Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Third Sunday in Lent (B), March 4, 2018 - John 2:13-22; Exodus 20:1-17

Greco: Christ Expelling the Money Changers in the Temple (1600)

(Please page down for the poem on the Exodus text.)

John 2:13-22

Call Security!

I wonder why they don't shout out,
And call the cops on him who flouts
Decorum with his whipping ways!
Can you imagine him today,
Without a permit for such raucous acts
Which peaceful moderation lacks?
Perhaps it's theater, you think;
Would Jesus really raise such stink?

How 'bout the students who deplore
The politicians who now whore
Their way to office with no spine,
And claim some right, almost divine,
To have an automatic gun,
Belongs to each and everyone?
I cheer their anger born of grief
To finally bring us all relief.

This Jesus was no Caspar Milquetoast
And hated Temple profits foremost,
And students activated now
Will whip machines of death, somehow.

Scott L. Barton

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

+  +  +

Exodus 20:1-17

The World's Economy and God's

The thing about markets is this:
You get what you pay for;
The more you pay, the more you get,
The wise all know the score.
But watch that you don't read this text
As if it's tit for tat, 
As if the nature of our God
Is, "You do this, and I give that." 
The only God who's worth the time
Of day is One who gave; 
The only reason this God had
To free our forebear slaves 
Was just because that's how God is,
Who gives a heav'n for you;
So focus not on third and fourth
Removes as parents' due;
That line's a set up for the next
To make you drop your jaw -
The thousandth generation get
God's steadfast love! The law
We need to know is how for us
God wants the very best!
You get the world when you find out
By love you are possessed.

Scott L. Barton

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bonus poem: Lord, Who Threw Out These Forty Days

Lord, Who Threw Out These Forty Days

Today my preacher announced the hymn,
"Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days,"
And immediately, I had a perverse thought:
What if Jesus threw out these forty days,
As in, threw out any glib, certain, outward penitence, 
And especially these days, all those "heartfelt"
Senatorial and Congressional prayers:

-Like from $4.5-million-campaign-help-from-the-N.R.A. Sen. Thom Tillis (R, NC)
"Please keep the victims, their families, first responders and the community in your thoughts and prayers."
-Like from $3.3-million-campaign-help-from-the-N.R.A. Sen. Marco Rubio (R, FL)
"Today is that terrible day you pray never comes."
-Like from $3.9-million-campaign-help-from-the-N.R.A. Sen. Cory Gardner (R, CO)
"I'm praying for our first responders."
-Like from $3 million-campaign-help-from-the-N.R.A. Sen Rob Portman (R, OH)
"Jane and I send our prayers to the school, the community, and the victims of this tragedy."
-Like from $3.1 million-campaign-help-from-the-N.R.A. Sen. Joni Ernst (R, IA) 
"Join me in praying for the students, faculty, and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as their loved ones."
-Like from $1.1 million-campaign-help-from-the-N.R.A. Rep. French Hill (R, AR) 
"I would ask you to keep the community of Parkland, Florida, in your prayers as they reconcile the evil perpetrated against their community."

To these, and to so many others, I imagine Jesus saying,
"Woe to you, Senators and Representatives, hypocrites! 
For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, 
but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth."
And then, echoing the prophet, 
"I hate, I despise your festivals, 
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies."

I cannot believe otherwise: Jesus throws out their prayers. 
Now the question is, who will throw them out?

Scott L. Barton

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Second Sunday in Lent (B), February 25, 2018 - Romans 4:13-25; Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Rembrandt: God Reveals his Covenant to Abraham (ca. 1655)
Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kupferstichkabinett

(Please page down for the poem on the Genesis text alone.)

Romans 4:13-25

I Reckon This Is True

I'm not sure Paul has it exactly right
About that part, "No distrust made him waver;"
For many incidents in later years
Reveal his faith had more a mixed bag flavor -
Like, passing off Sarah as his sister,
Which served to save this great believer's skin;
(And which later, Isaac also pulled off -
Like father, like son, we say with a grin!)
Like, on Moriah, there, with his only son
(Carrying the wood and sacrifice-bound)
It's as if he's playing a game of chicken
With this God, daring him to stand his ground.
But at one moment, Paul has it just right,
For Abraham, flat on his face, believed,
And at that moment, all his righteousness
Was not what he did, but what he received.

Scott L. Barton

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. 

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) —in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

+  +  +

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Stained glass panel, (c.1485) 
from the south clerestory (window K) 
of the Great Malvern Priory, 
Worcestershire, United Kingdom

The Promise is the Thing

When Abram, old at ninety-nine,
A time when most feel past their prime,
Heard God Almighty cov'nant make,
Did he then say, "It's my big break?"
Or, had he such an attitude,
That, in a word, was gratitude
For all the things that yet would be?
The kings, foretold, he'd never see,
(The son, how could that come to be???)
And yet... and yet, his life was changed.
Perhaps, you, too, will sense arranged
By God far more than you can make,
And simply trust, through pain and aches,
That gifts which you can hardly guess
Will make new generations blessed.

Scott L. Barton
(Slightly revised from 3/1/15)

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

...God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The First Sunday in Lent (B), February 18, 2018 - Genesis 9:8-17; and Mark 1:9-15 + Genesis 9:8-17

Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoń≠, 1837-1887:
Christ in the Desert
Genesis 9:8-17
Weather Forecast

God needed some way of remembering,
Or we needed some way of remembering
that God would remember,
Some sort of Post-It note,
"That pretty bow you tied around your finger"
As it's also been called,
A reminder that God would never smack us again,
Which shows up at the oddest times.

Yet many seem to have forgotten 
What sort of "us" is meant here.
It's you and me, yes;
But it's also "them" over there,
The people with different 
Looks and lives and even so-called beliefs,
Next door and across an ocean.
Oh - and every other living creature, too.

O God, I trust you remember the details.
But when will the rest of us remember 
That we're all in the same boat?
With the sun shining, I hope we get some rain soon.

Scott L. Barton

(The phrase about the "pretty bow" is from Leonard Bernstein's "Kaddish" Symphony #3 (being performed in March by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus.))

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

+  +  +

Mark 1:9-15 + Genesis 9:8-17
Good News, No Matter What

What a confluence of opposites here!
Jesus of Nazareth - baptized by John!
Out from the water the baptized comes up -
While from the heavens, the Spirit comes down!
Voice from the heaven says he's the beloved -
Yet, to the wilderness, then, he is driven!
Tempted by Satan to give it all up -
Service by angels is Jesus then given!
John is arrested, we know he will die -
Jesus keeps preaching the good news of God!
Near is the kingdom, the judgment soon comes -
Think again - know that the good news is odd!
Waters may flood and your life overwhelm,
Violence, hunger and pain still confound -
God is the One who in covenant stays,
Still, with the promise of love which redounds.

Scott L. Barton

(Slightly revised from 2/22/15)

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”