Monday, March 25, 2013

Second Sunday of Easter, April 7, 2013 – John 20:19-31

Oh, why do you think that he said to them, “Peace,”
When they huddled together for fear the police
Would find them, and charge them with breaking the Law?
Well, they worried their running would stick in his craw!
And now he was back, he would give them what for!
But he knew they were scared to death; thus through the door,
This Jesus, whom not by cruel death could be changed,
Walked right in, since betrayal could not stop the range
God's grace would extend – which is what we all doubt!
So don’t limit this text, thinking Thomas it flouts;
It’s you, and it’s me who need Jesus’ kind word,
Which is why he then told them, their spirits to gird,
And follow his lead towards the whole human race,
And not doubt that e’en you can bear witness to grace.

Scott Barton, March, 2013

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Resurrection of the Lord, March 31, 2013 – Luke 24:1-12

Two poems again this week, one of mine, and a bonus at the end.

The chances of finding that Higgs boson
Were way less than one in a trillion,
Which is a big number, as I learned recently
At Boston's Museum of Natural Science;
I mean, a tube of a trillion of the nano-beads they were displaying,
Next to other tubes of a thousand, a million, and even a billion,
Would  have gone through the stories-high roof;
So what are the chances of someone rising from the dead?
About as small as the Big Bang itself?
I really can't wrap my mind around it.
What - or who? - can convince us of such against-all-odds love?
Look at the numbers in this text:
"On the first day of the week,"
"Suddenly two men in dazzling clothes,"
"On the third day rise again,"
"They told this to the eleven and all the rest!"
The news of such love multiplies;
The chances are minute,
But resurrection goes out to the whole world,
It will not be stopped, it'll go through the roof;
And I, like Peter, am amazed
At what has happened -
And what, by God, still can.

Scott L. Barton

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Bonus poem:  My daughter reminded me of this favorite poem of ours and others in our family by my late friend, Thomas John Carlisle.  I think of it every Easter:

Love does not end,
As all else must,
Does not surrender
To the storm or to the dust,
Endures although endangered,
Wounded, yet will heal,
Adamant as diamonds,
Stubborn as steel.

Thomas John Carlisle

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Palm Sunday, March 24, 2013 – Luke 19:28-40

(Two poems for this week, different styles.)

The little donkey demonstrated
How Jesus lived; but that sure grated
The nerves of certain Pharisees who
Were worried people might live up to
The loud acclaim they gave the rider
Whose way's our sole (and soul's) provider -
Provided that we're brave for shouting
God's mighty deeds, despite our doubting,
And show by dying in ways myriad,
That love will have no ending period.

Scott L. Barton
March, 2013

+ + +

One of my first funerals, in my first pastorate,
Was for a young man barely out of high school;
One blistering July day, he died
Working in the hay mow of the neighbor farmer.
Survived by his parents and five siblings,
An older brother had died years earlier,
Hit by a car while on his bicycle near home.
The church was packed, of course,
And somehow, we muddled through.
Then we went to the cemetery:
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
Trusting your love and mercy,
In the sure and certain hope
Of the resurrection to eternal life.
When we were all done, the father,
Standing just an arm's length away,
Reached into his pocket,
Pulled out a pebble,
And handed it to me.
I still cry when I think about it,
Thirty-six years later.
For the previous Palm Sunday,
At the end of the sermon on this text,
I had handed out pebbles
To everyone in the congregation,
Scrounged from the manse's driveway,
And then, pretty much forgot about it,
At least until that day in July,
When a grieving father taught me
That you never know when, or how, or by whom,
The Word of God will be proclaimed.

Scott L. Barton
March, 2013

Luke 19:28-40

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 17, 2013 – John 12:1-8

These last three weeks,
We seem to be on the theme of extravagance -
Extravagant care for that lazy fig tree,
Extravagant welcome for that lazy brother,
Extravagant defense for that lazy...
Wait! (You say.)
Hold on here!
You don't mean that Mary....
Well, didn't Martha seem to think so?
And once again, she's serving;
I wonder what she's thinking of her sister this time?
And Judas certainly wants to give a good impression,
That he knows the value of a buck,
Talking as if Mary hadn't really earned
That perfume she'd bought.
Maybe Judas was even sweet on Mary!
But he found her unstealable,
Since she was only sweet on the One
Who points the way
To extravagant death,
Which points the way
To extravagant love.

Scott L. Barton
March, 2013

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 10, 2013 – Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Prodigal son, prodigal dad,
I call him that because he's glad!
And if Luke wrote like Dr. Seuss,
Son 1 thought 2 had cooked his goose!
And then begrudged the fatted calf
Was cooked instead! It makes me laugh
To know that Jesus with a smile
Knew God, the Dad, the extra mile
Goes, falling on the neck to kiss
Each son or daughter whom he's missed.

Scott L. Barton
March, 2013

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”