Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bonus Poem - It's Hogmanay, or New Year's Eve

It's Hogmanay, or New Year's Eve,
The Scots' "first-footing" the belief
That if a dark-haired man's first in
The door, good luck is your motif;
So I remark now to my wife:
Once, that was easy in our house,
But now we look in vain to see
A hint of dark in either spouse!
To show the start of this New Year,
All kinds of things drop down this night -
Times Square, of course, has their big ball,
All crystal, with thousands of lights;
Atlanta has a giant peach,
And Eastport, Maine, a big sardine;
In Ocean City, Maryland,
A beach ball is the time machine;
In Mobile, Alabama falls
A half-ton moon (electric) pie!
And then, in Tempe, Arizona,
Falling from the desert sky,
A big tortilla chip descends
Into a massive salsa dip!
In Brasstown, North Car'lina, yes -
A 'possum makes that New Year's trip!
And down in Key West, Florida,
A giant ruby slipper's seen
A-coming down, in which there stands
- I kid you not - a real drag queen!
- But back in Pelham, Mass., I know
The thing this night that's up ahead
Is two old folks, without applause,
Who, early on, will fall in bed.

Scott L. Barton
(with thanks to Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" for lots of details)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Epiphany of the Lord, January 6, 2014 - Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12; also Micah 5:2-5a

You have to be careful in choosing a text
When trying to figure what God will do next;
The wise men, it seems, had Isaiah in mind,
For in chapter 60, the prophet assigned
Jerusalem as the location for light
To shine, with the glory of Yahweh so bright
The wealth of the nations around it would come!
With frankincense, camels and gold they'd become
Disciples! From darkness, God's glory'd redound
To those who'd kept faith, and would now be renowned!
But wise can be wrong - they were off by nine miles!
The text that they needed was just not their style,
For Micah had said that a town, oh so small,
Would bring forth the one to be shepherd of all!
Poor Herod (the rich) also knew not this text,
And sent for the scribes of the people, perplexed
Because of the ruler his visitors sought;
Not wise, nor the powerful, ever had thought
A prophet from out in the country could know
A place such as Bethlehem ever could show
The world a new ruler who'd ever increase
The good of the world with his treasure of peace.

Scott L. Barton

(Based on the published observation of Walter Breuggemann that
imagines the wise men off by nine miles after picking the wrong text.)

Isaiah 60:1-6
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has
risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness
the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will
appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the
brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all
gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you
shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because
the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the
nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the
young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise
of the Lord.

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of
Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall
give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought
forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of
Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the
Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall
live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and
he shall be the one of peace.

Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child
who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its
rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this,
he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together
all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them
where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of
Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem,
in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the
exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem,
saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have
found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them,
went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over
the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had
stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they
saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him
homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of
gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not
to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Bonus Poem - 'TWAS THE FRIDAY 'FORE CHRISTMAS (with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

