Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bonus Poem - Thanksgiving, 2013

I write to you from near the place
Where Wampanoags once shared
Their bounty with those Pilgrim folk,
Who must have once despaired
From all that this new world had giv'n;
Their pain and loss so deep
That faith in God who loved them must
Have been so hard to keep.

The words their pastor Robinson
Had spoken 'cross the pond,
Still rang within their broken hearts
And called them to respond
With trust that yet more light would break
Forth from God's holy word;
Who knew a Massachusetts tribe
Would be how grace occurred?

Now, thanks to them, we gather yet
To thank the Lord above
For fam'ly near and far, and friends
Who show to us the love
We need, and need to give;
And so these words I send
To you - in hopes this day will help
You grace, to all, extend.

Scott L. Barton

Monday, November 25, 2013

The First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2013 - Matthew 24:36-44

Oh, woe to the preacher who parses this text
To figure just how and when Jesus comes next;
For those of the "left behind" ilk are the folk
Who build their theology on such a joke
As worrying whether they all might be saved!
But Jesus calls "worry" a trip to the grave!
For back in verse three, when his friends sought to know
The timetable for the world's powers' overthrow
He gave this long discourse so they might all see
The one thing in life that's God's sure guarantee
Is that THIS day's your chance to see Christ in your deeds,
Leaving end times to God, so for love you'll be freed.

Scott L. Barton

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of
heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah
were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days
before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in
marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing
until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the
coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be
taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together;
one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you
do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if
the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief
was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his
house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of
Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bonus Poem on the 50th anniversary of J.F.K.'s assassination

Everyone who is old enough
remembers where they were
fifty years ago today, a
Friday, as I recall:
A rumor as we walked upstairs
from biology to
Mrs. Kelly's English class -
last period - the p. a.
announcement - the President's shot -
and Mrs. Kelly cried.
Oh, what brave words could she say then?
"I think that we should pray."
- Of course, no work would then be done -
So we just prayed - and hoped -
and then it came, the final news -
in the hall, no one spoke -
lockers slammed - and Jim Wohlgemuth,
a little redhead, cried,
"Shit!" - and his prayer to God was one
that had no good answer.

Scott L. Barton

Friday, November 15, 2013

Reign of Christ, November 24, 2013 - Psalm 46 (with a closing reference to Romans 8:28)

God is our refuge
    and God is our strength,
And people these days
    o'er the breadth and the length
Of the Philippines know
    - more than most -
         what this means;
For relief do they cry,
    when relief is unseen;
Oh! What destruction
    as far as the eye
And the news can perceive,
    so with tears we all cry;
But though earth and sea change,
    - and the mountains all shake,
Our God is the one
    who will never forsake;
It's a long ways away
    - to the end of the earth! -
But the one who breaks bows,
    Breaks despair, so rebirth
Will occur! So now know,
    in our comfort,
        though faith may be thin,
That God with us conspires
    for our kith and our kin.

Scott L. Barton

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the
mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its
tumult. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy
habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help
it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his
voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has
brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and
shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I
am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Monday, November 11, 2013

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, November 17, 2013 - Isaiah 65:17-25

Every Advent my wife and I send
A lion and lamb Christmas card;
We carry on the tradition
of my Reformation professor,
Charlie, and his wife, Eloïse;
It's nice to have a theme,
But it's not always easy.
Sometimes I almost despair
of finding one that has
The right amount of preposterousness!
I don't want it to be "religious;"
Surprise, even comedy, is the key.
Isn't this what we mean by
God's vision for the world?
Unexpected?  Brand new?
And then, as in answer to prayer,
A new lion and lamb appears,
A new take on an old theme, and
A witness, we hope,
To those who will receive it,
So that they might be glad,
And rejoice forever
In what God is creating
- and be a delight, too!

Scott L. Barton

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bonus Poem on Janet Cardiff's "The Forty Part Motet" at the Cloisters, New York City

This weekend my wife and I went to the Cloisters and experienced a stunning exhibit, forty parts singing Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium numquam habui (1556?/1573?), which translates "In No Other Is My Hope," each part on one of forty speakers situated around the late-12th-century chapel from Fuentidue├▒a, Spain.  The exhibit continues to December 8.

Here's the link to more information:

We were inspired to go partly by this NY Times article in September:

To give you a hint of what I'm writing about below, try listening to a recording of the piece such as this one:

For the full effect, go to the Cloisters!

On "The Forty Part Motet"

I think that I have never seen
One hundred people all convened
In rapt attention and in awe,
Although no habit, rule or law
Decreed that they should silent be.
Somehow, to his or her degree,
Each one became a devotee
Of God - or grace - or mystery
That none had power to resist
Amongst the voices that dismissed
The world, the cares, the feeling plain,
As sacred overcame profane.
The forty speakers each proclaimed
A voice, not perfect, but when framed
Within that chapel made of stone,
Together, perfect love intoned.
The crucifix, for those inclined,
Could only add to hearts and minds
Their thanks; While seated on the floor,
Or standing, each seemed then restored,
With eyes cast high, or down in prayer,
Or simply glad that they were there,
Each one made new within that space
By such experience of grace.

Scott L. Barton

Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, November 10, 2013 - Luke 20:27-38 (see also Haggai 1:15b-2:9; plus Paul, Synoptics, John, you name it)

This really is the heart of it, isn't it?
They "neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Or try this:
"The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former."
"We will all be changed."
"They thought it was a ghost."
"Because I live, you also...."
Like a Sadducee,
I just can't wrap my head around any of this.
And maybe that's the point.
This God
...this word
...this news
...this love
Changes everything.
Most of all, my heart.
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?

Scott L. Barton

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”