle because he has “persecuted the Church of God.” “But through the favor of God” he has “worked harder than all the others,” preaching the Gospel of the Lord. As small as he is and as undeserving as he is, so great is the Lord’s blessing upon him. In the measure he recognizes his sin, the Lord pours His grace into him, and through him to others.
And what grace pours forth through the woman in our gospel today! In her we see our own encounter with the Lord. Here is she who is “known in town to be a sinner” standing and kneeling in tears before her God. And the Lord knows well “who and what sort of woman this is that touches Him – that she is a sinner,” and He knows well, too, her repentant heart. While the others at table see neither their own sin nor the woman’s repentance, He allows Himself to be touched by both (her sin and her repentance) – it is for just such a moment as this He has come. And how well the Lord speaks the truth in His detailed description of the woman’s repentance; how well we see His love reflected in her… and how blest is she to hear these words for which every heart does long: “Your sins are forgiven.” And how her tears increase at this word come forth from the mouth of the Holy One. And so, while the others argue blindly among themselves, He reaches out His hand, touches her face, and whispers to her soul: “Your faith has been your salvation. Now go in peace.”
“O my God, I extol you… You have been my savior.” Indeed, your “mercy endures forever,” and now I know that “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” This is the song the woman must sing; this is the song of St. Paul. This is the song of every soul redeemed by the love of the Lord. So let us all “stand firm” in the Gospel preached to us by those who have seen Him, from Peter to this wretched Paul; we “are being saved by it at this very moment if we retain it” in its purity. And here is the Word simply put: “That Christ died for our sins in accord with the Scriptures; that He was buried and, in accord with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” What grace is ours, we the least, we poor sinners – we who know the greatness of His love.
O LORD, let us have faith in your Son
and in His sacrifice for our sins;
on our knees in love let us come to Him,
and we shall find His mercy.
YHWH, how can we see you if tears of repentance do not fill our eyes? How will your mercy be known to us if we do not come on our knees before your Son? If we love but little we shall be forgiven little, and our sins will continue to blind our eyes.
Have mercy on us, O LORD, we are all burdened with debt we cannot repay. But you hear our prayers, you have pity on our poor, sinful souls, and you reach out your hand to touch our hearts, to relieve the burden we carry by the sacrifice of your Son. Thank you, LORD. We praise you for your love.
Let us welcome you into our homes; let us receive Jesus into our very hearts. In our spirits take up your residence, LORD, by our faith in Him and in His death and resurrection. For us He died and was buried; for us He rose on the third day. Let us never forget His enduring mercy – in great humility let us embrace your love.
Tue, 15 September 2020
O brothers in Christ,
in death and in life
you gave yourselves as one
for the sake of the flock;
for the cause of the faith
readily you shed your blood
to serve the growth of God’s Church –
pray we today will be zealous as you
in defending the faith with our lives;
by fasting and by prayer,
by standing courageously
before the courts of the world
and offering our flesh in sacrifice,
may we imitate you who imitated Christ
and so come with all our brothers
to His resurrection and life.
Shepherd us well even this day
from where you now stand at the Lord’s side,
that we might be unafraid to speak
and to live the truth in undying love.
O let us lay down our lives with you!
Tue, 15 September 2020
(1Cor.12:31-13:13; Ps.33:2-5,12,22; Lk.7:31-35)
“We piped you a tune but you did not dance;
we sang you a dirge but you did not wail.”
“Like children squatting in the city squares and calling to their playmates,” seeking to have them comply with their own selfish will, so are “the men of today” according to our Lord. And so is their song not “a noisy gong”? Do they not lack of love? Could they be more “rude,” more impatient and unkind, than to declare of John the Baptizer, “He is mad!” and of the Son of Man, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard”? Could they any more “rejoice in what is wrong,” utterly shutting out the truth?
And why? Why is it they do so lack of love? Why are they so ungodly? Is it not that they fail to realize and state with the Apostle Paul: “Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect”? Is it not because they trust in their own minds that they do not come to the wisdom of God?
And what is “God’s wisdom”? It is what Paul speaks of so well today: God is love, and without God we are worth nothing. Yes, God is love. Love is the heart of the Law even as God is the heart of the Law, and without the heart the body is useless. But knowing God is love, hearing it repeated over and over, is not sufficient for our salvation. Certainly, “of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.” The Lord ever pours forth His grace, His love upon all His creatures – but how do we come to have that love, how do we come to accept it? Again, the key is in Paul’s statement, “My knowledge is imperfect now.” It is in understanding that, even though “we put childish ways aside,” yet “we see indistinctly.” It is in the realization that we are not God, that we need God and His love; in a word, it is in repentance. Genuine repentance is the attitude that brings us to the love of God. And the need for it is constant!
I think there is a kind of divine equation to our relationship with the Lord: the more we recognize our misery, the more He shares His mercy; the more we acknowledge our lack of His wisdom and love, the more He fills our desire for them. Marvelous is the justice of God!
Brothers and sisters, “give thanks to the Lord on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant His praises.” It is ours to “speak with human tongues and angelic as well”; we must employ “the gift of prophecy,” “feed the poor,” and be ready to “hand over [our] body to be burned.” But all we do must be driven by His will, must be founded in His love. Our song must be set in His holy key and reflect His eternal harmony, or we have nothing to fill our emptiness.
O LORD, let us accept your Word and your way;
let us live in your love and praise you all the day.
YHWH, if we have not love, what good are we, for then we are not of you? If we are proud what can we be but condemned for our anger and judgment? If we seek to control you, where can such foolishness lead us but to separation from you and your love; and so, what shall we do but die in emptiness?
O LORD, what fools we are to trust in our own knowledge, in our own ways, when you lay the way to Heaven before us. You send your Son to lead us home, and we tell Him He knows not of what He speaks; we seek even to instruct Him of the way He should better walk. And so to what utter foolishness does our knowledge lead – what blindness is upon our souls!
We must love as you love, as your Son has shown us, dearest LORD. Patient and kind make us this day, humble before you that we might see how much we need you to find our way. To your kingdom let us come, praising you for your glory, living in your unending love.
