Friday, August 18, 2017

The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), August 27, 2017 - Matthew 16:13-20 and Exodus 1:8 - 2:10




Shiphrah, Puah, Jocheved, Miriam, Pharoah's Daughter, and the infant Moses. 
Painting in Dura-Europas synagogue, in present-day Syria, discovered in 1932, the last phase of construction dated by an Aramaic inscription to 244 CE. Photo courtesy of Art in the Christian Tradition, Vanderbilt Divinity Library.

Matthew 16:13-20

"Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah."

Perhaps he thought a movement, underground,
Would be more fitting for his church
Than something popular, and much renowned;
Who knows? The Lord, I guess. But search
The Scriptures and you'll see it's hard to find
Cathedrals, or a meetinghouse,
Or power, or wealth; for what this Peter binds,
Is us to Christ, despite our doubts
Faced every day that he alone can save;
We're free to follow him - or loosed! -
In church or out; but in, are people brave,
Because from love they're ne'er seduced.

Scott L. Barton
(It may well be that the terms "bind" and "loose" are rabbinic for forbidding and permitting. But here I see the former as forbidding our separation from God, and the latter as permitting us to follow in the footsteps of the Lord of all.)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is? And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

+  +  +

Exodus 1:8 - 2:10


Five Women's Disobedience

The civil disobedience
Of women isn't new,
Nor did it stop with just one case
Where midwives helped push through
The life that Yahweh had in mind;
Oh, no! This kind of birth,
Meant not for just a few back then
Is all about the worth
Of all - despite some despot's claim
That he could cleanse a race
Right off the map! His daughter even
Risks her own disgrace,
While Shiphrah and Puah, and Moses'
Mother and sister, too,
By their outwitting, show this LORD
Will never be subdued.

Scott L. Barton
(somewhat modified from its original publication for 8/24/14)

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Bonus Poem: Hymn, "Oh, Charlottesville!"


Oh, Charlottesville!
A hymn that can be sung to the tune "Materna" by Samuel A. Ward

Oh, Charlottesville! A nation grieves
To see men so deceived
By claims of white supremacy,
And, violence we see
Resulting in the murder of
One who was surely loved;
And so we also stand, oh, Charlottesville, 
For you, with God above.

Oh, Charlottesville, your pride in those
Who stand for truth is great;
Who know the image of our God
In each one conquers hate;
Hold high the flag of liberty
For all in this great land;
May every soul, by love controlled,
For everyone now stand.

Oh, Charlottesville, for you we pray,
And for our nation, dear;
That soon the love of neighbor reigns
To wipe away our tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Scott L. Barton
Written 8/12/17, on the anniversary of the birth of Katharine Lee Bates, author of "America the Beautiful," in 1859

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), August 20, 2017 - Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28 and Genesis 45:1-15



 Jean Colombe: The Canaanite Woman, in the French Gothic manuscript, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, completed 1485–1489; Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

It's the Canaanite Woman Who Gives Me Delight



Oh, to think that he learned it from some Canaanite

When he knew it quite well, but he wasn't quite right;

When he argued how food couldn't make you defiled,

Which in hearing reports, made the Pharisees riled,

Since to toss out religion, tradition and rules

Can produce people fearful, and fretful, and fools!

But the prophets have always decried when a rite 

Has, in hurting the poor, turned creative thought, trite;

Jesus, too, observed how the establishment fails

To point out where society's "goodness" oft ails;

But he found himself mouthing traditional aims

That did nothing the love of his God to proclaim:

Thus, the Canaanite mom played her prophetic role,

Reaching back to Hosea and Amos and Joel;

But the thing about Jesus is, he paid her heed -

Helping those who now follow him, follow his lead!

Scott L. Barton

Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28


Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.” Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”



Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

+  +  +

Genesis 45:1-15


Rembrandt: Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers (c. 1640-1642), Musée du Louvre


"And after this his brothers talked with him."



I wonder what it was they talked about

When Joseph finally told them who he was?

Perhaps, "How's Dinah? How's she holding up?"

Or, "How's your mother? ...Yours? ...And yours?" because

We're led to think he cared about such things;

We can guess, "Don't be angry with yourselves"

Reveals he knew his family well enough

To see that deep within these brothers twelve

Was worry over whom Dad loved the best!

He later* tells them not to quarrel on the way. 

They talked. They left. The promise did not die;

And talk is not as cheap as people say.
                                                                        *(vs. 24)
Scott L. Barton

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), August 13, 2017 - Matthew 14:22-33 and Genesis 37:1-28 [5-11 officially not included]




Tanner, Henry Ossawa: Disciples See Christ Walking on the Water (ca 1907)
                                                      Des Moines Art Center
  
Matthew 14:22-33 

Just a Bit

He makes them go into the boat
And while he prays, to go ahead;
He tells them not to be afraid -
Unlike a ghost, he isn't dead;
To Peter he commands he come
To him atop the batt'ring waves;
He notes that Peter has some faith,
And some is all it takes to save;
But some was not enough for Pete,
Who thought that he could have it all.
If that's your goal, then you're all wet,
A bit of trust avoids a fall.

Scott L. Barton

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


                     Ferenczy, Károly, Joseph Sold into Slavery by his Brothers (1900), 
                                                Hungarian National Gallery

Genesis 37:1-28

Another "Here I Am!"

