Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Second Sunday after Christmas Day (C), January 3, 2016 - John 1:1-18

Who Would Not Be Alone

"No one has ever seen God. It is God 
the only Son, who is close 
to the Father’s heart, who has made him known."

Hearing this text Christmas Eve can bring tears,
and suddenly you're amazed
at the force of words upon one who's grown.

If you forget why these carols we sing
Old John will remind you why;
Neither God nor neighbor would be alone.


Scott L. Barton

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

(John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The First Sunday after Christmas Day (C), December 27, 2015 - Luke 2:41-52

Max Liebermann:
The 12-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple (1879) 


Questions About This Odd Text

I have many questions about this odd text
Where the soon-to-be teenager's parents were vexed
By the child who went off and then worried them sick,
And they scratched their heads, saying, "What makes this boy tick?"

Oh, why did they travel e'en just for a day,
While they thought with the neighbors he'd be on their way?
And I wonder just where for three days did he stay?
Did he sleep? Did he eat? Did he ever once play?

And why such obedience back at the house?
Was he loud, in high spirits, or quiet as a mouse?
Most of all, I ask why in God's favor he grew?
And then how in God's name was this something Luke knew?

Like Mary, I treasure these things in my heart,
While the text, in another way, Mystery imparts.


Scott L. Barton


Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Eve/Nativity of our Lord, December 24/25, 2015 - Luke 2:1-20

My pastor, Richard Manzelmann, used
this on the "Christmas Sunday" bulletin cover
in 1974 at New Hartford, New York
Presbyterian Church. I used it on occasion
for the same purpose over the years but would
love to know its source. It seems like a
Rembrandt, but I can't confirm that.
To Make Our Love Braver

She did something different,
She treasured and pondered;
Not only amazed, but
She thought, and she wondered
Just what was their meaning -
That this diapered wee boy,
Would be to all people
The sign of a great joy?

And why even now does
He cause such a flutter
In hearts all around, while
These carols we utter?
Is this what they meant when
They said that a savior
Would come - a Messiah,
To make our love braver?

Scott L. Barton

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (C), December 20, 2015 - Luke 1:46-55



No More "Ho-hum, the reading of Scripture"

It isn't wordy explanations that I seek,
It isn't toned-down phrases that are mild and meek;
Don't stand up front in church and then apologize,
As if you need to cut a story down to size;
This news that comes today is bigger than us both,
Nor should the fact I've heard it often, make you loathe
To call out flabbergasting news with such surprise
The people catch their breaths and find their spirits rise!

It may just be that Christmas is the only time
That you can get away with old King James, sublime
In phrases like, "hath holpen," and "doth magnify,"
As Mary to her cousin - and to us - still cries!
But mostly, don't throw out the mystery and awe
For people who today, to what you say, now draw:
Give me a preacher or a reader who proclaims
This gospel text such that I know your heart's aflame.

Scott L. Barton
(Partly inspired by the narration of the Christmas story from Isaiah, Matthew and Luke by the tenor narrator, Duane Moody, at a Holiday Pops performance in Boston. It's a basically secular event, but he read it so well, and with the orchestra and chorus in the background, there were actually tears in my eyes. He actually sounded as if he was surprised by the news! Believed it himself! And couldn't help but want others to believe it, too.)

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. 
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, 
and holy is his name. 
His mercy is for those who fear him 
from generation to generation. 
He has shown strength with his arm; 
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, 
and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, 
and sent the rich away empty. 
He has helped his servant Israel, 
in remembrance of his mercy, 
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, 
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

(NRSV)

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: 
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; 
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

(KJV)

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Third Sunday of Advent (C), December 13, 2015 - Luke 3:7-18

Leonardo da Vinci: St. John the Baptist
ca. 1513-1516, The Louvre, Paris,
probably Leonardo's last painting

Good News, Despite Initial Appearances

He's not very Christmassy, this John the B.,
In calling them snakes who from judgment would flee;
Who worry that God will not be on their side,
And therefore, to save themselves, others deride;
But John simply tells them a down-to-earth creed:
Be honest, not violent, and help those in need!
That's it! But still troubled that all be made right?
Then leave it to God! Not your goodness and might
Will enkindle the reign that you think should come now,
But the One by whose powerful love will show how.


