Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 16, 2018 - Proverbs 1:20-33 and Mark 8:27-38

Proverbs 1:20-33 

Keep It Real

Look at it this way: 
You'd like life to be simple, right?
Work hard, keep your nose clean,
Provide for those you love, keep up the house.
Then comes an inconvenient truth:
People begging on the medians downtown.
It happens every time.
What do you do? Why are they there?
Why do they keep showing up?
Am I my brother's keeper?

I finally realized that Proverbs' "Wisdom"
Is no obscure, esoteric thing.
She is in the person with the hand-lettered sign.
She knows life is not simple, 
She stretches out her hand and begs me to see.
This is where the Biblical God is.
Without her (yes, it's complicated)
I'll have no concept of the true God
When disaster overtakes me.
Without her, I'll be kept in the dark.

Funny how we love to spiritualize,
But the Bible keeps it real.

Scott L. Barton

Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused,
have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
and because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when panic strikes you,
when panic strikes you like a storm,
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel,
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
and be sated with their own devices.
For waywardness kills the simple,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but those who listen to me will be secure
and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

+  +  +

Mark 8:27-38

Marc Chagall: White Crucifixion (1938)
Art Institute of Chicago

I Am Not Sure I Want to Hear

I am not sure I want to hear
This word about a cross so dear
To Jesus' very heart and soul
He says that it should be my goal.
He says, behind him I should get,
Which means to follow him; and yet
I have too much to do, to give
My life, as if it's true he lives.

How can it be, when life's so brief,
And filled with heartache, pain and grief,
The Lord would still invite me where
He goes? I wish he'd not compare
His life to how I'd rather keep
All things, including those who sleep.
And yet, if I can lose my grip,
Perhaps his life might me equip.

Who do I say this Jesus is?
Can I by love show I am his?

Scott L. Barton

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 9, 2018 - Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 and Mark 7:24-37

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 

Who Are the Real Stars?

I know a man who seems to thrive on constant adulation,
So much so, that he seems to live by straight-faced fabrication,
Proclaiming he would be the brightest ever constellation,
So astronomical, he must deserve a coronation!

Perhaps his Christian followers could hear or read this passage,
And note, to follow such a man, their faith they surely damage;
And I, as well, should always guard I never am complacent,
If I eclipse the poor, then I'll proverbially be chastened.

The text is very clear that it's the poor whom the LORD favors,
Apparently, if you mistreat them, there will be no waivers;
The life of those who hurt the poor, by God will be required;
Presumably, this quirk of God's in force
                                                                        and not expired.

Scott L. Barton

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor have this in common:
the Lord is the maker of them all.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of anger will fail.
Those who are generous are blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor.
Do not rob the poor because they are poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate;
for the Lord pleads their cause
and despoils of life those who despoil them.

+  +  +

Mark 7:24-37
Jesus exorcising the Canaanite Woman's daughter,
from Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 
15th century, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France

(Written right after my brother Brian's death three years ago, the following poem could be useful in its entirety; or, I think the first main section can stand alone.)

It Is Not Fair

It is not fair, the good Lord said,
That dogs would get the children's bread;
The woman, very wise, replied,
Dogs on the children's crumbs rely.
Perhaps the Lord re-thought his plan;
More likely, though, this Jewish man
Provoked her, standing there, to think
That no! She was not out of synch
With God's great love for humankind.
And now, I am much more inclined
To think the Lord knew all along
She had to - for herself - see wrong
In categories we devise
That keep God's love for all disguised.

It isn't fair when things go wrong,
I mutter in some language strong
To God and to the midnight sky;
And angry, ask a constant "Why?"
About a loved one who has died,
Where suddenly I cried and cried;
Or one more shooting bringing grief,
From which we all yearn for relief;
Or why we have such race divides,
Where fear of other still misguides;
Atrocities of war so stick
Inside my craw, they make me sick;
Imagining my death, I rage,
That I will have to turn life's page.

Someday I'll learn life's not possessed,
But see it's given, and be blessed.

Scott L. Barton

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), September 2, 2018 - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 and Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553)
Jesus and the Adulteress
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

One Word

One word jumps out at me here: some.
It doesn't say all. 
It doesn't say Jesus.
It says some of the disciples. 

So this was a classic example:
Find something wrong in a group.
And with broad strokes
Rile the crowd to think, all.

Think, immigrants
Think, blacks.
Think, homosexuals.
Some powerful people are good at name-calling.

But Jesus, 
And those who follow him,
Call them out.

One little word shall fell them.

Scott L. Barton

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

+  +  +

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (Two poems)

Arise, My Love, My Fair One

He leaps, he does not walk, to her;
He comes not by road, but as the crow flies;
He cannot wait, and she smiles to see.
She sees him arrive. She shares her joy.
"Look," she tells a friend. Or us.
Waiting, looking, catching a glimpse of her,
Enjoying her even when he doesn't have her.
Finally, he invites, "Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away." She is the answer
to the winter of his discontent.
He feels, he sees, he hears, he tastes, he smells -
Everything, all his senses, announce her to him.
And like the invitation of God, he repeats:
"Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away."

Scott L. Barton

The voice of my beloved! 
Look, he comes, 
leaping upon the mountains, 
bounding over the hills. 
My beloved is like a gazelle 
or a young stag. 
Look, there he stands 
behind our wall, 
gazing in at the windows, 
looking through the lattice. 
My beloved speaks and says to me: 
“Arise, my love, my fair one, 
and come away; 
for now the winter is past, 
the rain is over and gone. 
The flowers appear on the earth; 
the time of singing has come, 
and the voice of the turtledove 
is heard in our land. 
The fig tree puts forth its figs, 
and the vines are in blossom; 
they give forth fragrance. 
Arise, my love, my fair one, 
and come away.

