Monday, September 17, 2018

The Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 14, 2018 - Hebrews 4:12-16 and Mark 10:17-31


Hebrews 4:12-16 



Hold Fast (A Lesson for the Pastor)

One cannot find a better line
Before the church confession time:
“Since, then, we have a great high priest...”
[And read to] “...help in time of need.”

Fear not to use the scriptures more,
Not just in “lessons;” but restore
The sense, that more than that day’s crowd,
We worship with a witness cloud.

Your creativity that day
Cannot compare to the array
Of ways, time-tested, that express
How words, so old, still richly bless.

Remember that the gathering
Needs less pastoral blathering,
And more the church’s history
For bringing folk to Mystery.

And if this sounds curmudgeony,
Since I’m retired and fancy-free,
Perhaps I wish I could do o’er
The times I fear I must have bored.

Scott L. Barton


Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

+  +  +

Mark 10:17-31



Present Tense, or Eternal Now

The man ran up, and then knelt down
before the Lord could next leave town;
He asked with some anxiety,
while demonstrating piety,
just what he had to do to get
the big brass ring, through legal writ.
How would the LORD grant such a thing
to this child, so aspiring?
To which the son, who knew the ways
His father worked, then next amazed
the man, who walked away in grief
since offered grace gave no relief.

Why grace, you ask, since such a thing
proposed by Jesus seemed to sting?
Just this: That we might realize
eternal life is not some prize
which Jesus by and by suggests
should be his followers' big quest.
The more you have, more you perceive
you have to do, and not receive.
Not camel nor the rich go through,
but love is what threads through to you;
Thus, be not tense, or worry how,
but trust, and live eternally, now.

Scott L. Barton 

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”


A Picture I Can't See
(A poem inspired by a conversation with the Rev. Sarah Buteux, as we were discussing, after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in 2015, the idea espoused by some in Roseburg, Oregon, that more people need to carry concealed weapons.)

I do not think they understand
Propensities the good guys have
To carry evil in our hearts
So sometimes, even we can't save.
If good guys carried guns, they say,
The bad guys couldn't kill as much;
But don't we think we all are good?
And sometimes, can't we all be touched
By what could crawl up from the depths
And do us in - and others, too?
No one is good, but God alone,
Said Jesus then, to me, to you.

Or put it this way: if the good
Alone be armed, then that leaves One;
The One who is all good in love
Who'd be the One to hold the gun!
Is that what God is all about?
Would this God kill for you or me?
Pull out his gun from cloak, concealed...

This is a picture I can't see.

Instead of taking life into
God's hands, God goes and lays down laws
Whose purpose is to help us through,
When we, from what is right, withdraw;
A country's laws, as well, seek to
Prevent the harm some might commit
(Including us, none "Good!") that thus
Society and lives not split.

Meanwhile, God goes and lays down life,
A giving that we can't control,
So we might follow in his way,
And value each and every soul.

Scott L. Barton
  
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone...."

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 7, 2018 - Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12 and Mark 10:2-16


 Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

 

Remember!

I like how the author remarks he remembers
That somebody, somewhere, said humans are rendered
Just lower than angels, since God is so mindful
Of those whom God cares for - a fact that’s delightful!

I think there’s a argument here for the present,
That Psalm 8, to memorize, really is pleasant,
And serves to remind you, whenever you wonder 
If anyone cares when the world’s weight you’re under.

And Christ who knew suff’ring, injustice and dying,
Despite what I see as a lifetime of trying,
A brother who actually cheers on your giving,
Reminds us all still, by his love are we living.

Scott L. Barton

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”

+  +  +

Mark 10:2-16
Jesus welcomes the children
Vie de Jesus Mafa (Cameroon, 1973)


I Never Liked to Preach This Text

I never liked to preach this text,
What with divorcées in the fold,
Perhaps cast out by their home church -
Which marriage two would not extol -
They came for grace, not for a word
Of judgment on what had to be;
What's past, is past, we said; and who
Were we to judge such returnees?

There was a time when our church, too,
Frowned on divorce as that day's sin,
Espec'ally for the clergy, who
Were barred from past'ring church, therein.
What changed? The word of God? Or what
Our Lord said plainly to those men?
(I use that word deliberately,
Since they were wondering for their ken.)

"Can we divorce, like Moses said,"
- they asked to set him up - "or not?"
To which he noted such a rule
Protected women from their lot;
Then his disciples wanted more
In terms of what was wrong and right;
I now believe his twinkling eye
Caused them their wagging tongues to bite.

