Monday, February 25, 2013

Third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 2013 – Luke 13:1-9

I think, perhaps, we miss the point
If we think He condoned
The cutting of that fig tree which
The vineyard grower owned;
For note the gard'ner said to him,
"Then YOU can cut it down;"
He must have said it with a grin,
And not some judgment frown,
Since first, the owner'd said to him
That HE should do the deed;
But Jesus' gard'ner knew the owner's
Nature supersedes
The "Fix yourself right now - or else"
View we think others need;
Thus, we can cut some slack for all,
Since God's love none exceeds.

Scott L. Barton
February, 2013

Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Second Sunday in Lent, February 24, 2013 – Luke 13:31-35

It has been said that fear, not sin's
The curse of human life,
It surely seems that that's behind
The things that cause my strife;
And so it was, those Pharisees,
Who said to Jesus, "Scram!"
Were worried that his love, unchecked,
Would make their city damned
By Herod, since he was, all knew,
The ruling King of Fear;
But Jesus said to tell that fox
What we still need to hear,
That is, that resurrection is the end
("The third day" is his clue)
And what I think that means, when by
Our fears we seem pursued,
Is that the mother hen still calls
Her brood upon her breast,
So all our fears, allayed, we now
Might bless, as we are blessed.

Scott L. Barton
February, 2013

Luke 13:31-35

At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

First Sunday in Lent, 2013 – Luke 4:1-13

"He departed from him until an opportune time. "
What a strange line.
We assume Luke meant the Garden of Gethsemane;
But we only have the story's bare bones, after all.
What if the devil chose other times that we just don't know about?
"Opportunity knocks," we say;
And maybe the devil does, too.
As maybe he did for Jesus.
But, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," John writes later.
So when I hear it, I say, "Who's that knocking at my door?
"Is it the devil - or the Lord?"
Maybe Luke knew it's never an easy question,
Even for Jesus.
Certainly not for me.
Probably, I daresay, not for you.
Lenten Christians recognize this -
Thus, we have our seasonal temptations;
But not whether or not to eat that piece of chocolate,
Rather, whether or not to think we know it all.
So we go to the door.
And the only way to know if it's Jesus
Is if the choices offered aren't easy.
So he keeps reminding us,
Year after year (if we read between the lines), that
"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

Scott L. Barton
February, 2013

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Transfiguration Sunday, 2013 – Luke 9:28-43b

What is it with the Bible and veils?

Moses' face he has to hide,
It's way too scary being near the
One with whom our God abides;
Then Peter, James and John see Jesus
Dazzling white up on that mount
With Moses and Elijah, talking,
Peter makes a quick head count
(Perhaps the better to preserve it)
Next creeps in - that veil!  A cloud
O'ershadows them! And they see nothing,
Hearing, though, that voice, aloud,
The same voice long ago to Moses,
They know Jesus is the one
To follow down the hill, to where that
Boy is healed - and they become
Astounded  at the mighty acts of
God, who in this Jesus takes
The veils away!  And so St. Paul says,
(Here's the thing:)  Make no mistake!
The glory of this Lord is seen when
By God! We will not lose heart,
But see, somehow, God in each other,
Rather than our God, apart!

Think not in terms of God in veils,
But God in neighbor, grace entails.

Scott L. Barton
February, 2013

Luke 9:28-43b

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, 2013 – Luke 4:21-30

They tried to throw him off a cliff!
That seems a bit extreme to me,
Although, in other places far away
I read it happens by decree;
Just recently in Timbuktu,
Extremists had the upper hand -
They took a thief outside the gates,
And at the law's quite clear command,
Some poor guy's now an amputee;
We seem to want to purge the one
Who's different from our midst, as if
Somehow, God's work will then be done!
It's not just there, but even here,
Our attitudes can still drive some
To take the law into their hands,
And think the world is safe from scum.
But Jesus, passing through the crowd,
Reminds the world to be not proud.

Scott L. Barton
February, 2013

Luke 4:21-30

Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

The Presentation of the Lord – Luke 2:22-40

Oh, What Did Mary Say?

Oh, what did Mary say when she got back
To Naz'reth, after hearing such a crack
About a sword that once would pierce her soul?
And then that woman, who, our God extolled,
- Is she some kind of prophet, Joseph, dear?
To put our son in that man's arms, I feared
At first, but something told me, worry not
(It seems, 'round here, I've heard those words a lot!)
About salvation they both seemed to talk,
And everyone just speechless as they gawked!
I heard a few remark, "What does this mean?"
But no one knows just how can be foreseen
The work our God has yet to do on earth;
I only know this son of ours, this birth's
Not just for us, but so the world might bear
His love, and with their love, God still declare.

Scott L. Barton
January, 2013

Luke 2:22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Epiphany 2013

The magi brought the strangest gifts -
Gold, frankincense and myrrh;
But what was for the boy? Too bad
That Matthew turns, demurs,
And leaves it up to us to guess
What other gifts they gave;
I like to think a ball!  So thus
His mother, strong and brave,
Might think ahead to days of play
Out in some Naz'reth street;
Or maybe they went wild, and when
They chanced this boy to meet,
They gave a kite! Yes! One he'd fly
Up to the atmosphere;
And see the cross upon it made
To give the whole world cheer.

Scott L. Barton
January, 2013

Intro to these poems

The best preaching starts with a jump-off that has grabbed the preacher in some way, and that "hook" gets the congregation engaged, too.  Often it's something in the biblical text that has made the preacher wonder, and then the preacher and congregation get to explore the question together.  Or it's something that happened in the news or in the preacher's life, maybe a movie, or book, or other experience that suddenly makes a connection in the preacher's mind with the witness of the ages.  One of those inspirations could very well be a poem.

I've been a Presbyterian pastor for over thirty-five years and written untold numbers of, if not "Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs," then poems, hymns and limericks.  I do it so much it's as if I can't not write them.  So recently, in a sort of semi-retirement, and not preaching every week, I've decided to see if it might be a help to people who are, by writing a poem based on something in the lectionary for the coming week.  I've been sending them out by e-mail to several friends and colleagues.  My current pastor asked me the other day if she could print one in Sunday's bulletin, and it made me wonder if I should make these poems more widely available.  

So thanks to my wife, I now have this blog; and thanks to you, the good news is getting told week after week to people who always need to be fed in faithful and nourishing ways.  I will try to help by writing a poem a week.  If it grabs you in some way, great!  If you'd like to print it, you're welcome to, with my name on it, since every poem here is copyrighted.  And if you have any comments to make, I welcome them.  

In the next post, I'll put the poem for Epiphany, that could be used next year, then a couple more before we get to Lent.  And we'll go from there.  And as Dudley Sarfaty, a dear departed colleague of mine, always said every week after he'd previewed my sermon by e-mail, "Have fun!"

Scott L. Barton
Amherst, Massachusetts