Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), July 5, 2015 - Mark 6:1-13

Jesus Sends the Apostles, Duccio, c.1300.

The Sacrament of Failure

"Just who does he think that he is," they all said,
"Doing all of these deeds of great power, widespread?"
Whereupon when they took much offense at him,
The chances they reaped for their healing were grim.

A lesson he gave to his friends was to leave,
Move on, when it's clear good news won't be received;
Not taking your marbles away in a huff,
But trusting God's grace for them still is enough.

You won't change the world, and not always succeed,
He sent then his friends out to do what good deeds
They could! But when failing, he told them to shake
The dust from their feet, that their spirits not break.

Some call it, of failure, a sacrament, now,
A physical sign that God lives, despite how
We're tempted to think that it's all up to us;
It's God's time in which the whole world will be blessed.

Scott L. Barton

(Leonard Sweet's sermon, "The Sacrament of Failure" has stayed with me since Colgate Rochester Divinity School/BexleyHall/Crozer's commencement service in 1976.)

He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bonus poem: The SCOTUS Rules!

THE SCOTUS RULES!

The SCOTUS rules!
Now, if you're gay,
You now may wed
In places where
It once was said
That you could not!
In Arkansas,
Now it's the law;
In Georgia, too,
They'll say, "I do,"
And then, "Ye haw!"
Kentucky now
Cannot forbid
Two folk who'd rid
Themselves of single
Fate! Not late
To altar be
In Tennessee;
Louisianans
Who are gay
Now say hurray!
In Michigan
No court now can
Prohibit bliss
'Tween miss and miss;
If in Missouri
One man should
His love decree,
The other now
Can say, "Show me!"
In South Dakota
And in North,
The wedding plans
Can now go forth;
Ohio mates
Of the same sex
Can fix the date,
And lists now check;
And Texans gay
Or straight need not
Go on in alone state;
Nebraskans of
All kinds can wed,
And secrecy
Now shed.
From North to South,
From coast to coast,
The SCOTUS rule
Now says the most
About how marriage
Is esteemed:
And more will live
As loving teams!


Scott L. Barton
June 26, 2015

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bonus Poem: Clementa Pinckney and the Tipping Point

Clementa Pinckney and the Tipping Point

I do not think that I exaggerate
That we have reached a tipping point in race,
When suddenly the retail giants state
That on that flag, they've done an about face.

Clementa Pinckney was the real deal,
The politicians on both sides agreed:
When welcoming the killer, though he sealed
His fate, he followed, thus, his Lord indeed.

Who knows the things that then went through his mind
To have that stranger in their midst right there,
And yet, he knew his call was to be kind,
And thus he offered up his life in prayer.

The others, too, in seeking to protect
Their loved ones, who were in the line of fire -
And so from them, they sought the evil to deflect -
To higher natures help us all aspire.

Somehow this week the politicians knew
The truth, which by such acts of love appeared,
And they will make official what is true,
For peace, sometimes you give up what is dear.

Scott L. Barton

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bonus Poem: Especially for Those Who Are Not Surprised

Especially for Those Who Aren't Surprised

Some say they are not surprised
at the violence just committed in Charleston,
by the hatred and ignorance
that seems to be the norm.

But let us be surprised,
for without surprise we cannot grieve,
and without grief we cannot change even ourselves,
and without our own change,
how can the world be redeemed?

What if each white person could admit our true identity:
Recipients of a legacy of which we are not proud,
which we still need to repudiate;
in fact, no longer wave the flag of our race,
but ask forgiveness, again and again,
that someday the violence ends, and we
may be surprised by an embrace?

Scott L. Barton

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 28, 2015 - Mark 5:21-43


Ilya Repin: Raising of Jairus' Daughter (1871)
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

When Jairus and the Woman Heard

When Jairus and the woman heard
Of Jesus, there was nothing that deterred
Them both from bowing low before the one
Who'd heal where they had come undone.

Who knows where else they'd gone to find
Not only healing, nor just peace of mind,
But someone with the kind of love that saves,
Not that which just attention craves.

This little girl just twelve years old,
This woman, who, for twelve years unconsoled,
This girl, though dead, the Lord not loathe to touch,
This one who touched, and risked so much;

These two reborn, both at twelve years,
Reveal propriety is far less dear
To God than we, called like the Twelve, surmise;
Great grace is always such surprise!


Scott L. Barton

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 21, 2015 - 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 and Mark 4:35-41

Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633)
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, stolen 1990


Identifying with Those Once Stirred

Oh, how exciting, these two tales to tell!
The danger and the dialogue propel
Us forward, like a stone that from a sling
Is slung, and soon it all comes to a head!
In story one, Goliath falls down dead,
And we and Israel's army cheer and sing
Because in God this David put his trust.
In story two, the waves and blowing gusts -
Which would destroy - are calmed with just a word,
And those who were afraid are filled with awe.
How easily, by such emotions raw,
We can identify with those once stirred
By One who gave such courage to a lad,

Whose word of peace so strong, it makes us glad.

Scott L. Barton

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

+ + +

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 14, 2015 - 1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13

Synagogue interior wood panel.
Dura Europos, Syria. 

300 B.C.-257 A.D, in current eastern Syria.
Source: Gill/Gillerman slide collection.
When Samuel Sought the Choice of Heaven

The LORD told Samuel not to grieve
When Saul to Yahweh didn't cleave;
Instead, he said, another king
He'd choose from Jesse's male offspring.
To Bethlehem, thus, Samuel came
To see which son the LORD would claim.
From Eliab to number seven
Old Samuel sought the choice of heaven
To be the next anointed one;
But of all those, the Lord chose none.

"Make something of yourself," some say,
As if such making could display
The thing that makes a life worthwhile;
And yet before our work, or style,
Or how we put ourselves to use,
Is something we could ne'er induce
Ourselves - quite simply, that we are!
Such recognition is, by far,
The thing to turn a life around,
And all anxieties confound.

Thus Samuel took his horn of oil,
(Which made, perhaps, the brothers boil)
And witnessed to the faith he knew,
That what we are is not our due,
But outright gift, to me, to you.

Scott L. Barton

Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.