Thursday, November 16, 2017

Christ the King (Reign of Christ) Sunday (A), November 26, 2017 - Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 and Matthew 25:31-46



Early 6th-century mosaic from Ravenna, the Church of Appolinare Nuovo

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

The Once and Future Comeuppance of the Butters

The word I like the best within this text is "butted;"
I like how God's not happy with the sheep who strutted,
Who pushed and shoved their way around like some big wheel,
And turned the lives of others into an ordeal;
They make me think of big shots now, pontificating,
Who, on high horses, set about eliminating
The things that help all people in their daily living,
While claiming they know best, but to themselves they're giving!
Dear God, we need a David, shepherding the people,
Instead of those who would our commonwealth enfeeble;
O, kick their butts in any upcoming elections,
That words and acts for all might see a resurrection.

Scott L. Barton

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

 +  +  +

Matthew 25:31-46

  
Surprise!

The Gospel is about surprise!
Forget the habit to surmise
Just how you might reap some reward,
Or fear that you might be ignored
By God, say, when you're at the end,
And wonder if you might ascend,
Or descend, so to speak. You'll find
God's system of reward is blind
To whether you had made the grade!
No matter what, you'll be dismayed,
Since God's less likely to be bribed,
And more inclined to be described
As Christ, who so inspires your love
That, focused less on God above,
You'll worry not, nor will you gloat,
To be a hero, or a goat,
But simply offer all your care
To needy angels unawares.

Scott L. Barton


“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”


Friday, November 3, 2017

The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), November 19, 2017 - Judges 4:1-7 [8-24] and Matthew 25:14-30



(Both poems have been modified from their original in 2014.)

Judges 4:1-7 [8-24]


Deborah sends Barak into battle 
(From the Psalter of St. Louis, 13th century, 
Bibliothèque nationale de France)

Wonderwomen 

I think that not too many know
This ancient, Wonderwomen tale,
Where, Barak asks a prophetess
To go with him before he sails
To battle a strong enemy,
As guarantee he would not fail.

Or does he ask to humor her,
A woman who'd command a male?
Or could it be he's worried that
His aspirations she'd assail
- Like some Uriah prequel - and 
He'd be the one to be impaled?

At any rate, she says she'll go,
Though goes with him to no avail, 
That is, no glory will he earn;
Another woman will derail
The plans of Sisera, who burns
To conquer Israel, yet fails.

Soon Sisera will be no more,
His gory end makes us inhale;
But though, to us, the ethics of
Jael seem dubious and frail,
God's purposes for those oppressed
Will, by God's chosen means, prevail.

Scott L. Barton

(Note: It's a shame the lectionary designers stop at verse 7, which in my view pretty much misses the point of the story. Go at least through verse 9. [I did that at my sister's wedding 31 years ago to highlight the companionship requested by Barak.] But consider strongly going even further in Sunday worship, which in this case means telling the rest of the story which includes Jael, as long as we realize it's meant to make us smile at how God will do in a cruel oppressor by whatever means will do the trick.)

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord , after Ehud died. So the Lord sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, ‘Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.’” [Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah got up and went with Barak to Kedesh.

Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; and ten thousand warriors went up behind him; and Deborah went up with him. Now Heber the Kenite had separated from the other Kenites, that is, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had encamped as far away as Elon-bezaanannim, which is near Kedesh. When Sisera was told that Barak son of Abinoam had gone up to Mount Tabor, Sisera called out all his chariots, nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the troops who were with him, from Harosheth-ha-goiim to the Wadi Kishon. Then Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day on which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. The Lord is indeed going out before you.” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand warriors following him. And the Lord threw Sisera and all his chariots and all his army into a panic before Barak; Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot, while Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-ha-goiim. All the army of Sisera fell by the sword; no one was left.

Now Sisera had fled away on foot to the tent of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite; for there was peace between King Jabin of Hazor and the clan of Heber the Kenite. Jael came out to meet Sisera, and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord, turn aside to me; have no fear.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. Then he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink; for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. He said to her, “Stand at the entrance of the tent, and if anybody comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’” But Jael wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple, until it went down into the ground—he was lying fast asleep from weariness—and he died. Then, as Barak came in pursuit of Sisera, Jael went out to meet him, and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went into her tent; and there was Sisera lying dead, with the tent peg in his temple. So on that day God subdued King Jabin of Canaan before the Israelites. Then the hand of the Israelites bore harder and harder on King Jabin of Canaan, until they destroyed King Jabin of Canaan.]

