Sunday, March 22, 2015

Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) (B), March 29, 2015 - Mark 11:1-11


(For my adaptation of a hymn celebrating the decision by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to open eligibility for marriage to all loving couples, please page down to the previous post.)

(My pastor from almost 50 years ago, Richard  L. Manzelmann,
 used this as a Palm Sunday bulletin cover once at
New Hartford, New York Presbyterian Church.
I borrowed it to use in three or four congregations over the years.)


Donkey Rustling

How odd that Mark spends so much time
On what seems so unlike sublime;
It almost seems ridiculous
To know such details infamous
As how he got that ne'er ridd'n colt!
Who cares? Yet maybe his revolt
Against the principalities
Includes his personality
Involved in ev'ry action where
His followers, his name declare.
The coffee hour, the ushers' list,
The anthem sung, the meals dished,
The lesson taught in Sunday School,
The need to pay the bill for fuel,
The book group some came to in Lent,
The youth on mission trip just sent,
The prelude, bulletins, and prayers,
The greeter there atop the stairs,
The new hymn that the pastor tried,
The news a faithful friend has died -
Such details of our life declare -
When done for him - that he is where
By grace we show that Jesus saves
By love, from cradle to the grave.

Scott L. Barton

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bonus Poem: A Hymn in Celebration of the Vote for Marriage Equality in the PCUSA

(For the lectionary poem for March 22, please page down to the previous post.)

Be Thou Our Vision
A hymn based on the Irish poem, especially the first two lines of each verse, and sung to SLANE, in celebration of the decision by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) finalized on March 17, 2015, to broaden marriage to include more people, describing marriage as being between two people rather than only a man and a woman.

Be thou our vision, O Lord of our hearts,
Nought be all else to us save that thou art,
Thou our best guide for more truth and more light,
Thou, ever faithful, thy presence our might.

Be thou our wisdom, and thou our true word;
We ever with thee and thou with us, Lord;
Thy love, great Father, for each one is sure,
Thy dwelling in us, forever endures.

Riches we heed not, nor vain, empty praise,
Thou, our inheritance, now and always,
Thou, in thy speaking bring joy to our hearts,
We, in our loving, thy treasure impart.

High King of heaven, our victory won,
May we reach heaven's joys, O bright heaven's Sun!
No "ifs" or "buts" may to any now fall,
Thou, still our vision, O Ruler of all.

Scott L. Barton

 (The penultimate line refers to a comment, per the New York Times, by William Blake Spencer, pastor of Ocean Heights Presbyterian Church in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., who is gay and voted with his presbytery on Tuesday. “It will be the last L.G.B.T.Q. issue that we debate and fight about, and finally our welcome comes without a ‘but’ or an ‘if.’”)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Fifth Sunday in Lent (B), March 22, 2015 - John 12:20-33





The Word on My Coffee Cup

The word that's on my coffee cup
On Southwest Air while flying up
Above, in letters large, says, "Lift,"
The smile that it evokes, a gift;
How clever, as it says that I
No coffee benefit up high
Can have until I raise my glass -
No matter what my flying class!

So, Jesus, till he's lifted high,
No benefit can me supply,
Because, by definition, he
Can only save when I'm set free
From fear of losing everything,
And love, and not to self still cling.
It seems to me his kind of style
Still lifts me up - and makes me smile.

Scott L. Barton

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.


“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Fourth Sunday in Lent (B), March 15, 2015 - Numbers 21:4-9 and John 3:14-21

Keith Haring, Altarpiece: The Life of Christ, 1990.
Bronze with white gold leaf patina.

 Lifted Up

Oh, how bizarre! - I'm sure you cry -
To read this text, where lifted high
Above the ground is some old snake
That Moses made for Israel's sake!

First, why on earth did Yahweh choose
To send those snakes, when they abused
The generosity God showed
When freedom on them, God bestowed?

Who knows? And yet a remedy
For lack of faith is what we see
God gives whenever we are blind
To how God wants to be defined.

It also seems a funny thing
The praise of Christ who's killed to sing,
Since dying seems less victory
Than something contradictory.