Once again you have to wonder
If a patriarch believes -
For Jacob knows the boys can't stand
This Joseph with long sleeves;
It's not as if the father is
Oblivious to the threat;
He knows how much the dreamer is
Despised by them - And yet
He still sends out his pride and joy
(Another lamb to slaughter);
He knows the opportunity
Will make their mouths all water!
I think deep down he wonders: "Is
This promise true? Or tale?"
Is this a challenge to the LORD
To see if it will fail?
Perhaps his father, Isaac, once
Had told him 'bout that ram,
Then, just like Grandpa, Joseph tells
His father, "Here I am!"
It takes all kinds to grow this faith,
The doubters and the brave,
The truth is, Yahweh works through both
To show the love that saves.

Scott L. Barton

[Please see also the poem for July 2 about the almost-sacrifice of Isaac.]

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

[Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words. He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.]

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’“ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” —that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father.

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), August 6, 2017 - Romans 5:1-9; Genesis 32:22-31 and Matthew 14:13-21

Romans 9:1-5

Original Testament to Grace

Oh, would more Christians viewed the "Old"
More like "Original," extolled
Just like the "New," a testament
To gospel, with the temperament
Of all the grace you find in Paul;
Although his people weren't enthralled 
By Christ, it works the other way
Around, for Christians oft betray
The faith in which our Lord was raised.
Instead of old dare be amazed
At how original and new
Is love by which our forebears grew.
- And so can you. 

Scott L. Barton

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.


+  +  +

Genesis 32:22-31 and Matthew 14:13-21  


                                 Marc Chagall, Jacob wrestling with the angel, 1931
                         Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France


                                   Vie de Jesus Mafa, Jesus Multiplies the Loaves

 Hilarious Unexpectedness

It's as if, like his grandfather,
He, too, plays a game of chicken
With this Yahweh, testing whether
He can entrust all that he has
To the promise of abundance;
He sends them off, unprotected,
Wrestling all night with what he's done.
But the grabber gets a blessing,
Although it doesn't come scot-free -
Faith limps in this, our family tree.

Along comes Jesus. He's alone,
In his own way, he's wrestling, too.
The crowds can't get enough of him;
Can his disciples carry on?
But they need another lesson -
Astonishing numbers he feeds!
Hilarious unexpectedness,
Not disaster we expect,
Is news that comes again this week,
When of this God, we dare to speak.


Scott L. Barton
[The phrase "hilarious unexpectedness" is from Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. See http://www.frederickbuechner.com/content/weekly-sermon-illustration-gospel-comedy.]

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.


* * *

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), July 30, 2017 - Romans 8:26-39 and Genesis 29:15-28



                                     Rembrandt: Laban Leading Rachel or Leah (1635)

Romans 8:26-39

No Magic

How odd our sacred book admits
We often don't know how to pray,
And yet, how wonderful, in Christ,
There are no magic words to say.

No special turn of phrase is key
To what's profound, unlocked within,
No need to speak at all, in fact,
No should or ought, no promised spin.

For God's the one who now conspires
For good with those whose love is prayer,
A company, a family 
Whose glory is beyond compare.

The reason why, cannot be proved,
Explained in sermon or in poem,
Not words, but just the fact of love
Is how the One who counts is known.

Scott L. Barton

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

+  +  +

Genesis 29:15-28


Holy Fools

The cheat became the cheated, 
In Laban he met his match;
To marry Laban's daughters off,
A daring plan was hatched;
When Jacob saw those lovely eyes,
He knew that he'd been had,
His eyes were opened to the truth:
"I'm not the only cad!"
I wonder if the "girls" were in on
Laban's crafty plan?
He says, "WE'LL give the other, too,
If you serve ME [the man]
Another set of seven years." 
Thus, he whose mother pulled
The wool over his father's eyes
By women, too, was fooled!
Oh! What a pack of fools and foolers
Form this family tree!
Which goes to show the nature of
The prodigality
Behind the LORD who chose them all
As blessers and as blessed;
And holy fools today still know
By love they are possessed.

Scott L. Barton

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), July 23, 2017 - Romans 8:12-25 and Genesis 28:10-19a



                                 Marc Chagall: Jacob's Ladder (one of several)

Romans 8:12-25

This Much Is Clear

I worry where the world is headed,
With climate change not only dreaded,
But now a chunk the size of Delaware 
Has broken from Antarctica. Beware!

I worry that, back home, the President,
- By tweets and, what he says, the evidence,
Non-curious, and with a one-track mind -
Cares just for money, sex, his base and kind.

He has no understanding of us all;
But kings and rulers often have appalled
The people they are meant by God to serve;
We do not always get what we deserve.

And so, although in pain creation groans,
A God of love can ne'er despair condone;
Since hope in Christ's the opposite of fear,
Then we, his people, still can make it clear.

Scott L. Barton

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

+  +  +

Genesis 28:12-19a

This Stairway to Heaven Really Makes Me Wonder

"How awesome is this place," he says,
Where hope and presence intersect;
It is as if God lives where, missing
What you long for, you expect
It yet to be!
       Though you can't see
What otherwise would leave you stunned;
And so the LORD to Jacob says,
"I will not leave you 'til I've done
What I have promised."
        So, I ask,
Does this mean God might someday leave?
The text implies as much!
        And yet,
Perhaps God's "present" when we cleave
To what, in hope, we cannot see,
And God's house - Bethel - is that place
And time when you and everyone
Now realize that just by grace
Are more than moon and heaven ours,
And stairways climb to more than stars.

Scott L. Barton

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.