Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany/in Ordinary time, February 2, 2014 - Matthew 5:1-12, with a reference to 1 Corinthians 1:18-21; OR The Presentation of the Lord, February 2, 2014 - Luke 2:22-40

Blessed Are the Upside Down

"Blessed are the upside down,"
So he seems to say; But -
Who on earth is glad to mourn?
What blessing is conveyed?
Likewise, poor in spirit - Who
Is happy to be there?
Meek folks aren't on Forbes's list,
Such combination's rare;
No good deed goes unpunished,
The cynic wryly notes;
But kingdom view is different!
- And henceforth, faith denotes
Not wisdom for a sampler,
To hang upon the wall,
But vision upside down is -
God's vision, above all!
The good news is God sees things
To which we're mostly blind,
Unless we look with Jesus,
His heart, and soul and mind;
Things that are not, will yet be,
And God counts no one out;
Each one belongs to God, and,
Thus, blessed are you! - No doubt!

Scott L. Barton
(The opening line is from a sermon by Barbara Brown Taylor, published in Gospel Medicine.)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Presentation of the Lord, Luke 2:22-40

Oh, What Did Mary Say?

Oh, what did Mary say when she got back
To Naz'reth, after hearing such a crack
About a sword that once would pierce her soul?
And then that woman, who, our God extolled,
- Is she some kind of prophet, Joseph, dear?
To put our son in that man's arms, I feared
At first, but something told me, worry not
(It seems, 'round here, I've heard those words a lot!)
About salvation they both seemed to talk,
And everyone just speechless as they gawked!
I heard a few remark, "What does this mean?"
But no one knows just how can be foreseen
The work our God has yet to do on earth;
I only know this son of ours, this birth's
Not just for us, but so the world might bear
His love, and with their love, God still declare.

Scott L. Barton
(First posted a year ago here, January, 2013)

When the time came for their purification according to the law of
Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as
it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be
designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice
according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of
turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was
righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the
Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s
Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when
the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was
customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,
saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which
you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for
revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And
the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about
him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child
is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to
be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will
be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also
a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She
was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after
her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never
left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and
day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak
about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of
Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of
the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The
child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God
was upon him.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Bonus poem on the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert Frost, 1/29/13

(I wrote this on the 50th anniversary of Robert Frost's death, after hearing that earlier in the day, the Friends of Robert Frost had met at the Old First Church, Bennington, Vermont, where Frost is buried in the surrounding cemetery.  Thousands of people visit the historic church and cemetery each year, and part of the conversation that day was about why people still leave coins on the top of the Frost gravestone.)

                                                      Main Quadrangle, Amherst College,
across from the Frost Library

In Bennington I hear they wonder
Why people give where I’m down under;
It seems on top, they coins distribute,
Perhaps they leave them there as tribute,
Because they read a poem that likely
Made them think more eruditely,
Or they remember now, but wrongly,
A line about which they feel strongly,
Such as good fences make good neighbors,
Misapprehending all my labors;
Of course, the coins of no devotee
Can reach the place where now I lay me;
I think I’m paid by my inspiring
Some student in their life’s inquiring
To live with wonder and with feeling,
And not find coins all that appealing.

Scott L. Barton
Amherst, Massachusetts, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 20, 2014

Third Sunday after the Epiphany/in Ordinary Time (A), January 26, 2014 - Matthew 4:12-23

Two brothers picked, and then, two more,
And when those pairs both come ashore
It's almost like, in these first calls,
He wastes not, wants not, by this haul,
Where with economy of words,
He's quickly gathered up one third
The crew! Who knew he's in a rush?
But with conviction, now, he's flush,
For when he sees John's likely fate,
It's time to fish, not just cut bait!
He doesn't stop to analyze,
(Or these guys' qualities apprise)
He simply calls; they simply go;
And not just there, or long ago,
But even now he calls all kinds:
His love is for ALL hearts and minds.

Scott L. Barton

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Second Sunday after the Epiphany/ in Ordinary Time (A), January 19, 2014 - John 1:29-42

This is another text brimming with names,
"Here is the Lamb of God," the Baptist claims;
Then it's not long until "Lamb," is ,"the Son!"
Thinking of these, I then wonder, "Which one?"
Lamb of God? Son of God? Which will it be?
Maybe there is a progression to see?
But, two disciples of John start with this -
"Rabbi!" they say (although not with a kiss!)
Then it's not long 'til "Messiah" he's called!
Don't get attached to one name above all,
John (the Evangelist) here seems to say;
Jesus is more than just one sobriquet -
Son of God, Rabbi, Messiah or Lamb,
Jesus is surely, "I am who I am!"
You and I, too, aren't just stuck in one place,
"Simon" can quickly be "Cephas," by grace;
Maybe it just all depends where you are -
What you are called - when, what matters, by far:
You are inscribed on the walls of God's heart,
Brimming with love, which for you, won't depart.

Scott L. Barton

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Monday, January 6, 2014

Baptism of the Lord, January 12, 2014 Isaiah 42:1-9, Matthew 3:13-17

Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
Only that you really join him right there -
Into the water you go, as John holds you,
Then there's the voice as you gasp in fresh air;
Yes, of the Maker of all, you're beloved!
Chosen, and in whom our God is well-pleased;
How do I know this?  Isaiah says, clearly,
"Servant" means people whom God dearly sees
As those who are called to bring justice to all,
God is delighted with such a great scheme!
Taking God's people in hand as we step out,
We are God's servants, whose work, to redeem
People from darkness, injustice and prison;
We will not whine, nor our spirits be quenched -
Jesus was baptized so we, as God's people,
With water and spirit our lives might be drenched!

Scott L. Barton

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.


Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”