Fri, 30 October 2020
(Phil.1:18-26; Ps.42:2-3,5; Lk.14:1,7-11)
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding party,
do not sit in the place of honor
in case some greater dignitary has been invited.”
At the feast of the marriage of Christ to mankind, we are the lesser party, and must act humbly before our God.
Jesus comes among us as a guest to eat a meal in our house; He humbles Himself to sit at our table. And this guest who sits in the lowest place among us is in fact the Host of the banquet of which all are invited to partake. Though the Lamb that is slaughtered for all to eat, He the sacrifice rules at the altar of our worship.
Listen carefully to what Paul says to his beloved Philippians; see how his own attitude mirrors that of the humble Christ, and how it must be imitated by us all. He says quite openly, “I long to be freed from this life and to be with Christ, for that is the far better thing.” In the choice of living or dying, he would opt for the latter, “for, to [him], ‘life’ means Christ; hence dying is so much gain.” As the psalmist sings in comparing his soul to “the hind [that] longs for the running waters”: “When shall I go and behold the face of God?” When shall he know full union with the Lord? Only in death, the dawn of perfect day. But though “strongly attracted” to death, Paul has equal attraction to life, and accepts that he must “go on living in the flesh” for the “productive toil” it means; and so he will “persevere with [his disciples], for [their] joy and [their] progress in the faith.” He will remain “with the throng” that he might lead them “in procession to the house of God… amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,” though he himself is already prepared to enter the festival gates.
Do you not see how this attitude is as Christ’s own? Would not the Lord Jesus have preferred to remain in the heavenly kingdom with the Father? Would this not have been better for Him by far? And yet He comes among us, and yet He remains with us. And yet He takes on flesh which is as the cross itself and bears it with all patience for our benefit. He gains nothing by sitting with us at table as a dishonored guest, but we gain life eternal as we eat the Bread He feeds us.
And so, listen to the Lord’s teaching. Pray that “when your Host approaches you He will say, ‘My friend, come up higher.’” Let His sweet words of humility and sacrifice be in your ears and in your heart – and upon your lips, lived through your body – that with Paul you will “have full confidence that now as always Christ will be exalted through” your own humility; then you will find the same “conviction that this will turn out to [your] salvation.” If here you sacrifice your life, at the wedding party of our Lord and our souls you will be given your due place of honor at table in the kingdom.
O LORD, may the humility of Jesus be proclaimed to all
who wish to see your face.
YHWH, help us to be your humble servants, coming to others as a slave, as your Son, concerned only for the welfare of your flock, even as the Apostle Paul. How shall we have the Spirit of Christ within us? How shall we set our hearts on seeking your face and helping others progress in the faith? Let us not care if we live or die, but only that your NAME goes forth.
To your House let us come, O LORD; at your table let us sit. The lowest place let us take, for this is the place we deserve. It is only by your grace we come to the table at all, and so, how can we boast of anything? Your Son is the exalted guest among us – let us give place to Him in all things.
Call us higher, dear LORD. Call us to your side. Without your call we shall be lost, scrambling blindly for adulation on this empty earth. O let us rejoice as we enter your presence!
Thu, 29 October 2020
(Phil.1:1-11; Ps.111:1-6; Lk.14:1-6)
“My prayer is that your love may more and more abound.”
Paul’s prayer is addressed to the Philippians, who “have all continually helped promote the Gospel from the very first day” he came into their midst preaching. He overflows with love for them himself and finds them present “to a man” sharing in his “gracious lot,” even as he “lie[s] in prison” far from their land. And so he prays that always “with a clear conscience and blameless conduct [they] may learn to value the things that really matter,” and is confident that “He who has begun the good work in [them] will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus.”
And Jesus’ prayer for the Pharisees is really the same. Though they treat Him as Paul has so often been treated, though He is “summoned to defend the solid grounds on which the Gospel rests” before eyes that observe “Him closely” for any misstep upon which they could capitalize – yet His desire for them is the love of God; yet He would teach them of the ways of the Lord Most High, who cares at every moment for the well-being of even His smallest creatures. Thus does He ask them, “If one of you has a son or an ox and he falls into a pit, will he not immediately rescue him on the sabbath day?” to open their eyes to the innate concern they have for those in their care, that they might see the love of God for all. And though they are not like the Philippians, though they do not accept His word with joy and put it into practice immediately, there may come a time when they will listen, when at least some of them will hear and follow His teaching.
“Majesty and glory are His work, and His justice endures forever.” This is what every heart must proclaim of the “wondrous deeds” of God. It is not only Paul’s wish but the wish of the Lord Himself that all of us “may be found rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ has ripened,” which He has brought to maturity in His blood, in His love. “He has given food to those who fear Him”; this food of love is for all who reverence God to share. More and more it should abound in our midst, even as it does in all our churches and on all our altars this day. Alleluia!
O LORD, your love extends to all and is undying –
help us to share more and more in that love
with your Son.
YHWH, may your love abound throughout the world and we abound in it. May your glory be known in all your works, through all holy souls the Gospel go forth.
We give you thanks, O LORD, we give you praise. For your love is endless and it looks upon every creature with abiding care. In your presence and by the ministry of your Son, we are saved – let us stand in the light of your holy Day!
You give food to all who love you, LORD; you heal every soul that comes humbly to you. Let us appear before you with a clear conscience and blameless conduct. Your will be fulfilled in all our lives.
Wondrous are your deeds, O LORD; majesty and glory are yours alone. But you desire to share your gifts with your children, continually calling us to dwell in your love.
Rescue us from all sin this day, LORD, from the hardness of our hearts, that we might be among the assembly of the just come to full maturity in your Son.
Wed, 28 October 2020
(Eph.6:10-20; Ps.144:1-2,9-10; Lk.13:31-35)
“Today and tomorrow I cast out devils and perform cures,
and on the third day my purpose is accomplished.”
“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war,” King David sings, for the Lord is the “shield… who subdues peoples under [him]”; He is the “stronghold” by whom “victory” is his.
The same image of battle is used by Paul as he encourages us, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” But “our battle ultimately is not against human forces” – in war against nations or even any individual enemy – “but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in the regions above.” It is spiritual warfare we engage in, and in it we must “pray constantly and attentively for all in the holy company,” for the attacks against us are constant and we must ever with our brothers and sisters resist the evil one and “stand [our] ground.” Heed Paul’s summary of the strength we must draw from the Lord for our mission: “Stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear.”
Does not the Lord do just this? Does He not witness fully to the courage we must have in the battle of earthly life? For though the Pharisees come with the warning, “Leave this place! Herod is trying to kill you,” Jesus “proceed[s] on course” in firm resolve. Though “Jerusalem… slay the prophets and stone those who are sent to [her],” yet the Lord’s face is set like flint to enter there. In every step along the way, on every day that leads there, He conquers the devil valiantly, displaying His great power over all darkness of this world by His Word of truth; and when He comes to the cross the war will have been won – the evil one will have no weapon remaining.
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Blessed is Jesus the Christ, and blessed all those who follow in His way, who fight unto death the evils that beset us here. Brothers and sisters, faith in God will deflect all “the fiery darts of the evil one.” “The helmet of salvation” will protect you from all harm; and by “the sword of the Spirit, the word of God,” you shall conquer mightily with the Lord. “Pray in the Spirit.” Pray always. Pray for the Church militant that she proclaim the Gospel and come quickly to the Lord’s salvation.
O LORD, we bless your NAME and we are strong;
we are ready for battle against all evil.
YHWH, give us strength in the battle of earthly life, strength to overcome the attacks of the enemy, strength to stand with you on the holy day. You are our strength; you are our deliverer. You save us from all harm by your invincible power and glory – let us indeed stand strong in battle on this earth, that we may come quickly to Heaven.
Your Word go forth, O LORD, to the ends of the earth, your Word of truth, your Word of life. The sword of the Spirit be in our hands, upon our tongues, that we shall defeat all the forces of the evil one. Let us be ever in prayer before you, ever calling upon your holy NAME. And we shall be saved, and we shall save others by the grace that you give to do battle this day.
With your Son let us cast out devils, LORD; let us serve to cure the troubled soul of man. Blessed is He who comes in the NAME of the LORD! Let us be blessed to follow Him on the way to Jerusalem, on the way to the Cross – for on the third day He shall rise.
Mon, 26 October 2020
(Eph.5:21-33; Ps.128:1-5; Lk.13:18-21)
“To what shall I compare the reign of God?”
Jesus Himself compares it to a mustard seed which grows so steadily into a “large shrub,” and to yeast which makes “the whole mass of dough” rise. And Paul tells us of the marriage union that it “refers to Christ and the Church.” These images should lead you, brother, to understand the glorious kingdom that is beyond all image.
“The husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of His body, the Church,” and husbands should “love [their] wives, as Christ’s loved the Church,” giving themselves “up for her” as the Lord has done for us. A wonderfully beautiful call; a marvelous image which is to bring the Lord so really into our midst: love between husband and wife – the love of love upon this earth, which indeed brings the fruit of new life. “A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cling to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” Here is a word of truth incomparable to others in the joy it brings the ear and the heart open to its call. For by it is promised great happiness to those “who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways.” Yes, the obedient man will find that his “wife shall be like a fruitful vine” and his “children like olive plants around [his] table”; great is the blessing upon those who wed in love, the true love of the Lord.
But a greater promise than this does this word bring, for in it is indeed “a great foreshadowing”; in it we see not only the fruitful love of man and woman, but of God and His people. For does not Jesus leave His Father in heaven and cling to us? Does it not bring the great knowledge that we shall be made one with Him and with His Father in heaven? If “he who loves his wife loves himself,” does this not emphasize the absolute oneness of husband and wife? And if such marriage foreshadows Christ’s love for us, can we not conclude that we will be as He is?
Oh to what glory we are called! To be as the only Son of God, to be one with Him. Indeed “we are members of His body” even now, certainly. Has Jesus not asked Saul why he was persecuting Him, referring to His Church (Acts 9:4); and has He not said what we do unto the least of our brothers we do unto Him? We are one with Him even now, but yet we are growing, yet we are rising. And the immeasurable glory to which we come is beyond even the most poignant image to depict. It is absolute fullness, absolute union with our Lord and God. Alleluia! “The prosperity of [the New] Jerusalem” is ours.