Mon, 14 September 2020
O sorrowful Mother
whose heart was pierced by a sword,
who stood at the foot of the Cross
dying in spirit
as your Son died in the flesh…
Jesus was sent to suffer
and die for our sins,
and how intimately you shared
in the profound pain
He carried about all His life;
how preeminently you filled up
what was lacking in His suffering,
suffering the whole Church must share
with our crucified Lord –
pray we shall indeed enter into
the sacrifice of Christ your Son,
following in your wake,
O Mother of God;
pray we shall meet Him
along His Way of Sorrow
that His blood upon our souls
will carry us to Heaven,
where you stand at His side.
Mon, 14 September 2020
(1Cor.12:12-14,27-31; Ps.100:1-5; Lk.7:11-17)
“A great prophet has risen among us.”
A great prophet, yes, and so much more; for here is He who is Himself the “one body” upon whom the “one Spirit” rests, and in whom all find their home.
“The body is one and has many members; but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ.” Christ is all things: He is apostle sent by the Father, prophet speaking for God, teacher instructing all on the narrow path that leads to heaven, miracle worker raising the dead, healer of body and soul causing the deaf to hear and the blind to see, assistant washing the feet of His disciples, administrator apportioning the gifts and graces which are His own, and speaker in tongues upon whom the flame of the Spirit eternally rests and whose Word goes forth to all nations. We are not all apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, and speakers in tongues – but He is. He is all these things for He is whole; He is the only Son of God, and we are “His people, the sheep of His flock” who share in His power according to our baptism in His Name.
And so should we not “sing joyfully to the Lord” for the Savior who has been raised from among us? Should not all “lands,” all members of His blessed body “serve the Lord with gladness,” that all might tend to the glory of God? In our gospel “a considerable crowd of townsfolk were with” the widow, and “a large crowd accompanied” Jesus. These met at “the gate of the town” called Nain. When the Lord raised the son of the widow from the dead, “fear seized them all and they began to praise God.” Is not this scene of celebration like that which should encompass the body of Christ? Should not such joy in recognition of the greatness of God course through all our veins, strengthening all our muscles? For we know more than they. We know this Man is more than a prophet – we know it is the Messiah who is among us. And so, let us “enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise” as we “set [our] hearts on the greater gifts” at work within us now as members of the body of the only Son.
Alleluia! He raises us all from the dead to speak in the power of the Spirit.
O LORD, let us be raised from the dead to live in you,
ever praising your NAME.
YHWH, in your Son we approach the gates of Heaven; as His Body we become your own. Sheep of your flock let us ever be – let us enter the New Jerusalem.
O LORD, raise us from our litter, from the bed of death to which sin has brought us. The hand of your Son touch us this day, His voice let us hear speaking to our ears, that we might be filled with your Spirit and rise from our graves to praise you, to give witness to your glory dwelling in our land.
Alive in you let us ever be, O LORD. The blood of your Son let course through our veins. In His Body let us make our home, as His very members. Then we shall remember you; then we shall enter your courts with praise and ever give thanks to your holy NAME.
Let us do your will, O LORD, your work on this earth. As Jesus your Son, let us live out our days, bringing His Word and His teaching to everyone.
Sun, 13 September 2020
(Nm.21:4b-9; Ps.78:1-2,7,34-38; Phil.2:6-11; Jn.3:13-17)
“God greatly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him
the name which is above every name.”
And why is it that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bend”? Why does “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”? It is because “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” It is precisely because “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” and dying as a cursed criminal, that this innocent dove who was “in the form of God” became the praise of our race and the source of our salvation.
Yes, He and His cross are now the source of our salvation. By His cross we find the forgiveness of our sins. Now that “the Son of Man has been lifted up… everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.” Now that we have been shown both our sins and the love God has for us sinners in the Lord’s being nailed to the cross, we may find the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. Just as the Israelites looked upon their sin, recognizing their guilt in the serpents God had sent among them – and finding also its conquering in the serpent’s being bronzed and “mounted on a pole” – so now we who look upon our crucified Lord cannot help but see how we have injured our God, and at the same moment find cleansing for those sins in His blood upon the cross to which we have nailed Him.
Do not be afraid to come to His cross, brothers and sisters. Do not shy away from His love or turn away from the recognition of your guilt. By it alone will you, too, be exalted with the Lord who has humbled Himself and died for you. By it alone will you find glory in God eternally.
He loves us so, brothers and sisters. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that He who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.” And so the cross becomes a sign of triumph not only for our Lord, but for ourselves; for indeed by it we are saved – without it we would yet be lost in our sin. But as it is He “has come down from heaven.” As it is He has been “lifted up” before our eyes. As it is He has sacrificed Himself in absolute love to draw us unto Him and His love. As with the Israelites “He, being merciful, forgave their sin and destroyed them not,” so now He forgives our sins and carries us “up to heaven,” whence He has come. And so we rejoice in the victory of His holy cross.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Music by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, let us be saved from our sin
by the sacrifice of your only Son.
YHWH, to be saved from our sin we needed first to recognize our sin and repent of it. And how could our sin be made clearer to our eyes than in the crucifixion of God Himself, than in the suffering and death of your only Son? What could better bring us to repentance than to see the effects of our sin so graphically displayed?
And how could we better know your love for us, LORD, than in Jesus’ willingness to undergo all the tortures the sins of men could inflict upon Him, all only that these same men might be saved from the hatred that had taken hold of our hearts? Your Son has humbled Himself even to the point of death, death on a Cross; and so, what should we do but glorify His Name and the Cross which is the source of our salvation?
Forgive us, O LORD, our bitterness toward you. Raise us up with Christ, your Son.
Sat, 12 September 2020
O you of golden tongue,
how well you proved
the Word of God cannot be chained;
how well you revealed
its radiance to our ears and hearts…
unconquered by threats of death
and the sufferings
the world imposes,
you proclaimed the glory of God
and His presence with us
until the very end –
pray, O dear shepherd,
who held your flock
so close to your heart
that they became one body with you
that we all shall be so willing
to lay down our lives,
speaking and walking in
the Word the Lord gives us
to share with all our brothers in light.
Pray indeed God’s will be done
in all His holy children.