'Twas the Friday 'fore Christmas, and all through the mall,
Every creature was hurrying while walking the halls;
The clothing was hung in the windows with care,
In hopes that the shoppers might buy each thing there;
The babies were bundled in roll-around beds,
While visions of ' Secret bras danced in my head;
Some still wore their scarves and their coats and their caps,
But most for the long night had cast off their wraps;
When Macy's I saw, with all glitter and glamour,
I knew right away I'd find what I was after;
Straight into the store, then, I rapidly dashed,
Through aisles of perfume ("Whew!" I shuttered, unsplashed);
The salesfolk all dressed up from head down to toes
Gave a luster of elegance 'round each tableau;
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a short line in front of a Macy's cashier!
I stepped up my pace, walking lively and quick,
Thinking in just a moment, my presents I'd pick;
But quickly I found that my hopes were all lame,
When "maternity" was the department I named;
"Now, is it your daughter, or your next of kin
Who's pregnant?" she asked. "Yes!" I said with a grin;
"Then up to the second floor of this fine mall
Dash now! For that's not in this aisle at all!"
As shoppers that in Christmas crowds then must try
To meet just the right person from whom they might buy,
So up the escalator, determined, I flew,
To buy clothes for the daughter in four more months due!
And then, in a twinkling, I felt like a goof
For into maternity soon I did hoof;
As I drew near the racks and was looking around,
No kind, "May I help you?" would to me redound;
When finally I found someone to troubleshoot,
She looked through the clothes, much like I, a galoot;
So I left!  And on iPhone, my line of attack,
Motherhood Maternity was the store that I tracked,
But then, all the shoppers! And stores!  Oh, how scary!
Oh, where should I go? So I called with a query;
I drew up for her where I was so she'd know
Where my chin should be pointed, and I could then go
Find her store, not be stumped, and not gritting my teeth,
Thus I circled back down to the floor underneath;
I wanted some yoga pants for a round belly,
The salesgirl then laughed, said she wanted to hug me -
For not buying online, but from off of the shelf!
So I laughed when she spoke that, in spite of myself;
A wink of her eye and a twist of her head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
She knew the right words, and went straight to her work,
I didn't want stockings; (Oh, what a good clerk!)
Fold-over and secret-fit PANTS, are the clothes,
Not leggings, and thus, in her hands there arose
The pieces I wanted, so I gave, then, a whistle;
I paid, and then flew, like the down of a thistle.
But I heard her exclaim, ere I strode out of sight—
"Merry Christmas to you - and your daughter, so bright!"

Scott L. Barton

Monday, December 23, 2013

First Sunday after Christmas Day, December 29, 2013 - Matthew 2:13-23

It seems to me I've heard this song before;
Remember Joseph, by his dad, adored?
Who, off to Egypt went one day, enslaved,
As good as dead, his brothers so depraved
They'd even murder just to guarantee
He'd bloom no more upon the fam'ly tree?
But then, in dreams, we see that God persists
In showing that he all the while insists
That even though a tyrant's on the throne,
Those loved by God will never stand alone;
Again weeps Rachel - God abandons not -
And this new dreaming Joseph finds a spot
To raise the child born with no silver spoon!
- All to the end that we might be attuned
To hear the old familiar score, known well,
God's yearning, searching love for all, retell.

Scott L. Barton


Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”


When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”


When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Monday, December 16, 2013

Nativity of the Lord, December 24/25, 2013 - Luke 2:1-20

Perhaps they thought it was the Feds who'd come for them!
Somehow, the N.S.A. had tracked, and would condemn
Those dirty shepherds, since they had not registered,
And since, without green cards, Augustus' wrath incurred!
But soon they found the searchlight not to be the law,
Which, with relief, provoked a different kind of awe;
That is, more powerful than all the "powers that be,"
Was then announced - as now - the holy mystery:
Quite openly, the one who saves comes not by strength
Of arm, but will not fail to go to any length
For love!  Thus wrapped, so even shepherds might embrace
This child, we, too, now hold our breath, to see such grace.

Scott L. Barton

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22, 2013 - Matthew 1:18-25

What's in a name? Look at them here!
Jesus - the Messiah - Mary -
Joseph - Holy Spirit - the Lord -
David - Emmanuel - Jesus -
And the main character gets three!
This introduction, this prologue,
This tale to whet the appetite,
Foreshadows many other names:
Door - good shepherd - way - truth - life - bread -
Lamb of God - Rabbi - Son of God -
King of Israel - Saviour - Lord;
Perhaps the baby reminds us
That he by any other name
Would smell as sweet.

Scott L. Barton

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Third Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2013 - Matthew 11:2-11

To a contractor I have said,
"Are you the one who is to come,
Or shall we wait for another?"
Now let's say I ask it this week,
Since now my particular need
Is getting a load of firewood;
But what if the answer I hear is,
"I am heating peoples' houses
For their entire lives, not just
One load at a time.  Pretty cool!"
Would I risk it?  Would I believe?
Or would my faith be just in what
I can see - my wood, the stove's flame?
The Preposterous One does more
Than you or I can imagine:
People see the light! Get moving!!
They're no longer outcast!!! They hear!!!!
Their spirits are no longer dead!!!!!
AND THE POOR EVEN HAVE GOOD NEWS!!!!!!
(Can you tell Matthew's shouting now?)