For though he says adultery
Comes when divorced man marries wife,
He said it's true the other way,
Which must have caused a lot of strife.
"What woman could divorce a man?"
That such a thing could never be
Thus prompted them to turn away
From rules, so they might better see -

The children! - so they'd reassess
The nature of their need for law;
Except ye be as one of these,
You'll lose capacity for awe!
Try not to say who can or can't
Find love anew (or in some form
back then unknown), so you'll be blessed,
And each day's joy will be your norm.

Scott L. Barton

Speaking of preaching this text, the Rev. Sarah Buteux preached an absolutely wonderful one, "Outside the Box," at First Churches, Northampton, on October 4, 2015, in which she addressed marriage, the Pope, Kim Davis, and the thing we all need, and need to hear, the gospel. You can find it here: http://firstchurches.org/outside-the-box-a-sermon-by-rev-sarah-buteux/


Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 30, 2018 - Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22 and Mark 9:38-50


Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22

Rembrandt: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther
Pushkin Museum, Moscow (1660)

Inside Job

Funny how sometimes
Someone on the inside
Can make a difference.
Can stand up to tyranny.
Can be publicly brave.
Can risk her own life.
Can expose resident evil.
Can save her people.

Oh, Esther, wherefore art thou?

Scott L. Barton

So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

+  +  +

Mark 9:38-50


Tasty

He says that I should be at peace,
and look to my own salt;
That is, my flavor should increase,
and be less apt to fault
the faith of others doing good,
as if their recipe
is somehow poison, and not food
that helps some child to see
that she is loved by God no less
than any I might feed;
Remember, that it's God who blesses -
Let none this love impede.

Scott L. Barton

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 23, 2018 - Proverbs 31:10-31 and Mark 9:30-37




Proverbs 31:10-31

The Ideal Woman

It's almost as if the ideal woman
Is one who doesn't need a man -
At least, per this text, which ought to be preached on:
So girls and boys will see God's plan.

She's called to be useful, as she decides it,
To think and act in many spheres,
To care for her fam'ly', diligent, steady,
Her strength and kindness calm all fears.

She doesn't neglect the poor and the needy,
With cheer and confidence she acts,
Her husband's approval's not what she's after,
In serving all, she nothing lacks.

The fear of the LORD is not about cow'ring
'fore God, nor a woman nor man;
Instead, it's big news: All people have value!
- Which we can show our whole lifespan.

Scott L. Barton 

A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all her household are clothed in crimson.
She makes herself coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the city gates,
taking his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her happy;
her husband too, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.

+  +  +

Mark 9:30-37
Thomas Sully: Suffer the Little Children (1850)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

What Is the Mark of Greatness When You Die?

What is the mark of greatness when you die?
Is how you've lived the way to death deny?
When Jesus broached predictions of his death,
Then his disciples almost held their breaths,
While wond'ring, if they, too, should be done in,
What might be said of them by kith and kin?
So Jesus took upon his lap a child,
And said, "Just live with trust like this."
And smiled.

Scott L. Barton

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 16, 2018 - Proverbs 1:20-33 and Mark 8:27-38


Proverbs 1:20-33 



Keep It Real

Look at it this way: 
You'd like life to be simple, right?
Work hard, keep your nose clean,
Provide for those you love, keep up the house.
Then comes an inconvenient truth:
People begging on the medians downtown.
It happens every time.
What do you do? Why are they there?
Why do they keep showing up?
Am I my brother's keeper?

I finally realized that Proverbs' "Wisdom"
Is no obscure, esoteric thing.
She is in the person with the hand-lettered sign.
She knows life is not simple, 
She stretches out her hand and begs me to see.
This is where the Biblical God is.
Without her (yes, it's complicated)
I'll have no concept of the true God
When disaster overtakes me.
Without her, I'll be kept in the dark.

Funny how we love to spiritualize,
But the Bible keeps it real.

Scott L. Barton

Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel,
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
and be sated with their own devices.
For waywardness kills the simple,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be secure
and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

+  +  +

Mark 8:27-38


Marc Chagall: White Crucifixion (1938)
Art Institute of Chicago

I Am Not Sure I Want to Hear

I am not sure I want to hear
This word about a cross so dear
To Jesus' very heart and soul
He says that it should be my goal.
He says, behind him I should get,
Which means to follow him; and yet
I have too much to do, to give
My life, as if it's true he lives.

How can it be, when life's so brief,
And filled with heartache, pain and grief,
The Lord would still invite me where
He goes? I wish he'd not compare
His life to how I'd rather keep
All things, including those who sleep.
And yet, if I can lose my grip,
Perhaps his life might me equip.

Who do I say this Jesus is?
Can I by love show I am his?

Scott L. Barton

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 9, 2018 - Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 and Mark 7:24-37


Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 



Who Are the Real Stars?