Sat, 12 September 2020
(Sir.27:30-28:9; Ps.103:1-4,8-12; Rom.14:7-9; Mt.18:21-35)
“Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?”
How like the Lord’s own wisdom is that of Sirach; how like His teaching. For have we not heard the Master say, “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven,” in His instruction to His disciples on how to pray? And does He not impart this same lesson by parable today?
“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” Oh the woe of the unforgiving heart! “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” How can we “refuse mercy to another” and “seek pardon for [our] own sins”? Do we not know that anger is itself a deadly sin, mortally wounding our anxious souls? Do we who sit in judgment think in our hearts that we are without sin, that we are perfect as He who is Most High? If indeed “we are the Lord’s” then we will act as the Lord and look with “kindness and compassion” upon others. Instead of condemnation we would practice divine forgiveness, for indeed mercy is the Father’s defining trait in His relationship with His children.
But no, rather than putting “wrath” and “enmity” and “hate” as far from our hearts as the Lord has “put our transgressions from us,” we cherish these abominations, setting them as trophies in our corrupted souls. Again, what woe there is for the unforgiving soul! For the same torture we would inflict upon others for their sins against us shall be the torture we ourselves shall face – then we will know what justice is! Then we will know the wrath of God! Then He who alone has power and wisdom and love to judge rightly shall inflict His punishment on all His wicked servants.
My brothers and sisters, fellow servants of the Lord in both life and in death, the Lord cannot emphasize enough to us the need for forgiveness. We must first and always recognize and remember the sinners we have been and the grace we have received at our Lord’s hands. And with this ever in mind and heart we must come to others with that same mercy. It is this He desires of us, and He will accept nothing less.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "It Takes One To Know One" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, surpassing is your kindness toward us;
help us to transcend our vengeful hearts
and forgive as you have done.
YHWH, have mercy on our souls by helping us to show mercy toward others; even your own mercy let us share. Then how blessed we shall be to be like you, O compassionate God! Then your mercy shall pour forth like a refreshing stream and become an overflowing torrent.
But your kindness and compassion are far from us, LORD, so long as our sins remain near. So long as we cherish anger, we choke our souls and so cannot breathe in the light of your glory. If only we would turn and forgive, freely and without limit, then we would fully know the great blessing of your forgiveness, and find our sins put far from us.
Why should we wish to live or die except in you? Why would we separate ourselves from your loving presence? O let us rather die to the wrath we hold! Let us set all vengeance aside. Then we shall rise to where you are, LORD, to where your Son would lead us.
Fri, 11 September 2020
O Mary, sweetest of creatures,
whose name on our lips
brings joy to our hearts…
inflamed with love toward God
in speaking your blessed name –
pray we shall call your name,
in our time of need,
that you will be quick to intercede
with your Son
for our salvation.
Washed in the water from His side
and in His holy blood,
pray we shall rise above the sea,
beyond all rebellion,
that obedient as you, His Handmaid,
we shall find favor with the Lord
and enter into Heaven,
our names written beside your own
in the Book of Life,
Fri, 11 September 2020
(1Cor.10:14-22; Ps.116:12-13,17-18; Lk.6:43-49)
“Is not the cup of blessing we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread we break a sharing in the body of Christ?”
The Body and Blood of Christ we have upon our altar and in the Word of His teaching. It is these which set a firm foundation within ourselves, these by which we bear fruit in His Name – these by which we come to be as He is.
Paul tells the Corinthians today “to shun the worship of idols,” not because they are real, for they are not, but because these sacrifices are made “to demons and not to God” and we, as sons and daughters of a jealous God, “cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons” nor “partake of the table of the Lord and likewise the table of demons.” As “a good tree does not produce decayed fruit any more than a decayed tree produces good fruit,” so evil has no place with good and demons no place in the house of God. Partaking of this table is like building a “house on the ground without any foundation” and will only serve to weaken and eventually destroy our faith in the Lord.
And so we should have no share in the things of the world or in the decayed fruit which such mammon bears. This unholy food and drink is but to be vomited out in the sickness it produces. And calling upon the name of the powers of the earth and the air will but cause us to choke in an unholy fear. We must “call upon the name of the Lord” and upon His Name alone build our home. It is “the cup of salvation [we must] take up” and drink of the blood that is sanctified by the sacrifice of our Lord and God. And what does our psalmist mean when he sings, “My vows to the Lord I will pay in the presence of all His people” but that, as Jesus Himself instructs us in our gospel, we must “put into practice” the promises we make unto God. Else our words are empty; else our words are evil, for else our words will bear no fruit and our worship will be in vain.
A great call have we, brothers and sisters: to be like the Lord. And this call is within our reach. His Body and Blood are upon our table; His words are ringing in our ears. We have but to eat; we have but to listen… we have but to accept these gifts and do His will, and even the torrents of death shall not shake our souls. For we shall be as “the man, who, in building a house, dug deeply and laid the foundation on a rock”; we shall stand solidly with unshakable trust in the eternal Lord. For Him we shall have become by sharing in His sacrifice.
O LORD, let us put your Word into practice,
living as your only Son,
sharing in His Body and Blood.
YHWH, let us dig deep and make our foundation in you, in your Word and in your Body and Blood, and we shall bear fruit unto your kingdom, and our house shall stand strong on your holy Day. Let us shun entirely the table of the wicked; let us not partake of the food of demons. Our hearts be set only upon you, and all sin will be purged from our midst.
If we act in evil, LORD, what are we but evil? But if we act in goodness, we shall be made good by you. Let us praise you each day for your goodness and your grace that we might be sharers in your glory, that we might be members of your Body. The cup of salvation let us take up each morning and live all our days wedded in the blood of the Lamb.
What a gift you give us, LORD, in holy Mass; your own presence in the flesh and blood of your Son. In your Word and in your food let us build our home, and we shall become holy as you.
Thu, 10 September 2020
(1Cor.9:16-19,22-27; Ps.84:2-6,8,12; Lk.6:39-42)
“Although I am not bound to anyone,
I made myself the slave of all so as to win over as many as possible.”
