Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost (C), October 9, 2016 - Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Luke 17:11-19

In Its Welfare You Will Find Your Welfare

The headline says that "Evangelicals despair"*
And feel, with no one in their Presidential camp,
Their values, these days, really just don't stand a prayer,
Since attitudes about gay rights have been revamped.

Perhaps a word from Jeremiah now pertains
To those who feel in exile in their native land:
If they would seek the good of all where they remain,
Perhaps they'd grow in love that faith in Christ demands.

Scott L. Barton


These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Vie de Jesus MAFA
Why Wait?

He could not wait to have the priests
Declare that he was well;
Besides, as a Samaritan,
The priests would never tell
Him he was clean - and then it dawned
On him that he could shout!
For why hold back? Why keep it in?
Perhaps, day in, day out,
He'll help us realize that life
That's whole, includes loud joy!

When we're surprised at every gift,
Then faith's the real McCoy!

Scott L. Barton

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (C), October 2, 2016 - 2 Timothy 1:1-14; also Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26 and Luke 17:5-10

Edmund Pettus Bridge, "Bloody Sunday," March 7, 1965

2 Timothy 1:1-14

'Til Every Foe Is Vanquished

God did not give us cowardice,
A timid spirit holding back;
Bystanding's not the mark
Of Christ, whose grace for all, attacks
The powers that would thwart
The love for which he gave his all;
He asks us that we follow him:
Can you stand up, be brave? Your call.

Scott L. Barton

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Esther Epp, Western Tract Mission

Lamentations 1:1-6; 3:19-26 and Luke 17:5-10

"Increase Our Faith!" They Said

I had spoken at my uncle's memorial service,
Saying the things you might expect,
The kind of guy he was, etc.
I referred to an old oral letter
He'd sent to me on cassette tape which,
On the way back to my pew,
I handed to his only child, his daughter, my cousin.
"You will love it," I said.
And then I sat down,
Satisfied that perhaps in some way,
I had increased their faith
(In God, if not in me?)
Then we sang a hymn that I didn't know
(Long before its inclusion
In the Presbyterian hymnal).
But my brother, standing next to me,
Belted it out from memory.
His different theological route from mine
Had taken him to this place I did not know.
"Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee."
I can still hear and picture him there,
Even more so as he, himself, dead this past year,
Brings tears to my eyes;
And like to think I learned then,
As maybe the apostles learned,
If they heard, that day,
This new theology
This new analogy
This new hymnology,
Sung way back in Lamentations,
And later served up at table,
In life and in words (which we still play)
By a Master of such increased faithfulness
You can hardly believe it.

Scott L. Barton

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become,
she that was great among the nations!
She that was a princess among the provinces
has become a vassal.

She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has no one to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
they have become her enemies.

Judah has gone into exile with suffering
and hard servitude;
she lives now among the nations,
and finds no resting place;
her pursuers have all overtaken her
in the midst of her distress.

The roads to Zion mourn,
for no one comes to the festivals;
all her gates are desolate,
her priests groan;
her young girls grieve,
and her lot is bitter.

Her foes have become the masters,
her enemies prosper,
because the LORD has made her suffer
for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.

From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty.
Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture;
they fled without strength before the pursuer.


The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
"The LORD is my portion," says my soul,
"therefore I will hope in him."

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

+ + +

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"  The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.

"Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?  Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'?  Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), September 25, 2016 - Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and Luke 16:19-31

Washington Allston (1779-1843): Jeremiah dictating to Baruch; Yale University

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

Rose of Sharon

How is it this jailed Jeremiah
Had such a love for his country,
And, conversely, such humility
About himself, held under guard,
Babylon laying siege at the gates,
With no cavalry to rescue,
That with a straight face he could foresee
Everything coming up roses,
Houses and fields and vineyards bought?
He knew One who'd surely ransom,
The redeemed returning and singing,
Not to make the place great again,
But so one day, one could take that deed
From the pot, and put a flower in it.

Scott L. Barton

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where King Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. 

Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. 

