Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Third Sunday of Easter (C), April 10, 2016 - Acts 9:1-6 (7-20); John 21:1-19

Pietro da Cortona: Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul (1631)

(For my poem just on John 21:1-19, "Omega 3 Antidote to Scarcity," please go to the archives to the right for April 14, 2013, or see

Miraculous Responses

The fishy thing is, Ananias went,
When reason told him that it made no sense - 
Except the Lord had called, and said to go!
Would you? Would you say, "Here I am," and so
Become just like those many others who
Those same words said, though didn't have a clue
Of what it meant? Except, we know; that phrase,
Each time it's said - to us who read - conveys
A risky proposition up ahead,
One where, without God's help, you end up dead.
But Ananias, standing in a line
Of faithful, almost to the start of time,
Responded, and so risked a trip to Saul,
And thus began a church - which fished for all.

Scott L. Barton

(Note: The words, "Here am I" (or "Here I am") by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Mary (Jesus's mother) and Ananias all portend some risky business that the LORD has in store for those who answer.)

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying,and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Second Sunday of Easter, April 3, 2016 - Acts 5:27-32

He Qi: Risen Lord 

For my poem from 2013 on the John 20:19-31 text, 
"Oh, Why Do You Think that He Said to Them, 'Peace'?" please see
or access it from the archives to the right.

Still, Still, Still

"You're determined to bring this man's blood upon us!"
Said the priest to disciples who would not be shushed,
Since the Spirit of God would not let them be still
About Jesus, now raised, whom e'en death would not kill;
Thus the gift of the Spirit they had to obey
Was forgiveness for all! They could not turn away
From the truth, which is love, and the measure of God,
Who still calls us to tell, who still pushes, still prods.

Scott L. Barton

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Bonus Poem: Good Friday, 2016, Québec City

Good Friday, 2016, Québec City

I learned about the holy door,
Just one of seven in all the world,
A tourist here at Holy Week,
Though nothing holy did I seek.

Returning to the train to ride,
I thought that I might turn aside
And see this sight, perhaps pass through,
Before I bid Québec adieu.

I thought I could not pass, until
I read that persons of goodwill
Might open up the heavy gate,
With love converting any weight.

"Je suis la porte" (Jesus a dit),
So said the sign, this Good Friday,
As I approached the holy door
I felt that I could not ignore.

Inside, a man in collar stood
In welcome, and I understood
It no mistake to pass inside
Where early pilgrims turned aside.

Then looking at the ceiling, high,
The wood and gold all pleased the eye,
I then turned back to give my card
To him who'd offered kind regards.

A "Presby minister," he read,
"A fellow Christian, then," he said;
My thanks, and his to me, alors,
Had opened other holy doors.

When all that's different now divides,
Christ still, by death, would open wide
To each, the love that ends all strife,
And help us sanctify this life.

Scott L. Barton

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Resurrection of the Lord (C), March 27, 2016 - Luke 24:1-12

He Qi: Empty Tomb (2001)

Different News Feed

Just women were the first evangelists
For what had happened on that day;
After their fear, they ran to tell the news,
And weren't believed; So now we say,
"Well, color me surprised! What's new? Like, duh!"

When Luke says Peter checked it out
And found it so, and yet he just went home,
We sometimes criticize his doubts;
But don't forget that he went home, amazed!
Which is a quality we need.

Try going home amazed this Easter day,
Since love, all fear and death exceeds!
In these, our public narcissistic times,
When pomp and bombast, anger feeds,
Be brave in love and don't hold back -

For Christ is ris'n; and risen indeed!

Scott L. Barton

For another poem on this text, please see my poem from 2013 at

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Maundy Thursday (C), March 24, 2016 - 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

Collenbrook United Church, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania

In Remembrance of Me

Do this in remembrance of me, he said,
in breaking bread, and drinking cup;
We're good at saying this, this night,
perhaps with candles lighted up,
extinguished one by one; or feet
or hands by neighbor or pastor
washed, in mem'ry of the night
he did it too, though Master.
And yet, the funny thing,
that's easy to forget,
is this one word,
of me - not
night, or
meal, or 
wash, or
threat -
but him!
And him
His life,
his way,
his face,
his fearless giving;
So he's the one, on whom
you now, your life might base.

Scott L. Barton
(With thanks to J. Barrie Shepherd, whose 1990 book of poems called, "The Moveable Feast" included some poems written in a shape, and which gave me the above idea.)

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Bonus Poem: The Man in the Post Office

For the lectionary poems for this Sunday or Palm Sunday, please page down to previous posts. 

The Man in the Post Office

I cannot get the vision from my head,
A hat, on man, behind me in the line,
"Make America great again," it said.
I'd ask him, "What's not great? Can you define?"
But, sad and blank his face, no honoree,
And on his pocket, "Veteran," it said;
Hunched over, bearded and bedraggled, he,
Older than I, he's known his share of dread;
Who will embrace him as he faces death?
Perhaps he's stared at one too many graves;
I don't excuse; but something held my breath -
The love he needs is only what will save.

Scott L. Barton

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Palm Sunday (C), March 20, 2016 - Luke 19:28-40

(Please also see below for Palm Sunday poems from other years.)