Scott L. Barton


John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Second Sunday of Advent (C), December 6, 2015 - Luke 3:1-6



All Flesh Shall See the Salvation of God

All flesh shall see the salvation of God,

And not just the rulers, the well off and proud,

Not just the ones who live in the right places,

Who get lots of press and are known by their faces,

Not just the people who rule in the tabloids,

Or out on the field, with their skill or their steroids,

But you! With your wrongs, and the things you've not righted,

Will think again, seeing that God is delighted

To break every barrier that keeps separated

The people for whom Love, these long years, has waited.

Scott L. Barton

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The First Sunday of Advent (C), November 29, 2015 - Luke 21:25-36



We Would Ever Be More Faithful
PICARDY 8.7.8.7.8.7.                      French Carol

1. Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
As we grieve and mourn this day,
Gasping in the face of violence,
Lives and trust all torn away;
We would ever be more faithful,
Seeking peace from you, we pray.

2. Bombings that sow dread and terror,
Making tears for those who are lost,
Have the power to lead us to error,
Tolerance for others the cost;
We would ever be more faithful,
Never sunk, although we be tossed.

3. In the midst of fear and foreboding,
Christ, your way still lives herein,
Keep the love we've known from eroding,
Reign o'er us, and draw us in;
We would ever be more faithful,
Loving all, again, we begin.

Scott L. Barton

This hymn was written in the wake of recent bombings in Paris, Baghdad and Beirut and would be suitable for congregational singing on November 22 or 29, or at any other appropriate time. The motto of Paris, "Elle est agitée par les vagues, et ne sombre pas,” essentially means, “Tossed, but not sunk.” Permission given for congregational use. The author would appreciate knowing where it is used at SCOTT.L.BARTON@GMAIL.COM. Click on the image above for a bulletin-ready copy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bonus Poem: Delusions of Grandeur (Donald Trump, Starbucks and Merry Christmas)

(Note: for the lectionary poem for November 22, please page down to the next poem.)

"If I become President, we're all going to be saying 'Merry Christmas' again. That I can tell you. That I can tell you!"  -Donald Trump

Delusions of Grandeur

"The Donald" thinks that he could change
The greetings that we all exchange;
He thinks if he'd be President
That he could change the precedent
Back to the way it was before!
Delusions from this clown's lips pour;
Just like The Queen, with dread who said,
Those nightmare words, "Off with her head."

Scott L. Barton

Friday, November 13, 2015

Christ the King (B), November 22, 2015 - John 18:33-37


 Christ the King statue, Świebodzin, Poland
"Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

I think it's funny that
it's not the other way around:
That all who listen to his voice
belong to truth, would sound
Religious! Yet, he still confounds
what we expect to hear;
The truth is that it's all a gift,
and everyone is dear;
Those living thus, will love as much -
he could not be more clear!

Still, list'ning to this king is
never easy - any year!

Scott L. Barton

Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 15, 2015 - 1 Samuel 1:4-20 and 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Marc Chagall: Hannah (c. 1956)
Hannah's Hymn

Tune: St. Catherine (Faith of Our Fathers; Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me)
[Note: The following could also be read as a poem without singing, in which case the refrain at the end of each stanza can be removed.]

Hannah could never know some day
Her prayer would be the model for
Another pray-er who magnified
The Lord, rejoicing in whom she bore.
Faith of our mothers, fathers, too,
Teach us God's love makes all things new.

But Hannah knew how Elkanah
Forsook her not, nor cast aside,
And as a spendthrift, even more,
On Hannah, lavished love with pride.
Faith of our mothers, fathers, too,
Teach us God's love makes all things new.