How like His Lord is Paul in his declaration, “To the weak I became a weak person with a view to winning the weak.” For as Jesus descended from heaven to take on flesh and save those corrupted by its sin, so the Apostle has made himself “all things to all people,” stepping inside their skin “in order to save at least some of them.” Indeed, Paul proves himself to be “on a par with his teacher” in sacrifice and fruitfulness, for how well he serves “to remove the speck from [his] brother’s eye” that he might see Jesus in the clear light of day.
The Apostle has been “entrusted with a charge,” that of “preaching the Gospel.” And doing so willingly he finds his “recompense.” And what is this recompense but that he receive nothing in return for his work, nothing here on earth except of course the blessing of persecution such work for the Master entails? Then why engage in such toil, and why call others to such a life of self-sacrifice? Ah yes, because of the “crown that is imperishable” which awaits the runner of such a race. This heavenly blessing, too, is found when one does all “for the sake of the Gospel.”
“My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God,” our psalmist intones today, and goes on to proclaim the happiness of those “who dwell in [God’s] house.” “Continually they praise [Him]… They go from strength to strength,” for “grace and glory He bestows.” This is the goal Paul has in mind when he says, “I do not run like a man who loses sight of the finish line.” All his tribulations never distract him from his final destination; the kingdom of heaven remains ever upon his heart. And ever does he strain forward that he and so many others might attain that crown for which “our soul yearns and pines.”
Brothers and sisters, we must “discipline [our] own body and master it”; we must “remove the plank lodged in [our] own [eye]” if we hope to join Paul in the place where “even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young.” And our young we, too, must bring there – all those in our charge must know of the kingdom of God. And so let us join Paul and our holy Lord in here becoming slaves of all, enduring our exile bravely that we might draw others to the eternal home found on the altar of the living God.
O LORD, let us be led by your holy apostles
to lay down our lives with your Son,
that we might find our home in you.
YHWH, all holy hearts long for your presence, long to make their home in your house; and you send to us apostles, teachers of your way, that we might find you. O may the vision of all be made clear to see your glory! May all learn the lesson they need to know, taught by your Son in His sacrifice and carried on by His disciples.
We long to praise you, LORD, but there is a log in our eye that blinds us to your coming kingdom. Help us to remove all obstruction, all distraction, all our blindness, that we might not lose sight of the blessings you offer to those who spend their lives for the sake of the Gospel. Let us rather carry that Good News of salvation to all souls, serving to remove the specks from their eyes by your grace and mercy. Help us to be slaves of all that all might make their home in you. Keep us from the pit, we pray, by your guidance and secure protection. Let us always yearn for you.
Wed, 9 September 2020
(1Cor.8:1-7,11-13; Ps.139:1-3,13-14,23-24; Lk.6:27-38)
“The measure you measure with will be measured back to you.”
And what is your measuring stick, brother? Is it the ruler of this earth, limited by eyes of flesh? Or is it the yardstick of heaven, which reaches unto the Lord’s side and finds us in His sight? Do you toil on this plane alone, or do you climb the mountain where He sits, where He teaches? Do your ears hear only of the debits and credits recorded in the book of this world; or are they open to the word the Lord speaks, and the generous outpouring of His grace?
In our first reading Paul states: “‘Knowledge’ inflates, but love upbuilds.” What he means is that our knowledge of earthly things can do little but inflate our pride, and thinking that this is true knowledge makes us blind. The “knowledge” that we should seek is the love of God, which comes from God and teaches us all things. “If anyone loves God, that man is known by Him,” and living thus in His sight, in His light, we see all with heavenly vision. With this wisdom we understand that “there is no God but one” and that “an idol is really nothing”: all the idols man makes upon this earth are empty and vain, and all the teaching which comes from such has no resonance, falls short of truth.
Yet we are called to be patient with the weakness of others, with their failures in faith. We must “not be an occasion of sin” for others but always be prepared to pardon and love even those who hate us. For if someone does violence to us, what do we teach these who cannot measure beyond earthly passion if we do them violence in return? If we answer with violence, what language do we speak but that of the world? But we are called to converse with heavenly tongues, even with the word of our Lord, and cannot rightly be called His sons if we do not do so. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” And you are thus but saying that you are a child of the earth and not heaven, living in the flesh and not the spirit.
“Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb,” is David’s song of joy to God. He gives thanks that he is “fearfully, wonderfully made.” And if made by God should we not reflect God and the love He has revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ? Should we not be as His Son? And so, should we not with David call upon the Lord to “probe” us and to “know [our] heart” and our “thoughts,” that He might straighten out our “crooked” ways and set us on the path His love prepares? Do we not desire the overflowing joy He brings? Then we must measure as He, with the heavenly yardstick that reaches up to where the Trinity is.
O LORD, if we could but learn to love as you,
how blessed we would be!
YHWH, let us learn your lesson of love, your perfect knowledge, by putting into practice love of all, even our worst enemies. If we repay evil with good, then we shall be like you; then we shall know as you know, that nothing surpasses love.
LORD, you know all things for you see all things, even the hidden matters of the heart. Nothing is hidden from your eye but all is bathed in your wonderful light. But we shall not find that light or your knowledge if we do not love, and love without measure. All remains dark for those lacking love.
Let us but be concerned for our brother’s welfare, LORD, that he shall not sin, that he shall turn from his sin to find you. And so, let us not judge, let us not condemn, or we shall not show him your holy face and he will never come to you – and we will not know you either. Let us rejoice to turn the other cheek, to give to all who would take from us, to be compassionate even toward those who hurt us. For then we will know you and your love.
Tue, 8 September 2020
O slave to the slaves,
to those who came in chains
to the new world,
those whose dark skin
made them seem to eyes of flesh
less than men…
to you these were children of God,
souls to be saved by His love
and through His Church,
and so the thousands
baptized by your hands
celebrate your glorious sacrifice
this day in God’s presence –
pray for us, dear brother,
that the shackles of racial prejudice,
the pride that exalts man above man,
shall fall from our hands,
our tongues and our hearts,
and that all of the Lord’s holy people
will work so diligently
as you, His blessed slave,
for the care of the weakest among us
and the salvation of all souls.
Tue, 8 September 2020
(1Cor.7:25-31; Ps.45:11-12,14-17; Lk.6:20-26)
“The world as we know it is passing away.”