Why would it that this faithful man,
Condemned to death, be some game plan
For how the world might finally see
The love that sets all people free?

Who knows? And yet, it matters not
The things that up God's sleeve, God's got!
Love backed not down, and thus displayed
Extravagance God shows today.

When snake or Son are lifted high,
The thing to see in your mind's eye
Is God who always demonstrates
The saving grace which God creates.

Scott L. Barton

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

+  +  +

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bonus Poem: Remembering the Alamo

(For the lectionary poem for March 8, please page down to the previous post!)

Remembering the Alamo, March 6

In December, eighteen thirty-five,
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous month and year
When in old San Antonio
The capture of the Alamo 
Was made by Texians with a cheer;
In two month's time, Jim Bowie came,
And with Bill Travis, 'twas their aim
To hold the fort through think and thin,
Though Houston, newly in command
Of Texas forces, thought a stand 
With too few troops would do them in.

And yet, the fort's defenders stayed;
Though few in numbers, not dismayed,
They readied for a new attack.
By February twenty-third,
The charging Santa Anna heard
His forces' gunfire given back;
Some eighteen hundred Mexicans
(Some say, six thousand fighting men)
Assailed the Alamo's small band;
For thirteen days the battle raged,
While those inside, a fight they waged
For lives of freedom and their land.

So thus they lived, and there they died,
A scant two hundred men defied
The odds; and freely stood their ground;
Among them, one more famous came,
A Congressman of frontier's fame,
Thus Davy Crockett's name resounds. 
By March the 6th, the wall was breached,
And Santa Anna sought to teach
Young Texas its revolt, it end - 
No prisoners that day did he take; 
His point to Texas thus to make -
Yet vict'ry would defeat portend.  

March 6 became the famous day
"Remember the Alamo" they'd say;
In six more weeks, the tide had turned.
At San Jacinto, Houston's troops
With Alamo-remembered whoops,
O'er Santa Anna, vict'ry earned;
Thus, independence was secured,
While famous words were then ensured
To make us feel right and proud.
Yet death, for Crockett and the rest,
Calls not for whoops, but to resist
Wherever calls for war are loud.

Scott L. Barton

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Third Sunday in Lent (B), March 8, 2015 - Exodus 20:1-17 (see also 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 [e.g., God's foolishness wiser than human wisdom] and John 2:13-22 [think of Jesus driving out the market idea of God])

Greco: Christ Expelling the Money Changers in the Temple (1600)

Lent 3: The World's Economy and God's

The thing about markets is this:
You get what you pay for;
The more you pay, the more you get,
The wise all know the score.
But watch that you don't read this text
As if it's tit for tat, 
As if the nature of our God
Is, "You do this, and I give that." 
The only God who's worth the time
Of day is One who gave; 
The only reason this God had
To free our forebear slaves 
Was just because that's how God is,
Who gives a heav'n for you;
So focus not on third and fourth
Removes as parents' due;
That line's a set up for the next
To make you drop your jaw -
The thousandth generation get
God's steadfast love! The law
We need to know is how for us
God wants the very best!
You get the world when you find out
By love you are possessed.

Scott L. Barton

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Second Sunday in Lent (B), March 1, 2015 - Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Rembrandt: God Reveals his Covenant to Abraham (ca. 1655)
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstichkabinett


Stained glass panel, (c.1485)
from the south clerestory (window K)
of the Great Malvern Priory,
Worcestershire, United Kingdom


Lent 2: The Promise is the Thing

When Abram, old at ninety-nine,
A time when most feel past their prime,
Heard God Almighty cov'nant make,
Did he then say, "It's my big break?"
Or, had he such an attitude,
That, in a word, was gratitude
For all the things that yet would be?
The kings, foretold, he'd never see,
(The son, how could that come to be???)
And yet, and yet, his life was changed.
Perhaps, you, too, will see arranged
By God far more than you can make,
But simply trust, through pain and aches,
Such gifts which you can hardly guess
Will make new generations blessed.

Scott L. Barton

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

...God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”