Monday, April 30, 2018

The Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 6, 2018 - John 15:9-17; Acts 10:44-48

 John 15:9-17

Corrective

Perhaps the text appearing here in Eastertide
Forms a corrective to the solemnness oft tied
To Jesus' final discourse at this final meal -
Imagining he's sad, we think, so we should feel.
But I detect no sadness as he names his friends
To be the people who would love as he intends:
Not with reluctance, grimly, or with gritted teeth,
But here's the thing - it's joy to you that he's bequeathed!
He's chosen you! Oh, my; yes, you, to love like him!
The cup he offers you is filled right to the brim!
When taking on the love we see in Christ, we meet
O'erflowing, unadulterated joy. Complete!

Scott L. Barton

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

 +  +  +

Acts 10:44-48

Corneille Michel I  (c. 1601 – 1664): Baptism of a Centurion
 
What Will Be Is Odd

When those of us today who feel not blessed to have the gift
Consider how, back then, it gave the circumcised a lift
To hear in tongues the Gentiles speaking and extolling God,
We should not be surprised to hear that what will be - is odd!
Imagination's eyesight cannot see beyond its nose;
(Who would have thought the Jews would be the ones whom this God chose?)
So never doubt the future brings what we can ne'er conceive,
A God who loves means there is always more that's up God's sleeve.

Scott L. Barton

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (B), April 29, 2018 - John 15:1-8; Acts 8:26-40



Jean Fran├žois Millet, In the Vineyard (1852-53)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

John 15:1-8

Bushels and Bushels

These days, I'm not so much a friend of vines;
I cut and pull them down from where they climb,
Unfruitful as they are, I pile and burn,
Such wild things that destroy, I spurn;
But other plants when pruned yield better fruit,
The grower who increases light, astute.

At Christmastime, my son-in-law went out
And snipped and snipped, with hardly any doubt,
The crowded branches on the nectarine;
While I stood by, he narrated the scene -
"More light in here; take out this crossing guy" -
For what will be is more than meets the eye. 

And so it is with grapes that Jesus knew
The reason in the first place you pursue
Their growing, is to get the biggest yield;
And thus it is, that we are in this field
Because the Grower has as sole pursuit
That all of us together bear much fruit. 

Scott L. Barton

”I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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Rembrandt: The Baptism of the Eunuch (1626)
  Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht
 
The Ethiopian Eunuch

The eunuch of the Candace*,
Although the Nubian queen's trustee,
Could not quite trust God's love extends
To one cut off; thus, life would end.
While wond'ring who Isaiah meant
About the one who underwent
Humiliation he, too, knew,
Then, Philip, through the words cut through
To tell how Jesus was good news
To anyone by life so bruised.
The eunuch found himself beguiled,
And baptized, smiled to be love's child.

Scott L. Barton

[Compare the end of verse 33, "For his life is taken away from the earth," with the Hebrew version of Isaiah 53:8c, "For he was cut off from the land of the living."]

*pronounced "KAN-de-si"

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (B), April 22, 2018 - 1 John 3:16-24; Psalm 23


PIETER BRUEGHEL THE YOUNGER:
THE GOOD SHEPHERD (ca. 1600)

 1 John 3:16-24

Plan B for Jesus-Followers

So, if we're followers of Jesus,
For others we should give our lives;
But if such giving is too grievous,
If that's too much for which to strive,
The evangelist gives a second choice,
An option we might call, "Plan B,"
Which means we followers can rejoice
Because from death are we set free!
We merely need to help our neighbor
If we have any means at all;
Whether they're worthy, not belabor -
Just not refuse. Just Christ recall. 

Scott L. Barton

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
+  +  +

Psalm 23

The Shepherd King

The shepherd king provides for all my needs,
It is by grace (or think, "dumb luck!") I feed
Upon the love from people in my life,
My home, my meals, my mostly lack of strife;

The shepherd king protects me when I'm prone
To think I daily go through life alone;
In face of need, before me lies a spread -
Saved from devouring enemies, instead;

The shepherd king pursues me my life long,
And tracks me down to know I still belong
By grace to one who'll never let me go,
And surely - Wow! - such love I'll ne'er outgrow.

Scott L. Barton

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. 
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 
I fear no evil; 
for you are with me; 
your rod and your staff— they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me 
in the presence of my enemies; 
you anoint my head with oil; 
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
all the days of my life, 
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord 
my whole life long.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018 - Acts 3:12-19; Luke 24:36b-48


Duccio di Buoninsegna (1255-1319)
Jesus' Appearance While the Apostles Are at Table

Acts 3:12-19

Resurrection Intersection

It seems to me that Peter uses this occasion
To show the Jewish crowd there was a correlation
Between the death of Jesus by a crucifixion
And wounds of guilt which Peter speaks in malediction. 

But though the crowd's denial must have felt familiar,
He also realized that life is now transfigured
When woundedness and healing form the intersection
Of what is still the power of Jesus' resurrection.

Scott. L. Barton

When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out….

+  +  + 

Luke 24:36b-48

Easter Meals

He asks for food, they give him fish,
Then they remember every dish
They ate with him along the way.
It is as if they hear him say,
"The loaves and fishes that you passed,
To feed a multitude, surpassed
What anybody would have guessed;
But that was just an alpha test
Which you, my friends, can now repeat.
You're witnesses none can defeat
The love for which I lived and died
(Although in killing me, they tried).
Go out to all the world to show
Forgiveness that will overflow,
As through you, everyone rethinks
How love is now your food, your drink."

Scott L. Barton

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.