And so, “hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father’s house,” for the King is calling you from this passing world to the heavenly marriage feast – “He is your Lord, and you must worship Him.” This call is for every chosen soul, for who is the Lord’s virgin daughter, who is His Bride but the Church? It is she who is called, even as the Virgin Mother who has preceded her to heaven, and each of our souls must be wed to Him alone. And we who leave all behind to follow Him “shall be filled” and “shall laugh” on the Day of our marriage, for “the reign of God” will be ours.
It is not in this world we take our “consolation” – how sad those who do so. For the riches of this world will rust and rot, and its laughter shall prove so hollow. Thus Paul instructs the wise: “Buyers should conduct themselves as though they owned nothing,” for in truth they have nothing at all: of what worth is that which does not last? Only an illusion are the temporary pleasures and vain accolades of this dying earth. The trials we find are all that should cause us to “rejoice and exult, for [our] reward shall be great in heaven” if we endure our exile well.
To those who consider marriage, Paul gives the instruction: “[You] will have trials in this life, and these I should like to spare you.” Certainly marriage is not sinful, and is even a fruitful sacrament, but even this which can be such a blessing is but passing in the eyes of God. And the attachment we find to our spouse, again, though blessed by the Lord, is a union that is also passing – one which must be ultimately left as well. Since only our marriage to the living God is that which endures, Paul in his wisdom offers this word: “Those with wives should live as though they had none”; for this beauty, too, shall fade, and it is not in it we are called to make our home.
Yes, “the time is short,” brothers and sisters. The time is always short because time itself is passing – only eternity remains. And so, set not your hearts on the fading things of this life. The Lord who has died now prepares a place for you in His heavenly kingdom. And “all glorious is the King’s daughter as she enters; her raiment is threaded with spun gold.” So, to His palace be “borne in with gladness and joy”… join now the song of all His saints in our heavenly homeland.
O LORD, let us turn from the things of this world
and set our hearts on your kingdom,
which passes not away.
YHWH, help us to remember that this world is passing away, that we should thus be attached to nothing of this world, and certainly not make our home in it, seeking the riches it offers. Help us to set our hearts on you and seek you alone, forgetting all that is not of you. For we wish to enter your kingdom, to sing your praises with all your saints, but how shall we come there if fattened on the fruits of this earth?
LORD, your Apostle’s counsel is a very wise one – to make use of the things of this world as if we were not using them at all, always with an eye to their temporal nature, that they are indeed passing away. For if we remember this world is passing, we shall better remember you who are eternal. You are all that matters.
You are all that matters, LORD, and so let us cry out for your presence, hungering for your kingdom. Let us give up all of this world that we might find you present to us, and make our home in your palace forever.
Mon, 7 September 2020
O Virgin who bore the Son of God,
who became the divine dwelling place
for the Creator of us all,
should we not celebrate your birth
the blessing of the generation
of you who signal our salvation?
Pray for us, dear Mother,
pray for all your children,
all who would call themselves
sons of God
and brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ...
pray that all generations
will call you blessed,
that all will hail you
as Mother of our Savior
and glorify the Lord
who has filled you with His grace.
You are one of us, dear Virgin Mary,
one of the human creation,
yet in you God deigns to dwell;
pray we shall all be made worthy
to be such a temple for the Lord.
Mon, 7 September 2020
(Mic.5:1-4 or Rm.8:28-30; Ps.13:6,Is.61:9; Mt.1:1-16,18-23
Note: I shall treat of both first readings)
“It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child.”
“God is with us,” brothers and sisters, and how has He chosen to come among us but through a woman, but through a virgin found with child? And this Virgin daughter of Israel from “Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah” – she the humblest of the chosen people, the meekest servant of our race – has been thus greatly blessed “according to His decree,” for she is the first whom God “predestined to share the image of His Son.” She is the first of Christians prepared and called by the Lord, and now “in turn glorified” in His presence. It is her birth, it is her role in our salvation we celebrate today, for by her complicity with the will of God “now His greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; He shall be peace.”
The fact that “God makes all things work together for the good of those who have been called” is evident both in the situation of Mary’s life as Mother of the Lord and in the very fact of her call itself. First of all, God chooses this woman, this humble creature of the chosen race of His most humble creation to participate with Him in bringing His Son and His salvation into the world. The lengthy genealogy at the start of our gospel also bears witness to the very human nature of Jesus, whose “family record” can indeed be traced so precisely, and among whose ancestors are many who were far less perfect than He – including a prostitute, an adulterer, and evil kings. God chooses to come through man, through a woman, to make quite real His redemptive power over the sins of our race, to put flesh to the eternal Word of the Father.
And in the particular situations of Mary’s life, we see how difficulties, how “bitterness,” if you will, is turned to sweetness, too, for we note that Joseph was prepared to divorce his yet-to-be wife when found with child, and we know that the prophet tells us a sword shall pierce her heart as well as her Son’s; but that notwithstanding, and indeed through that cross she bears with Him, she shall find the glorification promised all children of the Most High. She certainly shares now in the fruits of His redemption.
And we also share in these same fruits, brothers and sisters. We are likewise predestined and called and justified and glorified if we make ourselves as obedient as our Mother in the faith. He “whose origin is from of old” is with us now, too, and so we should “sing of the Lord, ‘He has been good to me’” as we “rejoice in [His] salvation” at work within us, a salvation whose coming was prepared in the birth of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and by the power of the Holy Spirit brought to us through she who shares our own flesh.
Written, read & chanted by James Kurt; produced by Carie Fortney.
Muisc by Carie Fortney; used by permission.
O LORD, through the Blessed Virgin Mary
you have sent your only Son to save us from our sins –
may He be always with us.
YHWH, your Son has come among us through the Virgin Mary, to be with us and save us from our sins. May we welcome Him into our lives as has Mary, as has Joseph, and so find ourselves led to glory with you. In you do we trust; let us sing of your salvation.
So humbly Jesus has come to us, through a humble virgin, a child called by you to share His image, to encompass Him with devotion that she might bear Him to us – and He has allowed Himself to be made so humble, to be found in her womb as a child of our race. He has come to this place, O LORD, as the leaven of peace and truth that the darkness which surrounds us might be dispelled by His majestic presence. O let His glory reach to the ends of the earth!