Letting loose doubt the Lord provides,
Pouring out faith set Hannah free,
By love and prayer her wish bore fruit,
And what she asked for, came to be.
Faith of our mothers, fathers, too,
Teach us God's love makes all things new.

"There is no Holy One like the LORD,"
Thus Hannah prayed, exulting that day;
Girding the feeble and thwarting the proud,
Love for the world will find a way!
Faith of our mothers, fathers, too,
Teach us God's love makes all things new.

Scott L. Barton

On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the LORD had closed her womb. Her rival used to provoke her severely, to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year; as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? Why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

After they had eaten and drunk at Shiloh, Hannah rose and presented herself before the LORD. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly. She made this vow: “O LORD of hosts, if only you will look on the misery of your servant, and remember me, and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a male child, then I will set him before you as a nazirite until the day of his death. He shall drink neither wine nor intoxicants, and no razor shall touch his head.”

As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she was drunk. So Eli said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Put away your wine.” But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman deeply troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the LORD. Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation all this time.” Then Eli answered, “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your sight.” Then the woman went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and her countenance was sad no longer.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. In due time Hannah conceived and bore a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I have asked him of the LORD.”



Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the LORD;
my strength is exalted in my God.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the LORD,
no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The LORD kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's,
and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
for not by might does one prevail.
The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered;
the Most High will thunder in heaven.
The LORD will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king,
and exalt the power of his anointed.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 8, 2015 - Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 and Mark 12:38-44

Rembrandt: Boaz and Ruth
Pen and brush, ca.1637-40, Berlin

Not Ruthless!

Beware of those who like the part,
who like the way they look in robes,
perfecting every day their art.
This is the same all o'er the globe.

If I forget, pull out this text;
remind me of the widow, poor,
who gave - not knowing what came next -
from trust that, on her, love still poured.

An earlier widow used her wits
to snag a man for Ruth (and her!)
while knowing all along, grace is
the gift of what could be, conferred.

Thus, Obed, David's grandpa, born
to one who served Naomi dear,
was named for service, like that sworn
by One who, in his line, appeared.

If Boaz didn't bite, the Christ
we know would never have been born;
This widow's trust in God sufficed;
Not ruthless, we're by love adorned!

Scott L. Barton


Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

+ + +

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), November 1, 2015 - Mark 12:28-34



A Saint of a Different Color

We like to paint the Pharisees and scribes
With one broad brush, as if they're all one tribe,
And think alike! - 'til such a text reminds
Us even Jesus would not have us blind
To God's salvation in some faithful soul
Who, by our standards, doesn't fit the role.
Thus, those who follow Jesus dare to see
One never knows who's in the family tree.

Scott L. Barton

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 25, 2015 - Job 42:1-6, 10-17 and Mark 10:46-52

William Blake: Job and His Daughters

Job's Non-Hollywood Ending

First, Job is told to say his prayers
for his annoying friends;
It must be prayer's required for
the Lord to make amends.
Next, sympathy and gifts turn out
to be Job's grieving need;
Since kindness, not explaining,
all our hurting spirits feed.
And now we know Job's daughters' names!
And they were given land!
Who knew that such catastrophe,
such progress could command?
These things we need to see, to keep
the blindness from our eyes,
About old Job's disaster which
resulted in surprise;
Not just that all was well again,
but life was fully new;
Thus, grace which always looks ahead
is what will see us through.


Scott L. Barton

Then Job answered the Lord: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you declare to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations. And Job died, old and full of days.

+++

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 18, 2015 - Mark 10:35-45 and Job 38:1-7

Preference Requested for James and John
in Martin Luther:
Biblia, die Ganze Heilige Schrift Alten und Neuen Testaments, / 
verteutschet durch Doctor Martin Luther ...