O LORD, teach us to love one another
that we might be joined to your Son
and so enter your reign.
YHWH, may husbands and wives be truly one in your sight; let there be no separation between them. For they are one as we are one with your Son, and why would we separate ourselves from our Lord? Salvation is ours in Him and in our love for one another. Let us be obedient to His voice and fear you and walk in your ways, and we shall grow unto Heaven.
O LORD, you greatly bless those who fear you, who worship you alone and always do your will. Help us to live according to your Word, particularly as it affects marriages. For this day there is great separation between husband and wife, between man and woman; no sense of their oneness seems known anymore. Set against one another do they not set themselves against you? And living thus, how shall their love grow? Then what hope have any of being fruitful in your sight and coming into your eternal presence? It seems their children they would let die. O save us from such destructive pride that we might love one another as ourselves, as you love us in your Son.
Sun, 25 October 2020
(Eph.4:32-5:8; Ps.1:1-4,6,Eph.5:1; Lk.13:10-17)
“There was a time when you were darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.”
Brothers and sisters, remember always that “God has forgiven you in Christ.” Once you “walk[ed] in the way of sinners,” but now you are as he who “delights in the law of the Lord.” And so as God has shown His mercy to you, so should you do unto others; we must “be imitators of God as His dear children.” As when Jesus saw the woman who “was badly stooped – quite incapable of standing erect,” for eighteen years afflicted by her infirmity, He had pity for her, called her to Him and “laid His hand on her” so that “immediately she stood up straight and began thanking God”… so should our hearts go out to all those in need, all those afflicted by infirmity and sin, that all might be as well as we have become, that all might praise God as we do.
“Make no mistake about this: no fornicator, no unclean or lustful person – in effect an idolater – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Brothers and sisters, how many of us have been guilty of the deadly sins of which Paul speaks today? (And if not these, what others?) How many of us have deserved to be barred from the kingdom? In truth we must say that all of us have fallen short of God’s glory and found ourselves in desperate need of the salvation only Christ brings. And so should we hold out no hope for those who commit such sins now, who are as we have been? Certainly “there are sins that bring God’s wrath down on the disobedient” and put them in danger of dying; but do we instruct these to “have nothing to do with them,” do we offer light to those in such darkness… or do we presume their condemnation?
The Lord left not the stooped woman in Satan’s clutches, despite the “indignant” attitude of the leaders of the synagogue – whose own inability to stand erect is so much more difficult to cure. No, the Lord saw a soul in need and reached His hand out to her; and should we not do the same with those we see suffering affliction, if not with a healing touch of our hand at least with the healing touch of devout prayer? The well-being of others must always be our concern. We must ever “be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving.” For if our hearts stoop to jealousy and judgment as does the leader of the synagogue’s, what hope shall there be for us then of entering God’s kingdom? We must ever be children of light, dispelling all darkness, if we are truly to be the “dear children” of our Lord.
O LORD, let us stand up straight before you,
turning from sin and walking in your way at all times.
YHWH, let us be as your dear children, kind and compassionate toward others, ever reflecting your glory. Let there be no sin among us, not even the whispering desire for sin. Let us live as your children of light – banish all darkness from us.
Help us to walk in your way, O LORD, to be well instructed in your paths; for there are many who wander aimlessly and are easily subject to Satan’s wiles. Let us be taught as the Jews of Jesus’ day and listen with attentive hearts to His words. Indeed, like Him let us become, like a tree planted near the running water of the Spirit, and we shall prosper all our days, ever bearing fruit in your NAME.
Make clear to all, O LORD, that sin is sin, that the idolatry of lust is a turning from you and the light of your truth and the love of your heart. Keep us from certain death, from the counsel of the wicked, delighting only in your Law day and night.
Sat, 24 October 2020
(Ex.22:20-26; Ps.18:2-4,47,51; 1Thes.1:5-10; Mt.22:34-40)
“If ever you wrong them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.”
In this simple statement by the Lord is revealed the essential nature of our God in His relation with His people. It demonstrates certainly what He says of Himself, “I am compassionate,” for what is He telling us but that He has an ardent care for the poorest among us and the injustice they suffer? But it also demonstrates the justice of God itself, for what does He mean when He says He will “hear their cry” but that He will punish the wicked for their heartless crimes? He states clearly, if any should “wrong any widow or orphan… [His] wrath will flare up, and [He] will kill [him] with the sword.”
Now in the Church today we find an arbitrary and utterly deceptive and false separation of members into “liberal” or “conservative” camps, as if the Lord and His Church could be limited by either assignation. The liberal hears “love God and neighbor” and ignorantly excuses himself from keeping the law; and the conservative grasps the law so tightly he squeezes the very life, the very love, out of it. The Lord is neither liberal nor conservative, but may be said to be both – and that to the extreme in both cases. First of all, He has come to liberate us from our sin, to free us from the sentence of death all justly deserved as much as the adulteress or the thief on the cross He forgave. No one could be more liberal in His free giving of Himself and His love. What compares to the shedding of His blood, and the free gifts we gain thereby? Yet it must not be forgotten that the Lord Jesus is absolutely conservative in His teachings and in His ways; at all costs He preserves the truth. For though He says that “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” of love of God and neighbor, He does not thereby do away with the whole law. Indeed, He strengthens it. Does He not say not a single letter, nor even part of a letter, will pass away until all the law is fulfilled? Does He not tell us now that even to look at a woman lustfully is adultery and to be angry with another is as murder (see Mt.5:17-30)? And will He not come at the end of the age and judge all hearts, separating the evil from the good and casting them into eternal darkness and eternal flames? Though He “delivers us from the coming wrath” if we love Him, failing that, we cannot but be thrown into hell.
The Lord has two hands and either taken alone is ineffective, is, in fact, wicked, for either alone falls short of love and truth. The Lord is absolutely kind and absolutely just: these two meet and kiss in Him. And so they must in each of us. We must be “model[s] for all the believers.” Let it be said that from us “the word of the Lord has sounded forth,” that “in every place [our] faith in God has gone forth – that we have carried both His love and His truth to every heart we touch. Then we shall rightly call the Lord our “rock” and our “deliverer”; then we shall exclaim, “Praised be the Lord” and be “safe from [our] enemies.” Then He will hear our cry and save us, and all who truly love Him, for then we will be His disciples.
Written, read &chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Child and the Beast" from Remove the Mask of Lies, second album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, help us to love you with all our heart,
and to love others as you love them.
YHWH, we must turn from idols to worship you alone, for you are the living and true God and deserve all the love of our heart, mind, and soul. And we must love others as you love all, ever sharing your unending compassion with our neighbor. For you hear the cry of the poor, and to that call we must attend or we are not loving you at all.
Whose compassion is beyond is beyond your own, LORD? Whose love can approach your perfection? For your love is founded on perfect justice, a justice we cannot fathom apart from your favor toward us. Your justice cannot but punish evil, for if not, how could it protect the good? How could the widow or orphan find your compassion if you did not destroy those who oppress them?
But even as you destroy the wicked, you do so out of love, out of mercy even toward those you destroy. For how shall they turn from their sin and be saved if you do not chastise them for their wrongs, for the lack of compassion which separates them from you? Your kindness be upon all this day, O LORD, that we might live in your love.
Fri, 23 October 2020
(Eph.4:7-16; Ps.122:1-5; Lk.13:1-9)
“Each of us has received God’s favor
in the measure in which Christ bestows it.”
Paul reminds us today of Scripture: “When He ascended on high, He took a host of captives and gave gifts to men.” Christ Himself “descended into the lower regions of the earth,” coming to the place where we lowly humans dwell, and then “ascended into heaven, that He might fill all men with His gifts,” that those to whom He comes here on earth might know the riches of heaven to which He draws us all.
“It is He who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ.” Yes, He gave us these leaders such as Paul to guide us to all truth, but He no less has given us each a share of His heavenly glory and bestowed upon each of us the gifts that are our portion from Him. None is without gifts, and none can fail to employ these gifts. It is necessary that the Body of Christ has “the proper functioning of [its] members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament” if it is to grow in love as it is called to do. All our gifts must be employed to the full; each must fulfill his role.
The Lord makes clear the call upon each of our souls to utilize the gifts He grants to each of His members. Listen to the words of the vinedresser in His parable: “For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree and found none.” Who is that vinedresser but Jesus Himself and who is that fig tree but we who claim to be His disciples? And finding no fruit on the fig tree, what does the vinedresser say? “Cut it down. Why should it clutter up the ground?” Why indeed should we drag down the Body of Christ struggling to grow in love in this world; if we are dead members, what place have we in His kingdom? And unless we reform in the short time we are given, what shall become of our souls?
Brothers and sisters, do we not wish to “go up to the house of the Lord,” to rejoice in the heavenly Jerusalem, to “form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature”? Then our tree must bear fruit in His name and serve to build up the Body in love; “if not, it shall be cut down,” and we shall be separated from the glorious presence of the Lord. See the great graces and gifts the Lord showers upon you; pray for their fulfillment, for their growing more and more – “profess the truth in love” and the favors you have been given will bear their fruit, for your benefit and that of the whole world.
O LORD, let us not be cut down
but built up as the Body of your Son.
YHWH, let us make our home in you; in the Body of your Son let us find our place. In your holy Church may we ever dwell, bearing fruit in your NAME. To full maturity let us come, in Jesus who has come to us.
O LORD, in your House let us rejoice; let us find our peace in the New Jerusalem. Within Her gates we are safe from every false doctrine, from every whim and fancy of man. For divine wisdom rests in Her whom the Christ has formed by His own hands, in His own blood. Since He has founded the Church and its servants, it is He who lives in it with you.
But we must leave behind our sin if we are to find such perfection in Him. We must reform our lives if we are to be made in the image of Christ your Son. O LORD, let our lives not be empty; let us not come to a sudden end… May we please you by our repentance and know your blessings upon us this day. Let your Church and all its members grow and bear fruit in Jesus’ Name.
Thu, 22 October 2020
(Eph.4:1-6; Ps.24:1-6; Lk.12:54-59)
“Make every effort to preserve the unity
which has the Spirit as its origin
and peace as its binding force.”
