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,, 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.”