Perception Turned Right on Its Head

They thought, perhaps, that they might sit,
One on the left, one on the right,
Which would the best positions be
To serve him, in that long, good night.
But he reminded them he lived
To serve - as well, when he was dead,
Which made them scratch their heads, while their
Perception turned right on its head!

It wasn't his to grant, which meant
He couldn't even start to say
Just what some life beyond could be,
That he to them, then could portray.
It's like our cat, who looks to me
And must think that he knows it all;
He doesn't have a clue about
The things by which I am enthralled.

Thus Job, when daring to complain,
Out from the whirlwind heard the voice
Of one who understood it all,
And in the end made Job rejoice;
The point's to know that you are loved,
It didn't matter one bit how,
Or what might happen up ahead;
Just shout for joy, for love, right now.

Scott L. Barton

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

* * *

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this that darkens counsel
by words without knowledge?
Gird up your loins like a man,
I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone
when the morning stars sang together
and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 11, 2015 - Mark 10:17-31 Poem #2

A Picture I Can't See
(A poem inspired by a conversation with the Rev. Sarah Buteux (see especially, http://firstchurches.org/category/worship/sermons/), as we were discussing what seemed to us the surprising reinforcement by some in Roseburg, Oregon, of the need to carry concealed weapons.)

I do not think they understand
Propensities the good guys have
To carry evil in our hearts
So sometimes, even we can't save.
If good guys carried guns, they say,
The bad guys couldn't kill as much;
But don't we think we all are good?
And sometimes, can't we all be touched
By what could crawl up from the depths
And do us in - and others, too?
No one is good, but God alone,
Said Jesus then, to me, to you.

Or put it this way: if the good
Alone be armed, then that leaves One;
The One who is all good in love
Who'd be the One to hold the gun!
Is that what God is all about?
Would this God kill for you or me?
Pull out his gun from cloak, concealed...

This is a picture I can't see.

Instead of taking life into
God's hands, God goes and lays down laws
Whose purpose is to help us through,
When we, from what is right, withdraw;
A country's laws, as well, seek to
Prevent the harm some might commit
(Including us, none "Good!") that thus
Society and lives not split.

Meanwhile, God goes and lays down life,
A giving that we can't control,
So we might follow in his way,
And value each and every soul.

Scott L. Barton


As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone...."

Friday, October 2, 2015

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 11, 2015 - Mark 10:17-31

Heinrich Hofman: Christ and the Rich Young Ruler (1889)
Riverside Church, New York, NY
Present Tense, or Eternal Now

The man ran up, and then knelt down
before the Lord could next leave town;
He asked with some anxiety,
while demonstrating piety,
just what he had to do to get
the big brass ring, through legal writ.
How would the LORD grant such a thing
to this child, so aspiring?
To which the son, who knew the ways
His father worked, then next amazed
the man, who walked away in grief
since offered grace gave no relief.

Why grace, you ask, since such a thing
proposed by Jesus seemed to sting?
Just this: That we might realize
eternal life is not some prize
which Jesus by and by suggests
should be his followers' big quest.
The more you have, more you perceive
you have to do, and not receive.
Not camel nor the rich go through,
but love is what threads through to you;
Thus, be not tense, or worry how,
but trust, and live eternally, now.

Scott L. Barton

Please also see poem #2 (above) for a poem on the line, "No one is good but God alone," which is about concealed weapons in the wake of the Roseburg shootings.


As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 4, 2015 - Mark 10:2-16

Vie de Jesus Mafa

I Never Liked to Preach This Text

I never liked to preach this text,
What with divorcees in the fold,
Perhaps cast out by their home church,
Who marriage two would not extol;
They came for grace, not for a word
Of judgment on what had to be;
What's past, is past, we said; and who
Were we to judge such returnees?

There was a time when our church, too,
Frowned on divorce as that day's sin,
Espec'ally for the clergy, who
Were barred from pastoring church, therein.
What changed? The word of God? Or what
Our Lord said plainly to those men?
(I use that word deliberately,
Since they were wondering for their ken.)