A Messiah like that may be
A better bargain than you thought.

Scott L. Barton

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bonus Poem - On the Sale at Auction of One of the 11 Remaining Copies of the Bay Psalm Book, by the Old South Church, Boston, for $14.2 million, on November 26, 2013

The Puritans could not conceive
The price just paid for holy leaves
That one of them, while standing, held
To sing of grace, which had compelled
A song! In English metre they,
In Colony there by the Bay
Encouraged faith in God who gave,
By singing Psalms, from birth to grave;
God was their help in ages past,
And now, one book has just amassed
A record sum, which has been paid
For ministries to grow, and aid
The telling, by the Old South Church,
The truth that wheresoe'er you search,
The God to whom they sang cannot
Be pinned down, nor can grace be bought;
And if the Old South's forebears could
Return, I trust that each one would
Agree that there's no price which buys
The Shepherd, who all needs supplies.

Scott L. Barton

Bonus Poem on a Beloved Pastor's Leaving

I wrote this for Sarah Buteux, the pastor of the church I've been attending who is being called by God to a new ministry, a new way of being and doing church, something both exciting and a bit scary. If you've ever had a pastor you love leave for another ministry, or if you, yourself, have left and had deeply mixed feelings about leaving behind the people you loved, this poem could be for you, too.

I always have known how courageous you are;
When preaching and leading, you shine like the star
Which stopped o'er the house where the baby was born,
Attracting from east and west, wise and forlorn,
The people who glimpsed such unfath'mable love!
Thus, pointing the way that the heavens above,
Incarnate become in this day and this age,
You show us that faith is not just on a page,
But speaks to the hearts of the people of God;
(And hearing the truth, it might then make us odd!)
It's funny how Jesus, who taught, fed and healed,
Just couldn't stay put; and in leaving, revealed,
That people all over the map need to hear
The news that, by God! - and in God! - they are dear!
So also, I say, if some days you're perplexed,
You're never forsaken no matter what's next;
I'll always give thanks you're a woman so brave,
Who makes the world smile when she shows how Christ saves.

Scott L. Barton

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2013 - Matthew 3:1-12

He's not very Christmassy,
This John the B.,
To people presuming that
They're guaranteed
To have the good life because
Priv'leged they are;
But when the one born, who was
Brought gifts of myrrh,
Reveals a new twist on what
John thought would come,
The world can now know that all
Judging succumbs
To he who now chooses to
Make from the grain
The bread of his life so we'll
All know love's reign.

Scott L. Barton

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bonus Poem - Thanksgiving, 2013

I write to you from near the place
Where Wampanoags once shared
Their bounty with those Pilgrim folk,
Who must have once despaired
From all that this new world had giv'n;
Their pain and loss so deep
That faith in God who loved them must
Have been so hard to keep.

The words their pastor Robinson
Had spoken 'cross the pond,
Still rang within their broken hearts
And called them to respond
With trust that yet more light would break
Forth from God's holy word;
Who knew a Massachusetts tribe
Would be how grace occurred?

Now, thanks to them, we gather yet
To thank the Lord above
For fam'ly near and far, and friends
Who show to us the love
We need, and need to give;
And so these words I send
To you - in hopes this day will help
You grace, to all, extend.

Scott L. Barton

Monday, November 25, 2013

The First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2013 - Matthew 24:36-44

Oh, woe to the preacher who parses this text
To figure just how and when Jesus comes next;
For those of the "left behind" ilk are the folk
Who build their theology on such a joke
As worrying whether they all might be saved!
But Jesus calls "worry" a trip to the grave!
For back in verse three, when his friends sought to know
The timetable for the world's powers' overthrow
He gave this long discourse so they might all see
The one thing in life that's God's sure guarantee
Is that THIS day's your chance to see Christ in your deeds,
Leaving end times to God, so for love you'll be freed.

Scott L. Barton

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah
were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days
before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing
until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the
coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be
taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together;
one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you
do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if
the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief
was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his
house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of
Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bonus Poem on the 50th anniversary of J.F.K.'s assassination

Everyone who is old enough
remembers where they were
fifty years ago today, a
Friday, as I recall:
A rumor as we walked upstairs
from biology to
Mrs. Kelly's English class -
last period - the p. a.
announcement - the President's shot -
and Mrs. Kelly cried.
Oh, what brave words could she say then?
"I think that we should pray."
- Of course, no work would then be done -
So we just prayed - and hoped -
and then it came, the final news -
in the hall, no one spoke -
lockers slammed - and Jim Wohlgemuth,
a little redhead, cried,
"Shit!" - and his prayer to God was one
that had no good answer.

Scott L. Barton

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reign of Christ, November 24, 2013 - Psalm 46 (with a closing reference to Romans 8:28)

God is our refuge
    and God is our strength,
And people these days
    o'er the breadth and the length
Of the Philippines know
    - more than most -
         what this means;
For relief do they cry,
    when relief is unseen;
Oh! What destruction
    as far as the eye
And the news can perceive,
    so with tears we all cry;
But though earth and sea change,
    - and the mountains all shake,
Our God is the one
    who will never forsake;
It's a long ways away
    - to the end of the earth! -
But the one who breaks bows,
    Breaks despair, so rebirth
Will occur! So now know,
    in our comfort,
        though faith may be thin,
That God with us conspires
    for our kith and our kin.

Scott L. Barton


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the
mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its
tumult. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy
habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help
it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his
voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has
brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and
shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I
am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Monday, November 11, 2013

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, November 17, 2013 - Isaiah 65:17-25

Every Advent my wife and I send
A lion and lamb Christmas card;
We carry on the tradition
of my Reformation professor,
Charlie, and his wife, Eloïse;
It's nice to have a theme,
But it's not always easy.
Sometimes I almost despair
of finding one that has
The right amount of preposterousness!
I don't want it to be "religious;"
Surprise, even comedy, is the key.
Isn't this what we mean by
God's vision for the world?
Unexpected?  Brand new?
And then, as in answer to prayer,
A new lion and lamb appears,
A new take on an old theme, and
A witness, we hope,
To those who will receive it,
So that they might be glad,
And rejoice forever
In what God is creating
- and be a delight, too!

Scott L. Barton


For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bonus Poem on Janet Cardiff's "The Forty Part Motet" at the Cloisters, New York City

This weekend my wife and I went to the Cloisters and experienced a stunning exhibit, forty parts singing Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium numquam habui (1556?/1573?), which translates "In No Other Is My Hope," each part on one of forty speakers situated around the late-12th-century chapel from Fuentidue├▒a, Spain.  The exhibit continues to December 8.

Here's the link to more information:
http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2013/janet-cardiff

We were inspired to go partly by this NY Times article in September: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/nyregion/moved-to-tears-at-the-cloisters-by-a-ghostly-tapestry-of-music.html?_r=0

To give you a hint of what I'm writing about below, try listening to a recording of the piece such as this one: http://www.studio360.org/story/janet-cardiffs-40-part-motet/

For the full effect, go to the Cloisters!


On "The Forty Part Motet"

I think that I have never seen
One hundred people all convened
In rapt attention and in awe,
Although no habit, rule or law
Decreed that they should silent be.
Somehow, to his or her degree,
Each one became a devotee
Of God - or grace - or mystery
That none had power to resist
Amongst the voices that dismissed
The world, the cares, the feeling plain,
As sacred overcame profane.
The forty speakers each proclaimed
A voice, not perfect, but when framed
Within that chapel made of stone,
Together, perfect love intoned.
The crucifix, for those inclined,
Could only add to hearts and minds
Their thanks; While seated on the floor,
Or standing, each seemed then restored,
With eyes cast high, or down in prayer,
Or simply glad that they were there,
Each one made new within that space
By such experience of grace.