Is this not what Jesus instructs the crowds in saying, “When you are going with your opponent to appear before a magistrate, try to settle with him on the way”? Do not both Paul and Jesus speak of the love we must have one for another, even for those who may seem our enemies? Again, in the House of God there is unity, there is peace. Among His children there should be understanding, there should be grace. We must make every effort to have no enemies – to hate no one, to bear no grudge against any – in this life or the next.
Brothers and sisters, we are called to live as one, “bearing with one another lovingly,” for “there is but one body and one Spirit” in Christ; “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” which we all share, and so we should live as children of the “one God and Father of all.” On our oneness in the Lord our hearts should be set, and nothing should disturb the peace we find in Him. We see so many other things, we understand so much of the world and its ways… why do we not understand this? Why do we not know and practice God’s way?
“The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it.” This David tells us: all are one under the Lord God. But only those “whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,” “may stand in His holy place.” We cannot “ascend the mountain of the Lord” if we are not made perfect as He. And so the Lord warns us of the necessity of settling all our accounts here, now, while there is time – while we yet have breath and eyes to see – lest we come to the judge at the end of time with the darkness of sin upon our soul. Now is His mercy offered forth, and we are called in turn to offer it freely to others. Then will be grave punishment for sin, for failures to love and maintain unity.
“A blessing from the Lord” awaits us all. He “that seeks the face of the God of Jacob” shall receive his reward. Even now the Spirit of the Lord grants us a foretaste of such grace. But we must be ever diligent to maintain it. We must be ever ready to forgive one another if we are to remain in Him. And so I ask: forgive me, brother; forgive me, sister, any wrong I have done you… and be assured of my forgiveness.
O LORD, help us to stand in your holy place,
as reflections of your peace and your love for all.
YHWH, you are LORD of Heaven and earth and all is under your watchful care. We are in you and in your Son and have your one Spirit at our heart’s core. Let us live in peace! Let us live as your children, holy as you are.
If we maintain not humility and peace in our souls, can we be said to be your own? O LORD, if we settle not with our opponent here on this earth, how can we come unto your heavenly presence? There can be no anger or hatred in us; indeed, our hands must be sinless if we are to enter your eternal kingdom and make our home in you.
And so, dear LORD, help us to forgive one another, to love all as you love them – let us be the race that seeks ever your holy face and never turn aside from such desire for utter love in your presence. Forgive all those who sin against us, and please let us be forgiven in your sight.
Wed, 21 October 2020
“Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth?”
Strong contrast we find in our readings today. Jesus speaks of the division He has come to bring by the fire of truth He lights on this earth – fire like a sword separating even the closest of family members one from another; whereas Paul speaks of “the breadth and the length and the height and the depth of Christ’s love” and the great oneness found in “the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” How does one reconcile this apparent contradiction? Is the Lord of peace or division?
Brothers and sisters, there is no contradiction here. Paul speaks of the “glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus” which exists “through all generations” and which we share “with all the holy ones” for whom “charity [is] the root and foundation of [their] life.” As our psalmist proclaims, “Happy the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance.” In the House of God is peace. In His Church is the oneness of perfect love, and all its members “experience this love which surpasses all knowledge” and “attain to the fullness of God Himself.”
Then whence the division the Lord emphasizes? The division exists here on earth, as He Himself states. When the light of truth comes up against the darkness that is this world, when the holy ones of God meet up with the children of this evil age, there is necessarily division. Despite the best efforts of the just to bring peace to all, how often is our offering of peace rejected – how frequently is Christ nailed to the cross. So, though we yet hold love for all as the disciples of our living Lord, it cannot but be that many will cling to darkness and so find an enemy in the light. And thus division comes. Though in heaven and in the Church there is nothing but peace, the world breeds only division.
Brothers and sisters, “may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith.” “May [the Father] strengthen you inwardly through the workings of His Spirit” as you undergo the anguish of the baptism His Son has known. May He keep you in peace and “bestow on you gifts in keeping with the riches of His glory.” For soon division will be gone and His peace will be all that is known.
O LORD, how your love separates
the evil from the good! –
may we know the fullness of your love
at work in our lives.
YHWH, great is your glory, far above the ways of men – how can we grasp this surpassing knowledge, how can we know your all-encompassing love? Though you dwell beyond our reach, in your kindness you stoop down to us, to share with us the great riches of your glory.
And so, what should we do but praise your NAME? What should we do but thank you in song? For you have looked upon us in our lowliness and delivered us from death and sin, and made us one with all your holy ones in your eternal kingdom.
But what of those who reject you, LORD? What of those who spurn your love, who desire not the peace which surpasses understanding? What can they do but fight against your Church? And those may be of our own family. Then where are we? How shall there be peace on this earth among those who despise your gifts? Give us strength to share in the baptism of your Son, in the fire we must endure on our way to Heaven; help us to conquer all division and stand always with you.
Tue, 20 October 2020
(Eph.3:2-12; Is.12:2-6; Lk.12:39-48)
“When much has been given a man,
much will be required of him.”
Yes, “more will be asked of a man to whom more has been entrusted,” and today we see two of the men to whom the most has been entrusted. First, of course, is Peter, who queries the Lord and to whom the Lord addresses His question, “Who in your opinion is that faithful, farsighted steward whom the master will set over his servants to dispense their ration of grain in season?” knowing full well it is to the blessed Rock of His Church He speaks. And Paul tells us how “through the gift God in His goodness bestowed on [him] through the exercise of His power, [he] became a minister of the Gospel.” Paul has been “given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and to enlighten all men on the mysterious design which for ages was hidden in God, the Creator of all.” The Rock of the Church and its great Apostle – how much has been entrusted to these two men!
And what has been entrusted to these is entrusted to all who follow in their wake, to all “the holy apostles and prophets” to whom “the mystery of Christ” is “revealed by the Spirit.” And so the same responsibility is upon them as well. The Lord has promised, “With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation,” and how can the faithful find such life-giving water if the Lord’s priests and preachers do not offer it forth freely as it has been given them? If they withhold the children’s food and their tongues cleave to the roofs of their mouths, how shall the Church be fed, how shall she be instructed in the way she should walk? If the guardians of the truth are not vigilant, but rather begin “to abuse the housemen and servant girls, to eat and drink and get drunk,” feeding only themselves, their own bellies… what shall become of the Body of Christ? And what shall become of those who have allowed the Lord’s House to be broken into?
“Sing praise to the Lord for His glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth”: that “God indeed is [our] Savior,” and all are called unto Him. Brothers and sisters, we all share in the priesthood of Peter and the evangelical ministry of Paul, and so, “drawing near Him with confidence,” we must all “among the nations make known [the Lord’s] deeds.” All have been given a measure of the Lord’s grace and power, and all are responsible for fulfilling the “master’s wishes” with regard to our call. This is our gift from God, to share in His work of service, in His cross. Let us embrace it as readily as have Peter and Paul.
O LORD, may we all be faithful stewards
of your manifold gifts
and find our salvation in your Son.
YHWH, you are in our midst and you call us all to your work, to service of your Church in your holy NAME. Through your Son Jesus Christ we all may share in your manifold wisdom, in the salvation to glory wrought by His blood… Let us give thanks to you and acclaim your NAME, serving you faithfully all our days.
LORD, it should be our joy to serve you; it should be our very food. What greater gift could we hope for than to share in your promise and in your blessed ministry with Peter and Paul? One are we in your Body, in the flesh of your Son, and freely may we come to you now with all our petitions and find you ready to answer our plea – what blessing is ours by your grace!
Let us draw water at the fountain of salvation, LORD; let us drink freely of the glory you offer forth. Remaining ever faithful to your will, let us draw ever closer to you, till we sing your praises forever in your kingdom.
Mon, 19 October 2020
(Eph.2:12-22; Ps.85:9-14; Lk.12:35-38)
“You who were once far off
have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
We who “were excluded from the community of Israel,” who were not of His chosen people upon whom His Spirit rested and so were “without hope and without God in the world,” now are “fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God” by the great grace of the cross of Christ. Now, “in Him [we] are being built into this temple”; now all “have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
“He came and ‘announced the good news of peace to you who were far off, and to those who were near” – to us who were far off, we of the nations apart from “the covenant and the promise,” that the promise might be ours as well; but also to those who were near, those to whom the covenant had been given. For those who were near were also far off; they too were blind to His presence in their midst and needed their eyes opened by the living Christ. For though the word and the sacrifice were at their hands, far was He from their hearts, and so the blessed coming of the Messiah is for these, of course, as well. He came, in fact, for them first of all.
“Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him.” Gentile or Jew, it does not matter. Now there is but one race: Christian. Now there is but one Savior for all. For now indeed there is “glory dwelling in our land,” and any who come to it become children of its light and are fitted into the House of the Lord. “He proclaims peace” now unto all, that all might know “His benefits.”
And are we ready for His coming again? Do we heed our Lord’s exhortation in our gospel today? Do we serve Him constantly, ever keeping a place for Him in our hearts and at our tables, that when He comes the great promise He makes to His servants – “He will put on an apron, seat them at table, and proceed to wait on them” – we will know? Will we be gathered into His heart and His home? Brothers and sisters, “become a dwelling for God in the Spirit.” Realize the blessing that is ours now through the cross. If under its blessed shade we take refuge, if we heed the call to come from our former residences so distant from Him and draw near to the love of the Lord, then already we will sense “the master’s return” upon us, and holy light it will bring to our souls.
O LORD, let us be built into your Temple
and become your dwelling place in the Spirit –
your light in our eyes, your peace in our souls,
your love in our hearts at all times.
YHWH, let us be prepared for the second coming of your Son; may the blood He shed make us one with you and with one another, that in peace we might wait for His return, that in your Spirit we might dwell even this day. As your holy temple let us be, that we might know your call in our souls and do your will in all things.
You look down upon us in kindness, LORD, and so your Son you have sent. He is Truth walking among us, leading us on the way of peace. And so, your benefits we may know; our work may yield its increase – our lives may be made worthy of your coming kingdom.
O LORD, let our eyes be open, looking for your Son’s return; let our hearts be set on the promise He leaves us. O let Him freely enter our homes and we be fed by His hand alone – please let us be joined to your saints in Heaven, forming one House in your NAME.