Can we divorce, like Moses said,
- they asked to set him up - or not?
To which he noted such a rule
Protected women from their lot;
Then his disciples wanted more
In terms of what was wrong and right;
I now believe his twinkled eye
Caused them their wagging tongues to bite.

For though he says adultery
Comes when divorced man marries wife,
He said it's true the other way,
Which must have caused a lot of strife.
What woman could divorce a man?
That such a thing could never be
Thus prompted them to turn away
From rules so they might better see -

The children! - so they'd reassess
the nature of their need for law;
Except ye be as one of these,
You'll lose capacity for awe!
Try not to say who can or can't
Find love anew (or in some form
back then unknown), so you'll be blessed,
And each day's joy will be your norm.

Scott L. Barton

Speaking of preaching this text, the Rev. Sarah Buteux preached an absolutely wonderful one, "Outside the Box," at First Churches, Northampton, on October 4 in which she addressed marriage, the Pope, Kim Davis, and the thing we all need, and need to hear, the gospel. You can find it here: http://firstchurches.org/outside-the-box-a-sermon-by-rev-sarah-buteux/


Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 27, 2014 - Mark 9:38-50

Tasty

He says that I should be at peace,
and look to my own salt;
That is, my flavor should increase,
and be less apt to fault
the faith of others doing good,
as if their recipe
is somehow poison, and not food
that helps some child to see
that she is loved by God no less
than any I might feed;
Remember, that it's God who blesses -
Let none this love impede.

Scott L. Barton

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 20, 2015 - Mark 9:30-37

Thomas Sully: Suffer the Little Children, 1850
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
(After seeing this post, a friend, Tricia Dykers Koenig,
wrote to say that her great great great great uncle was this artist,
who also painted the portrait of Andrew Jackson that's on the $20 bill!)

What Is the Mark of Greatness When You Die?

What is the mark of greatness when you die?
Is how you've lived the way to death deny?
When Jesus broached predictions of his death,
Then his disciples almost held their breaths,
While wond'ring, if they, too, should be done in,
What might be said of them by kith and kin?
So Jesus took upon his lap a child,
And said, "Just live with trust like this."
And smiled.

Scott L. Barton

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Friday, September 4, 2015

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 13, 2015 - Mark 8:27-38

Marc Chagall: White Crucifixion (1938),
Art Institute of Chicago

I Am Not Sure I Want to Hear

I am not sure I want to hear
This word about a cross so dear
To Jesus' very heart and soul
He says that it should be my goal.
He says, behind him I should get,
Which means to follow him; and yet
I have too much to do, to give
My life, as if it's true he lives.

How can it be, when life's so brief,
And filled with heartache, pain and grief,
The Lord would still invite me where
He goes? I wish he'd not compare
His life to how I'd rather keep
All things, including those who sleep.
And yet, if I can lose my grip,
Perhaps his life might me equip.

Who do I say this Jesus is?
Can I by love show I am his?

Scott L. Barton


Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 6, 2015 - Mark 7:24-37


Jesus exorcising the Canaanite Woman's daughter,
from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry,
15th century, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France

(This poem could be useful in its entirety; or, I think the first main section can stand alone.)

It Is Not Fair

It is not fair, the good Lord said,
That dogs would get the children's bread;
The woman, very wise, replied,
Dogs on the children's crumbs rely.
Perhaps the Lord re-thought his plan;
More likely, though, this Jewish man
Provoked her, standing there, to think
That no! She was not out of synch
With God's great love for humankind.
And now, I am much more inclined
To think the Lord knew all along
She had to - for herself - see wrong
In categories we devise
That keep God's love for all disguised.

