Sunday, January 31, 2016

Transfiguration Sunday (C), February 7, 2016 - Luke 9:28-36, (37-43a)

Duccio di Buoninsegna: Transfiguration of Christ
 Panel from the Maesta altarpiece, Siena, Italy (1308-1311)

Note: For other poems on Transfiguration Sunday texts, please see my poems for the previous three years at  "What Is It With the Bible and Veils?"  "Crucified Lord, Who Rose So We Might Live" (This one is a new hymn to the tune, "Holy, Holy, Holy".)  "Nerving the Church"

By Love Configured

He goes up to the mount to pray
Not knowing what will come his way,
Since just a week ago he said
That he'd be killed, yet from the dead
He'd rise - that is, if he's the one!

Soon, Peter, most of all undone
By such a prayer that went both ways
- That is, be answered! - is amazed
To see the Law and Prophets now
Boiled down to one so light-endowed.

Rebuking, next, that spirit, strong,
The chosen one won't go along
With evil that a boy would ground,
Which did each one who saw, astound.

And Luke, his tale as here configured
Invites us still to be transfigured.

Scott L. Barton

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (C), January 31, 2016 - Jeremiah 1:4-10 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

For a poem specifically on the gospel passage, Luke 4:21-30, please see my poem from 2013 at:
Marc Chagall: Jeremiah (1980)
How to Tell the Difference

You'll never know when you'll be called
To do a job that might appall
You otherwise, some other day, 
Without some prod into the fray.

How do you know, though, if it's real,
A call? - or just some clanging spiel
You'd love to make? Perhaps, just take
A look to see whence comes the ache.

Is it your need that you be heard?
Or is it love calls forth some word
Of truth which is yet hard to say,
Though God would have you find a way?

Scott L. Barton

Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, 
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; 
for you shall go to all to whom I send you, 
and you shall speak whatever I command you, 
Do not be afraid of them, 
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” 
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, 
“Now I have put my words in your mouth. 
See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, 
to pluck up and to pull down, 
to destroy and to overthrow, 
to build and to plant.”

+  +  +

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (C), January 24, 2016 - 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Can "Religion" = Re-ligament Again?

A Jewish friend has written me
About the news from Canterb'ry,*
He thinks that Justin Welby seems
Reactionary, since the seams
Of Anglicans now start to fray
From sanctions over matters gay.

I tell him Welby's job is tough,
Consid'ring some have had enough,
Preferring the Americans
Would go their separate way, again, 
And leave a great and worldwide fold,
A purer church to then behold.

It's painful that some matters rank
So high to some, they'd draw a blank,
Forgetful of this chapter, where,
Paul says we must with others bear
When they are diff'rent! - since in Christ,
All parts that are in him, suffice.

My friend, no synagogue attends,
And frequently with me contends
Religion is no tie that binds,
But rather splits both hearts and minds;
Sometimes I fear that he is right,
And wish this text be heeded, quite.

Scott L. Barton


For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C), January 17, 2016 - John 2:1-11

Vie de Jesus MAFA

What Makes You Think You Don't Need It?

This Jewish mother knew the score;
She knew her son could do much more
Than just sit back, all uninvolved;
And so, this ponderer resolved
That she'd weigh in, and speak her mind,
E'en though, this son of hers, unkindly
                    Sometimes you need a push
To get yourself up off your tush;
And if that's true of even God,
Perhaps for you, it's not so odd.

Scott L. Barton

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord (C), January 10, 2016 - Isaiah 43:1-7 and Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

12th century mosaic
in Cappella Palatina,
Palermo, Italy
Unplumbed Depths

We think we know this Jesus and
We've got him all pinned down,
Until he gets himself baptized,
Like everyone in town.
But then a voice is heard that he's 
Beloved! God's well-pleased!
Remember how Isaiah said,
With passion, God was seized
With love for people cast afar,
And pleaded they would know
The steps God takes so they might see
God's love still overflow?
These waters Jesus passes through
Say you can never plumb
The depths, nor height, nor length of love
That nothing overcomes.

Scott L. Barton

But now thus says the Lord, 
he who created you, O Jacob, 
he who formed you, O Israel: 
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
I have called you by name, you are mine. 
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; 
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; 
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, 
and the flame shall not consume you. 
For I am the Lord your God, 
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. 
I give Egypt as your ransom, 
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. 
Because you are precious in my sight, 
and honored, and I love you, 
I give people in return for you, 
nations in exchange for your life. 
Do not fear, for I am with you; 
I will bring your offspring from the east, 
and from the west I will gather you; 
I will say to the north, “Give them up,” 
and to the south, “Do not withhold; 
bring my sons from far away 
and my daughters from the end of the earth— 
everyone who is called by my name, 
whom I created for my glory, 
whom I formed and made.”

+  +  +

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.”

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Epiphany of the Lord (C), January 6, 2016 - Matthew 2:1-12

Albrecht Dürer: The Adoration of the Magi
1511 woodcut, National Gallery of Art

So We Might Kneel

I picture Herod calm and cool,
Who, though afraid, was no one's fool,
And asked the wise men where was born
Messiah, now that he'd been warned.
I picture in his royal world
A Snidely Whiplash, mustache curled,
Whose soto voce, "Bwa-ha-ha"
Lurked underneath his claimed, "Hurrah!"

Thus, once more, this Epiphany,
Beware the one who claims to see
The news of Christ with words so glib
He'd keep the baby in his crib
And do him in! But picture now
Those seekers who could disavow
Belief Jerus'lem was the key
- E'en though Isaiah said 'twould be -

And went with Micah, who proclaimed
That Bethlehem would be acclaimed
The place from whom a shepherd king
To all the world good news would bring!
Another road those magi took,
The wise men, who at first, mistook
The way of love that God revealed,
So we, like them, in awe might kneel.

Scott L. Barton

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.