Monday, June 26, 2017

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), July 2, 2017 - Matthew 10:40-42 and Genesis 22:1-14

                                                  Marc Chagall: Sacrifice of Isaac
                                               Musée national Marc Chagall, Nice

Remembering Jesus on a Hot One

So this Sunday, you could turn off the sanctuary's A.C. 
Or, you northerners who don't have it, keep the windows closed.
Put a sign on each one: "Windows need to stay closed today."
Hope that it's a hot one. 
Let the people start to grumble, at least to themselves.
And then after this text is read, ask everyone to think
Of someone they consider to be a true disciple of Jesus,
Living or dead, famous or just a neighbor they know.
Then lots of elders and/or deacons come forward
Carrying trays filled with cups of cold water (not lukewarm!)
And as if they're passing out the Sacrament,
They pass the tray to the people on the ends of the pews,
Saying, "I give you this cold water in the name of ________."
The trays get passed down the row, with each person saying,
"I give you this cold water in the name of _________."
And lots of disciples of Jesus will be named aloud.
And lots of Christ's little ones will have their thirsts quenched.
It'll be cool. They'll remember it. 
Maybe they'll remember Jesus, too.

Scott L. Barton

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

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Genesis 22:1-14

"Here I Am"

Three times he says those faithful words,
Which says, what is its own reward
Is something so courageous, bold
(And hardly what we're often told),
 That anyone who dares to set
Foot in a church should plan to get
Assaulted by the task at hand!
This, "Here I am," or "Here I stand,"
As Luther said more recently,
Means trust beyond what we can see,
Not knowing how or when or where
Your actions will God's grace declare.

Scott L. Barton

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), June 25, 2017 - Romans 6:1b-11; Genesis 21:8-21 and Matthew 10:24-39

                                                                     DC Comics

Romans 6:1b-11


I have to hope that no one wonders 
If too much sin of theirs can sunder
Them from the possibilities of grace
When feeling like a real basket case!
For grace is nothing theoretical,
Nor would it ever tilt heretical
To say that all who want to know it
Can have the life Christ spent to show it. 
His resurrection's no reward
For upright living you might hoard;
Dear wonder man and woman, it cuts through
For you. Right now. Out of the blue. 

Scott L. Barton

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

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                        Rembrandt: Abraham Casting out Hagar and Ishmael (1637), 
                                          The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Genesis 21:8-21 and Matthew 10:24-39

Expressions of Faith

The fat was in the fire
When Isaac and Ishmael played,
The pot just boiled over
With Sarah, for Isaac afraid;
The mother lost it then -
The father saw no way to win;
He couldn't stand the heat,
So Abraham had to give in;
I wonder if he knew
He'd cast his burden on the Lord
When casting Hagar out
To sink or swim of her accord?
The death sentence he gave,
He pushed to the back of his mind;
This tale thus goes to show
The love of this Yahweh is blind;
For all concerned were saved,
And saw the Lord does not slumber;
Or put another way -
The hairs of your head are all numbered.

Scott L. Barton
(The first line, from Frederick Buechner's writing about Hagar in Peculiar Treasures and Beyond Words, inspired the poem.)

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.” The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

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“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 

“So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 
For I have come to set a man against his father, 
and a daughter against her mother, 
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), June 18, 2017 - Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7


                                    Marc Chagall: Sarah and the Angels
                                   1960 lithograph; Art Gallery, Chrudim.

Oh, Abraham!

Oh, Abraham! You run to greet
Three strangers who come down the street;
You bow to them, and then entreat
Them come inside that they might eat.
What moves you, that you so reveal
Extravagance, as next you kneel
To wash their feet, and bid them rest,
As if by gracious acts you're blessed?

And then another blessing from
The visitors, while Sarah, mum,
By door, to laughter still succumbs,
Since it's as if the kingdom's come.
Oh, joy! 'Though how they'll fare's unknown,
The promise still is ne'er outgrown;
And gospel even yet ensues
To those who hospitality pursue.

Scott L. Barton

1The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.2He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.3He said, "My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.5Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on-since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes."7Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent."10Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.12So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"13The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'14Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son."15But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. He said, "Oh yes, you did laugh."
1The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.2Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.3Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.6Now Sarah said, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me."7And she said, "Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Trinity Sunday/First Sunday after Pentecost (A), June 11, 2017 - Matthew 28:16-20 and Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Matthew 28:16-20

His Face, Everywhere

Sometimes it seems most of my Facebook feeds
Are full of rants and diatribes and screeds
That, I admit, all have their point that we
Must pay attention, and not fail to see
Injustice wheresoever it might lie,
Not be complacent, ills of the world deny.
And yet, I also know that I need more
Than simply outrage over sin abhorred.

Be angry, yes, but then never forget
The time they worshiped, and some doubted, yet
He told them that despite the wrong they'd known,
Authority o'er all was his alone;
Which means his way, his grace, his love, his face
Can never be supplanted or replaced
By anyone or anything; so sing,
Since his enduring life is one sure thing.

Scott L. Barton

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Creation Boiled Down

First, when chaos reigns and life is ruined, 
There will always be light;
Second, when we find ourselves lost and at sea,
There is yet air to breathe;
Third, when we are flailing around thinking there is no tomorrow,
There are still grounds for planting trees and tilling gardens;
Fourth, when we are completely under the weather,
The sun and the moon will rise;
Fifth, when we feel like a fish out of water, with bird brains,
We really don't have to be everything to everybody;
Sixth, when we think it's all about us,
There are countless other creatures, but we're made to create;
Seventh, when we think we have to work until we drop,
Even God said, "I've gotta get out of the office."

Man, that's good!

Scott L. Barton

(NB: Walter Brueggemann used the line about getting out of the office in a talk I heard many years ago. The last line of the poem is how a colleague, Jim Cortelyou, ended his mini-meditation one morning long ago as all the canoes of an Adirondack Canoe Expedition rafted up for morning devotions. Since then, I've wondered if Jim ("Les Voyageurs") was thinking at the time of James Weldon Johnson's sermon on Creation in God's Trombones.)

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.” So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.