Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Third Sunday of Easter (A), April 30, 2017 - Acts 2:14a, 36-41 and Luke 24:13-35



                                                 Caravaggio: Supper at Emmaus, 1601

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Drop in the Bucket

It's almost like an afterthought,
The number who were added.
Before, the news that Jesus was
Messiah had been dreaded
Because, if he was dead and gone,
From whence would come their rescue?
What kind of gratitude was that,
To crucify, not thank, you?

Thus, at a crossroads did they find
Themselves, while Pete exhorted;
And heard God's reach extended wide,
And could not be distorted
To say that just a few could reap
The benefits of living
With knowledge of the God who made
A name by faithful giving.

But now, all immigrants to faith
Were welcomed without papers,
For Christ, in giving all, had waived
Restrictions on their neighbors;
Three thousand, in the bucket, then,
Was just a drop's beginning
Towards when a world with love for all
Will one day sure be brimming.

Scott L. Barton

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

+  +  +

Luke 24:13-35

In the Breaking

This long and detailed story makes
It seem as if the writer knew
First hand "what things" took place that day
When Cleopas, and other Jews,
Recounted to this stranger how
"Their" leaders had turned Jesus in;
If Luke was there, then even he
Can't recognize the man as kin!
And even after teaching - words
You'd think that he would recognize -
It's only in the breaking of
The bread, the Lord is now reprised;
This breaking - word made flesh - by one
Born in the place called house of bread,
Is how in each and ev'ry age
We'll see him risen from the dead.

Scott L. Barton

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Second Sunday of Easter (A), April 23, 2017 - 1 Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:19-31


                             Caravaggio: The Incredulity of St. Thomas (c. 1602)

1 Peter 1:3-9

Quasimodogeniti Sunday*

As in the style of newborn babes
We do not know what's yet to come;
Believers, by the world's strong powers
May, like our Lord, be yet undone;
And yet, there's more that's up God's sleeve,
An unformed hope by which we live,
It cannot be imagined; yet,
We trust the one who gives and gives.

Such trust is what will save our souls,
In gladness, now, our God extol!

Scott L. Barton

*Name given to this day because of the traditional introit's text (in Latin) from 1 Peter 2:2: Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—
This poem was also inspired by an interview with Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Al-Quosia, Upper Egypt: http://www.presbyterianmission.org/story/carrying-cross-without-fear/

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

+  +  +

 John 20:19-31

Your door’s too light to shut out God.

Young man –
Young woman –
Old man –
Old woman –
Middle-aged man –
Middle-aged woman –
Your door’s too light to shut out God.
You may think
You’re safe from trouble
And nothing can get in,
You may think
The door is barred
For fear of what has been,
You may think
That what you’ve done could
Never be forgiven,
Or most of all,
That love is gone,
Along with joyful living;
But when for all
That you’ve been through
You then expect the least,
The Lord of love
Will walk right in
And say just one word: Peace.

Scott L. Barton

(The beginning is a take-off on James Weldon Johnson’s “The Prodigal Son” from “God’s Trombones.”)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Resurrection of the Lord (A), April 16, 2017 - Matthew 28:1-10



St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Charleston, South Carolina.
It's difficult to find an image with just the two (not one or three) Marys.
Despite the stylized image of Jesus here, we can imagine him here 
pointing towards Galilee.

Resurrection Key

A choral work, in major key, 
The Bach Magnificat in D,
Once made me laugh out loud to hear
Repeated music, that appeared
Within the Gloria Patri when
The music came around again -
As it was in the beginning!
Clever Bach, had, in our singing,
Taken us to where we'd started,
Scoring notes already charted.
This technique which Bach employed
Elicits, it turns out, much joy.

So, Matthew, cleverness displayed
With Jesus' "Do not be afraid;
Tell [them] to go to Galilee;
[For it is] there they will see me."
Why Galilee? It's at the start!
And there it is you'll find the heart
Of who the risen Jesus is - 
In all the things he did then, viz.
Forgiving, healing and inviting -
It makes this risen Lord exciting
Since you can see him there, today -
And Resurrection, thus convey.

Go back, the story read anew,
May then his life repeat in you. 


Scott L. Barton

(The idea that "Galilee" means going back to the beginning of Matthew's gospel comes from Tom Long in a Christian Century article, April 4, 2006. James Burton, new conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Festival Chorus and B.S.O. Choral Director, reminded me of the name of the particular piece of music I sang years ago. The poem has been revised from the original free verse poem for April 13, 2014.)

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Friday, March 31, 2017

Palm Sunday, Liturgy of the Palms (A), April 9, 2017 - Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 and Matthew 21:1-11


       Palmesel, 15th c, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection 1955

Our Parentage

O Church! Do not forget our parentage,
Our roots in Israel of old,
Our parents cried, "Hosanna" to the LORD,
A plea to save - and now!  So bold
Were they, they cried it yet again that day
When Jesus rode his donkey in,
While from the city's other side, the king -
Who did not save - with pomp and din
Of horse and armor tried to claim the power
That oft has captured human hearts;
But those who know the Lord, the Lord of love, 
Will never from this God depart.

Scott L. Barton

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
(Here's one way you could set these verses as a response between leader and congregation.)

L: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, 
P: "His steadfast love endures forever.”
Open to me the gates of righteousness, 
that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
L: This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
P: I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation.
L: The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
P: This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
L: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
P: Save us, we beseech you, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech you, give us success!
L: Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD. 
P: We bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light. 
L: Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar.
P: You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God, I will extol you.
ALL: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.

+ + +

Matthew 21:1-11

The Donkey in the Room

We like to keep our politics
Apart from Sunday church;
And woe to preachers who would dare
The worship to besmirch
With commentary on the powers
That tend to rule the day;
And yes, it can be overdone -
And peoples' trust betray;
But Jesus, on parade that day,
Lampooned the power and might
Of all, like Caesar, who in great
Display would take delight;
He's making fun of those who lord
It over people's hearts;
This Jesus, not just meek and mild,
Is brave, and heav'nly smart.

Scott L. Barton

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, 'The Lord needs them.' And he will send them immediately." This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying, 

"Tell the daughter of Zion, 
Look, your king is coming to you, 
humble, and mounted on a donkey, 
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." 

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, 

"Hosanna to the Son of David! 
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! 
Hosanna in the highest heaven!" 

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, "Who is this?" The crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee."