Monday, June 24, 2013

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, June 30, 2013 - 2 Kings 2:1-14; Luke 9:51-62

[Note: The lectionary omits vss. 3-5 in the Elisha passage, but I leave it in because I think it illustrates further Elisha's anxious state of mind.]

Elisha sure was anxious
When his master had to go,
So in the text he snaps at those
Who snidely tell him so;
I think that the disciples found
Themselves in such a boat,
For Jesus to Jerusalem?
His death that did connote;
And so when they felt dissed by those
Who would not let them in,
Their anxious hearts lashed out at such
Outrageous, blatant sin.
How easily in trouble do we
Trouble only see,
But Jesus stays the course of love,
And just says, "Follow me."

Scott L. Barton

2 Kings 2:1-14

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.” Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.” Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

Luke 9:51-62

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, June 23, 2013 - I Kings 19:1-18

Mendelssohn's "Elijah," part III

I had just about had it.
At the end of my rope.
Doubted I could keep going.
"It is enough! O Lord, now take away my life
For I am not better than my fathers."
Thus Elijah sang.
Three recits and an aria to go.
Plus this one, with that long high D sharp towards the end.
Then, worried, I had a brain fart and sang a note too short.
Thought I'd blown it.
Panicked, I wondered what Stanley, conducting, would do.
He just kept smiling, because I'd lengthened the next note
Without realizing it.
Everything was okay!
And we made it through.
Funny how rare it is that all is lost.
But the best line comes next from the chorus:
"Go, return upon thy way,
For the Lord yet hath left Him seven thousand in Israel,
knees which have not bowed to Baal.
Go, return upon thy way!"
I don't know why the lectionary omits it.
Keep it in this week.
Remind yourself, and your people,
That you - and they - are not alone.
When you're ready to throw in the towel
When you're not sure you can keep singing
This faith business, this grace
That may only appear in the still, small silence,
Keep in mind those seven thousand!
And go on your way, in the strength of the Lord.

Scott L. Barton

I Kings 19:1-18

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all
the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah,
saying, “So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make
your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he
was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba,
which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went
a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a
solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O
Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then
he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel
touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at
his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate
and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second
time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey
will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went
in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the
mount of God.

At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the
word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here,
Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God
of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down
your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left,
and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He said, “Go out and
stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass
by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting
mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord
was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord
was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the
Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out
and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him
that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have
been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites
have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your
prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my
life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your
way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint
Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as
king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of
Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword
of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of
Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel,
all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has
not kissed him.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, June 16, 2013 - Luke 7:36-8:3

A local couple had their identity stolen
And found themselves twenty thousand dollars in debt;
They had to go through all kinds of hoops
To be believed by the bank, and get their debt cancelled.

In Simon's house, everyone knew the woman's identity;
Her debts had mounted up, no doubt a lot to her pimp;
I picture her, hoop earrings dangling with her hair,
Believing, crying, washing feet, indebted no more.

Do you also know who Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna were?
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" wasn't just learned by the men;
These women raised no hoopla in being disciples,
But they simply banked on Jesus.  How interesting!

Scott L. Barton

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the
Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the
city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the
Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood
behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her
tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his
feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who
had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a
prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is
touching him—that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied,
“Speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred
denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the
debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon
answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”
And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward
the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your
house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet
with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but
from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did
not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with
ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been
forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little
is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are
forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among
themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the
woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming
and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with
him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and
infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone
out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and
many others, who provided for them out of their resources.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 9, 2013 - I Kings 17:8-24

Mendelssohn's "Elijah," part II

Cynthia and I sang this text years ago.
I, Elijah; she, the widow.
I still remember her voice,
Bereft from losing her son,
Blaming "me."
She wonders if Elijah
Has recalled to God her sin.
"Give me thy son," Elijah sings.
He prays:
"In mercy heal this widow's son;
"In mercy heal this widow's son!
"Lord, in mercy heal this widow's son."
He doesn't give up.
He cares.
He believes.
And then, surprise!
"Now behold, thy son liveth!"
And now she knows, she sings,
That he's a man of God,
And that the word in his mouth is the truth.
"What shall I render to the Lord
For all his benefits to me?"
The oratorio recalls Psalm 116 for this question;
And then, for the answer, Deuteronomy 6,
Which Jesus remembered too:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,
Love him, with all thy heart,
And with all thy soul,
And with all thy might;"
And now Elijah and the widow
Are soaring with the Psalmist:
"Oh, blessed are they,
Are they who fear him!"
And now it's the chorus's turn
To sing in dulcet tones of blessedness.
And now it's our turn, too,
To claim the blessedness
Of knowing Elijah's God still,
To remember it, and live it,
And walk in the ways of peace,
All our days.

Scott L. Barton

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath,
which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow
there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came
to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called
to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may
drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said,
“Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord
your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar,
and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so
that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may
eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as
you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to
me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus
says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied
and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends
rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as
well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was
not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of
the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became
ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.
She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You
have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death
of my son!” But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from
her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging,
and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God,
have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying,
by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three
times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s
life come into him again.” The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah;
the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took
the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and
gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” So
the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and
that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”