Scott L. Barton

Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, November 10, 2013 - Luke 20:27-38 (see also Haggai 1:15b-2:9; plus Paul, Synoptics, John, you name it)

This really is the heart of it, isn't it?
They "neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Or try this:
"The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former."
"We will all be changed."
"They thought it was a ghost."
"Because I live, you also...."
Like a Sadducee,
I just can't wrap my head around any of this.
And maybe that's the point.
This God
...this word
...this news
...this love
Changes everything.
Most of all, my heart.
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?

Scott L. Barton

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, November 3, 2013 - Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus was a wee little man:
We loved to sing that song!
With finger wagging, "You come down!"
We knew we all belonged
To Jesus, who, to us might come
Someday, though we were small!
These days, much taller, would he still
To my house make a call?
And if he did, would I be so
Astounded that he came,
I'd change my ways, perhaps give more?
And he would change my name?
Or is this scene all by itself
A parable of grace,
Since those who'd like to know this God -
No matter time or place -
Will find Christ even more inclined
To knock upon their door,
For he insists! Not just observed
Will he be anymore!
This God e'en now, across the years,
Would still with us consort,
For faith, you see, is not a climb,
Or a spectator sport;
To be a "child of Abraham,"
Means you have been restored
Not by your efforts, but by love,
Which is its own reward.

Scott L. Barton

He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost, October 27, 2013 - Luke 18:9-14

It is surprising, is it not,
How righteous we can stay?
Shenanigans in Washington
Are just Exhibit A
Of how some folks perceive themselves
As better than the rest,
While calling out, "Full speed ahead!"
As if, alone, they're blessed
With knowing what is right and good!
But they are justified
- As we - when knowing all we have
The Lord our God provides!
This might change how we see ourselves,
And all the world, as well,
When it's no longer "me" or "us,"
Since faith in God propels
Our looking out, not in!  That is,
These days, God's mighty deeds
Will show, when taxers and those taxed
All know it's love we need.

Scott L. Barton

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Monday, October 14, 2013

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, October 20, 2013 - Luke 18:1-8

It's quite all right to bother God!
That's better than a calm facade,
Or resignation of your lot;
For Jesus says the one who's got
The gumption not to knuckle under
Exhibits real faith and wonder
That justice, always, God intends,
Although we may not comprehend
The schedule! Thus, the widow's might
Is in her cry the judge make right -
Which teaches us to fight despair
By voicing what becomes real prayer.

Scott L. Barton

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, October 13, 2013 - Luke 17:11-19

He could not wait to have the priests
Declare that he was well;
Besides, as a Samaritan,
The priests would never tell
Him he was clean - and then it dawned
On him that he could shout!
For why hold back? Why keep it in?
Perhaps, day in, day out,
He'll help us realize that life
That's whole, includes loud joy -
When we're surprised at every gift,
Then faith's the real McCoy!

Scott L. Barton

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between
Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached
him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master,
have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show
yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back,
praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet
and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not
ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them
found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he
said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you
well.”

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, October 6, 2013- Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26 and Luke 17:5-10

"Increase Our Faith!" They Said

I had spoken at my uncle's memorial service,
Saying the things you might expect,
The kind of guy he was, etc.
I referred to an old oral letter
He'd sent to me on cassette tape which,
On the way back to my pew,
I handed to his only child, his daughter, my cousin.
"You will love it," I said.
And then I sat down,
Satisfied that perhaps in some way,
I had increased their faith
(In God, if not in me?)
Then we sang a hymn that I didn't know
(Long before its inclusion
In the Presbyterian hymnal!)
But my brother, standing next to me,
Belted it out from memory.
His different theological route from mine
Had taken him to this place I did not know.
"Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee."
I can still hear and picture him there,
And like to think I learned,
As maybe the apostles learned,
If they heard, that day,
This new theology
This new analogy
This new hymnology,
Sung way back in Lamentations,
And later served up at table,
In life and in words (which we still play)
By a Master of such increased faithfulness
You can hardly believe it.