Sun, 18 October 2020
(Eph.2:1-10; Ps.100:2-5; Lk.12:13-21)
“It is owing to His favor that salvation is yours through faith.
This is not your own doing, it is God’s gift.”
Brothers and sisters, salvation is no “reward for anything [we] have accomplished.” It is nothing we make by our own hands, but comes only by God’s “kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
“God is rich in mercy.” Here is the great truth; this is our great hope: “Because of His great love for us He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin.” By our own hands we had but built up our condemnation and so “deserved God’s wrath.” Like the foolish rich man, we thought we could take our refuge in the things of this earth, that in them we would “have blessings in reserve for years to come.” But however much we “pull down [our] grain bins and build larger ones,” filling them with all the “grain” and “goods” of the world, we yet will have nothing; yet will we be empty and in need. For our life is in His hands alone. “He made us” and not we ourselves; “we are truly His handiwork,” and so, dependent on Him for all things. And if not for His mercy we would yet be dead in our sin.
Brothers and sisters, we must not “live at the level of the flesh”; we cannot give our “allegiance to the present age and the prince of the air” and remain in the favor of God. “Following every whim and fancy of our own” will but lead us down a dark road, and all the “piled-up wealth” we can amass will give us no light for the night ahead. Truly we must realize that we are “created in Christ Jesus to lead the life of good deeds which God prepared for us in advance.” Now that by His mercy He has saved us, has lifted us from the mire into which we’d sunk, it is ours to “serve the Lord with gladness” and “come before Him with joyful song.”
“In Christ Jesus [God] raised us up and gave us a place in the heavens, that in the ages to come He might display the great wealth of His favor.” And should we not but accept this gift from Him “whose kindness endures forever”? Should we not humble ourselves before our Holy Lord and “enter His gates with thanksgiving”? All He requires of our souls is to accept the salvation He brings us, and to grow “rich in the sight of God.”
O LORD, make us rich in your sight;
by the favor you have granted us
through the salvation wrought in Christ Jesus,
remake us in your image.
YHWH, you made us and have remade us in the image of your Son who has died for us that we might be dead in sin no more. Let us praise the great favor from you and live always according to your Word.
We have accomplished nothing, LORD, nothing but our own condemnation, nothing but distraction from you as we turn to the flesh and riches of this world. As to the evil spirit we give our allegiance, we find your wrath upon us; we find the death we have wrought by sin.
But you are merciful, LORD, and call us through your Son to salvation from this darkness that has enveloped our souls. You would indeed remake us in Christ; He would indeed restore us to our former glory and carry us to your kingdom. O let us not set our hearts on the riches of this earth but seek only the grace that comes to us at your hands, in His blood. Let us enter your courts with songs of praise this day.
Sat, 17 October 2020
(Is.45:1,4-6; Ps.96:1,3-5,7-10; 1Thes.1:1-5b; Mt.22:15-21)
“I am the Lord and there is no other,
there is no God besides me.”
Oh brothers and sisters, how clear our Scripture today makes it that “great is the Lord and highly to be praised; awesome is He beyond all gods.” Indeed there is no other God. It is He who grasped the “right hand” of even the pagan king, Cyrus, “subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service.” The heart of this king and all kings and all lands are in His hands – He alone rules all nations! Do you see this? Do you understand that if He calls this foreigner by “name, giving [him] a title,” that there is none that is beyond His reach, that is not under His eye? By the Lord’s power this pagan has conquered the nations of the world. And why? Why does He arm him who knows Him not? “So that toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none beside [Him].”
Our psalmist sings so well of the singular power of the Lord God: “All the gods of the nations are things of naught, but the Lord made the heavens.” Again I ask, do you see this? All nations recognize Him who made the heavens and the earth; even these “tremble before Him.” And so all are called to “tell His glory among the nations, among all peoples, His wondrous deeds.” For all must be encouraged to “give the Lord the glory due His name”; all must be offered the honor of knowing the greatness of our God.
One of these nations who have come to knowledge of the one God we hear of in our second reading. Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers and sisters loved by God” for their “work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He gives thanks to God the Father that this Gentile people has come to faith in Him “with much conviction.” What has been proclaimed so long now bears fruit. For even the millennium before our psalmist had called the “families of nations” to “bring gifts, and enter His courts,” to “worship the Lord in holy attire.” None has ever been barred from adoring Him who is the One God and Father of all. But now the Gospel comes not “in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit.” Now the word is anointed by Jesus’ blood. So now all nations indeed come before Him, giving “the Lord glory and praise.”
And when Jesus says, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” He does not remove anything from under God’s domain. For even the things of Caesar are in God’s hands (as is the coin between Jesus’ fingers today), as the Son makes clear in His words before Pilate: “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above” (Jn.19:11). And, “the Lord is King” and King is His Son, and “He governs the peoples with equity.” Let all declare the glory of Him besides whom “there is no other.”
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The World Is a Work of Art (Made by the Hand of God)" (1st half) from The Whole Whale, eighth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, all the earth belongs to you;
let us run in the way you command,
ever giving praise to the glory of your NAME.
YHWH, there is none beside you – you are the Most High God, the only God, the living God… and greatly should we praise you. We should worship you alone, for you alone are worthy of worship. O let us sing to you all the day long!
All the nations are in your hands, LORD and God; all kings run in the way you lead them. There is none above your power or beyond your reach – the world is at your command. As Jesus holds the coin of Caesar between His fingers, so all this earth is under your power, to be disposed with as you desire.
Send your Spirit into us, dearest LORD, O mighty God, that your power might come to us and conform us to your will, that we might labor each day for you and our poor work find your favor. Let us test you not, O LORD, but trust in your goodness toward us and be obedient to your Word.
Praise you for your glory, LORD! Let all souls give you due praise, that we might join with you who made us, that we might share in your surpassing glory.
Fri, 16 October 2020
(Eph.1:15-23; Ps.8:2-7; Lk.12:8-12)
“Whoever acknowledges me before men –
the Son of Man will acknowledge him before the angels of God.”
We are only very small, less than a speck of dust in the eyes of God. Beholding His heavens, “the moon and the stars which [He] set in place,” should we not cry out to God with David in our psalm: “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” Truly we are but miserable creatures. And yet the Lord of all has deigned to make man “little less than the angels, and crowned him with glory and honor”; and yet through Jesus Christ He raises him up to His heavens.
How like the acknowledgment the Lord promises is Paul’s acknowledgment of the Ephesians: “I have never stopped thanking God for you and recommending you in my prayers.” For their “faith in the Lord Jesus and [their] love for all the members of the Church,” rightly do they gain honor from the Lord’s Apostle, and from the Lord Himself. And all who are like them shall know “the wealth of glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the Church.” “Like the strength [God] showed in raising Christ from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in heaven,” so will be the strength and grace Jesus shows in raising us up to be one with Him and His Father among the angels of heaven.
“He has put all things under Christ’s feet and made Him head of the Church, which is His body.” And all who acknowledge His greatness, all who serve the Lord and His members, become part of “the fullness of Him who fills the universe in all its parts.” Indeed they will be lifted up with Him who is “high above every principality, power, virtue, and domination, and every name that can be given in this age or in the age to come.” For the body shares in the blessing of its head; the oil poured upon our Lord flows down upon all His members through the power of the Holy Spirit.
And, yes, the Spirit is with us, brothers and sisters, defending us always and teaching us at every moment just what we need to do and say, if we have but faith. He gives us all the “wisdom and insight” we need to know the greatness of our call in Him and to accomplish all His works, if we but call upon the Lord’s Name. Acknowledge Him always in all you do; be among the “babes and sucklings” who praise His majesty and glory, and His blessing you shall know to the depths of your soul, and the heights of heaven.
O LORD, let your Spirit be upon us to speak in us
and work through us always.
YHWH, teach us by the Spirit all we should say and do; may He enlighten our innermost vision that we may know the great hope to which you call us. How great is your power in us who believe! To what glory we are led by the Spirit! For we are thus joined to your Son who has all power in Heaven and on earth – members of His Body do we become.
You have put all things under Christ’s feet, dear LORD, crowning Him with your own glory and honor. And as you have raised Him from the dead and seated Him at your right hand in Heaven, so you will raise us up with Him whose Name is above all names. And so, what should we do but praise you and honor you with all our lives.
O LORD, let us indeed acknowledge your Son here where we stand, before all men, that He might indeed acknowledge us before your angels and they might lift us to your presence at His command. Glory to you forever!
Thu, 15 October 2020
(Eph.1:11-14; Ps.33:1-2,4-5,12-13; Lk.12:1-7)
“What you have whispered in locked rooms
will be proclaimed from the housetops.”
What we have whispered and what has been whispered to us, the teaching of the Lord, the truth of the Spirit, is destined to grow unto praise of God – to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. What begins here in a small way in Jesus the Messiah, shall proceed in His disciples to all nations. In the dark, first it is but whispered. It sinks deep into the locked rooms of our guarded hearts. There the truth finds a home, takes root, and grows. And all the world shall know… All the world shall know all that is spoken in your heart.
Brothers and sisters, “when you heard the glad tidings of salvation, the word of truth, and believed in it, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit who had been promised.” In Him and in His truth whispering in your heart you found “the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made His own to praise His glory.” Though a tiny spark at first, concealed in the dark, this flame has burned intensely, and now becomes the fire of praise unto God. “We were predestined to praise His glory”; this was the Lord’s desire from the first moment He touched us with His Word. And now His plan must be fulfilled.
As Jesus looks about in our gospel and sees “a crowd of thousands had gathered, so dense that they were treading on one another,” He realizes how the flame has already begun to grow. And so He warns His disciples to be true to the Word He has labored to plant in their minds and hearts and souls. He knows that they will be tempted by “the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” that they may be inclined to speak what will tickle the public’s ear in order to gain their approval and support. Thus does He say, “Do not be afraid”: do not be afraid of what the truth may bring or that you might be killed for speaking it. Remain true to what I have whispered to you in our locked rooms, for the Word must go out to the ends of the earth. Their mission upon them, He calls His friends to fulfill it.
And so let all our voices resound with the praise of God who has saved us, for “praise from the upright is fitting.” “Exult, you just, in the Lord… for upright is the word of the Lord, and all His works are trustworthy.” Now all must know that “of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full,” so fail not to “chant His praises,” to proclaim His truth to all the world. It is here we are called to do so.
