Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B), May 3, 2015 - Acts 8:26-40

Rembrandt: The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)

The Ethiopian Eunuch

The eunuch of the Candace*,
Although the Nubian queen's trustee,
Could not quite trust God's love extends
To one cut off, so life would end.
While wond'ring who Isaiah meant
About the one who underwent
Humiliation he, too, knew,
Then, Philip, through the words, cut through,
To tell how Jesus was good news
To anyone by life so bruised.
The eunuch found himself beguiled,
And baptized, smiled to be love's child.

Scott L. Barton

[Compare the end of verse 33, "For his life is taken away from the earth," with the Hebrew version of Isaiah 53:8c, "For he was cut off from the land of the living."]

*pronounced "KAN-de-si"

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (B), April 26, 2015 - Psalm 23


The Shepherd King

The shepherd king provides for all my needs,
It is by grace (or think, "dumb luck!") I feed
Upon the love from people in my life,
My home, my meals, my mostly lack of strife;

The shepherd king protects me when I'm prone
To think I daily go through life alone;
In face of need, before me lies a spread -
Saved from devouring enemies, instead;

The shepherd king pursues me my life long,
And tracks me down to know I still belong
By grace to one who'll never let me go,
And surely - Wow! - such love I'll ne'er outgrow.

Scott L. Barton

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Third Sunday of Easter, April 19, 2015 - Luke. 24:36b-48

Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)
Jesus' Appearance While the Apostles are at Table

Easter Meals

He asks for food, they give him fish,
And then remember every dish
They ate with him along the way.
It is as if they hear him say,
"The loaves and fishes that you passed,
To feed a multitude, surpassed
What anybody would have guessed;
But that was just an alpha test
Which you, my friends, can now repeat.
You're witnesses none can defeat
The love for which I lived and died,
Though crucifying me, they tried.
Go out to all the world to show
Forgiveness that will overflow
As through you, everyone rethinks
How love is now your food, your drink."

Scott L. Barton

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Second Sunday of Easter (B), April 12, 2015 - John 20:19-31

Vie de Jesus MAFA: Jesus Appears to Thomas

It's Not God If You Think You Understand*

We think that there is something wrong with doubt,
And wonder if we might be less devout
Than others who of faith seem much more sure,
Reflecting by their words a love more pure.

But doubt in faith's no enemy of mine,
And Thomas has no less of love divine
Than anyone who thinks, and yet risks still
Believing that God's love our lives fulfill.

The Kenyan Muslims who protected friends
Are blessed; while those whose certainty descends
Unto the hell of Al Shabab, depraved,
Reveal a faith by which they are enslaved.

Likewise, it's clear religious freedom laws
When twisted to what seems a righteous cause
Devolve unto the wrong which just divides,
Confusing fervent love for God with pride.

Who knows why love forgives in Jesus' form,
Or bids the Risen One now be our norm;
It's not God if you think you understand,
The best of faith with doubt goes hand in hand.

Scott L. Barton

[*Augustine: "Why wonder that you do not understand? For if you understand, it is not God."  Serm. 117, 5: PL 38, 673.]

For other ways of looking at this text, please see previous posts for this Sunday in 2014 and 2013:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.