Friday, July 31, 2015

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 9, 2015 - 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Marc Chagall:
David Weeps for Absalom
Five Times

Five times he calls his son.
Five times he names the one
About whom he had spake:
"Deal gently for my sake
With the young man." But he
Died hanging from a tree,
The forest something like
God's will; although the strike
From Joab's men ensured
The kingdom be secured.

Thus David's grief, not brief,
Becomes the new motif
Describing David, king,
Who, living, felt the sting
Of judgment, self-declared,
Though shepherd king was spared.
He knows that Yahweh's choice
Now calls him to rejoice,
Since chosen from above
Means love,

Scott L. Barton

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.” The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Bonus Poem: Cliffhanger at Mile Marker 189.9

Cliffhanger at Mile Marker 189.9 

Traveling on the New York State Thruway
between the Mohawk River
and a big vertical wall of shale
created long before the invention of road cuts,
is what remains of a white wooden cross,
maybe 100 feet up,
and about the same distance from the cliff top.

55 years ago, as a boy on family trips
between Albany and Pittsburgh,
it became a landmark I watched for,
a witness to a faith that someone
had the courage and boldness to proclaim
to untold numbers on their travels
across the Empire State.

Over the years, I watched one half of the horizontal arm
rot and break off, and then the other half.
And then at some point I noticed
that someone had replaced the whole thing.
How did they get there? How did they do it?
I don't know, but at least twice
I have observed this cycle.

Thus, this cross became a sign of defiant faith,
a proclamation of an enduring love
that will not let us go,
a timeless love,
that despite the vicissitudes of time
on all our travels
will endure and be proclaimed.

After years of not traveling this particular stretch,
The other day I saw that, once again,
only the vertical part of the cross remains.
And I wonder, is there someone out there,
perhaps of some new generation of faithful rappellers,
who will restore this marker
for yet another generation speeding by?

Scott L. Barton

Friday, July 24, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 2, 2015 - 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13a

Rembrandt: Nathan Admonishing David (c. 1652-53),
The Clark, Williamstown, Massachusetts
Less Sheepish

"The man who's done this ought to die!"
Thus David, his own sin, espied,
Just as he'd watched Bathsheba bathe,
Her beauty such, he could not breathe
Until he had her! Now, he learned
The tendency of power to yearn
For more and more, despite the score
That Nathan told, of gifts all poured
From Yahweh to his chosen king!
And David saw that there's one thing
You cannot do, and that is pull
Over the good LORD's eyes the wool.
And yet, the sentence he declared
For one like him who had so erred,
The LORD refused to carry out -
Less sheepish being grace than doubt.

Scott L. Barton

When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD, and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’

 Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD; I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’ David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.’

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), July 26, 2015 - John 6:1-21

Jesus Mafa: Jesus Multiplies the Loaves and Fish

Uncrowned King

He would not do the things they thought
Appropriate for one who taught
And healed with such extravagance
They also thought improvident.

You really have to hand it, though,
To Andrew: It was apropos,
He thought, to indicate the boy
Whose food, perhaps, they might deploy?

"But no," - he quickly hedged his bets -
Like Philip, who declared to get
The cash for such a crowd? "No way!" -
But Jesus, cast their doubts away.

They sailed, although the king, uncrowned
Had wandered off to higher ground
Until their need he might assess,
And once again, disciples bless.

Scott L. Barton

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’

 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bonus Poem: The Object of Our Wonder

The last image returned to Earth before the flyby.
It was taken on 7/13/15, from a distance of 476,000 miles.

The Object of Our Wonder

New Horizons has done its job!
Through expertise, and pulls and lobs
Of planets on its 9-year way,
To Pluto it has reached today!
It blows my mind at light's fast speed
The signal, from so far out, needs
Four hours and a half to go
From there to here, to say hello!
Like some E.T., it's just phoned home,
To touch us, as our planet roams,
Like Pluto, in its silent course,
Around the sun, our common source.

Earth's orbit, one full year equates,
While Pluto's takes two-forty-eight;
We have, on earth, one clair de lune,
While Pluto has at least five moons!
And while, out there, the sun so small,
Each moon, no doubt, a quite dark ball,
I am amazed there's light enough
That we can see such Pluto stuff
That meets the eye! It's so much more
Than anyone has seen before!
We're like Clyde Tombaugh who first saw
The ninth one out, no doubt, in awe.

Of course, it's no more number nine
As "planet" now is redefined;
In eighty-five years, much has changed,
Since Tombaugh found the dwarf so strange.
But now, how cool his ashes fly
By his discov'ry in the sky,
Which young Venetia Burney showed
Her grandpa "Pluto" apropos;
That Englishman then called a friend,
Who called another, to the end
That what's named for the world down under
Is now the object of our wonder.

Scott L. Barton

See the story where NASA interviewed Venetia Burney in 2006, just before the launch of New Horizons. Burney was eleven years old when she suggested Pluto's name. She died in 2009 at the age of 90.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), July 19, 2015 - Ephesians 2:11-22

Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality,
Evan B Howard, (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2008)

Good Thing

Sometimes it's hard to remember
That the point of his life and death
Was to unite, not to divide.

If he knew what we do in his name,
He would turn over in his grave.

Good thing for him he's not there.

Scott L. Barton

So then, remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), July 12, 2015 - Mark 6:14-29

Gustave Moreau (1826-1898)
The Tattooed Salome

One Wonders Where the Good News Lies

One wonders where the good news lies
When Herod's daughter won the prize
Of John the Baptist's head! I think -
Could Herod have, with less to drink,
Been prone to let John be released,
With words like, "Now desist, and cease
From your disturbing of the peace"?
Or, should we guard what, with caprice,
We swear? - because we might regret,
Like Jepthah, what our boasting gets?
Or does this warn of what will be
When truth to power is decreed?
Presumably, the end of John
Meant Jesus knew he could count on
Our inhumanity to reign
When threats, our better natures, drain.
And so he knew the course he'd take
Would end like John's, but he'd remake
The message -  not brimstone and fire,
But grace that might the world inspire,
So even when his dance would end,
His love, his people would extend.

Scott L. Barton

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her. Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.