O LORD, let us not fear to praise your glory
before all the world.
YHWH, we are called through your Son to declare your glory, to sing your praises in the light of this day. May we in faith and sincerity fulfill this call and come at last into your kingdom.
You are our LORD, you are our God, and all things are known to your eyes. Life and death are in your hands, and only in you do we find the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled – only in you and by your Son will we inherit eternal glory. Let us be your true disciples that, though we die for your cause, we may ever have life in you.
Praise you, LORD, for your goodness to us, for your watching over us and providing your Son to save us and your Spirit to lead us to your glory. Let the truth you have spoken in the depths of our hearts be proclaimed openly to the ears of all men that the devil may be overcome and all your poor sparrows find their home in you.
Wed, 14 October 2020
(Eph.1:1-10; Ps.98:1-6; Lk.11:47-54)
“It is in Christ and through His blood
that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven.”
Oh, brothers and sisters, “so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us.” He “has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens!” In Christ we are chosen “to be holy and blameless in His sight, to be full of love… to be His adopted sons.” In our midst the Lord fulfills the plan “to be carried out in the fullness of time: namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ’s headship.” And He does all this by the shedding of His blood.
“God has said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of these they will persecute and kill.’” “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who met his death between the altar and the sanctuary,” to the blood of Christ, who died within the sanctuary – who is the sanctuary and whose blood is poured out upon every altar until this day – the sacrificial blood of the martyrs has been poured forth. And all the blood shed until His time, and all the blood shed by His faithful until His Day… all is the blood of the Christ who redeems us all who shed that blood by our sins. And we should but desire to add our own blood to fill up what is yet lacking in the sacrifice of the Lord, that all the chosen may enter His kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, no longer is “the key of knowledge” kept from us; we now have access to enter into His reign. For “God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery” of the plan of His salvation. And it speaks to us in Christ’s blood. And in His blood we should rejoice; we should “praise the divine favor He has bestowed on us in His beloved.” For “the Lord has made His salvation known: in the sight of the nations He has revealed His justice.” And His justice is this: that though the devil accuse us rightly of our sins, though the blood of the prophets be on our hands, though none is worthy of the kingdom and all should be justly thrown into hell – yet “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God,” yet there is One who has died in our place to wash us clean from our sins, to measure off the justice due us… yet the devil’s hope for our condemnation is thwarted by the One who loves us immeasurably. And so we can enter in and “with trumpets and the sound of the horn sing joyfully before the King, the Lord.” And so we may know fully the blessings of Christ’s blood.
O LORD, the blood of your Son be upon us this day
to redeem us from our sin
and bring us knowledge of your glory.
YHWH, thank you for sending your Son to redeem us from all our sins and make us one with Him and so with you in the heavenly kingdom. Your salvation this day is known to all by the blood He has shed on the Cross – may all hear His call to repentance, that all might sing in your presence.
O LORD, every spiritual blessing you offer to us through the sacrifice of Jesus. O that we might be holy as He, holy as you, and praise you joyfully for your love. Let us not linger in jealousy, in envy of His goodness and truth, but listen to His words that chastise our hearts, that we might be made pure for Heaven. The key of knowledge is ours in your Christ; the wisdom of the ages comes to us through Him – let us but long to follow Him to your glory.
In His blood indeed we are saved. Though our hands have shared in the shedding of that blood, yet it is the source of our salvation, if we but turn to you in love. Praise you, LORD, for your favor toward us!
Tue, 13 October 2020
(Gal.5:18-25; Ps.1:1-4,6,Jn.8:12; Lk.11:42-46)
“Since we live by the spirit,
let us follow the spirit’s lead.”
“Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent”; these indeed follow not the spirit’s lead but the dictates of the flesh. And all their “licentiousness” and “drunkenness,” all their “hostilities” and “envy,” shall but lead to their doom. For “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!” When they die – as already they are dead – the grave alone shall be their home, with the tortures that are found there. But “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires” and so know the “fruit of the spirit” and not the flesh. “Love, joy, peace” and all the precious gifts are theirs in this life, and shall remain with them forever. The Spirit leads us to such blessing.
As for the Pharisees in our gospel today, they prove themselves children of the flesh and not the spirit, for though they “pay tithes on mint and rue and all the garden plants,” though they are so careful about the details of the letter of the law, their worship is in vain for they do all “while neglecting justice and the love of God,” thus tearing out the very heart of the law of God they presume to follow. And so their path is the one which leads but to the grave. They clearly are even now dead, “like hidden tombs over which men walk unawares.” Here are “the insolent” the just must avoid. Here are those who build pretense of holiness but have nothing of the spirit inside. And so their decaying souls shall crumble from within, and “like chaff which the wind drives away,” so shall their remains be scattered like dust by the truth of the Spirit, which exposes and destroys all lies.
“The way of the wicked vanishes,” brothers and sisters. It cannot stand, for there is no foundation, there is no truth on which it rests. It is but empty, illusory, passing. But we who claim to be sons and daughters of the living God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and following the lead of the Holy Spirit, must have nothing to do with the fruits of this way. Our worship must be true, must be genuine, must be that in which the flesh is crucified and the spirit allowed to breathe, that none of us will be crushed under the burden of sin but all be set free to walk in liberty now and forever.
O LORD, let us not be counted among the wicked
but have your love and your truth burning in our souls.
YHWH, let our worship be genuine, let our hearts be set on love of you. Let us follow the Spirit’s lead; your way of truth be our own this day. Meditating on your Law, let us live it and bear its fruit.
Apart from you let us never be, O LORD, never separated from your love. Crucified let our passions be, that we shall share in new life with your only Son. Your joy and peace be with us always; keep us forever from jealousy and outbursts of rage. In the Spirit let us make our home, never turning to what comes of the flesh.
Far from the paths of the wicked please keep us, LORD, that we shall not live our lives in vain; day and night let us think of you, and we shall be ever blessed. O that we might bear your fruit all our days, that our leaves might never fade… Keep us always close to you by your chastising word of truth. Then the water of your Spirit will nourish us well and our sin will be known no more.
Mon, 12 October 2020
(Gal.5:1-6; Ps.119:41,43-45,47-48; Lk.11:37-41)
“Any of you who seek your justification in the law
have severed yourselves from Christ
and fallen from God’s favor!”
Brothers and sisters, “it is in the Spirit that we eagerly await the justification we hope for, and only faith can yield it.” The works prescribed under the testament of old have had their day and their time is passed. Circumcision, the central act of the law, along with the temple and its sacrifices, has been rendered useless. Physically there may yet be benefit to this practice, and so it is employed widely, but spiritually it is now without merit. All that is of the old law has been subsumed by the new, and to set our hearts on what is now dead will leave us but as empty and dead ourselves.
Now there is baptism in the name of the Lord. Now there is Jesus and His Body, the Church. Now there is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. With these in our midst all else pales, for these are set upon the Rock of eternal life; these are founded in the Spirit which does not pass, nor can be destroyed – and these are known only by faith. Truly, “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it counts for anything; only faith, which expresses itself in love.” Now that love has overcome the law, now that it has fulfilled it, why should we be concerned with the cutting of flesh? It is our hearts that must be circumcised.
What is inside is what matters. Jesus has said this repeatedly and He declares it again today to the Pharisee who is so preoccupied with physical washing, with the need to “cleanse the outside of the cup and dish.” This is slavery! Indeed it is born of an attachment to the things of this earth and places our neck under its yoke. If we do not “give what [we] have as alms,” if we do not open our hearts to love of the Lord and love of neighbor, all the scouring of our skin will be utterly useless – in this way we shall never touch our souls. We must have love, we must have faith, and do the outside things only as necessary.
“Let your kindness come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise.” Though I am no longer under the law of old, yet I see how weak I am, how reliant on the works of faith, and how ignorant and blind to your presence I can become. And so I pray that you “take not the word of truth from my mouth.” I pray you enter my house and recline at my table, and that my heart will be set on love of you above all… and that all things else will but serve this love. Let me not fall from your favor, from your love.
O LORD, help us to cleanse the inside of the cup
that by faith and love
we shall come to new life in the Spirit.
YHWH, you call us to love what is within, where you live, where you make your home. But we are distracted by what is without, so shallow is our vision. Help us to see as you see, to desire what is in your heart. Then truly we shall be set free to walk as your sons.
O living God, your love instill within our souls; your truth alone let us speak. Let us not be concerned with the works of the law, with the cutting of flesh and the washing of hands, but with the accomplishment of your will. And so, to save ourselves from such empty worship, let us give all things to you.
If we had but faith, O LORD, then our vision would be clear, our hearts would be set on you alone, and all things would be ours. Let us but seek our salvation in the keeping of your Word, and you will care for all else. Make us clean in your sight!
Sun, 11 October 2020
(Gal.4:22-24,26-27,31-5:1; Ps.113:1-7; Lk.11:29-32)
“At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh
will rise along with the present generation,
and they will condemn it.”
Paul’s words to the Galatians today sound much like a parable: “Abraham had two sons, one by the slave girl, the other by his freeborn wife.” He himself states pointedly, “All this is clearly an allegory: the two women stand for the two covenants.” But though Hagar may be seen as the mother of all “children [born] to slavery” and Sarah may be compared to “the Jerusalem on high,” which is free, the allegorical significance notwithstanding, both Hagar and Sarah were flesh and blood human beings who walked the face of the earth along with the father of their children, Abraham. So, though the life of anyone may be seen in an allegorical light, it does not mean the life itself is but an allegory.
And yet the scholars of our day would turn the life of Jonah into a mere allegory – as they would, it seems, with Jesus. They say that Jonah did not exist, that the book written of him is but a story, a parable. And so they say that the Lord would compare Himself to a parabolic figure: “Just as Jonah was a sign for the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign for the present age.” And so they say we will be judged by fictional characters.
