Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (C), November 6, 2016 - Luke 20:27-38

If This Be Love

A person dies, someone you love.
Mother, father, sister, brother.
Then this headline, which today blared,
"Girl, 9, dies in bus accident."
Oh, dear God, who can bear such news?
How could any of us survive?
That any do, is miracle.
I weep to think of deaths I've known.
And yet. And yet. Perhaps it's true
That for our God, all are alive.
I know not what that means, except
Even when I'm long forgotten,
Just a tombstone name, in some book -
I'm alive, you're alive, and all
Who've ever lived, in him, somehow
Live, and move, and have our being.

Scott L. Barton

Another poem on  Luke 20:27-38 (see also Haggai 1:15b-2:9; plus Paul, Synoptics, John - you name it!)

The Heart of It
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?
They "neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Or try this:
"The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former."
"We will all be changed."
"They thought it was a ghost."
"Because I live, you also...."
Like a Sadducee,
I just can't wrap my head around any of this.
And maybe that's the point.
This God
...this word
...this news
...this love
Changes everything.
Most of all, my heart.
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?

Scott L. Barton

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, October 30, 2016 - Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Luke 19:1-10

Thanks to Carol Sumner, who took this picture
of Zion National Park's Watchman last week.
(For a couple of recent poems on strictly political matters, please page down or click on Bonus Poem(s) to the right.)

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Keep Watch

On the plane,
I watch the man
Across the aisle
Reading the magazine
With at least one gun
Pictured per page.
Some of the headlines,
Mostly ads, read:

American exceptionalism
A smoother way to shoot
Clinton and Shumer are one election away from taking your guns
Stop any threat dead in its tracks

I worry about this kind of vigilance.
It purports to trust in oneself;
But if truth be told,
The trust is really
In all you can buy
To keep you safe -
Ever bigger, ever faster,
Ever smoother, ever prouder.

Look at them, says Habakkuk;
Some spirit is not right.
But wait for it. Wait for it.
Wait for the exception,
Trust the one who comes to you,
Live like no one will let you down,
Watch for grace for all
That'll knock your socks off.

Scott L. Barton

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw. 
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, 
and you will not listen? 
Or cry to you “Violence!” 
and you will not save? 
Why do you make me see wrong-doing 
and look at trouble? 
Destruction and violence are before me; 
strife and contention arise. 
So the law becomes slack 
and justice never prevails. 
The wicked surround the righteous— 
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

I will stand at my watchpost, 

and station myself on the rampart; 
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, 
and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 
Then the Lord answered me and said: 
Write the vision; 
make it plain on tablets, 
so that a runner may read it. 
For there is still a vision for the appointed time; 
it speaks of the end, and does not lie. 
If it seems to tarry, wait for it; 
it will surely come, it will not delay. 
Look at the proud! 
Their spirit is not right in them, 
but the righteous live by their faith.

+ + +

Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man

Zacchaeus was a wee little man:
We loved to sing that song!
With finger wagging, "You come down!"
We knew we all belonged
To Jesus, who, to us might come
Someday, though we were small!
These days, much taller, would he still
To my house make a call?
And if he did, would I be so
Astounded that he came,
I'd change my ways, perhaps give more?
And he would change my name?
Or is this scene all by itself
A parable of grace,
Since those who'd like to know this God -
No matter time or place -
Will find Christ even more inclined
To knock upon their door,
For he insists! Not just observed
Will he be anymore!
This God e'en now, across the years,
Would still with us consort,
For faith, you see, is not a climb,
Or some spectator sport;
To be a "child of Abraham,"
Means you have been restored
Not by your efforts, but by love,
Which is its own reward.

Scott L. Barton

[Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bonus Poem: Islamophobia, and Many Others

(Please page down or click to the right for poems for October 23 and before.)

Islamophobia, and Many Others

How quickly we can judge
A tribe, a faith, a race,
By actions of a few
Which we believe debase
The whole, whom we don't know!
What we don't know, we fear;
And yet, what's worse is those
Who fan the flames with sheer
And outright lies, and tie
Their own prestige to hate;
They're good at firing up
The crowd, and thus create
A toxic brew to drink,
Like war, where enemies
Must be destroyed, e'en though
It's peace we all would see
Within our hearts, so none
Would be afraid; and all
The better angels of
Our nature might enthrall.
To love sincerely means 
To risk, for right to stand,
And know your chance to make
A difference is at hand.