By the Holy Spirit, Mary has conceived and served to bring Christ to us. Prepare us, O LORD, as you have prepared her to fulfill your Word among us.
Sun, 6 September 2020
(1Cor.5:1-8; Ps.5:5-7,9,12; Lk.6:6-11)
“Let us celebrate the feast not with the old yeast,
that of corruption and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
For indeed, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed”; indeed, the new Sabbath has come. And on the Day of the Lord only goodness remains.
“Get rid of the old yeast to make of yourselves fresh dough,” Paul commands the Corinthians as he chastises them for their “boasting” and self-satisfaction even while tolerating a professed sinner in their midst. He writes here to insist that they should be “grieving and getting rid of the offender,” both for the sake of the community and that the sinful man’s “spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” For, as David makes quite evident in his psalm, God “delight[s] not in wickedness; no evil remains with [Him].” And as for the vain pride of the community: “the arrogant may not stand in [His] sight.”
It is not an unkind exaggeration to say that the Lord “hate[s] all evildoers.” The sharp line dividing evil and good Jesus would make clear as He confronts the scribes and Pharisees in the synagogue on the sabbath, “a man whose right hand was withered” standing before Him: “I ask you,” He says, “is it lawful to do good on the sabbath – or evil? To preserve life – or destroy it?” Then He heals the man, much to the chagrin of the scribes and Pharisees who deem this unlawful work for the day. But in the Lord’s House and on His Day good is always and only done – and certainly this healing is a blessed act. And since only the good remain in His House, just as the man who is “living with his own father’s wife” will be purged from the Corinthian community at Paul’s urging, so by the word of our Lord Jesus Christ these false leaders who harbor such distrust and jealousy will be cast from within the walls of the Lord’s Church; for “the bloodthirsty and deceitful the Lord abhors,” and indeed the blood of the Son is upon their hearts, and will be upon their hands.
But we, brothers and sisters, we have the new feast, the new Sabbath before us now. We come now into His House to eat His Body and drink His Blood. Each day, in fact, we may celebrate the greatness of God’s glory and the grace of His presence in our midst. And so, let us celebrate with a pure spirit, with His cleansing blood upon our hearts, that our goodness may be preserved and we who “love [His] name” and “take refuge in [Him]” may “be glad and exult forever.”
O LORD, why is man’s heart so set against you?
YHWH, the arrogant cannot stand before you, those who have the desire for evil in their hearts and blood upon their hands. How can they begin to know your undying love, those who would condemn even the Son of Man?
Should not the broken and sinful man always stretch his hand out to you? Is your arm somehow shortened in its merciful reach? Should we think that you, O LORD and God, are somehow limited in the dispensing of your grace? Will not Jesus show us otherwise as He stretches His arms out on the Cross?
And what shall save those who do not accept His embrace, who would rather embrace this corrupt and wicked generation? Condemnation shall be pronounced over the rebellious soul, unless he repents of his evil. O LORD, let us eat only the bread of sincerity and truth; let us desire only your goodness upon all. O let us embrace your Son!
Sat, 5 September 2020
(Ez.33:7-9; Ps.95:1-2,6-9; Rom.13:8-10; Mt.18:15-20)
“O wicked one, you shall surely die.”
The Lord declares to the prophet Ezekiel: “You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel.” He is to “speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way,” that the sinner might not “die for his guilt” and that the prophet himself might not be “responsible for his death” by his silence.
As the Lord calls Ezekiel, so He requires all the Church to “warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way.” We must be diligent with all those in our care, all those we find in need, not in order to deliver condemnation upon souls but to invite all to “bow down in worship” and “kneel before the Lord who made us.” How can someone know this great glory if there is sin upon his soul? And how will he know to turn from his sin if those the Lord gives words to speak hold their tongues as the sheep goes astray? And what shall become of this soul who has not offered the word of loving wisdom, but rather determined in himself that there is no hope for the sinner he sees?
Brothers and sisters, when we are called to declare: “‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be,” it is out of love for the soul we see straying that we speak. For love is “the fulfillment of the law”; it sums up all its precepts, and so all its precepts are expressed in love. Do not think the law is opposed to love – love and justice are one in God; and the Lord does not call us to ignorance or acceptance of sin, but to truth and salvation.
“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault’”; do not pretend the fault does not exist, but confront him, for his sake and your own. For “if he listens to you, you have won over your brother” – you will have brought him back to the fold. However, “if he doesn’t listen,” the Lord calls us further: “Take one or two others along with you.” Bring objective witness to sway your loved one from evil. And “if he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.” Ah, the Church! The keeper of the Spirit of Truth and the flame of wisdom which no man can deny. What teaching the Lord has left with Her! And what power: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” For here are those “gathered together in [Jesus’] name,” and He indeed is “in the midst of them.” And if the soul “refuses to listen even to the Church,” what hope has it of finding salvation? But at least you have done all you can.
All must be done in justice and in love to save the soul straying in this land. This is why the Lord has left us the Church; this is why He has left His Spirit – and we are called to speak His Truth, that salvation might come to all.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "No Paranoia" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to love one another,
to bring one another to repentance
that all might sing your praise.
YHWH, help us to love others as we should, to speak the truth to them; let our concern be the salvation of souls, as it is for your Son.
LORD, you institute the Church to be your representative on earth, and you call each member to reflect your love and your glory; your justice must be the desire of every soul. And we must show that desire in our relations with others, in our concern for their welfare. Who could stand by and let his brother perish if he truly loves him? And will not sin cause the death of any who will not repent? And so, what should we do but speak out in your Name?
Let our tongues not be silent as we see others fall. Especially your pastors we pray for this day, that they not be afraid to chastise their flock, to warn them against wayward paths. And let their words be heeded, LORD – save souls from dying in their sin, that all might praise your holy NAME.
Fri, 4 September 2020
O lover of the poor
and of the unborn,
in whom you saw
the face of Christ,
by whom you held Him
close to your heart
and so comforted His thirst
for souls –
pray for us who are so blind
to the presence of Christ
in the least among us
or even in those
Pray, dear Mother,
that we will hear their cry,
which is Jesus’ cry
from the Cross,
and that we shall not fear
as we enter beneath the shadow
of His loving arms,
where we shall find
Fri, 4 September 2020
(1Cor.4:9-15; Ps.145:17-21; Lk.6:1-5)
“God has put us apostles at the end of the line,
like men doomed to die in the arena.”