The Lord’s words remain ever true: “This is an evil age.” It is given a sign, the greatest of signs, and it denies it. It seeks further sign with a heart only to deny once more. Why? Because it has no faith. And without faith one cannot reason; without faith one can see nothing. Truth remains ever hidden from one’s eyes. And so those with empty minds stumble blindly through their theorems, the products of a diseased imagination. And so those without faith seek at every turn to tear down the faith, which ever eludes their clawing grasp. But they shall be judged. What shock will be theirs when the ones they have sought so vainly to make into fictional characters stand before them to condemn them to death. Perhaps then they will see. Perhaps then there will be an end to “the yoke of slavery” they would place upon the “freeborn” children of God.
Beware the faithless soul, dear children. Remember only, “From the rising to the setting of the sun is the name of the Lord to be praised.” Indeed, “high above the nations is the Lord; above the heavens is His glory,” and He shall lift you “lowly from the dust” to be with Him. As He tears down those who exalt themselves and reveals their children to be so vain, then He will bring your fruits to light and you will bear many. The works of all will be exposed on that Day.
O LORD, how great you are
and how great is your gift to us,
for your Son has freed us to walk with Him –
let us repent at His word.
YHWH, we are your freeborn children for whom your Son has died; in Him we find new life. In the blood of Jesus is found the New Covenant, a covenant which unites us with you in glory.
Praise you, LORD, for such a great gift! Thank you for the grace that comes to us, your once wayward sons. Though we have been barren of children, empty of any fruit as we wandered far from you outside the walls of Jerusalem, yet you have looked upon us with mercy and called us to your side. Help us to reform our lives that the fullness of your gracious gift might be known to us on the Day your Son returns to judge all souls.
Yes, LORD, the lowly ones you raise from the dust to sit with you in heavenly places, to know your great blessings in the kingdom on high. Free our souls to praise you for your glory. Set free from slavery to sin we shall share in the joy of the New Jerusalem and declare your wonders forever.
Sat, 10 October 2020
(Is.25:6-10; Ps.23:1-6; Phil.4:12-14,19-20; Mt.22:1-14)
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines.”
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.” It may be equated with “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” with “calves and fatted cattle ready to be eaten.” A great banquet is the kingdom of heaven!
But, of course, though we speak here of food and eating, we know that it is not this we should thus seek on this earth, for these things are but of the earth and are only used to help us understand the heavenly fruits which are ours in the kingdom of God. Paul makes this clear in his attitude toward food and the provisions that are of this world: “In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need,” and it truly matters not to him whether he is rich or poor in material things; all that matters is that we “can do all things in Him who strengthens” us – all that matter are the “glorious riches in Jesus Christ.” Food and feasting are but metaphors for the things that in this world are unseen.
However, it is so that “the feast is ready” even here on this earth. It is true that the Lord “spread[s] the table before” us even in this world, even “in the sight of [our] foes.” He does not leave us poor humans alone without real food to strengthen us for our journey. But this food is spiritual fare; His Body and Blood are not juicy and rich to our taste, to our bellies, but to our souls. This food nourishes the Spirit He has planted within us, and helps it ever to grow. Though real as our own flesh and our own blood, yet it truly is of heaven, and lends the glory of God to this bone of His bone.
“God will fully supply whatever you need,” brothers and sisters; have no fear of being in want and no anxiety to build up abundance on this earth. He indeed is beside you always, giving your soul blessed “repose.” Make it your aim to “dwell in the house of the Lord.” Then “on that day” He reveals His kingdom, you will “rejoice and be glad,” saying, “Behold, our God, to whom we looked to save us!” Then you will enter His presence forever. Prepare your soul for the wedding feast of heaven.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "The Readiness Is All" from Bearing the Birth Pangs, tenth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, prepare us well to come into your House,
to enter into eternal life with you,
our God and Savior.
YHWH, you spread the table before us, a feast of your kingdom. Rich food and choice wines are ours even this day in the Body and Blood of your Son. Let us offer you due praise and thanks for all your provisions for our journey to you.
And when we come finally into your kingdom, LORD, where death has been destroyed and we stand in the light of your presence, our hearts shall leap up in absolute joy… and we shall remain with you forever.
But let our wedding garment be prepared this day. O LORD, let us find the purity we need to stand in your presence and rejoice in your glory. For yet our hearts are not set wholly on you – forgive our continual rejection of your grace.
You are at our side, dear LORD; you bless and guide us as we walk this dark earth. Help us to cling to you in trust and faith, and our place beside you will be assured. Glory to you, O LORD!
Fri, 9 October 2020
(Gal.3:22-29; Ps.105:2-8; Lk.11:27-28)
“Each of you is a son of God
because of your faith in Christ Jesus.”
Praise God! “Glory in His holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!” For He has come among us. Born of the womb of Israel, the Messiah is in our midst. And so we should “sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.” For now by faith in Him we live, and are truly blest.
Brothers and sisters, “before faith came we were under the restraint of the law… the law was our monitor until Christ came to bring about our justification through faith.” Under the law we lived in sin, for who could fulfill all the demands of the law? “But now that faith is here, we are no longer in the monitor’s charge.” We have found One who has fulfilled the demands of the law, and who is perfect in the eyes of God; and He makes us as Himself, as sons of the living God! And so what can we do but rejoice. We “who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have clothed [our]selves with Him.” And so we stand naked to the world no more. And so we hide no longer from the sight of God, for our sin before Him has been taken away, and with it the law.
Listen attentively to the preaching of Paul, that “there does not exist among [us] Jew or Greek,” that it is faith in the Lord that saves us all. It is the same lesson Jesus teaches in our gospel today. For “the womb that bore you” refers to Israel; it is the breasts of the Chosen that have given Him suck, that have nourished Him well – it is of them He comes. But not for this is the people blest; we cannot boast of our heritage. Rather, we shall be judged worthy of blessing only by how well we “hear the word of God and keep it,” as our Blessed Mother has done in preeminent fashion. She, as Paul, does not boast in her Jewish upbringing. She knows that it is not even for her great work of bearing the Son of God that she found favor with Him. Rather, all favor, the highest favor and grace, comes to her for the love she bears Him and the service she performs eternally in His Name… for her absolute faith.
We must “seek to serve Him constantly” as does our Blessed Mother, as does our Mother, the Church, in faith. Then truly we shall be “descendants of Abraham, His servants, sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!” And we shall rejoice to see His Day.
O LORD, may we hear your Word and keep it in faith,
like Abraham, like Mary,
that we might inherit eternal life in Jesus your Son.
YHWH, because of our faith in your Son, we become as your children, indeed, as He is before you. You bless all who come to you through Jesus, all who do your will. And what should we do but rejoice for such grace, for this wonder you perform in our midst.
It is Israel that bore your Son; at Mary’s breast He did suck. But it is not for this the nation is blessed, nor she who carried Him in her womb. It is your people’s obedience you seek, and so any may become as your Chosen by listening to your Word and keeping it in their hearts. As Mary let us be, LORD, giving you our lives.
All of faith are descendants of Abraham. All are blessed who are baptized in Christ. He it is who justifies us in your sight, LORD, and makes us sons of the Most High. Glory to you for the grace upon our souls in Jesus’ Name.
Thu, 8 October 2020
(Gal.3:7-14; Ps.111:1-6; Lk.11:15-26)
“All who believe are blessed along with Abraham,
the man of faith.”
But those who do not believe cannot be called “sons of Abraham,” in whom “all nations shall be blessed,” for they have not the faith of the father of many nations. For those who do not proclaim the Lord’s “renown for His wondrous deeds,” but rather say of His “gracious and merciful” acts: “It is by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that He casts out devils,” there is only a curse. They curse themselves and scatter their own salvation to the winds by the evil thoughts of their hearts. “The reign of God is upon” them, and they say it has come from hell. Have such as these faith? Have they even eyes in their head? Then how shall they be saved? How shall they be called Abraham’s children? Rather, the devils will return to them “to find [their] house swept and tidied,” prepared by the emptiness of their hypocrisy for these to take up eternal residence there.
“He has given food to those who fear Him… He has made known to His people the power of His works.” All those of faith see that this is the Messiah and “give thanks to the Lord with all [their] heart in the company and assembly of the just.” All these are blessed. They live in a house guarded by “a strong man fully armed,” and their “possessions go undisturbed.” For the devil cannot break into the house of God, and he has no key to enter; but the Lord breaks down the doors of the evil one and all his weapons are removed from his hands. And so we are free… We are free because the Lord has redeemed us, and in His house we are protected from sin.
Brothers and sisters, the Savior has been “hanged on a tree… that through Christ Jesus the blessing bestowed on Abraham might descend on the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, thereby making it possible for us to receive the promised Spirit through faith.” This faith itself is redemptive. In this faith is the blood of Christ. It is this blood which fills our hearts and makes room there for the Holy Spirit to come in. There no devils can enter, for our doorposts have been anointed by Him. And so, what can such souls dwelling in this house of faith do but sing out with our psalmist, “Great are the works of the Lord, exquisite in all their delights”? What can we do but declare His “majesty and glory” as we see that “His justice endures forever” and His justice is founded in love? For by our faith He has made us whole; we who once grumbled against Him are now sons of Abraham. He has taken all our sin away, and it shall not return again.
O LORD, your power is only for good;
let your Spirit be with us this day through faith,
that we might be saved.
YHWH, if we have not faith, we have nothing but emptiness, and thus make a place for the devils to dwell. But if we have faith in you, your Spirit fills us, and into your house we do come. Make us temples of your Holy Spirit!
Your Son has died, O LORD, that we might have life, that we might be set free from the course sin has wrought upon our souls and enter into your kingdom as your blessed children. Why should we not believe in your love for us? Why do we doubt the salvation you provide through your Son?
Let us rather rejoice in your glory, LORD, in your goodness to us. Let us sing your praise with all the strength of our souls, thanking you with all our hearts in the assembly of your holy ones, among your saints in Heaven. To such glory you do call us, away from the darkness of this place… Let us but have faith in you and we shall be as your sons.
Wed, 7 October 2020
(Gal.3:1-5; Lk.1:69-75; Lk.11:5-13)
“I can’t get up to look after your needs.”
Does Jesus ever speak these words to us? Does He ever deny our petitions, failing to bring them to His heavenly Father? Do we ever find ourselves empty-handed when we come to Him “in the middle of the night”? Does He ever tire of serving us, of saving us from our sins? Then neither should we turn our back on our brother’s needs; neither should we fail to hear his cry and give him food.