Scott L. Barton

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.

Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper,
because the LORD has made her suffer
for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.

From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty.
Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture;
they fled without strength before the pursuer.

...

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

+ + +

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  The Lord
replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say
to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it
would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from
plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take
your place at the table'?  Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare
supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink;
later you may eat and drink'?  Do you thank the slave for doing what
was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were
ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what
we ought to have done!'"

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 29, 2013 - Luke 16:19-31

How tempting that we read this tale
As if we are allied
With Lazarus, whose sores dogs licked,
Until, at Abra'm's side,
He saw the justice done unto
The man who ate his fill,
Without a glance at brother Laz,
Or gestures of goodwill;
We make it out a moral tale
That we should be "more" good,
And be not arrogant or proud,
And humbly share our food -
Or else! That's partly true, except
Just skip the fear and shame,
Since showing God is "just" to all
Is always our Lord's aim;
That is, the nature of the One
Who made both great and small
Is that the gifts of God who loves
Come, without fail, to all!
But why the torment? You might ask,
Does such a thing exist?
Or as his wont, a parable
By Jesus 'bout the risk
Of thinking that, when we've been blessed
But then, things turn out bad,
It seems that those once down and out
Should dare not then be glad
Because God's gifts have come to them!
Instead, with tables turned,
Our hell is thinking that we're owed
By those whom we had spurned;
Thus, Jesus rises from the dead
So we will always know
God's work of giving everything
Makes giving what we owe.

Scott L. Barton

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who
feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named
Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with
what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick
his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be
with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where
he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with
Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me,
and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my
tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child,
remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and
Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and
you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm
has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you
cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then,
father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five
brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into
this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the
prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham;
but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said
to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will
they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bonus poem - On Dropping My Glass

While walking in the door just now
I dropped a favorite glass;
And as it fell down towards the floor,
I uttered something crass
Because I knew for sure this glass
I would enjoy no more;
But lo! Somehow it didn't break!
I thanked God - but what for?
I'm pretty sure God did not care
About my expletive,
Or that, if saved, I might, next time,
Be more preventative;
But thanking God comes natur'lly,
And that's not all that bad;
It's not as if God intervened
So I would not be sad;
Things are the way they are! I mean, 
The floor, a deck of wood,
The thickness of the glass and even
Just the way I stood,
Combined conditions so that fav'rite
Thing of mine survived!
Why not thank God? I do not think
Such words of mine contrived,
But rather, they express a faith
That what God made is good;
Sometimes things break, sometimes, they don't;
But when it's understood
That thanks are for how things worked out
Because that's how they're made,
I think that shows a faith that God
In love, all things pervades.

Scott L. Barton

Monday, September 16, 2013

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 22, 2013 - Luke 16:1-13

The steward is a funny guy:
Quick-thinking, smart and very spry!
He finds a way to save his skin
By bringing all the debtors in,
And makes them happy - and what's more -
This steward really knows the score,
Since gen'rous will his master seem
To all the town; and now, redeemed
From grudging Daddy Warbucks fame,
All people will extol his name!
So while I still am puzzled by
The word, "dishonest," Jesus tries,
Still now, he calls us all to dare
Believe that nothing will impair
God's wish that we be reconciled!
Much like a father and his child,
Or debtors and the man who's rich,
These prodigals can help us switch
From thinking grace we understand,
To knowing grace we can't withstand.

Scott L. Barton

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a
manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering
his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I
hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you
cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself,
‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from
me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have
decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may
welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one
by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He
answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your
bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another,
‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of
wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his
master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly;
for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own
generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make
friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is
gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and
whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If
then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will
entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with
what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave
can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love
the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot
serve God and wealth.”

Monday, September 9, 2013

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 15, 2013 - Luke 15:1-10

What sin did the lost sheep commit?
Sins are intentional, right?
Sheep are just plain stupid.
It's in their nature to get lost.
Likewise, what sin did the coin commit?
They get lost, period.
(Think of how many times you've lost
Your keys, or your cell phone.)
So was it a bad analogy?