“Up to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, poorly clad, roughly treated, wandering about homeless,” the great Apostle Paul tells us of the persecution and slander all the Lord’s apostles must undergo. And yet “when we are insulted we respond with a blessing,” for this is our call in the Lord: to love even our enemies, that we might show the love of God to all, that we might indeed become “a spectacle to the universe, to angels and men alike” – “fools on Christ’s account,” yet bearing all patiently that the Gospel might truly be fulfilled and the last shall be shown to be first in the eyes of God.
It is this birth to which Paul brings the Corinthians, his “beloved children.” And though it seem a difficult fate to call down upon a people, yet we know that David’s psalm is true, that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth”; and so through all trials He leads us and comforts us, making any suffering a light burden to bear. And just as Paul is father to this nation, so the Father of all is there always to watch over all His children, for it is “in Christ Jesus” the Apostle has begotten them; and as He has heard the cry of His Son upon the cross and brought Him to resurrection, so “He hears [all His children] cry and saves them.”
In our gospel the Lord’s disciples are hungry, and so, in the hot sun, “walking through the standing grain” with Jesus, He feeds them: all around is food at their hands. Truly their prayer does He answer; their need does He see. But instead of seeing that the Lord “fulfills the desire of those who fear Him,” all the Pharisees can do is ask, “Why are you doing what is prohibited on the sabbath?” Thus the very men who should be present to bless and comfort and guide the followers of the Holy One can but call them into the arena of persecution with the rest of the fallen world. Thus the shepherds who are called to feed the sheep would remove the food from their hands and see them perish. Instead of becoming apostles themselves, they become their bane. For they cannot comprehend that God’s love transcends God’s law, that “the Lord keeps all who love Him” and this is what makes Him “just in all His ways and holy in all His works,” and not the mere precepts to which they hold so desperately, so blindly… so jealously. Thus the chosen of God become in their eyes “the world’s refuse, the scum of all.” And what can they be but crucified?
All must come to the holy Lord and “all flesh bless His holy name forever and ever.” And though war be brought upon our souls, we must always “try conciliation” – peacemakers covered with blood and spittle is the state to which we are called. No other way will the world come to know that the love of God transcends all, and all call upon Him from their hearts.
O LORD, though persecuted and poor,
we are surrounded with your presence,
and so are fed in times of famine.
YHWH, you are our LORD and God; when we cry out to you, you save us. Though we must endure persecution for your sake, though we suffer want and go hungry, you surround us with standing grain – you are ever near to help us. Let us indeed praise your holy NAME!
What should it matter to us if we are beaten, if we are insulted and spat upon; if you are with us we are free of pain, for all these things your Son endures for our sake. We are your children and you love us, so even these trials you turn to good. Remain ever with us to save us by the Cross of your only Son.
He is Lord over even the Sabbath. He has power from on high. For you, LORD, have given all things over into His hands, and for us He does provide. Our rest we take in Him, our food He places in our mouths – through Him we remain close to you: He is our Bread of Life. And so, let us rejoice to walk in His way.
Thu, 3 September 2020
(1Cor.4:1-5; Ps.37:3-6,27-28,39-40; Lk.5:33-39)
“The salvation of the just is from the Lord.”
“For the Lord loves what is right, and forsakes not His faithful ones.” And so He comes. He comes bearing a new garment; He comes with the blood of a New Covenant, His own blood, to wash us clean and make us whole as He is. Drinking this new wine indeed we are made holy.
It is not as “John’s disciples” or as “the disciples of the Pharisees” we shall find our salvation – only as disciples of the Son of God, only by “commit[ting] to the Lord [our] way” will “justice dawn for us like the light.” And that His way, His covenant, is whole we see in His teaching that “no one tears a piece from a new coat to patch an old one,” for this indeed “will only tear the new coat, and the piece taken from it will not match the old.” What foolishness this would be. No, the New Covenant founded in the blood of Jesus Christ, though absolutely in accord with the Old, is whole unto itself and serves to redeem and fulfill the covenant that has come before. One cannot take pieces of it as it might suit one’s judgment – it must be received entire as grace from the Lord. Then, “bright as the noonday shall be your vindication,” and feast with the bridegroom you shall.
Brothers and sisters, “the Lord is the one to judge,” and His Word must be accepted in full. Only “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and manifest the intentions of hearts,” for only His eyes see all things. And so, do not attempt to judge for yourselves the worth of a person or even yourself. Paul says, “I do not even pass judgment on myself,” not because he is innocent, but because God alone knows his heart. And as we cannot judge one another, so we cannot (as James has said elsewhere – 4:11) judge the Law of God. We must simply live under His Law, seeking to obey the Word of His covenant. We must only make it our concern to “turn from evil and do good, that [we] may abide forever.” For when the Lord comes again, when the New Covenant is fulfilled in our midst, “at that time, everyone will receive his praise from God.”
Neither praise nor condemnation from the mouth of man has worth. Trust not in this. “Trust in the Lord and do good, that you may dwell in the land and enjoy security.” Commit yourself entirely to His Word and Blood, and a new skin to receive His grace you shall find.
O LORD, let us put ourselves entirely in your hands,
and we shall be made new and holy in your sight.
YHWH, you are our salvation, you alone. How shall we be clothed in the white wedding garment of purity, how shall we enter your kingdom and feast at your table, if you do not save us, if you do not deliver us from the evil of the world and the evil in our souls. Let us give ourselves to you whole and entire, that new we may be made in your presence.
You declare men holy, LORD, for you alone judge hearts. We cannot see, we cannot know who is just in your sight, for our vision in limited to the surface of things – all we see are acts, but you know the intentions of hearts, the thoughts of man and what he truly desires… and so you alone know who is worthy of your blessings.
Make us worthy, O LORD, to rejoice at your table, to drink wine in your kingdom, to have the blood of your Son upon us to wash us clean in this world. Make our skins new, our souls new, to receive the grace you impart to your faithful disciples.