Brothers and sisters, is it not “you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was displayed upon the cross?” Have you not seen for yourselves the miracle in which we have found “salvation from our enemies and from the hands of all our foes”? And so should you not “serve Him devoutly and through all [your] days be holy in His sight”? If we do this, if we wake in the night to answer the needs of those who call, if we make ourselves available always as does the Lord, then even as we rise from rest Jesus will be with us – in this very action we will know His salvation present in our hearts. For as we lay down our lives, as we die with Him in service of others, the light of His resurrection already becomes present to our eyes.
Though the burden is made light by the Lord, this way is not easy – but we should not tire of imitating Him. Does Paul tire of teaching and preaching the faith, of correcting his wayward children who seem so foolishly to stray? Just as the heavenly Father would never give His son “a snake if he asks for a fish, or hand him a scorpion if he asks for an egg,” so the Apostle, too, knows the needs of his flock and works constantly to feed them with the Word of God. Though it weary him no end, yet he ever pours himself out as a libation for their sakes. He is ready for heaven, ready to die and unite with God, yet he gets up in the night, yet he remains present to his children, to provide the food that is due them. And we must be the same as this Apostle.
A great assurance the Lord gives us: “Whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted.” If we “have faith in what [we] heard,” we shall indeed find “that God lavishes the Spirit on [us] and works wonders in [our] midst.” For He is faithful and forgets not His promise to us. Yes, “He has raised a horn of saving strength for us in the house of David His servant,” and our Savior is ever present to answer all our needs. But who shall carry out His Word? Who shall know the cross of Christ and its redeeming grace in their own flesh? Who shall serve Him and be thus as His children? Those who rise to look after others’ needs, they shall be bone of His bone.
O LORD, you give your Spirit
to those who have faith in you,
to those who call upon your NAME –
hear our prayer this day.
YHWH, give us this day the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us to the salvation wrought by your Son, Jesus Christ. Leave us not alone on this plane, hungry and apart from you. Help us to pray, to knock upon your door with faith, knowing it is your good pleasure to answer our needs. Then we shall serve you devoutly all our days and be holy in your sight forever.
If your Spirit is with us, LORD, there is nothing else we need, for then you, too, are with us with your only Son. And we will be founded firmly in your Church, safe from all our enemies and nourished by your Bread.
We are not able to give good things or do good works on our own, dear LORD. We need your help and guidance; we need the Spirit that comes from you to bless us with your abundance. We shall wither quickly and die without your assistance – come to us this day with your Spirit that we might be your children.
Tue, 6 October 2020
(Gal.2:1-2,7-14; Ps.117:1-2,Mk.16:15; Lk.11:1-4)
“He who worked through Peter as His apostle among the Jews
had been at work in me for the Gentiles.”
And that same Spirit, that same God, that same Lord and Creator is at work in all His holy apostles, and is the Father of all who call upon His Name.
“Father, hallowed be your name.” You are great and you are glorious, and you bless all your children, your children of light. From every nation you call us by the power of your Word. You send out apostles as you sent out Paul, to the ends of the earth. You gather all your children together at your one table to feast upon your Body and your Blood, and you speak to the heart of all creation. We your people you call to pray; your disciples you teach to call upon your Name. To the depths of our souls you breathe your Spirit, and so you make us your own. Like you we would be, O Lord! Like you, dear Jesus, in your devotion to our Father.
Help us, O Lord; teach us to forgive, teach us to love. Teach us not to draw away from others, but to join with all who heed your call. Let us always be “straightforward about the truth of the Gospel,” always breathe it and speak it with all our lives – with all our strength let us love and welcome all, especially the poor. And let us present ourselves to your “recognized pillars,” to the leaders of your Church. Let us not go off on our own, with our own thoughts, pursuing our own goals, but let us be ever obedient unto those in whose hands you have placed your teaching ministry… let us lay down our lives “for their scrutiny” as has even the Apostle Paul. For none can work without your approval, without the blessing that comes in “the handclasp of fellowship” your Church extends. And so, in your Church, under its guidance, and in absolute love of all, what shall we then lack?
“Praise the Lord, all you nations, glorify Him, all you peoples!” For the Lord comes to you now – He teaches you His sacred way to the Father of all. Heed but His Word; speak and do but His work. Love always Him and all His people and you shall know how wonderfully “the fidelity of the Lord endures forever”; His children you shall indeed become, and He shall work through you as He has Peter, as He has Paul… as He has His only Son. Say amen to His Spirit. Amen.
O LORD, you are our one Father
and we are your one children in Jesus your Son –
let your kingdom come.
YHWH, make us your faithful and holy children, honoring always your blessed NAME and doing always your will. Let your kingdom come through us; let your Word go forth to the ends of the earth.
Obedient to the authority of your Church let us ever be. Let us never turn from you, LORD, by veering from the path of the apostles. In union may your whole people stand, in the truth your Spirit speaks.
Yes, let us be one in the true faith, LORD, in your will and in your way. Forgive us all our sins and give us the grace to forgive all who sin against us, that we might partake of your food together at the table you set for us.
This world is a place of trial, we know, LORD, but you save us from all trial by your presence in our midst. Let us never be separated from you or one another but ever set our hearts on serving you by bringing your Word to all our brothers.
Mon, 5 October 2020
(Gal.1:13-24; Ps.139:1-3,13-15,24; Lk.10:38-42)
“The time came when He who set me apart before I was born
and called me by His favor
chose to reveal His Son to me.”
Paul speaks of his conversion to the faith today. But before he changed and became the Lord’s great Apostle, he tells us, “I made progress in Jewish observance far beyond most of my contemporaries, in my excess of zeal to live out all the traditions of my ancestors,” and that he “went to extremes in persecuting the church of God and tried to destroy it.” Now, isn’t Martha as Paul was? Is it not her own zeal for observance of Jewish tradition which makes her so anxious and blinded to truth? We hear that she “was busy with all the details of hospitality,” a venerable Jewish custom and requirement of the law; but does not her own “excess of zeal” for this observance lead her even to persecute the Church of God, as it has with Paul? For is her sister not as the Lord’s Church, as His holy Bride seated at His feet? And what does Martha intend to inflict upon her when she asks in her presumption, “Lord, are you not concerned that my sister has left me all alone to do the household tasks? Tell her to help me,” but by such public humiliation to draw her from the blessings of Christ into her own anxiety? But as Paul has heard the call of the Lord, so now Mary does as well, and nothing shall remove such favor from her. And instead of the drawing of Mary from the Lord, it is the Lord who calls Martha from her chores to listen to the voice of God.
Martha shall heed the Lord’s call, we know, for it is she who shows such great faith at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, she who hears the Lord’s most wonderful revelation: “I am the resurrection and the life.” And so she, like Paul, like her sister, finds herself chosen by the Lord. And so must we all, brothers and sisters! So must we all. We all must know the call of Him who “formed [our] inmost being,” by whom our “soul” and our “frame” were “made in secret, when [we were] fashioned in the depths of the earth,” in our “mother’s womb.” We must all come to that place where He will speak to these very depths of our being – where only He probes – and know the “wonderful” call of the Lord, that as it was said of Paul, “He who was formerly persecuting us is now preaching the faith he tried to destroy,” so it will be said of us that all doubt and fear we have left behind and the Lord’s will is our only occupation. We must hear His voice and we must speak His NAME, or all we do will be in vain.
“My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar,” O Lord. And so I pray that all my rest will be taken in you and all my work you will bless. Bring us all to the quiet place within our souls, where you speak in silence, where your will is revealed to waiting hearts… let us be seated always before you.
O LORD, it is you who have formed us,
and you formed us to love you;
let us listen to your voice and do your holy will.
YHWH, how shall we find ourselves at your feet, dearest LORD? How shall we become as Mary, our hearts set on you alone, knowing your presence deep in our soil as we listen to your holy words, as we marvel at your flesh before us? In your Son let us make our home, that your Word might be instilled in our soul.
In silence let us sit, O LORD. And in peace let us rise and do your will. As we travel even to the ends of the earth, bringing your Word forth, let us remain ever seated at your feet. Oh never leave us! though much work we do for you.
Be our blessed guide, LORD, at all times. Hold us in your arms as you knit us in our mother’s womb, and we shall never be apart from you, and anxiety shall never distract us from your eternal presence. You who have made us, you who know all our thoughts and ways, please see that it is with you we remain, ever speaking your holy NAME.
Sun, 4 October 2020
(Gal.1:6-12; Ps.111:1-2,5,7-10; Lk.10:25-37)
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?”
Do you really want to know? Do really seek to hear of the Gospel of Christ? Do you really desire the Word of God, which is “reliable forever and ever, wrought in truth and equity” and which “came by revelation from Jesus Christ?” If so, listen to what He speaks to you today; do not go on “so soon deserting Him who called you in accord with His design in Christ” – be not as the priest and the Levite who, coming upon the man “stripped” and “beat[en],” “saw him but continued on.” For He shows Himself to you this day. He lies before you like “the man who fell in with the robbers,” and He calls you to love.
You know what to do, brothers and sisters, just as the lawyer knew so well the Shema, the great command to love God and neighbor. The answer to the question of “who treated the man with compassion” is obvious. We see the love of God, we know the love of God, and we know that we are called to practice the love of God. “Then go and do the same,” Jesus says. “Go and do the same.” Here is the Gospel in short, in this short phrase: love others as I have loved you. Lay down your life; die to yourself and live for God and others if you wish to inherit eternal life. Such inheritance comes only after such death, and love is all that will bring you there.
“If anyone preaches a Gospel other than the one you received, let a curse be upon Him!” This exclamation by Paul is also one of love. For to love does not mean “to win man’s approval,” “to please” or “ingratiate” oneself to others that all might speak well of us who have spoken well of them – to love means to speak the truth, for only by such truth is love preserved. There is no Gospel but the Gospel of love spoken by the mouth of the Lord, one which calls us not to an easy compliance with the world, a nod of the head and a sidestep around the wounded bodies before us… it is that which calls us to lay down our lives along this road of ours. This is what is from God, shown most clearly by the death of His Son.
Brothers and sisters, “holy and awesome is His name” and His call. “His praise endures forever” in our mouths for “He has ratified His covenant forever”; and the love of Jesus is all we need to know. Can you do all the Samaritan has done for the stranger? Then everlasting life is indeed close to your heart. Follow in His way.
