Monday, September 29, 2014

Bonus Poem: The Mystery of the Chimney Caws

While sitting in my living room
I heard a noise that I assumed
To be a crow up on the roof,
On chimney top, perched high, aloof,
Who then, when I went out to see,
Was there no more with such decree.
This happened more than once, and so
I thought it strangely odd to go
On hearing such a foreign sound -
Not really caw-sharp, something round?
I found it hard to put in words
The sounds, more like some small game bird
That rarely lasted very long,
But when it came, it came on strong.
Last night, we heard it once again,
The cat and I; he sprang up then
And bolted to the door to find
This thing that boggled yet my mind.
And so, today, I ladder took
And climbed the roof to take a look;
Removing then the cap all screened,
With mirror and a flashlight seemed
The way the answer I might find,
Thus down the chimney liner shined
My light! But no; 'twas dark I saw,
And nothing that might like to caw!
I scratched my head, put back the cap,
And thought, some mysteries are wrapped
In mystery; I'll never know
Why sounds from here are heard below.
But suddenly I chanced to spy
Under the liner's lip, two eyes,
And there crouched down in silent mode,
Looking at me, I saw a toad!
I kid you not! On chimney peak
A toad and I were cheek to cheek!
I think that I will never know
How that toad got up there to crow,
Or ribbit, as the case must be,
But I am glad the mystery
Of WHO it is, is solved, but WHY?
Why there? What for? And how so high?

Scott L. Barton

The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), October 5, 2014 - Matthew 21:33-46

Van Gogh: The Red Vineyard at Arles (c. 1888)

Our view of God's so saccharine
We shrink from such a God where sin
Results in consequence! So hence,
We think this tale's about the Jews
Who, like those tenants, didn't choose
To follow Jesus, but instead
Made sure that he'd be silenced - dead!

But what if all this violence
Is in itself the great offense,
(Not Jews, but those in pulpits and
In pews) which Jesus notes WE share
If ever, all our wealth we dare
To think is ours! And we refuse
To think that God is owed God's dues?

God's mercy is forever sure,
Not just for those who think they're pure,
But God can offer all God owns
To all who thought they were disowned.

Scott L. Barton

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), September 28, 2014 - Matthew 21:23-32

A portrayal of John's baptism by He Qi, currently of Minnesota, who was the first among Mainland Chinese to earn a Ph.D. in religious art after the cultural revolution.

Since, if anyone is in Christ,
There's a new creation -
Since the past is finished and gone,
And everything's brand new -
There's no need not to change your mind!
Old convictions don't count,
Don't worry about precedents,
Don't worry you'll look weak,
Who you are today is what counts;
Maybe you were dead wrong,
Or maybe even partly right,
But that was then, before;
And God is not above getting
Down on hands and knees to
Bring the least of us around to
The here and now of love.

Scott L. Barton

When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bonus Poem on Former Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce resigning as Arizona Republican Party's first vice chair late Sunday after receiving criticism over recent comments he made about women on Medicaid


Russell Pearce as a GOP vice-chair's resigned
After comments 'bout birth control which he opined,
Saying, if you're on Medicaid, and you have sex,
And are female-inclined, then the state should object,
And should make you take Norplant, or have your tubes tied,
And should test you for drugs or for booze, then deny
You the help you might need if from such tests you fail,
Yes, especially if, from some male,  you're impaled!
Now Republicans distance themselves from this jerk,
Who assumes women helped by the state just won't work,
And are lounging around, all quite drunk and in heat,
While they mooch from old men, who no more rule the streets;
Now we pity the folk living in this young state
Since the rest of the country just laughs at the hate
That we see in a guy who would help not a dame,
Who, while maybe Latina, needs help, just the same.

Scott L. Barton

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), September 21, 2014 - Exodus 16:2-15 and Matthew 20:1-16

Ercole de' Roberti: Israelites Gathering Manna (1490's), London National Gallery

Jesus Mafa: The Late-arriving Workers (1973), Cameroon

They said, "What is it?" each to each,
For they did not know what it was;

Some workers, the owner beseeched
With (to them) a much-righteous cause;

The kingdom's hard to recognize,
Though it be in front of our nose;

The generous Giver defies
When we think: "It's just how it goes;"

We never know when we might see
New gifts to be rained on our heads;

Likewise, are answered neighbors' pleas:
Give us this day our daily bread;

The last will be first, the first last,
Surprise is the hallmark of grace;

To you it will come, and to all,
And every hunger erase.

Scott L. Barton

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

+ + +

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), September 14, 2014 - Matthew 18:21-35

Beware the preacher who pontificates,
The one who has to tell the people what to do;
Beware bad news, when we are in bad straights:
"Forgiveness is the thing to which we all must hew
Or else!"
                For though the text appears to say
That God is like a king who'll throw you into jail -
Who, if you don't forgive, will make you pay -
If Jesus said it, he means evil will prevail
Within our hearts, 'cause that's the way things are!
It's how God made it; enmity will eat away
Forever, always burning, nevermore to scar
Until its hold by you is loosed; and that's the day
When you discover that the thing that God holds dear
Is you! Forgiveness is what puts you in the clear.

Scott L. Barton

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), September 7, 2014 - Exodus 12:1-14

Kirshenblatt, Mayer (1916-2009)
Passover Seder at My Paternal Grandfather's, 1992

This text, combining liturgy
And narrative in one,
Things like, "You shall" plus "I'll pass over"
Say that we're not done
With any biblical "account"
Until we realize,
What makes it sacred is when we,
Somehow, internalize
The things that happened way back when;
Thus, in our time and place
The story's meant to give to us
A measure of the grace
That we still need, that is, the news
That God's the one who saves
From slavery, disaster; and,
From cradle to the grave
Will not abandon you, so therefore,
Do not hesitate,
Within your households everywhere,
Such love to celebrate.

Scott L. Barton

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.