Or did Jesus mean that
The + very + definition + of + repent =
God + has + found + you.

The very definition of repent
Is God's joy!
Repenting = rethinking your life
To the point of imagining God's joy
That you are! That you are God's!
You don't HAVE to do anything
You don't have to DO anything
You don't have to do ANYTHING!
God found you!

No point being sheepish about that,
Or chintzy - now - with anything!
(You still don't get it?  Well, there was this father, see....)

Scott L. Barton


Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to
him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying,
“This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them
this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one
of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after
the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays
it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls
together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me,
for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there
will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over
ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman
having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a
lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When
she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors,
saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’
Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 8, 2013 - Luke 14:25-33

The family values Jesus had
Were things we wish he had not said,
Like hating parents, siblings, wife,
And even (dare he say it?) life!
The thing we have to see is where
He's headed when he says that there-
fore you must give up all you own,
Which, after all, are all on loan,
If you would his disciple be -
It's to Jerusalem, you see,
Where God gives all for you and me!
Can we show love to that degree?
The new disciples of this Christ
Will find our values are mispriced
Until what's dear will now expand
So Grace for All's our family plan.

Scott L. Barton

Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to
them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife
and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot
be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot
be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not
first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to
complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able
to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This
fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going
out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and
consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who
comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the
other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms
of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do
not give up all your possessions.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bonus Poem - At the Farmstand

"I LOVE this time of year,"
I overheard her at the stand,
"The peaches!!! And the corn!!!" she gushed,
While paying, cash in hand;
The children at her knee seemed
Very glad she was their mom,
One, looking all around, the other's
Hand safe in her palm;
And though I like the produce, too,
All lush and firm and sweet,
The thing I love about this time
Is how some people treat
It as the perfect gift, and so
Express a perfect joy,
Which brings a smile to grown ups who
Once more are girls and boys.

Scott L. Barton

Bonus Poem - Ornithological, Musical and finally Theological!

I have musician friends who say
They love their ducks and geese
Who, landing on the river, trumpet
Honkings without cease;
Then gulls, and oft a heron form
The River Birds Quartet;
On top of this (that is, by air)
Fly, too, the Land Dectet -
The cardinals’ and robins’ notes
Distinctively all ring,
You know the finches, bluejays, wrens
And flickers when they wing,
And who are owls but the birds
You hope don't call your name,
Likewise, when rodents hear a screech
They know a hawk just came,
And then, of course, the woodpeckers,
Will knock, as at your door,
While crows, with caws, might sometimes make
You say, "Please! Nevermore!"
Still, birds, in concert, or alone,
By river, lawn, or tree,
Are never disconcerting, though
They constantly change key;
Their symphony for ear and eye
Puts in my step a spring,
Thanks to the Maestro of it all,
Whose praise all creatures sing!

Scott L. Barton

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 1, 2013 - Luke 14:1, 7-14

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

That's why we call it Providential.

Scott L. Barton

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

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bonus Poem - The Swallows Are Having a Field Day

The swallows are having a field day,
They fly both to and fro,
They can't believe the feast they have!
Do I project my glow
On such a summer's eve
On birds that have no sense?
Or do we both know in some way
(Not sitting on the fence)
How absolutely blessed we are,
Like quaking aspens there
Who shake not just because the breeze
The cool of evening bears,
But overjoyed God sets the earth
On its foundations sure,
While birds, and one now watching
Find we're fed by grace assured?

Scott L. Barton

[There's a reference here to Psalm 104, but I didn't want to wait until October, 2015 to post it :)]

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 25, 2013 - Luke 13:10-17

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

Don't you love it when that happens?

Scott L. Barton

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

Monday, August 12, 2013

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 18, 2013 - Luke 12:49-56

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

Scott L. Barton

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

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, August 11, 2013 - Luke 12:32-40

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

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

Scott L. Barton

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

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

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

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, August 4, 2013 - Hosea 11:1-11

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

Scott L. Barton

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

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

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

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