O LORD, your Word, your Gospel,
is that we should love,
that we should love you and others –
let us hold to your Word and so live in your truth.
YHWH, praise you, our LORD and our God! Help us to follow your Word and your way. For you are great and worthy of praise, and we must be as you.
Your love is unbounded, O LORD; it reaches to the ends of the earth and to every soul. All you would care for in your love, and you call us to do the same.
Let us be your hands and your voice, LORD, in this dangerous place. Let us have hearts for healing and spirits for speaking your truth, that all souls might indeed be saved by your holy Gospel.
If in silence we stand as souls go astray, or if we avoid the needy man in our way, what, O LORD, shall be our fate – shall not a curse be upon us? And so, let your love and your truth be fulfilled in us that we might preach without fear and serve without hesitation, that we might accomplish your will. Let us love you first of all, and all souls as you love them.
Sat, 3 October 2020
(Is.5:1-7; Ps.80:9,12-16,19-20,Is.5:7; Phil.4:6-9; Mt.21:33-43)
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
“Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.” Of course, this “vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!” And so the Lord promises to “take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, [He] will make it a ruin.”
Jesus’ parable in our gospel today echoes precisely Isaiah’s “song”: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.” But now the prophecy is brought to fulfillment; now the rotten grapes come to maturity, and so the ruin of the vineyard will be complete. For in their rejection of the Son the hope of Israel is lost: none further has the Father to send them; herein they utterly spurn His love. How shall they be turned to producing good fruit if He who is the source of all goodness they destroy in their souls? There is nothing left but to remove the vineyard from them.
“A vine from Egypt [the Lord] transplanted; [He] drove away the nations and planted it.” But for its unfaithfulness He has “broken down its walls.” Indeed, in a scant few years after the crucifixion of the Messiah the temple in Jerusalem will be utterly destroyed – the worship upon which the faith of the Lord’s people is founded will be no more. And it shall not return. But even as this temple built by hands the Lord lays waste, He yet answers our psalmist’s plea to Him: “Look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted.” For as He destroys, so He builds; as Christ is killed, so His Church is planted. And it shall grow unto eternity.
The fulfillment of all prophecy, the New Jerusalem, is in our midst now. In the Catholic faith the worship at Jerusalem comes to maturity. And though many would see it removed – and perhaps by man’s reason one might say for its sins it should be – though many come in their presumption to build anew… there is no call from the Lord for any of this, and these man-made structures will also fall to ruin. What God builds now He builds on a foundation which lasts forever, against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail. Only on the day of judgment, only when the kingdom has come, will this House be needed no more – for then all that will be will be His Church.
So, “brothers and sisters, have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, make your requests known to God.” Truly does the Lord’s “face shine upon us” in this holy Temple, and it shall not be moved. See that you not remove yourselves from it but “keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen” in its confines. Listen to His Word spoken to your hearts, and receive well the broken Bread of this holy sacrifice and the Blood of this heavenly vine. And bear fruit in His name.
Written, read & chanted, and produced by James Kurt.
Music: "Fatherless Children" from Cleansing Human Frailty, fourth album of Songs for Children of Light, by James Kurt.
O LORD, restore this vine
that we might bear your fruit in peace.
YHWH, the vineyard you planted in Israel had to be broken down, the temple in Jerusalem destroyed, but the Church you have built in the blood of Christ shall endure till the end of time. Let us make our home in its confines.
The peace of the New Jerusalem is ours, O LORD, by the grace wrought by your Son; the New Covenant let us embrace that we might flourish as your vine. O let us bear fruit in your sight!
Break not down the walls of this House, LORD; let us not be disobedient to your call. Though we have killed Jesus on a cross, let us now turn back to you. For you will have mercy on your people and restore us in your love. Give us new life and we will call upon your Name, never forgetting your presence in our midst.
O LORD, may your House be built this day even unto the heavens; in your presence let us make our home, serving you faithfully at all times. The Body and Blood of your only Son as our food and drink, let us be grafted to your vine.
Fri, 2 October 2020
(Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-16; Ps.119:66,71,75,91,125,130,135; Lk.10:17-24)
“I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning.”
Oh how our readings conspire together today to bring heavenly light to our eyes. Truly by them the Lord would say to us what He says to His apostles, what is so evident with Job: “Blest are the eyes that see what you see.” For what more could we hope to behold than the defeat of Satan and the power of the Almighty at work in our lives?
“I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you,” Job declares unto the Lord who stands before him. Could there be a greater blessing than this for him who has longed for just this moment? For just in this moment comes to him who has suffered so greatly at the hands of Satan the vindication of the Lord’s servant, the justice that is in the hand of God. Truly is Satan now cast down before the Lord of all, and truly do the eyes and the heart of Job witness this power of the Most High. For truly is he set free from the evil one’s clutches and blessed so abundantly. Job’s eyes see the return and the increase of his myriad of animals; they witness the great blessing of seven sons and three daughters, of whom it is said, “No other women were as beautiful as the daughters of Job.” These eyes behold “his children, his grandchildren, and even his great-grandchildren,” yes, but the greatest of all visions for which Job is truly blessed and which brings any and all other blessings is that his eye has seen the Lord: he knows now Him who has made him and rejoices sublimely with the apostles that his name is “inscribed in heaven,” indeed that it cannot be blotted out; for Satan has done all he could to accomplish this, and failed.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes” – our psalmist’s words could be Job’s own, for indeed in the Lord’s faithfulness He has afflicted Job to “teach [him] wisdom and knowledge.” And what knowledge the seventy-two disciples receive this day in our gospel; a knowledge hidden from all ages, a power residing only with God, is given over unto their spirits. Satan himself and all his minions are now subject to their command. What falls short of the light in their eyes; what do they now lack? And so, what can they do but rejoice greatly? For even Jesus Himself rejoices “in the Holy Spirit”; even the Son of God gives “grateful praise” to the Father for the power and wisdom granted His “merest children.” Brothers and sisters, the blessings of the Lord are overwhelming… and we do not yet even see heaven!
“The revelation of your words sheds light,” O Lord, “giving understanding to the simple.” Let us hear what you wish to teach us this day. That which “prophets and kings wished to see… and hear” you reveal to us at this time – that the power of your Word casts out sin and Satan, and that your own glory you share with your little ones on earth. Bless us here with your gifts, O Lord. Remove from our hearts all fear. Let us know with certainty that you have destroyed the evil one, and draw us now inextricably to your kingdom.
O LORD, let our eyes see you,
that we might not sin against you but do your holy will.
YHWH, you are great beyond compare, the LORD of Heaven and earth; yet you share your greatness with your children, delivering power into their hands.
How can we bear to see you, LORD? How can such wonder be known to our eyes? Make us repentant of our sin and innocent before you, then we shall be able to receive your great gifts.
LORD, even Satan and his minions are subject to us, for they are subject to you and we are yours alone. Help us ever to trust in you, and that our names are written in Heaven. For if it is upon Heaven our sights are set, then we shall find no trouble upon this earth; we shall be subject to none of the wiles of the evil one.
We have been afflicted by you, O LORD, afflicted as Job by the scourges of Satan. It has seemed to us that you left us abandoned, but this was to teach us of your loving presence and just how close you are to our souls. Open our eyes to see you this day, and all your many blessings.
Thu, 1 October 2020
(Job 38:1,12-21,40:3-5; Ps.139:1-3,7-10,13-14,24; Lk.10:13-16)
“I put my hand over my mouth.”
When the Lord speaks, what can we be but silent? When He chastises us for our pride and sin, we can only be ashamed. No defense have we before Him who holds us and all the world in His mighty hand and who comes to us with His redeeming love. We can but bow before Him.
The Lord has “commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place”; He has “entered into the sources of the sea [and] walked about in the depths of the abyss” – He has “comprehended the breadth of the earth” and the highest heavens. And so, if we “take the wings of the dawn, if [we] settle at the farthest limits of the sea,” He is there. If we “go up to the heavens” or “sink to the netherworld,” He is present. He is present everywhere, and everywhere we are, we are subject to His hand. For He has “formed [our] inmost being”; He has “knit” us all “in [our] mother’s womb.” And He alone knows “the dwelling place of light” and “the abode of darkness,” and to which place our souls shall come. There is nothing we can say before the Creator and Judge of all the earth except, “I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works,” as we humbly give thanks to Him who scrutinizes all our ways.
And when He comes to us with His love, when He has wrought forgiveness in “the miracles worked in [our] midst” by the grace of the only Son… when redemption for all our sin He offers by a merciful hand, what must we do but accept it? For how shall it be for us on “the day of judgment” if we reject the Word of God walking among us and speaking to our hearts? It cannot but “go ill” with us if we fail to reform our broken lives when the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth stands before us with love in His arms, blood pouring from them as He hangs upon a cross.
Should not our hands be over our mouths at such a sight, brothers and sisters, at such a witness of undying love? Should it not convict us of our sin and make our hearts burn with a spirit of repentance and cry silently to God as our prideful tongues cleave like stone to our palate? What hope have you if you yet dare to speak before Him? Rather, bow your heads and fall to your knees and beg the forgiveness of Him who has made you and who loves you to the heights and depths, with all the breadth of His Spirit.
Lord, like Job, I have “no more” to say; I am yours.
(Blessed silence before the Lord may we all come to know.)
O LORD, it is you who made us and you who save us;
let us not be hurled down to the realm of death
but raised up to dwell with you.
YHWH, what should we do but repent in sackcloth and ashes before your majesty? What can we be but silent before you? For you are all-powerful and all-knowing, and we are but your creatures.
What place has pride before your glory, LORD? How can we be so foolish as to assert our will and our way before you whose ways are not known to man, whose will is so far above and beyond our own? It is you who have made the world and all it holds; it is you who have formed us in our mother’s womb. And would we presume to instruct you? And would we be obstinate in following your commands?
O LORD, though we are nothing, but dust of the earth, yet you love your humble creatures as you love all you have made. For you have made us good. Have pity on us poor sinners and help us to heed your Word which comes to us through your Son and His apostles. May we find ourselves at home in your sight, in your heavenly kingdom.