I know a man who seems to thrive on constant adulation,
So much so, that he seems to live by straight-faced fabrication,
Proclaiming he would be the brightest ever constellation,
So astronomical, he must deserve a coronation!

Perhaps his Christian followers could hear or read this passage,
And note, to follow such a man, their faith they surely damage;
And I, as well, should always guard I never am complacent,
If I eclipse the poor, then I'll proverbially be chastened.

The text is very clear that it's the poor whom the LORD favors,
Apparently, if you mistreat them, there will be no waivers;
The life of those who hurt the poor, by God will be required;
Presumably, this quirk of God's in force
                                                                        and not expired.

Scott L. Barton

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor have this in common:
the Lord is the maker of them all.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of anger will fail.
Those who are generous are blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor.
Do not rob the poor because they are poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate;
for the Lord pleads their cause
and despoils of life those who despoil them.

+  +  +

Mark 7:24-37
Jesus exorcising the Canaanite Woman's daughter,
from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 
15th century, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France

(Written right after my brother Brian's death three years ago, the following poem could be useful in its entirety; or, I think the first main section can stand alone.)

It Is Not Fair

It is not fair, the good Lord said,
That dogs would get the children's bread;
The woman, very wise, replied,
Dogs on the children's crumbs rely.
Perhaps the Lord re-thought his plan;
More likely, though, this Jewish man
Provoked her, standing there, to think
That no! She was not out of synch
With God's great love for humankind.
And now, I am much more inclined
To think the Lord knew all along
She had to - for herself - see wrong
In categories we devise
That keep God's love for all disguised.

It isn't fair when things go wrong,
I mutter in some language strong
To God and to the midnight sky;
And angry, ask a constant "Why?"
About a loved one who has died,
Where suddenly I cried and cried;
Or one more shooting bringing grief,
From which we all yearn for relief;
Or why we have such race divides,
Where fear of other still misguides;
Atrocities of war so stick
Inside my craw, they make me sick;
Imagining my death, I rage,
That I will have to turn life's page.

Someday I'll learn life's not possessed,
But see it's given, and be blessed.

Scott L. Barton

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 2, 2018 - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 and Song of Solomon 2:8-13


Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553)
Jesus and the Adulteress
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

One Word

One word jumps out at me here: some.
It doesn't say all. 
It doesn't say Jesus.
It says some of the disciples. 

So this was a classic example:
Find something wrong in a group.
And with broad strokes
Rile the crowd to think, all.

Think, immigrants
Think, blacks.
Think, homosexuals.
Some powerful people are good at name-calling.

But Jesus, 
And those who follow him,
Call them out.

One little word shall fell them.

Scott L. Barton

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

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Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (Two poems)



Arise, My Love, My Fair One

He leaps, he does not walk, to her;
He comes not by road, but as the crow flies;
He cannot wait, and she smiles to see.
She sees him arrive. She shares her joy.
"Look," she tells a friend. Or us.
Waiting, looking, catching a glimpse of her,
Enjoying her even when he doesn't have her.
Finally, he invites, "Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away." She is the answer
to the winter of his discontent.
He feels, he sees, he hears, he tastes, he smells -
Everything, all his senses, announce her to him.
And like the invitation of God, he repeats:
"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."

Scott L. Barton

The voice of my beloved! 
Look, he comes, 
leaping upon the mountains, 
bounding over the hills. 
My beloved is like a gazelle 
or a young stag. 
Look, there he stands 
behind our wall, 
gazing in at the windows, 
looking through the lattice. 
My beloved speaks and says to me: 
“Arise, my love, my fair one, 
and come away; 
for now the winter is past, 
the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on the earth; 
the time of singing has come, 
and the voice of the turtledove 
is heard in our land. 
The fig tree puts forth its figs, 
and the vines are in blossom; 
they give forth fragrance. 
Arise, my love, my fair one, 
and come away.


The following poem by Thomas John Carlisle (1913-1992), which inspired a line in the poem above, deserves to be more known.  In addition, Arthur Frackenpohl (b. 1924), now of Pittsford, New York wrote an anthem using this poem that you can obtain from Shawnee Press. 



Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One
(Boaz' Song to Ruth)

Rise up, my love, my fair one. Come away.
The winter of my witlessness is past.
My concentration on the harvest may
have made me heedless but I see at last.
The mist that filmed my mind is over, gone.
The fairest of flowers appears and it is you.
The singing in my heart has me undone
and I am glad and now know what to do.
The figs have ripened. Vines are in full bloom.
Their fruit and fragrance are as naught to all
your luxury which floods away my gloom
and makes me more than eager for your call.
Arise, my love, my fair one. Come away.
This day of days shall be our wedding day.

Thomas John Carlisle
Eve and After: Old Testament Women in Portrait (Eerdmans, 1984)