Monday, May 30, 2016

The Third Sunday after Pentecost (C), June 5, 2016 - Luke 7:11-17 and I Kings 17:8-24

Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586)
Raising of the Son of the Widow of Nain (1569)
Wittenberg, Church of St. Mary

In Nain (Heb. "lovely," "green pastures") 

Not just any magic trick,
   to bring a crowd 
      to its feet;
Not some celebrity,
   curing one day but saying the next
      he didn't mean it;
This Jesus has compassion
   on she whose only means of support
      was, but for him, gone.
This Jesus suffers with,
   for, presumably, 
      she would have died, too.
So Jesus seeks no greener pastures,
   no easier performance,
      no safer bet.
He raises someone from the dead
   for the first time,
      maybe not knowing if he could or should.
The man sits up 
   and speaks
      and all of Nain is in awe.
They see the possible,
      another side of lovely,
         another side of God.
And one can imagine
   each turning to their neighbor,
      and saying,
"Let's make Nain kind again,"
   here, in this lovely,
      blessed place.

Scott L. Barton

Soon afterwards [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

+   +   +

Mendelssohn's "Elijah," part II

Cynthia and I sang this text years ago.
I, Elijah; she, the widow.
I still remember her voice,
Bereft from losing her son,
Blaming "me."
She wonders if Elijah
Has recalled to God her sin.
"Give me thy son," Elijah sings.
He prays:
"In mercy heal this widow's son;
"In mercy heal this widow's son!
"Lord, in mercy heal this widow's son."
He doesn't give up.
He cares.
He believes.
And then, surprise!
"Now behold, thy son liveth!"
And now she knows, she sings,
That he's a man of God,
And that the word in his mouth is the truth.
"What shall I render to the Lord
For all his benefits to me?"
The oratorio recalls Psalm 116 for this question;
And then, for the answer, Deuteronomy 6,
Which Jesus remembered too:
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,
Love him, with all thy heart,
And with all thy soul,
And with all thy might;"
And now Elijah and the widow
Are soaring with the Psalmist:
"Oh, blessed are they,
Are they who fear him!"
And now it's the chorus's turn
To sing in dulcet tones of blessedness.
And now it's our turn, too,
To claim the blessedness
Of knowing Elijah's God still,
To remember it, and live it,
And walk in the ways of peace,
All our days.

Scott L. Barton

also at

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Second Sunday after Pentecost (C), May 29, 2016 - Luke 7:1-10 and 1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39

Adam Camerious: Jesus Heals the Centurion's Servant
(bet. 1644-1665), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Color Me Surprised!

In the eyes of the centurion,
His slave was worthy to be healed;
In the eyes of Capernaum's elders,
Their centurion was worth Jesus' doing it.
But what's worth seeing here
Is a Jesus who is amazed.
Don't be blue about all your calculations:
Turns out, it's divine to be surprised!

Scott L. Barton

After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

Mendelssohn's "Elijah," part I
I cannot read this text without
The strains of Mendelssohn
Reverberating through my head
In many-layered tones;
Elijah taunts the prophets,
"Call him louder" his refrain,
I smile as he sarcastically
Keeps singing his disdain;
"Perhaps he's on a journey,"
Euphemistic'lly he goads,
"Pursuing!" Maybe Baal's off wooing
Down amorous roads!
"Or peradventure," (quietly)
"He sleepeth," Eli mocks,
I have to say, of all the prophets
Old, Elijah rocks!
But not just for his anger, or
Dramatic, forceful zeal,
But for his tenderness, as he
Goes on with this appeal:
"Draw near you people, come to me,"
The prophet soothes in song,
Then prays, "Lord, God of Abraham
"...This day let it be known
That thou are God, and I'm thy servant,"
Thus his tone is changed;
For all his bluster, still his doubts
Reveal he's not deranged
But waits to see if God will act
According to his word,
"Oh, hear me, Lord, and answer me"
He prays that he's been heard!
"And let their hearts again be turned,"
Is what he deeply craves;
The love Elijah knows, and has,
The people, always saves.

Scott L. Barton

So Ahab sent to all the Israelites, and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel.

Elijah then came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty. Let two bulls be given to us; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it; I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god and I will call on the name of the Lord; the god who answers by fire is indeed God.” All the people answered, “Well spoken!” Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many; then call on the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”So they took the bull that was given them, prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon, crying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no answer. They limped about the altar that they had made. At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” Then they cried aloud and, as was their custom, they cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response. Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come closer to me”; and all the people came closer to him. First he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down; Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name”;with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. Then he made a trench around the altar, large enough to contain two measures of seed.Next he put the wood in order, cut the bull in pieces, and laid it on the wood. He said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” Then he said, “Do it a second time”; and they did it a second time. Again he said, “Do it a third time”; and they did it a third time, so that the water ran all around the altar, and filled the trench also with water. At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Trinity Sunday, First Sunday after Pentecost (C), May 22, 2016 - Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and Romans 5:1-5

(Unknown source)

All This Mommixity and Foofaraw

"All this mommixity and foofaraw,"
The book I'm reading said about a place*
Where people of all nations and all stripes
Once lived in harmony, all interlaced.

