Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Second Sunday of Advent (A), December 4, 2016 - Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 3:1-12

Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom (1826) Philadelphia Museum of Art

Isaiah 11:1-10

Time to Remember


A shoot shall come from Jesse's stump,
A branch from his roots sure will grow,
God's spirit of wisdom,
And right understanding,
The fear of the Lord shall he know.

The wolf shall then live with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie with the kid,
The calf and the lion,
The fatling together,
Shall all by a child be led.

These words from Isaiah all point
To one who would someday be born,
Whom we know and expect
With our houses bedecked,
When waiting will end Christmas morn.

And now is the time to recall
He favors the poor and the meek;
So that none be destroyed,
He our walls would avoid,
Let us Christ, show and tell, breathe and speak.


Scott L. Barton

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.


+ + +

Full Communion

He's not very Christmassy,
this John the B.,
to people presuming that
they're guaranteed
to have the good life because
priv'leged they are;
But when the one born, who was
brought gifts of myrrh,
reveals a new twist on what
John thought would come,
the world can now know that all
judging succumbs
to he who now chooses to
make from the grain
the bread of his life, so we'll
all know love's reign.


Scott L. Barton

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The First Sunday of Advent (A), November 27, 2016 - Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:36-44

Evgeniy Viktorovich Vuchetich (1908-1974):
Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares (1957),
 United Nations north garden area

   
These two poems are specifically addressed to preachers, although in the second poem, "Christian" could be substituted for "preacher."

Isaiah 2:1-5

No Sermon Necessary?

Oh, how can you improve upon this poem?
Isaiah is the master of the verse.
To read this text, delib'rately and bold,
The one up front who's preaching could do worse
Than looking out upon the people there
With hope that some day, all of us might hear
The One who calls all people as God's own,
All tribes and factions, with our pride and fear.
The reason that someday we'll beat those swords
Into the implements that would us feed,
Is that we'll know the love God has for all,
Including those of different breeds and creeds.
Reflecting on this hope and faith and dream,
O, preacher, end the reading with a grin;
Then close the book, look out at those you love,
And in the silence, let it all sink in.


Scott L. Barton

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say, 
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, 
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways 
and that we may walk in his paths.” 
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, 
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 

they shall beat their swords into plowshares, 
and their spears into pruning hooks; 
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, 
neither shall they learn war any more. 
O house of Jacob, 
come, let us walk 
in the light of the Lord.

+ + +


Matthew 24:36-44


Freed for Love

Oh, woe to the preacher who parses this text
To figure out how and when Jesus comes next;
For those of the "left behind" ilk are the folk
Who build their theology on such a joke
As worrying whether they all might be saved!
But Jesus calls "worry" a trip to the grave!
For back in verse three, when his friends sought to know
The timetable for the world's powers' overthrow,
He gave this long discourse so they might all see,
The one thing in life that's God's sure guarantee,
Is this day's your chance to see Christ in your deeds;
Leave end times to God - so for love you'll be freed!


Scott L. Barton

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Christ the King/Reign of Christ (C), November 20, 2016 - Luke 23:33-43

A HYMN FOR THE END OF THE CHURCH YEAR

This poem can be sung as a hymn for this Sunday, Christ the King/Reign of Christ. My original idea for a tune was VESPER HYMN (Now On Land and Sea Descending).  But it also works with most any hymn with an 8.7.8.7 D meter. I especially like it with GENEVA (Sovereign Lord of All Creation; Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory) because of the mid-way change from minor to major. It would also work with BEACH SPRING (God Whose Giving Knows No Ending), EBENEZER (Come, O Spirit; Once to Every One and Nation), HYFRYDOL (unless maybe you plan to sing Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus to this tune soon), HYMN TO JOY (Joyful Joyful, We Adore Thee), IN BABILONE (There's a Wideness in God's Mercy), NETTLETON (Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing), or WEISSE FLAGGEN (When the Morning Stars Together).

As the Church's Year Is Done

1. Save the Sundays after Christmas,
Christ the King's* the only one
With his name or title noted,
As the church's year is done.

Though it doesn't change him any,
Doesn't sudd'nly make him king;
Not by churchwide nomenclature
Do his praises now we sing.

2. This day is the culmination
Of the message we have heard,
Starting with the proclamation
Christ would come in flesh, from Word.

Yes, he came, revealed, was baptized,
Then the twelve to him he called,
Suffered, with his death approaching,
Demonstrated giving all.

3. After death, a resurrection!
-still proclaimed from week to week;
Shouts of joy, what acclamation,
Love o'ercoming death so bleak!

Then disciples, still unsure of
How the future would unfold,
Prodded by the Spirit outward,
Learned that grace for all be told.

4. Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Is the basis of our claim
Through our ordinary time, the
Life Christ shows is still our aim.

If we choose, if we can own him
As the one who in us reigns,
That's the day in which we crown him,
Lamb, who all our lives sustains.


*or Reign of Christ's 

Scott L. Barton


When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Litany for November 9, 2016

 When every progress for every minority is in danger of crumbling,

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.

Though the cause of evil prosper, and upon the throne be wrong,

Then behind the dim unknown, yet 'tis truth alone is strong;

When it looks like nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,

By your endurance you will save your souls.

When Caesar on his big white horse is parading into the city,

Hosanna! Save now, you who ride on a donkey.
When we feel as if we have been turned back to dust,

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

When we are the taunt of our neighbors, the derision and scorn of those around us, a laughingstock among the peoples,

Rise up, O Lord, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

 
When you are thrown into exile,
 

Seek the welfare of the city, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.