Ex nihilo

It's not experience he needs;
No lack of expertise impedes
The course he takes,
Which shows he aches
To love the world in word and deed.

Take Mary as example one;
The woman who would bear the son -
A girl unknown,
A virgin womb 
Who magnified what God had done.

And those disciples whom he chose!
Inexpertly they spoke - or dozed;
Though novices,
They still were his;
Their emptiness showed where grace grows.

The donkey that he asked to ride
No rider ever was astride;
He rode the thing,
They called him King ;
His call decides what's bona fide. 

And soon a tomb as yet unused
Will bear the body crushed and bruised,
So he might rise
And show all eyes
Ex nihilo Love is infused.

Scott L. Barton

After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Here are previous poems for this day, the first two from 2013, followed by 2014's and 2015's:

The little donkey demonstrated
How Jesus lived; but that sure grated
The nerves of certain Pharisees who
Were worried people might live up to
The loud acclaim they gave the rider
Whose way's our sole (and soul's) provider -
Provided that we're brave for shouting
God's mighty deeds, despite our doubting,
And show by dying in ways myriad,
That love will have no ending period.

Scott L. Barton
2013, Luke 19:28-40

+ + +

One of my first funerals, in my first pastorate,
Was for a young man barely out of high school;
One blistering July day, he died
Working in the hay mow of the neighbor farmer.
Survived by his parents and five siblings,
An older brother had died years earlier,
Hit by a car while on his bicycle near home.
The church was packed, of course,
And somehow, we muddled through.
Then we went to the cemetery:
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
Trusting your love and mercy,
In the sure and certain hope
Of the resurrection to eternal life.
When we were all done, the father,
Standing just an arm's length away,
Reached into his pocket,
Pulled out a pebble,
And handed it to me.
I still cry when I think about it,
Thirty-six years later.
For the previous Palm Sunday,
At the end of the sermon on this text,
I had handed out pebbles
To everyone in the congregation,
Scrounged from the manse's driveway,
And then, pretty much forgot about it,
At least until that day in July,
When a grieving father taught me
That you never know when, or how, or by whom,
The Word of God will be proclaimed.

Scott L. Barton
2013, Luke 19:28-40

The Donkey in the Room

We like to keep our politics
Apart from Sunday church;
Woe to the preacher who would dare
The worship to besmirch
With commentary on the powers
That tend to rule the day;
And yes, it can be overdone -
And peoples' trust betray;
But Jesus, on parade that day,
Lampooned the power and might
Of Caesar, and all who in great
Display would take delight;
He's making fun of those who lord
It over people's hearts;
This Jesus, not just meek and mild,
Is brave, and heav'nly smart.

Scott L. Barton
2014, Matthew 21:1-11

Donkey Rustling

How odd that Mark spends so much time
On what seems so unlike sublime;
It almost seems ridiculous
To know such details infamous
As how he got that ne'er ridd'n colt!
Who cares? Yet maybe his revolt
Against the principalities
Includes his personality
Involved in ev'ry action where
His followers, his name declare.
The coffee hour, the ushers' list,
The anthem sung, the meals dished,
The lesson taught in Sunday School,
The need to pay the bill for fuel,
The book group some came to in Lent,
The youth on mission trip just sent,
The prelude, bulletins, and prayers,
The greeter there atop the stairs,
The new hymn that the pastor tried,
The news a faithful friend has died -
Such details of our life declare -
When done for him - that he is where
By grace we show that Jesus saves
By love, from cradle to the grave.

Scott L. Barton
2015, Mark 11:1-11

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bonus Poem: Davy Crockett, March 6, and the end of the Battle of the Alamo

For the lectionary poem for March 13, please page down to the previous post!

In Praise of Davy Crockett (August 17, 1786 - March 6, 1836)

When Davy Crockett killed a bar,
How could he know that he'd go far
In politics of Tennessee?
For he'd a legislator be,
In Nashville, then in Washington,
Where, as a Presbyterian
He voted 'gainst Prez Jackson's quest
To move the Indians out west.
The folks back home were not impressed,
And thus, he lost the next contest.
In two more years he won again,
But two years hence, to home was sent.
Disgusted, then, by Tennessee,
He fought to help make Texas free.
One hundred-eighty years ago,
His last loss at the Alamo
Established Davy Crockett's name
Bar none, a hero, worth his fame;
Thus, on this date, March 6, we sing
In praise to our wild frontier king!

Scott L. Barton

The Fifth Sunday in Lent (C), March 13, 2016 - Isaiah 43:16-21


For my poem on the John 12:1-8 text, please see my poem from March 17, 2013 using archives to the right or at

Then and Now

With Israel in captivity
It must have been quite hard to see
How Yahweh, who had split the sea,
Could once again a savior be.

The poet said, "Forget all that,
The LORD, who for you, went to bat,
Because, in love, once, you begat,
Will now, for you, go to the mat!

"And though, the metaphor be new,
Now, desert rivers will break through;
So you should never misconstrue,
All tried and true, my love for you."

Isaiah thus reminds us how,
Words changed, they still can be endowed
With what is true, if we'd allow
Our God to speak, if then, then now.

Scott L. Barton

Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished,
quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.