It was so cosmopolitan you could
Not let yourself be proud, too serious,    
But rather, see the humor in each day,
That none might find themselves imperious.

Pride has its place, and yet anxiety,
When stoked, can fan a fire, and heartache give;
Instead, rejoice in neighbors, and delight -
True wisdom's cry still comes - so all may live.

Oh, who can understand "The Trinity?"
Be honest, does it baffle or confuse?
All doctrine, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, too,
Still points to peace and joy it's wise to choose.

Scott L. Barton

*Istanbul, in Louis de Bernières: "Birds Without Wings"

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights, beside the way,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
at the entrance of the portals she cries out:
“To you, O people, I call,
and my cry is to all that live.

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.

Since We Are Justified By Faith

Since we are justified by faith,
We are at peace, through Christ, our Lord,
That is, he shows that grace is ours
And hope of glory, our reward;
Why boast in hope - or suffering?
Well, it's for others, don't you see?
God's glory means God gives, and gives,
And even suffers, willingly -
Endures although endangered - that's
The character we might impart,
When through the Holy Spirit, God
Keeps pouring love into our hearts.

Scott L. Barton
Also at

The phrase, "Endures although endangered" is from a poem by Thomas John Carlisle that you can see at

Romans 5:1-5

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Bonus Poem: Quite an Earful (of spring peepers)!

(Please page down to the previous post for lectionary poems on Pentecost.)

Quite an Earful!

Driving down Route 1,
hearing chorus after chorus 
of spring peepers,
for whom it must be like 
one of those restaurants 
where everybody talks louder and louder
until you give up trying to hear 
the person across the table,
and just try to enjoy your meal,
we slow down at one of them,
roll down the windows,
listen in, and are glad 
that they, at least, 
keep on trying:
"I'm over here!"
"I'm over here!" 
"Pick me!"
"No, me!"
"I'm over here!"
"Pick me!"
"Pick me!"
while, yet again, we get to enjoy 
this delicious, springtime feast.

Scott L. Barton

The Day of Pentecost (C), May 15, 2016 - Acts 2:1-21

In St. Mark's cathedral, Korčula, Croatia

Grace in Croatia

I understood nothing,
In St. Mark's Cathedral,
Korčula, Croatia.
Some two hundred had come,
Despite buckets of rain,
Five in the afternoon.
I'd call their hymns praise songs,
Repeated, known by heart,
Yet beautifully faithful.
Their songs of mystery -
And love - and sacrifice -
And, I think, gratitude,
Almost moved me to tears,
Everything understood,
Though no words known to me.
How could this be, given
My inability
To say anything back
About that which filled them?
I, too, was full of grace.

Scott L. Barton

Pentecost, Pope Francis, and the Lightness of Being

It used to be that when the Pope
Would speak, he didn't speak to me;
He's always been the voice of judgment,
And of high authority;
Plus, as a pastor, I had seen
The damage done unto his flock,
When people to our doors appeared,
Cast from their church right down the block;
But this Pope speaks a different line,
The Spirit has him in its grasp;
The lightness of his being shows
A man (like God?) in on the laugh
Of Christ, who doesn't spare the truth,
Yet always sees the world with grace.
All understand! And at his faith
And hope and love I am amazed.

Scott L. Barton

Oh, What Would They Do?

A sound like the rush of a violent wind
Filled the whole house with all of them there;
These tongues, or this ruach, this fire, appeared,
Like an answer to all of their prayers;
Oh, what would they do, with their Lord up and gone,
Out of sight, vanished, gone, disappeared?
Thus, fire from heaven, like Sinai encore,
All their doubts of the kingdom then cleared:
The news of salvation is not some obscure
Or exclusive thing meant for a few;
All manner of folk, of all nations on earth
Now are given the love that makes new.

Scott L. Barton

How Odd

How odd/ of God/ to choose/ the Jews
I used to like to say;
It was a favorite axiom
I might say some Lord's Day
To help the congregation see
These texts are not obsessed
With moral goodness all around,
But rather, how God blessed
A motley crew of liars, cheats,
And folk like you and me!
Which is, of course, good news today,
For, though we don't agree
On points of doctrine, song or style,
The Spirit gladly speaks
So people hear within their hearts
(Despite our own techniques)
That blessings far and wide abound;
Such things still come from God!
So go proclaim the love you have,
Not like a drunk - but odd!

Scott L.  Barton

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’