Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), August 28, 2016 - Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Luke 14:1, 7-14


Duccio, di Buoninsegna: Prophet Jeremiah
Panel from the Maesta Altarpiece of Siena (1308-1311)


Jeremiah 2:4-13


J'accuse!

To Israel, Yahweh speaks his mind,
   and tells it like it is,
He pulls no punches, questioning,
   but this is not some quiz;
He knows the answers, but asks why,
   just like a spouse in pain:
Why did you leave? Why go to those
   who love can only feign?
Why give it up - the love I gave -
   to nothing be enthralled?
This makes no sense! We were this close!
   This will our friends appall!
Thus Yahweh bared his heart to speak
   the wrong that he'd been dealt;
The question is, will we return,
   and cause God's heart to melt?


Scott L. Barton


Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: 

What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things,
and became worthless themselves?
They did not say, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?”
I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.

Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord,
and I accuse your children’s children.
Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
                                        says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns that can hold no water.



+ + +


Luke 14:1, 7-14


Providential


Here Jesus, to the guests, apprises
The news that God's about surprises!
Perhaps you find it disconcerting
That Jesus here does no asserting
To claim humility means showing
That you think others are more owing
Of what this good life has to offer!
Oh, no! What Jesus seeks to proffer
Is that God's kingdom means believing
That you are really blessed, receiving,
When you could think of no potential!

That's why we call it Providential.


Scott L. Barton


On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, thecrippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), August 21, 2016 - Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Luke 13:10-17

Annie Valloton: Good News Bible (1976)
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Knowing Who You Are

Oh, what a job a prophet has,
To say things people hate to hear,
At least, until you're dead and gone,
When maybe, then, you'd be endeared,
Your words, enshrined, your praises sung -
Except you won't be here to know!
But Jeremiah chanced that touch
Would be the word of God bestowed.

Do you believe in destiny?
Sometimes, it seems quite heavenly.

Scott L. Barton

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, 
and before you were born I consecrated you; 
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, 
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; 
for you shall go to all to whom I send you, 
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them, 
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, 
“Now I have put my words in your mouth. 
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, 
to pluck up and to pull down, 
to destroy and to overthrow, 
to build and to plant.”


Luke 13:10-17
Commuppance of a Blowhard

The indignant leader
Huffed and puffed
When the bent-over woman
Raised her head,
Blaming the victim
For being in the right place
At the wrong time.
He didn't even have the dignity
To address the woman,
Much less the man who healed her.
And he kept it up.
(Don't you hate it when that happens?)
So Jesus let him have it.
And he brought the house down,
While the woman smiled
With dignity.

Don't you love it when that happens?

Scott L. Barton

Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), August 14, 2016 - Isaiah 5:1-7 and Luke 12:49-56

from On Being with Krista Tippett
A Commu nion with the Earth: Gardening and Gratitude

Consummate Gardener

I think I know how Yahweh felt,
This pain Isaiah knew to tell;
For I have oft been blessed to dwell
Where stinking vines made gardening hell. 

I know the feeling that you'd like
To cut it all down in some pique,
To slash and burn, to cut and strike,
Since weeds nor vines grow never meek.

But then you take another breath,
And cultivate with love and care,
For weeds, nor vines, nor garden's death
Can make your essence, you forswear.

The Lord would still a garden tend 
Where fruits of love and kindness grow,
And cultivates for that sole end,
Since, "It was good" is all God knows.

Scott L. Barton

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me sing for my beloved 
my love-song concerning his vineyard: 
My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 
He dug it and cleared it of stones, 
and planted it with choice vines; 
he built a watchtower in the midst of it, 
and hewed out a wine vat in it; 
he expected it to yield grapes, 
but it yielded wild grapes. 
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem 
and people of Judah, 
judge between me 
and my vineyard. 
What more was there to do for my vineyard 
that I have not done in it? 
When I expected it to yield grapes, 
why did it yield wild grapes? 
And now I will tell you 
what I will do to my vineyard. 
I will remove its hedge, 
and it shall be devoured; 
I will break down its wall, 
and it shall be trampled down. 
I will make it a waste; 
it shall not be pruned or hoed, 
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; 
I will also command the clouds 
that they rain no rain upon it. 
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts 
is the house of Israel, 
and the people of Judah 
are his pleasant planting; 
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; 
righteousness, but heard a cry!

+  +  +

Luke 12:49-56

Interpreting the Present Time

Don't rock the boat, they always say,
These things always take time;
End slavery?  Let women vote?
Or blacks? Oh, that's a crime
To jump the gun, get people hurt,
Pit brother against brother;
How odd that Jesus knew these things,
But rather than another
Delaying word, he longs for fire!
His grace means not peacekeeping,
But rather, making peace for all!
For God is never sleeping
Whene'er one's siblings get short shrift
But you think things are cool -
You'll want to wake up, then, and not
Have Jesus call you fool!

Scott L. Barton

“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (C), August 7, 2016 - Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 and Luke 12:32-40



Jules Breton: The Song of the Lark (1884)
Art Institute of Chicago


Second Person Plural

Oh, what audacity is faith,
Believing what you do not see,
Some land, some city, up ahead,
No more adrift, at odds, at sea;
And though you wonder how on earth
You'll generate the world you need,
You still, by faith, will act, because
The love of God now supersedes
The country that you left behind:
The promise is for all, not one,
You're part of something bigger now,
Where faith means you have just begun.