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

+ + +

Luke 16:19-31

What We Owe

How tempting that we read this tale
As if we are allied
With Lazarus, whose sores dogs licked,
Until, at Abra'm's side,
He saw the justice done unto
The man who ate his fill,
Without a glance at brother Laz,
Or gestures of goodwill;
We make it out a moral tale
That we should be "more" good,
And be not arrogant or proud,
And humbly share our food -
Or else! That's partly true, except
Just skip the fear and shame,
Since showing God is "just" to all
Is always our Lord's aim;
That is, the nature of the One
Who made both great and small
Is that the gifts of God who loves
Come, without fail, to all!
But why the torment? You might ask,
Does such a thing exist?
Or as his wont, a parable
By Jesus 'bout the risk
Of thinking that, when we've been blessed
But then, things turn out bad,
It seems that those once down and out
Should dare not then be glad
Because God's gifts have come to them!
Instead, with tables turned,
Our hell is thinking that we're owed
By those whom we had spurned;
Thus, Jesus rises from the dead
So we will always know
God's work of giving everything
Makes giving what we owe.

Scott L. Barton

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), September 18, 2016 - Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Luke 16:1-13

Rembrandt: Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem (1630)
Rijksmuseum (Netherlands)
Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

How Make the Wounded Whole

The hymn says there's a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
But Jeremiah wasn't there - for grief,
When real, demands the toll
That no assurances can e'er assuage;
And thus, his tears long flowed.
He knew that their disaster was their fault,
And yet his crying showed
That empathy comes from above,
Which, through the years, we still call love.

Scott L. Barton

My joy is gone, grief is upon me, 
my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people 
from far and wide in the land: 
"Is the LORD not in Zion?
Is her King not in her?" 
("Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, 
with their foreign idols?")
"The harvest is past, the summer is ended, 
and we are not saved."
For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, 
I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me.

Is there no balm in Gilead? 

Is there no physician there? 
Why then has the health of my poor people 
not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water, 

and my eyes a fountain of tears, 
so that I might weep day and night
for the slain of my poor people!

+  +  +

Luke 16:1-13

Funny Grace

The steward is a funny guy:
Quick-thinking, smart and very spry!
He finds a way to save his skin
By bringing all the debtors in,
And makes them happy - and what's more -
This steward really knows the score,
Since gen'rous will his master seem
To all the town; and now, redeemed
From grudging Daddy Warbucks fame,
All people will extol his name!
So while I still am puzzled by
The word, "dishonest," Jesus tries,
Still now, he calls us all to dare
Believe that nothing will impair
God's wish that we be reconciled!
Much like a father and his child,
Or debtors and the man who's rich,
These prodigals can help us switch
From thinking grace we understand,
To knowing grace we can't withstand.

Scott L. Barton

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. So he summoned him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ Then the manager said to himself, ‘What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He answered, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ Then he asked another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He replied, ‘A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill and make it eighty.’ And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.

“Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost (C), September 11, 2016 - Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28 and Luke 15:1-10
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28


You don't need a weatherman 
to know which way the wind blows,
Yet Jeremiah even knew
Wherefrom the wind to come arose -
And why! And yet, his people failed 
To grasp the reason for the storm,
Since how they'd lived, revealed they hadn't
Let the news of God transform
Stupidity of feeling best
To showing: knowing they were blessed.

Scott L. Barton

At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind comes from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse— a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. 

“For my people are foolish, 
they do not know me; 
they are stupid children, 
they have no understanding. 
They are skilled in doing evil, 
but do not know how to do good.” 

I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; 
and to the heavens, and they had no light. 
I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, 
and all the hills moved to and fro. 
I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, 
and all the birds of the air had fled. 
I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, 
and all its cities were laid in ruins 
before the Lord, before his fierce anger. 

For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. 

Because of this the earth shall mourn, 
and the heavens above grow black; 
for I have spoken, I have purposed; 
I have not relented nor will I turn back.

Tissot, James Jacques Joseph: Lost Drachma
(between 1886 and 1894) Brooklyn Museum

Luke 15:1-10


What sin did the lost sheep commit?
Sins are intentional, right?
Sheep are just plain stupid.
It's in their nature to get lost.
Likewise, what sin did the coin commit?
They get lost, period.
(Think of how many times you've lost
Your keys, or your cell phone.)
So was it a bad analogy?

Or did Jesus mean that
The + very + definition + of + repent =
God + has + found + you.

The very definition of repent
Is God's joy!
Repenting = rethinking your life
To the point of imagining God's joy
That you are! That you are God's!
You don't HAVE to do anything
You don't have to DO anything
You don't have to do ANYTHING!
God found you!

No point being sheepish about that,
Or chintzy - now - with anything!
(You still don't get it?  Well, there was this father, see....)

Scott L. Barton

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to [Jesus]. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”