+  +  +

Matthew 25:14-30 


Annette Gandy Fortt: Parable of the Talents

Treasure This

Beware that you don't use this text
To be the means whereby the next
Year's budget you might "make" converges
With what it seems the story urges.

One talent being far too much
For common laborers to touch,
It speaks, instead, of what is gained
When nothing you did, you attained.

Those overwhelmed by all they have,
Who know that all they are, God gave,
In joy, astounded by their treasure,
Know greatest gifts cannot be measured.

But those who try to make it last,
In worry they'll lose all amassed,
Have entered now into the hell
Which only trust in grace dispels.

Scott L. Barton

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), November 12, 2017 - Matthew 25:1-13 and Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25



Matthew 25:1-13

JESUS MAFA: The Ten Young Women

On-Time God

"Don’t you hate it when that happens?"
Jesus says about that wedding
Where some bridesmaids missed the party
That they thought they'd be attending.

No one here is being callous,
It was simply customary;
Bridesmaids who could join inside were
Those who'd planned, and had not tarried.

Grace does not appear on schedule,
Like an entry on your smart phone;
Opportunities to love are
Tests of faith, and even backbone.

"He's an on time God," the song goes,
"Might not come just when you want him,
"He'll be there right on time," which means,
Not being ready, will not stop him.

Don't miss the love that's put before you,
For it will come, and not ignore you.

Scott L. Barton

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

+  +  +

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25


Raphael: Joshua Addressing the Israeites at Shechem (ca. 1516-18)
sketch for fresco in Loggia of Raphael in the Vatican, Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Not the Good Old Days

Once to every one and nation
Comes the moment to decide;
Sometimes hymns, though out of favor,
Tell a truth from which we hide.

Glibly, we imagine back in 
"Bible times," "their" faith was strong;
Surely God spoke clearly, therefore
Many for the past now long.

Joshua didn't see it that way:
"Our ancestors got it wrong!
Gods were served beyond the river,
Now's the time for a new song!"

New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth,
Faith means always new decisions,
Grace demands we find the truth.

Scott L. Barton

(The first two lines of the first and last stanzas come from the 1845 poem by James R. Lowell that he wrote as a protest against the U. S.'s war with Mexico, and which was put to Thomas J. Williams' tune EBENEZER.)

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), November 5, 2017 - Matthew 23:1-12 and Joshua 3:7-17




Frans Francken II (1581-1642): The Israelites Crossing the River Jordan
Cornell University

"Teacher," "Rabbi" and the Like

We Presbyterians now name
Our ministers for tasks reclaimed:
We're "teaching elders," for our role
That all may learn, in mind and soul,
God's grace. And Catholics still refer
To priests as "Father," which confers
A status that implies their love
To those below from God above.
Thus, Jesus' words now give me pause
In hope that he laid down no laws
Prohibiting what we are called!
But rather, pray he's still appalled
By any flouting ordination
As meaning character inflation.

Scott L. Barton

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

+  +  +

Joshua 3:7-17


(I took this picture of the painting shown first, above, when I saw it three years ago at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell. I wonder why Francken painted the water on the left of the people as they crossed, since presumably the story has them crossing from east to west, which would put the Dead Sea to the south - and thus, "the heap" on their right. Anybody know?)


A Nation Where All Are Saved

The text progresses, as it must;
not Moses, out alone, or just
this Joshua, either, at this river,
this new, dividing sea the Giver
parts; but now, instead of one,
it looks like twelve ensure undone
the chaos that would interfere
with what the LORD would engineer.
They venture out into the deep,
which is no more, but just a heap
on their right hand, while on their left,
no waters stand; and they are blessed
to be a nation now, where all are saved -
Let us, just like those Jordan priests, behave.

Scott L. Barton

The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), October 29, 2017 - Matthew 22:34-46 and 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8


Matthew 22:34-46

from First United Methodist Church, Bristol, Tennessee 


The Fundamentalist

Though Jesus knows the point of metaphor,
Which is, unto the heart, an open door,
And knows you cannot parse how David's Lord
And son, Messiah, both are in accord,
He is a fundamentalist, it's clear,
On whether we should love our neighbor, dear,
For otherwise, one's faith is undercut.
Go, love, he says; no ifs, or ands, or buts.