Scott L. Barton


Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

+  +  +

Gird Up Your Loins

"Gird up your loins!" as students we'd say,
Which meant, be prepared, or else, in dismay,
You'd find that a paper, or else a big test,
Would cause you to trip, since you were not dressed
To run your next race - or preach a good word;
Then, girding up loins also meant to be spurred
To walk into the pulpit and be not afraid!
"Gird" also means "belt," and thus fasten your blade,
To do battle with powers that make us believe
Our treasures we make, and not simply receive;
And finally, "loins" means it's not about "me,"
But those who come after, who through me might see
That believing means trusting the master to give
What I hardly expect!  But receiving, I live
For the sake of the One who has taught me how grace
Is the treasure of this oft afraid human race.

Scott L. Barton


Luke 12:32-40

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

“But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

[Note: the KJV and RSV use the more literal "let your loins be girded" in vs. 35.]

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (C), July 31, 2016 - Luke 12:13-31 and Hosea 11:1-11

Rembrandt: Parable of the Rich Fool

The "Gospel" of Prosperity

The gospel of prosperity
Is sold with such sincerity
And has such popularity
Some fail to see disparity
Between the Lord's plain clarity
And self-serving barbarity!
I hope someday posterity
Will love with regularity
And look back with hilarity
At how "they" missed faith's verity.


Scott l. Barton

Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Hosea 11:1-11

The Real "Old Testament God"

I read a review of the Requiem - Verdi's -
Which spoke of the fear of "Old Testament God;"
I think that ubiquitous term is a pity,
"Advanced" as we are, who "that God" could not laud;
A dose of Hosea would do us a favor,
To hear God described as One yearning for love,
Who lifted the children, with tenderness, kissing,
But then, like a parent, got back-handed shoved;
It makes you just ache, which then turns into anger,
But being the lover, God knows how to wait;
And when there is trouble, the child returning,
And needing the things that this God can create,
Then finds this "Old Testament God" such a blessing,
Who roars like a lion protecting the young,
Whose wrath is directed towards all that would keep God
From being the One to whom praises are sung.


Scott L. Barton

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and offering incense to idols.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness,
with bands of love.
I was to them like those
who lift infants to their cheeks.
I bent down to them and fed them.

They shall return to the land of Egypt,
and Assyria shall be their king,
because they have refused to return to me.
The sword rages in their cities,
it consumes their oracle-priests,
and devours because of their schemes.
My people are bent on turning away from me.
To the Most High they call,
but he does not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.

They shall go after the Lord,
who roars like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come
trembling from the west.
They shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria;
and I will return them to their homes, says the Lord.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), July 24, 2016 - Hosea 1:2-10 and Luke 11:1-13

Hosea and Gomer: codyfmiller.com
Hosea 1:2-10

Recipe

Hosea gets the bright idea
To utter judgment on Judea;
But God's the real drama queen,
Prescribing what I'd not be keen
To do! And yet, he follows through;
And though, when we, by rights, construe,
The children born were other men's,
Hosea proved that love depends
Not on the unjust ills we've known,
But faithful acts in flesh and bone.

Scott L. Barton

When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.And the Lord said to him, “Name him Jezreel; for in a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.” She conceived again and bore a daughter. Then the Lord said to him, “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have pity on the house of Israel or forgive them. But I will have pity on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God; I will not save them by bow, or by sword, or by war, or by horses, or by horsemen.”

When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not my people and I am not your God.” Yet the number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.”


Luke 11:1-13

Ask and Ask

Let's say you need three loaves of bread
Because you did not plan ahead,
And company arrived at night,
Which gave you such an awful fright
Because your job's to be the host!
What will you do?  It seems the most
That you can do is go next door
And once again that friend implore
For what you need!  You've asked before,
But still, you dare, since your rapport
Suggests that when you would persist,
Your friend next door cannot resist!
It seems that he's a family man,
But you've revealed his bigger plan
That all be fed by human love
Which starts, of course, from God above.

If you would in the Spirit bask,
Then for your neighbor dare to ask -
Christ shows God's not for you alone,
So ask, and ask, that love be grown!

Scott L. Barton
(Also at http://lectionarypoems.blogspot.com/2013/07/tenth-sunday-after-pentecost-july-28.html)

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (C), July 17, 2016 - Amos 8:1-12 and Luke 10:38-42


Abel Meeropol cited this photograph 
of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith
August 7, 1930, as inspiring his poem, Strange Fruit.
Strange, Summer Fruit

The summer fruit of which the prophet speaks
Reminds me of a powerful critique
By Billie Holiday, about strange fruit,
With blood on the leaves and blood at the root.
And though it's been now close to eighty years,
The bitter crop of which she sang appears
On Facebook feeds and in this summer's news,
Such that, today, the nation sings the blues.

Scott L. Barton

Amos 8:1-12

This is what the Lord God showed me—a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord God; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!”
Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.




Luke 10:38-42

Real Freedom

Oh Martha, oh Martha, you're running around,
Distracted, and worried and tense;
And Mary's no help, and the Lord does not care,
He simply wants grace to dispense.
Yes, that is the thing we find so hard to hear,
There's more to do than there are hours!
We cannot keep up; we resent those who don't;
And wish that we had much more power.
But what Jesus means, when to Martha he speaks,
Is, if his disciple you'd be,
You'll trust him 100 per cent with your life;
Receiving: That's when you are free.


Scott L. Barton
(Also at http://lectionarypoems.blogspot.com/2013/07/ninth-sunday-after-pentecost-july-21.html)

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”