Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (B), February 1, 2015 - Mark 1:21-28

Exorcism at the Synagogue in Capernaum
11th c. C.E. fresco
Jesus of Nazareth Went to Capernaum

Jesus of Naz’reth went to Capernaum, 
To the synagogue to teach,
People, astounded, at his wisdom
Saw his power all to reach.
Jesus of Naz’reth, as we pray,
Please teach us, reach us, we beseech you;
Visit your people with your power;
With your life, our lives renew.

Into the room there came a man
Whose ranting, crying stole the show;
What would Jesus tell the madman,
All the people sought to know.
Jesus of Naz’reth, are you able 
To cast out, blast out demons today?
Your love saves us in each hour;
Come to us without delay!

Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit
While the people were amazed;
“He commands, and they obey him!”
Thus his name to all was praised.
Jesus of Naz’reth, we are yours,
We follow and hallow your will for peace;
You have called us to your purpose,
So your love may here increase.

God has called us to be faithful
In an age of fear and strife;
War and greed are now our demons,
But in Christ we have new life;
Jesus of Naz’reth, we your people
Now go, to show your gift of grace;
Give us courage you to follow,
That your church may all embrace!

Scott L. Barton

(Please see my hymn with these words in the previous post, put to a well-known theme from a Mozart sonata.)

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hymn for February 1, 2015, based on Mark 1:21-28

I wrote this hymn for the Mark 1:21-28 text in 2006, which was also the 250th anniversary year of the birth of Mozart. The tune is the familiar theme from Piano Sonata no. 11 in A major, K 331. Dr. Arthur Frackenpohl, emeritus professor of music at the Crane School of Music, S.U.N.Y. Potsdam, arranged the tune and had it engraved. 

You are free to print the hymn for congregational use. Click on the image, then right click on the next image to save to your desktop for printing. Many congregations have sung it in 2006, 2009 and 2012.  Please let me know if you use it. I will then let Dr. Frackenpohl know as well.

Grace, peace and good singing!

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (B), January 25, 2015 - Jonah 3:1-5, [6-9], 10; Mark 1:14-20

Duccio di Buoninsegna (d. 1319)
The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew (1308/1311)
National Gallery of Art

The Shortest Sermon in the Book

The shortest sermon in the Book,
Five Hebrew words is all it took
To turn huge Nineveh around;
We know its size, for on the ground
A three-day's walk is sixty miles!
And thus the author makes us smile
To see how little Jonah said
To turn the whole place on its head.

With Jesus, "Son," "Beloved" named,
In Galilee, he then proclaimed
Good news; and with a scant nine words,
In Simon and in Andrew stirred
A calling deep - and so profound,
They left their nets without a sound;
Next, James and John could not resist
In heaven's cause then to enlist.

The Faithful One who ever seeks
Will come to those who hear, and speak.
Apparently, the sermon's length
Cannot predict the preacher's strength;
The anecdotes and wisdom deep,
From files and web that preachers reap,
Can hardly substitute for when
God would our lives begin again.

Scott L. Barton

[Note: Here are the Hebrew and Greek words in Jonah 3:4 and Mark 1:17 spoken by Jonah and Jesus:

עוֹד אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, וְנִינְוֵה נֶהְפָּכֶת

Δεῦτε  ὀπίσω  μου,  καὶ  ποιήσω  ὑμᾶς  γενέσθαι  ἁλιεῖς  ἀνθρώπων]

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’ So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

[When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’]

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.


Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (B), January 18, 2015 - 1 Samuel 3:1-20; John 1:43-51

Marc Chagall:

Le jeune Samuel, 

serviteur du sacrificateur 

Eli et couchant dans la chambre 

de son maître, s'entend appeler par Dieu 

A Means of Grace

There's nothing like telling the truth!
So young Samuel and Nathanael learned,
They told what they heard,
The meaning, unslurred,
And another truth to them returned.

In Samuel's case, somehow, he knew,
From the voice that kept calling that night,
What old Eli should know -
Though the news was his woe,
And though bad news is rarely polite.

Nathanael had heard, nothing good
From that backwater Naz'reth could come,
So he challenged Phil's cry
The Messiah was nigh -
To the latest craze he'd not succumb!

Thus, speaking what they thought down deep,
Despite worry what others might say,
With their clear lack of guile
Perhaps the Maker then smiled,
And astonishing things then displayed.

Scott L. Barton

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”

As Samuel grew up, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

+  +  +

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Baptism of the Lord (B), January 11, 2015 - Mark 1:4-11

It's not a repentance sandwich!
I know; it seems to be.
Three weeks before the birth of Christ
We heard from John the B.
And now it's three weeks on, and he
Appears around the bend;
Good God! With Christmas, didn't such things
Meet a joyful end?

But Jesus, now grown up, just smiles,
And to the water walks
To show that we've abused this word
With our religious talk;
It's not that you've been bad, and must
Be good, for goodness' sake,
But can your pride, your ego and
Your fear, you finally shake?

Repentance, I am glad to say,
Is never the end game,
God doesn't groove on all our sin,
Our failures or our shame.
Inside us all, our essence is
The grace by which we live,
Such grace, the Spirit still proclaims,
Such grace, this voice still gives.

Scott L. Barton
[I got some good ideas and even phrases for this poem from a sermon by my good friend and one of the best preachers I know, the Rev. Sarah Buteux. You can find the sermon here:]

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”