Friday, April 28, 2017

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (A), May 7, 2017 - 1 Peter 2:19-25 and Acts 2:42-47

                                             (from the North Carolina Council of Churches)

1 Peter 2:19-25


It's quite a puzzle, isn't it,
How by his wounds you have been healed?
It says "from sins," but what is that?
Some basic human law repealed -
The law that says each person fears
To lose what he or she has gained,
One's safety, wealth, or way of life,
The things you've worked hard to attain?
The way you have to grasp for more,
Sometimes, no matter what the cost?
But then some person gives his all -
It's like a threshold has been crossed,
Some door into a life that's free
From worry since this person gave,
Without a thought for self - and now
You, too, can act as one who's saved.

Scott L. Barton

For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

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Acts 2:42-47

The Devotee

They devoted themselves to the teaching served up
By the apostles, and each others' care,
They devoted themselves in the power of love,
To the breaking of bread and the prayers;
These two words, "they devoted," now fill me with awe,
What a gift that such zeal they had!
What a wonder that all were provided with what
They had need of, which made them all glad!
And not just in the temple was church, then, "the church,"
But 'twas even at home as they ate,
Where their generous hearts and their genuine praise
All the peoples' goodwill did create;
Not by effort or work did community grow
To the faith that we now still can see,
But from all that would keep us from joy are we saved
By the Lord, who's the first devotee.

Scott L. Barton

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Third Sunday of Easter (A), April 30, 2017 - Acts 2:14a, 36-41 and Luke 24:13-35

                                                 Caravaggio: Supper at Emmaus, 1601

Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Drop in the Bucket

It's almost like an afterthought,
The number who were added.
Before, the news that Jesus was
Messiah had been dreaded
Because, if he was dead and gone,
From whence would come their rescue?
What kind of gratitude was that,
To crucify, not thank, you?

Thus, at a crossroads did they find
Themselves, while Pete exhorted;
And heard God's reach extended wide,
And could not be distorted
To say that just a few could reap
The benefits of living
With knowledge of the God who made
A name by faithful giving.

But now, all immigrants to faith
Were welcomed without papers,
For Christ, in giving all, had waived
Restrictions on their neighbors;
Three thousand, in the bucket, then,
Was just a drop's beginning
Towards when a world with love for all
Will one day sure be brimming.

Scott L. Barton

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. Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

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Luke 24:13-35

In the Breaking

This long and detailed story makes
It seem as if the writer knew
First hand "what things" took place that day
When Cleopas, and other Jews,
Recounted to this stranger how
"Their" leaders had turned Jesus in;
If Luke was there, then even he
Can't recognize the man as kin!
And even after teaching - words
You'd think that he would recognize -
It's only in the breaking of
The bread, the Lord is now reprised;
This breaking - word made flesh - by one
Born in the place called house of bread,
Is how in each and ev'ry age
We'll see him risen from the dead.

Scott L. Barton

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Second Sunday of Easter (A), April 23, 2017 - 1 Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:19-31

                             Caravaggio: The Incredulity of St. Thomas (c. 1602)

1 Peter 1:3-9

Quasimodogeniti Sunday*

As in the style of newborn babes
We do not know what's yet to come;
Believers, by the world's strong powers
May, like our Lord, be yet undone;
And yet, there's more that's up God's sleeve,
An unformed hope by which we live,
It cannot be imagined; yet,
We trust the one who gives and gives.

Such trust is what will save our souls,
In gladness, now, our God extol!

Scott L. Barton

*Name given to this day because of the traditional introit's text (in Latin) from 1 Peter 2:2: Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—
This poem was also inspired by an interview with Bishop Thomas of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Al-Quosia, Upper Egypt:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

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 John 20:19-31

Your door’s too light to shut out God.

Young man –
Young woman –
Old man –
Old woman –
Middle-aged man –
Middle-aged woman –
Your door’s too light to shut out God.
You may think
You’re safe from trouble
And nothing can get in,
You may think
The door is barred
For fear of what has been,
You may think
That what you’ve done could
Never be forgiven,
Or most of all,
That love is gone,
Along with joyful living;
But when for all
That you’ve been through
You then expect the least,
The Lord of love
Will walk right in
And say just one word: Peace.

Scott L. Barton

(The beginning is a take-off on James Weldon Johnson’s “The Prodigal Son” from “God’s Trombones.”)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Resurrection of the Lord (A), April 16, 2017 - Matthew 28:1-10

St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Charleston, South Carolina.
It's difficult to find an image with just the two (not one or three) Marys.
Despite the stylized image of Jesus here, we can imagine him here 
pointing towards Galilee.

Resurrection Key

A choral work, in major key, 
The Bach Magnificat in D,
Once made me laugh out loud to hear
Repeated music, that appeared
Within the Gloria Patri when
The music came around again -
As it was in the beginning!
Clever Bach, had, in our singing,
Taken us to where we'd started,
Scoring notes already charted.
This technique which Bach employed
Elicits, it turns out, much joy.

So, Matthew, cleverness displayed
With Jesus' "Do not be afraid;
Tell [them] to go to Galilee;
[For it is] there they will see me."
Why Galilee? It's at the start!
And there it is you'll find the heart
Of who the risen Jesus is - 
In all the things he did then, viz.
Forgiving, healing and inviting -
It makes this risen Lord exciting
Since you can see him there, today -
And Resurrection, thus convey.

Go back, the story read anew,
May then his life repeat in you. 

Scott L. Barton

(The idea that "Galilee" means going back to the beginning of Matthew's gospel comes from Tom Long in a Christian Century article, April 4, 2006. James Burton, new conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood Festival Chorus and B.S.O. Choral Director, reminded me of the name of the particular piece of music I sang years ago. The poem has been revised from the original free verse poem for April 13, 2014.)

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”