Scott L. Barton

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’? If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


+  +  +

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

 Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879): The Kiss of Peace (1869)

Item: A doctor goes from Worcester, Massachusetts to Liberia, learns how to put on and take off the protective gear, and, when caring for a pastor with Ebola, finds himself prayed for before the pastor dies: http://nyti.ms/1rh6o07


The Doctor Who's a Nurse

The pastor prayed for Dr. Hatch
Who'd known he could not stay detached
From human need, and thus has dared
To give, to those he might, God's care.
I know not if he calls it such;
I know not, if he prays, how much,
Or if he thinks that he's been called;
But this I know: that writer Paul,
When speaking of the tender nurse
Whose gentle care for children mercy
Shows, cares more for deeds than words,
And giving self is grace conferred.

Scott L. Barton

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), October 22, 2017 - Matthew 22:15-22 and Exodus 33:12-23


(Matthew 22:15-22)

USA Today Sports / Reuters

Coin of the Realm

Some say that players should not take the knee
When others rise for "Oh, say can you see?"
They say that it's a mark of disrespect,
And verbally abuse those they'd correct.

It's something like when Jesus' enemies
Pulled out a coin for everyone to see,
And asked if he might choose to pay the tax
And thus the Law on idols he'd relax.

Instead, it was a broader truth he chose,
Which was that Caesar's head is juxtaposed
Against a faith God's sovereign over all,
Therefore, to Caesar, none should be in thrall.

These players don't forsake the waving flag,
But state a truth about which none should brag,
Which is that in this land made of the free,
Some cops give blacks more than the third degree.

They kneel in sorrow so opinions change,
So all for justice might now be engaged.
Not flag, but what it stands for is what saves:
Say kneelers who act out "home of the brave."

We are not free because arms make it so,
The Declaration's clear that we're bestowed
With rights by God, however you perceive;
So stand and kneel for all that you believe.

Scott L. Barton

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

+  +  +

(Exodus 33:12-23)


Rembrandt: Moses and the Burning Bush (ca. 1655)


The Conversation

Moses keeps upping the ante,
He asks the LORD for more and more.
Though it seems this LORD knows his name -
What are your ways? How keep favor?
(Besides they're YOUR baby, not mine)
And really, who will go with me?
The LORD says, I'll go.
                                         Moses: Mean it?
The LORD says, Yes, yes; as you'll see.
       We'll really stand out, that's for sure.
The LORD says, Yes, yes; you I bless.
        But where is the proof positive?
The LORD says, My glory's my goodness,
Which means, I choose you, not you, me;
Mercy and graciousness are mine.
Such giving's what my goodness means;
The back you see, will be your sign.

A couple on a recent flight
Told me the Lord they also seek,
This text, however makes me think,
When Moses sees the LORD, oblique,
It's not that Moses just was mooned,
But it's the other way around -
The Lord's the one who seeks you out,
Let not your search such truth confound.

Scott L. Barton 
(Dedicated to that delightful couple, Steve and Caroline.)

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” The Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.”

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), October 15, 2017 - Matthew 22:1-14 and Exodus 32:1-14 [15-20]




Looking Like a Million Dollars

I'm not sure how the punishment
Described by Jesus fits the crime -
The killing and the burning here
Should not be told in children's time!
But those who will not recognize
The lavish gift of every day
Are doomed to miss the best of life,
And find themselves, in time, dismayed. 

It's not so much the underdressed
Wore shorts, say, but that they were short
On caring for why they'd been called,
And thus, God's purposes would thwart;
In Christ's an invitation to 
A life that's clothed by love, transformed,
So that your heart is made anew,
And garbed for grace for all, your norm.

Scott L. Barton

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless.Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

+  +  +

Matthew 22:1-14


 Emile Nolde: Dance Around the Golden Calf (1910)

[Note: This poem highlights how important it is for the reader of the text in worship to speak with conviction, with surprise at the news proclaimed, and most of all, a palpable sense that the reader believes this stuff he or she is proclaiming. The reader in the poem was one of my daughters, Lindsay Barton Cassidy - who, by the way, is getting married in the first picture above!]

Unforgettable Reading

She must have been just eight years-old,
I asked her if she'd read that day;
Her voice, so strong and so controlled,
I hear it in my mind's replay
(An octave higher than 'tis now)
It woke the people up, so clear!
With bold expression, furrowed brow,
Her Moses pleads the LORD might hear,
And change his mind! But grace not cheap,
Her rising voice described the scene
Of reveling and dancers' leaps,
And Moses, hot - not church serene! -
With tablets smashed - and calf all burned -
To powder, ground - and then in rage -
The most bizarre - how Israel learned
No idol can our thirst assuage!

I love the passion of that day;
No age can take such faith away.

Scott L. Barton

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

[Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound made by victors, or the sound made by losers; it is the sound of revelers that I hear.” As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.]