The following poem by Thomas John Carlisle (1913-1992), which inspired a line in the poem above, deserves to be more known.  In addition, Arthur Frackenpohl (b. 1924), now of Pittsford, New York wrote an anthem using this poem that you can obtain from Shawnee Press. 

Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One
(Boaz' Song to Ruth)

Rise up, my love, my fair one. Come away.
The winter of my witlessness is past.
My concentration on the harvest may
have made me heedless but I see at last.
The mist that filmed my mind is over, gone.
The fairest of flowers appears and it is you.
The singing in my heart has me undone
and I am glad and now know what to do.
The figs have ripened. Vines are in full bloom.
Their fruit and fragrance are as naught to all
your luxury which floods away my gloom
and makes me more than eager for your call.
Arise, my love, my fair one. Come away.
This day of days shall be our wedding day.

Thomas John Carlisle
Eve and After: Old Testament Women in Portrait (Eerdmans, 1984)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 26, 2018 - Ephesians 6:10-20 and 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43

Ephesians 6:10-20 

Fashion Statement

Belt of truth +
Breastplate of righteousness +
Shoes for gospel-of-peace-proclaiming +
Shield of faith +
Helmet of salvation +
Sword of the Spirit =
The whole armor of God.

Put it on to fashion something,
To make a difference,
To build a community,
To produce something worthwhile,
To induce hope in your neighbor,
To construct kingdom of God conditions -
For you, yourself, are wonderfully made.

Don't  keep it under your hat.

Scott L. Barton

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

+  +  +

 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication for the Temple
Cathedrale d’Amiens, 1220-1240

Hymn: By Love We Show
(New Policy Statement in a Prayer)
(In Christ There Is No East or West)

A cloud came from that holy place,
The priests there could not stand;
The glory of the Lord replaced
Their ministry, well-planned.

The king, God's promises retold
To Yahweh in his prayer,
Rememb'ring, though, no one controlled
God's how, or when, or where.
Thus Solomon, in royal plea,
Grace to the world declared,
That everyone some day might see
The news which must be shared.

O Lord, the time, we do not know,
When peace will be at hand;
But yours the name by love we show,
And by your power we stand.

Scott L. Barton

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O Lord my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a distant land because of your name —for they shall hear of your great name, your mighty hand, and your outstretched arm—when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and so that they may know that your name has been invoked on this house that I have built.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 19, 2018 - 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 and John 6:51-58

John 6:51-58

Kind of Disturbed By Some of These Scriptures

No doubt, few Protestants believe -
Perhaps, e'en Catholics can't conceive -
How, when they take the sacrament
That flesh and blood from heaven's sent.
The Zwinglians said, "Represents;"
The Calvinists gave their assent
To "action parallel" that brought
The life of Christ that they all sought.
But in our formulas and prayers,
I wonder if we tend to scare
Some people from the church's news;
Instead of celebrating, bruise.

Perhaps the cart's before the horse.
Here, Jesus did not speak, of course,
Of bread and wine that we partake
Which therefore would our lives remake.
Instead, he bids us to be fed
By him, who Love raised from the dead;
If he's our newsfeed, and our food,
We never on his death should brood,
But know that living as he did
Is what he means, when we are bid
To drink his blood and eat his flesh,
For then his life will ours refresh.

Let not these words make you disturbed;
Partake the life he led, superb.

Scott L. Barton

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

+  +  +

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 and John 6:51-58

 William Blake: The Judgment of Solomon

Way to Pray

I think that we could learn a thing or two,
Consid'ring Solomon, whose point of view -
After he gets established on the throne -
Revolves around not if he'll be o'erthrown,
But if with wisdom over all he'll rule.
He prays. He asks for help.
                                              Is it now cool
To pray this way today? That we might serve?
Or do our prayers just serve to calm our nerves?

When Jesus so bizarrely talks of eating flesh that's bread,
He wisely knows that living in his way, is how we're fed.

Scott L. Barton

Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.

So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established. Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

+ + +

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Bonus Poem: What to Give

What to Give

I do not like Fox News one bit,
In fact, I think they're full of... lies;
And if you ask why they exist:
Self-righteousness, the truth defies.

But to Fox News I'd never give
The finger when I disagreed
With what reporters write and say,
Thus, my humanity concede.

So let us not the anger take,
Of neighbors caught up to berate,
But boldly speak the truth, that love
For country someday drowns out hate.

Scott L. Barton

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), August 12, 2018 - Ephesians 4:25-5:2 and 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Make America Kind Again

The author says to let no evil talk
Come from our mouths, but only what would then build up the whole;
In other words, what's useful - not for self,
But always what is good for every neighbor is the goal.

These days, I think we need a healthy dose 
Of these Ephesians verses all across the public square;
Let's start with all who follow Christ, and then, 
Evangelizing by our talk, our country's life repair. 

Scott L. Barton

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

+  +  +

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Marc Chagall:
David Weeps for Absalom

Five Times

Five times he calls his son.
Five times he names the one
About whom he had spake:
"Deal gently for my sake
With the young man." But he
Died hanging from a tree,
The forest something like
God's will; although the strike
From Joab's men ensured
The kingdom be secured.

Thus David's grief, not brief,
Becomes the new motif
Describing David, king,
Who, living, felt the sting
Of judgment, self-declared,
Though shepherd king was spared.
He knows that Yahweh's choice
Now calls him to rejoice,
Since chosen from above
Means love,

Scott L. Barton

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him. Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.” The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”