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.”