It isn't fair when things go wrong,
I mutter in some language strong
To God and to the midnight sky;
And angry, ask a constant "Why?"
About a loved one who has died,
Where suddenly I cry and cry;
Or one more shooting bringing grief,
From which we all yearn for relief;
Or why we have such race divides,
Where fear of other still misguides;
Atrocities of war so stick
Inside my craw, they make me sick;
Imagining my death, I rage,
That I will have to turn life's page.

Someday I'll learn life's not possessed,
But see it's given, and be blessed.

Scott L. Barton

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Poem #2 for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 30, 2015 - Song of Solomon 2:8-13. See also Ruth.


This poem by Thomas John Carlisle (1913-1992), which inspired a line in my poem (#1, below), deserves to be more known.  In addition, Arthur Frackenpohl (b. 1924) of Potsdam, New York wrote an anthem using this poem that you can obtain from Shawnee Press. 
Hear it here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CunB3JERZs8

Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One
(Boaz' Song to Ruth)

Rise up, my love, my fair one. Come away.
The winter of my witlessness is past.
My concentration on the harvest may
have made me heedless but I see at last.
The mist that filmed my mind is over, gone.
The fairest of flowers appears and it is you.
The singing in my heart has me undone
and I am glad and now know what to do.
The figs have ripened. Vines are in full bloom.
Their fruit and fragrance are as naught to all
your luxury which floods away my gloom
and makes me more than eager for your call.
Arise, my love, my fair one. Come away.
This day of days shall be our wedding day.

Thomas John Carlisle
Eve and After: Old Testament Women in Portrait (Eerdmans, 1984)

Poem #1 for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 30, 2015 - Song of Solomon 2:8-13



Arise, My Love, My Fair One

He leaps, he does not walk, to her;
He comes not by road, but as the crow flies;
He cannot wait, and she smiles to see.
She sees him arrive. She shares her joy.
"Look," she tells a friend. Or us.
Waiting, looking, catching a glimpse of her,
Enjoying her even when he doesn't have her.
Finally, he invites, "Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away." She is the answer
to the winter of his discontent.
He feels, he sees, he hears, he tastes, he smells -
Everything, all his senses, announce her to him.
And like the invitation of God, he repeats:
"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."

Scott L. Barton

The voice of my beloved! 
Look, he comes, 
leaping upon the mountains, 
bounding over the hills. 
My beloved is like a gazelle 
or a young stag. 
Look, there he stands 
behind our wall, 
gazing in at the windows, 
looking through the lattice. 
My beloved speaks and says to me: 
“Arise, my love, my fair one, 
and come away; 
for now the winter is past, 
the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on the earth; 
the time of singing has come, 
and the voice of the turtledove 
is heard in our land. 
The fig tree puts forth its figs, 
and the vines are in blossom; 
they give forth fragrance. 
Arise, my love, my fair one, 
and come away.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bonus Poem: Welcome (to the Cardiovascular Center)




 Welcome

Perhaps some languages contain
Three "welcome" words, so Wolverines
At C.V.C. Ann Arbor seek
To show, with triple guarantee,
They mean it when you enter here!
And yet, I've found, what makes most clear
The mission of this hallowed place
Is how each person, they embrace -
And name, with smart and tender care,
A healing that's beyond compare.



Scott L. Barton
(Thanks to First Presbyterian Church, Ann Arbor, for letting me use their computer to make this post!)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 23, 2015 - 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication for the Temple, Cathedrale d’Amiens, 1220-1240

By Love We Show
(New Policy Statement in a Prayer)
Tune: MC KEE or ST PETER
(In Christ There Is No East or West)



A cloud came from that holy place,
The priests there could not stand;
The glory of the Lord replaced
Their ministry, well-planned.


The king, God's promises retold
To Yahweh in his prayer,
Rememb'ring, though, no one controlled
God's how, or when, or where.


Thus Solomon, in royal plea,
Grace to the world declared,
That everyone some day might see
The news which must be shared.


O Lord, the time, we do not know,
When peace will be at hand;
But yours the name by love we show,
And by your power we stand.


Scott L. Barton

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.


Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.