(Martin Luther and Psalm 46, James Russell Lowell, Luke 21, Palm Sunday texts, Psalm 90, Psalm 44, Jeremiah 29.)

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (C), November 13, 2016 - Luke 21:5-19 and Isaiah 65:17-25

Duccio di Buoninsegna:
Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles  (1308-11)
 

Whatever Happens/Happened on November 8

"By your endurance you will save your souls."
This is a message that has different goals
Than if one thinks some strong and outside force,
Some revolution, soon will change the course
Of history. Not anger, shouts or hate
Can ever bring God's kingdom, make us great;
No, just the opposite: Forsaking fear,
And giving hope - and blood - and sweat - and tears.
It's giving of yourself, with constancy
For neighbor, yes, whoever that might be -
All this is what it means to follow he
Who calmed the wind, with love, and stilled the sea.


Scott L. Barton

Luke 21:5-19

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

+ + +



Isaiah 65:17-25

Lion and Lamb

Every Advent my wife and I send
A lion and lamb Christmas card;
We carry on the tradition
of my Reformation professor,
Charlie Nielsen, and his wife, Eloïse;
It's nice to have a theme,
But it's not always easy.
Sometimes I almost despair
of finding the card with
The right amount of preposterousness!
I don't want it to be "religious;"
Surprise, even comedy, is the key.
For isn't this what we mean by
God's vision for the world?
Unexpected?  Brand new?
And then, as in answer to prayer,
A new lion and lamb appears,
A new take on an old theme, and
A witness, we hope,
To those who will receive it,
So that they might be glad,
And rejoice forever
In what God is creating
- and be a delight, too!


Scott L. Barton

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (C), November 6, 2016 - Luke 20:27-38


If This Be Love

A person dies, someone you love.
Mother, father, sister, brother.
Then this headline, which today blared,
"Girl, 9, dies in bus accident."
Oh, dear God, who can bear such news?
How could any of us survive?
That any do, is miracle.
I weep to think of deaths I've known.
And yet. And yet. Perhaps it's true
That for our God, all are alive.
I know not what that means, except
Even when I'm long forgotten,
Just a tombstone name, in some book -
I'm alive, you're alive, and all
Who've ever lived, in him, somehow
Live, and move, and have our being.


Scott L. Barton

Another poem on  Luke 20:27-38 (see also Haggai 1:15b-2:9; plus Paul, Synoptics, John - you name it!)

The Heart of It
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?
They "neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Or try this:
"The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former."
"We will all be changed."
"They thought it was a ghost."
"Because I live, you also...."
Like a Sadducee,
I just can't wrap my head around any of this.
And maybe that's the point.
This God
...this word
...this news
...this love
Changes everything.
Most of all, my heart.
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?


Scott L. Barton

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, October 30, 2016 - Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Luke 19:1-10

Thanks to Carol Sumner, who took this picture
of Zion National Park's Watchman last week.
(For a couple of recent poems on strictly political matters, please page down or click on Bonus Poem(s) to the right.)

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Keep Watch

On the plane,
I watch the man
Across the aisle
Reading the magazine
With at least one gun
Pictured per page.
Some of the headlines,
Mostly ads, read:

American exceptionalism
A smoother way to shoot
Clinton and Shumer are one election away from taking your guns
Stop any threat dead in its tracks


I worry about this kind of vigilance.
It purports to trust in oneself;
But if truth be told,
The trust is really
In all you can buy
To keep you safe -
Ever bigger, ever faster,
Ever smoother, ever prouder.

Look at them, says Habakkuk;
Some spirit is not right.
But wait for it. Wait for it.
Wait for the exception,
Trust the one who comes to you,
Live like no one will let you down,
Watch for grace for all
That'll knock your socks off.


Scott L. Barton


Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw. 
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, 
and you will not listen? 
Or cry to you “Violence!” 
and you will not save? 
Why do you make me see wrong-doing 
and look at trouble? 
Destruction and violence are before me; 
strife and contention arise. 
So the law becomes slack 
and justice never prevails. 
The wicked surround the righteous— 
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

I will stand at my watchpost, 

and station myself on the rampart; 
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, 
and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 
Then the Lord answered me and said: 
Write the vision; 
make it plain on tablets, 
so that a runner may read it. 
For there is still a vision for the appointed time; 
it speaks of the end, and does not lie. 
If it seems to tarry, wait for it; 
it will surely come, it will not delay. 
Look at the proud! 
Their spirit is not right in them, 
but the righteous live by their faith.

+ + +

Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man

Zacchaeus was a wee little man:
We loved to sing that song!
With finger wagging, "You come down!"
We knew we all belonged
To Jesus, who, to us might come
Someday, though we were small!
These days, much taller, would he still
To my house make a call?
And if he did, would I be so
Astounded that he came,
I'd change my ways, perhaps give more?
And he would change my name?
Or is this scene all by itself
A parable of grace,
Since those who'd like to know this God -
No matter time or place -
Will find Christ even more inclined
To knock upon their door,
For he insists! Not just observed
Will he be anymore!
This God e'en now, across the years,
Would still with us consort,
For faith, you see, is not a climb,
Or some spectator sport;
To be a "child of Abraham,"
Means you have been restored
Not by your efforts, but by love,
Which is its own reward.


Scott L. Barton

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”