Wed, 2 September 2020
O great Shepherd,
watchman of the House of God
and protector of His flock,
though in the monastery you would have stayed,
when called to the Chair of Peter
you guided the Church well
through difficult times –
pray that as difficult days continue
a firm hand may continue to be found
at the helm of MotherChurch.
O pray that the faith be strengthened,
that the Rock upon which this House is set
will remain unshakable
and its light, its wisdom,
serve ever as a beacon
calling straying souls
into the Lord’s welcoming arms.
Humility and holiness
may all our leaders embody,
that by the Word of God on their tongues
and His wounds in their hands
all the poor of the earth
will be carried unto Heaven.
Wed, 2 September 2020
(1Cor.3:18-23; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.5:1-11)
“Amazement at the catch they had made
seized him and all his shipmates.”
What a truly remarkable scene! Here upon the call of the apostles, the first of apostles, Simon Peter, “fell at the knees of Jesus.” Here in his barque, boats once desolate now suddenly fill to bursting with fish flopping about everywhere, unable to be contained… This is a painting for the ages, this blessed moment! It is this image which drives the Church forth, filling the barque of Peter with blessed, saved souls. “From now on you will be catching men,” the Lord says to His Rock – and so the Church is called, on this sunlit day.
Yes, “the Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” And how wonderfully that fullness that is the Lord’s is revealed in these boats continually filled “until they nearly sank,” and how clearly these abundant fish represent we who dwell in God’s world. Even literally our psalm is fulfilled: “He founded it upon the seas,” David sings; and as He founded the world, so here He finds the Church, His renewal of the world, here upon the Sea of Galilee. Here He sends out His call to those who “stand in His holy place”; and through His apostles all will find the strength and purity to “ascend the mountain of the Lord.” Here is the faith firmly rooted, here in the barque of Peter. The race that “seeks the face of the God of Jacob” shall find Him now, shall see Him even as clearly as Peter looking up at Him from here at His knees on this marvelous day.
“All things are yours,” Paul declares, “and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” Indeed, the fullness of heaven and earth are at our hands through Jesus and the ministry of His apostles. All the apostles are ours, the world is ours, life and death are ours, the present and the future… Why? Because we are in Christ, in the boat in which He sits, surrounding our leader on his knees – all is ours because we leave everything to become His followers.
After the Lord’s resurrection this scene shall repeat itself, and so the call be fulfilled. Here it begins though, here in “nets [that] were at their breaking point,” here in boats that are filled – here in one man falling to his knees, all come before the Lord of all.
O LORD, it is only by your power anything is done –
make us holy by your Word.
YHWH, upon our knees let us come to you; in the way of your Son let us follow, and in Him and in His Church, all shall be ours. What can we lack if united to you? What is not ours if your abundance we know?
O LORD, all the world and all those who dwell in it are in your hands. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the soul of every man you hold. And to your Son you give all. And to your Church you give the same. For those who follow Jesus, who leave all behind for the kingdom’s sake, shall know your abundant blessings even this day.
To what of this earth should we hold, LORD? What is of worth apart from you? Let us know nothing but your Son, the Christ, and we shall ascend your holy mountain, and become holy as you. This alone should be our goal, the desire of our heart must be to be united to you.
Praise you for all your blessings, LORD! But praise you most for calling us through your only Son to dwell in your Church, where you reside.
Tue, 1 September 2020
(1Cor.3:1-9; Ps.33:12-15,20-21; Lk.4:38-44)
“To other towns I must announce the Good News of the reign of God,
because that is why I was sent.”
“And He continued to preach in the synagogues of Judea.” And He continues to preach to all hearts through His blessed apostles, and His Church continues to grow. To the ends of the earth the kingdom progresses, and we each have a hand in its rising.
Yes, “he who plants and he who waters work to the same end,” but “neither he who plants nor he who waters is of any special account, only God, who gives the growth.” As Paul has said to the Corinthians: “Who is Apollos? And who is Paul? Simply ministers through whom you became believers, each of them doing only what the Lord assigned him.” As great as the work of any apostle may be, yet it is God alone through whom progress is made. He alone causes “His cultivation, His building” to grow; it is yet Jesus who announces salvation in any of our lives.
Indeed, no matter how big our work, it is God who accomplishes all – but also no matter how small. For all are called. And even as Paul and Apollos plant and water by their great gift of preaching, so we are told of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law that once Jesus had cast the fever from her, “she got up immediately and waited on them,” entirely ready to perform her work for the upbuilding of the kingdom of God. As with the sick the Lord “laid hands on each of them and cured them,” and as He taught with authority, so all in their way are invited to offer their service to the only God and thus become built into His kingdom. It is God who builds the House, but indeed “we are God’s co-workers” and must cooperate with His grace.
And how we should know Him and His working among us and through us! The demons declared, “You are the Son of God!” for they “knew that He was the Messiah” – they knew well He who had come to destroy them. Why is it we whom He has come to build up do not know Him just as well, or even more? Truly it is “He who fashioned the heart of each [of us], He who knows all [our] works”; it is He “who is our help and our shield,” and “in Him our hearts [should] rejoice” – and through Him we should accomplish all. Do we know His presence with us so well? Do we rejoice in Him and do His works and become His work…? Brothers and sisters, let it be indeed that the Good News is announced clearly to all through the Lord working upon our soul.
O LORD, in your holy NAME let us trust,
and we shall be healed of all our ills
and grow unto the kingdom.
YHWH, let your Word go forth through your people this day; to the ends of the earth let your Son travel, bringing the Good News of your reign to every soul through your Church and especially her apostles.
You dwell in Heaven, O LORD, far above our mortal ways, and we take life and do our work only through you who call us. Let us be your co-workers, branches of the vine that is your Son, and your Church shall be built up in truth, in the power that is only upon Him.
Let all be healed of their infirmities, LORD, that all might indeed serve you well; raise us from our bed of pain, release us from the grasp of the devil, and we shall work for you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Let all be done as you will and all shall rejoice in your glory.
It is you who have made us, LORD; we are but your poor creatures. But with the blood of your Son coursing through our veins we rise above this dying flesh and make our home in the Spirit. Let us grow in your House this day.