Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 2, 2013 - I Kings 18:20-39

(Note: For the Original Testament text this week, some of you will be using the complementary track for this Ordinary Time period, and therefore, Solomon's prayer from I Kings 8; but along with most Presbyterian and Reformed churches, I am using the semi-continuous track, and thus the Elijah passage.)

Mendelssohn's "Elijah," part I

I cannot read this text without
The strains of Mendelssohn
Reverberating through my head
In many-layered tones;
Elijah taunts the prophets,
"Call him louder" his refrain,
I smile as he sarcastically
Keeps singing his disdain;
"Perhaps he's on a journey,"
Euphemistic'lly he goads,
"Pursuing!" Maybe Baal's off wooing
Down amorous roads!
"Or peradventure," (quietly)
"He sleepeth," Eli mocks,
I have to say, of all the prophets
Old, Elijah rocks!
But not just for his anger, or
Dramatic, forceful zeal,
But for his tenderness, as he
Goes on with this appeal:
"Draw near you people, come to me,"
The prophet soothes in song,
Then prays, "Lord, God of Abraham
"...This day let it be known
That thou are God, and I'm thy servant,"
Thus his tone is changed;
For all his bluster, still his doubts
Reveal he's not deranged
But waits to see if God will act
According to his word,
"Oh, hear me, Lord, and answer me"
He prays that he's been heard!
"And let their hearts again be turned,"
Is what he deeply craves;
The love Elijah knows, and has,
The people, always saves.

Scott L. Barton

So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel.

Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” All the people answered, “Well spoken!” Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”; with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed. Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water. At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trinity Sunday, First Sunday after Pentecost, May 26, 2013 - Romans 5:1-5

Since we are justified by faith,
We are at peace, through Christ, our Lord,
That is, he shows that grace is ours
And hope of glory, our reward;
Why boast in hope - or suffering?
Well, it's for others, don't you see?
God's glory means God gives, and gives,
And even suffers, willingly -
Endures although endangered - that's
The character we might impart,
When through the Holy Spirit, God
Keeps pouring love into our hearts.

Scott L. Barton
[Note: The phrase, "Endures although endangered" is from a poem by Thomas John Carlisle that you can see on the post for this past Easter.]

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day of Pentecost, May 19, 2013 - Acts 2:1-21

How odd/ of God/ to choose/ the Jews
I used to like to say;
It was a favorite axiom
I might say some Lord's Day
To help the congregation see
These texts are not obsessed
With moral goodness all around,
But rather, how God blessed
A motley crew of liars, cheats,
And folk like you and me!
Which is, of course, good news today,
For, though we don't agree
On points of doctrine, song or style,
The Spirit gladly speaks
So people hear within their hearts
(Despite our own techniques)
That blessings far and wide abound;
Such things still come from God!
So go proclaim the love you have,
Not like a drunk - but odd!

Scott L.  Barton

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one
place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a
violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested
on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and
began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in
Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,
because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking
Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native
language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,
Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt
and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome,
both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we
hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and
perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others
sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed
them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known
to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you
suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what
was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God
declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons
and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see
visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves,
both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they
shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs
on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be
turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the
Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of
the Lord shall be saved.’

Monday, May 6, 2013

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 12, 2013 Acts 16:16-34

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

We sang it yesterday with gusto;
The old timers love it,
 - and the new ones will;
What, do you suppose,
Did Paul and Silas sing,
Bound with ties, as they were
To the walls of that Philippi jail?
Perhaps you, too, have read
How Bill Coffin sang in a D.C. jail,
After marching for peace on the Capitol steps,
"Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,"
His Messiah in his heart,
Encouraging the others there,
And probably himself, too,
Binding them together in the same One
Who set free that slave girl,
And who re-binds us still,
Re-ligaments us all,
So our re-ligion, at its best,
Is the song we have to sing,
No matter what.

-Scott L. Barton

Acts 16:16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.