Scott L. Barton
(For Jim Wohlgemuth, warrior for peace)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bonus Poem: The Enemy Within

(Please page down or click to the right for poems for October 23 and before!)

The Enemy Within

A Presidential candidate,
An embarrassment to mankind
(And I mean that literally),
A narcissistic psychopath,
A pacing megalomaniac -
Is that how they saw Cyrus,
King of the Persians and the Medes,
An instrument of God's cleansing
Of those called to love and to bless,
A big, belligerent blaster?
God save us! Call a spade a spade!
Turn now, and avert disaster!

Scott L. Barton

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost (C), October 23, 2016 - Joel 2:23-32 and Luke 18:9-14

Michelangelo Buonarroti: The Prophet Joel
1508-1512, Sistine Chapel

Joel 2:23-32

Lord of the Harvest

O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice,
The LORD has poured down for you, rain;
The wine vats and threshing floors all will be full,
And no one will be put to shame.
There soon will be plenty, and all satisfied,
The LORD still does wonderful things;
I'll say it again: no one need be ashamed,
The praises of heaven you'll sing!
Now grace comes to all - even slaves will receive! -
The women and men, young and old
Will see, after judgment, the spirit come strong;
Such harvest will surely unfold!

Scott L. Barton

O children of Zion, be glad 
and rejoice in the Lord your God; 
for he has given the early rain for your vindication, 
he has poured down for you abundant rain, 
the early and the later rain, as before. 
The threshing floors shall be full of grain, 
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. 

I will repay you for the years 
that the swarming locust has eaten, 
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, 
my great army, which I sent against you. 

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, 
and praise the name of the Lord your God, 
who has dealt wondrously with you. 
And my people shall never again be put to shame. 
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, 
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. 
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; 

your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 
your old men shall dream dreams, 
and your young men shall see visions. 
Even on the male and female slaves, 
in those days, I will pour out my spirit. 

I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lordshall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
+  +  +

Luke 18:9-14

Remedy for Chest-Thumping
It is surprising, is it not,
How righteous we can stay?
Shenanigans in Washington
Are just Exhibit A
Of how some folks perceive themselves
As better than the rest,
While calling out, "Full speed ahead!"
As if, alone, they're blessed
With knowing what is right and good!
But they are justified
- As we - when knowing all we have
The Lord our God provides!
This might change how we see ourselves,
And all the world, as well,
When it's no longer "me" or "us,"
Since faith in God propels
Our looking out, not in!  That is,
These days, God's mighty deeds
Will show, when taxers and those taxed
All know it's love we need.

Scott L. Barton

[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (C), October 16, 2016 - Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Luke 18:1-8

John August Swanson: Celebration
Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.

What We Might All Know

In time to come, there'll be no blame,
One generation to the next;
To save one's pride, none will inflame,
Claim by another tribe they're vexed;
But all will know within their hearts,
A common humanness believe;
Such is the covenant for which God yearns,
That we perceive, conceive, receive.

Scott L. Barton

Jeremiah 31:27-34
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of humans and the seed of animals. And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord. In those days they shall no longer say: “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
+ + +

Better Than a Calm Façade

It's quite all right to bother God!
That's better than a calm façade,
Or resignation of your lot;
For Jesus says the one who's got
The gumption not to knuckle under
Exhibits real faith and wonder
That justice, always, God intends,
Although we may not comprehend
The schedule! Thus, the widow's might
Is in her cry the judge make right -
Which teaches us to fight despair
By voicing what becomes real prayer.

Scott L. Barton

Luke 18:1-8
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Bonus Poem: You Can Just Taste It

(Please page down to the previous post for the lectionary poems for October 9.)

You Can Just Taste It

I wait in a very long and slow-moving line at the Big E.
It's a free wine tasting, and I'm marveling 

at everyone's remarkable patience, when - 
finally getting close to the front -
A woman hands each person in line a tiny plastic cup.
I stare at the cup and ask myself, 

"Is this all there is? Is this what all these people are waiting for? Because it's free?"
And this sets me to marveling at Christians who, 

all across the world, can be just as patient,
When they wait for the same size cup, also freely given,
But one that turns out to be, not just some local red,
But the cup of salvation.

Scott L. Barton