Monday, December 30, 2019

Epiphany Sunday, January 5, 2020—Isaiah 60:1–6; Matthew 2:1–12; also Micah 5:2–5a

John of Hildeshein: The Story of the The Three Kings, retold by Margaret B. Freeman
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1955, 1978

Off By Nine Miles

You have to be careful in choosing a text
When trying to figure what God will do next;
The wise men, it seems, had Isaiah in mind,
For in chapter 60, the prophet assigned
Jerusalem as the location for light
To shine, with the glory of Yahweh so bright
The wealth of the nations around it would come!
With frankincense, camels, and gold they'd become
Disciples! From darkness, God's glory'd redound
To those who'd kept faith, and would now be renowned!

But wise can be wrong—they were off by nine miles!
The text that they needed was just not God’s style,
For Micah had said that a town, oh so small,
Would bring forth the one to be shepherd of all!
Poor Herod (the rich) also knew not this text,
And sent for the scribes of the people, perplexed
Because of the ruler his visitors sought;
Not wise, nor the powerful, ever had thought
A prophet from out in the country could know
A place such as Bethlehem ever could show
The world a new ruler who'd ever increase
The good of the world with his treasure of peace.

Scott L. Barton

(Based on Walter Brueggemann’s imagining, in The Christian Century [December 19, 2001] and in Inscribing the Text [Fortress, 2004], that the wise men were off by nine miles after picking the wrong text.)

Isaiah 60:1-6
Arise, shine; for your light has come, 
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. 
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; 
but the Lord will arise upon you, 
and his glory will appear over you. 
Nations shall come to your light, 
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 
Lift up your eyes and look around; 
they all gather together, they come to you; 
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. 
Then you shall see and be radiant; 
your heart shall thrill and rejoice, 
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, 
the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 
A multitude of camels shall cover you, 
the young camels of Midian and Ephah; 
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense, 
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, 
who are one of the little clans of Judah, 
from you shall come forth for me 
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 
Therefore he shall give them up until the time 
when she who is in labor has brought forth; 
then the rest of his kindred shall return 
to the people of Israel. 
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, 
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. 
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great 
to the ends of the earth; 
and he shall be the one of peace.

Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The First Sunday after Christmas Day (A), December 29, 2019—Isaiah 63:7–9 and Matthew 2:12–23

Dürer, Albrecht: Flight into Egypt (1494-1497)
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Dresden, Germany)

Isaiah 63:7–9

Not Just in Days of Old

God knows it's not enough to talk,
So God comes by to visit,
To lift, to carry those God loves 
E'en when they fail to get it. 
The point of God has always been
That grace, you cannot lose it;
To those who fear, love sidles near,
So anxious folk might cool it.

Scott L. Barton

I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, 
the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, 
because of all that the Lord has done for us, 
and the great favor to the house of Israel 
that he has shown them according to his mercy, 
according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 
For he said, “Surely they are my people, 
children who will not deal falsely”; 
and he became their savior in all their distress. 
It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; 
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; 
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

+  +  +

Matthew 2:12–23

The Two Josephs 

It seems to me I've heard this song before;
Remember Joseph, by his dad, adored,
Who, off to Egypt went one day, enslaved,
As good as dead, his brothers so depraved
They'd even murder just to guarantee
He'd bloom no more upon the fam'ly tree?

But then, in dreams, we see that God persists
In showing that he all the while insists
That even though a tyrant's on the throne,
Those loved by God will never stand alone.

Again weeps Rachel—God abandons not—
And this new dreaming Joseph finds a spot
To raise the child born with no silver spoon!
—All to the end that we might be attuned
To hear the old familiar score, known well;
And yearning, searching love for all, retell.

Scott L. Barton

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas Eve/Nativity of our Lord, December 24/25, 2019 - Luke 2:1-20

Rembrandt van Rijn
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds

When History Repeats Itself

It was a terrifying time
Which we, by faith, now think sublime;
But then, a madman on the throne,
Drove everyone away from home,
That everyone be taxed and counted;
But this, in point of fact, amounted
To terrorism by the high,
Who gave no choice but to comply.

Think, immigrants; think, refugees;
Think how all those of low degree
In every age are made to do
The bidding of a mighty few.
Think those who fear they'll be deported,
Their work, and fam'ly life now thwarted;
Think those from bombed-out cities fleeing,
What kind of news would bring wellbeing?

Imagine they see in the flesh,
Perhaps in angels and a crèche,
Or maybe, solidarity
From those who bear Christ's guarantee
That he'll be with us all our days!
Then they, as well, might be amazed—
Like shepherds hearing angel choirs—
What real love from God requires.

Thus into angst and grief and fears
The God of every soul appears,
Yes, then, but also here, today,
And bids us live just as we pray.

Scott L. Barton

To Make Our Love Braver

She did something different,
She treasured and pondered;
Not only amazed, but
She thought, and she wondered
Just what was their meaning—
That this diapered wee boy,
Would be to all people
The sign of a great joy?

And why even now does
He cause such a flutter
In hearts all around, while
These carols we utter?
Is this what they meant when
They said that a savior
Would come—a Messiah,
To make our love braver?

Scott L. Barton


"It's the big night!"
Is what my father used to say,
And then in June,
It was, "Tomorrow's the big day!"
—Thus, the solstice
Always arrives for me with mirth,
Which may be what
We need to hear about this birth
Announced each year!
The angel told with twinkling eyes
—Thus, cast out fear—
So they would laugh with great surprise;
Despite the dark,
This same news called to you this night
Begs to be told,
That Love may be our solstice light.

Scott L. Barton

They Thought It Was the Feds

Perhaps they thought it was the Feds who'd come for them!
Somehow, the N.S.A. had tracked, and would condemn
Those dirty shepherds, since they had not registered,
And since, without green cards, Augustus' wrath incurred!
But soon they found the searchlight not to be the law,
Which, with relief, provoked a different kind of awe;
That is, more powerful than all the "powers that be,"
Was then announced—as now—the holy mystery:
Quite openly, the one who saves comes not by strength
Of arm, but will not fail to go to any length
For love!  Thus wrapped, so even shepherds might embrace
This child, we, too, now hold our breath, to see such grace.

Scott L. Barton
(originally published in The Presbyterian Outlook 12/09/13_

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child;and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Advent (A), December 22, 2019–Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-25

Nuttgens, Joseph: Immanuel—Behold a Virgin Shall Conceive...
Church of St. Etheldreda, London

Isaiah 7:10-16

The Girl with the Virgin Brand

Who is this girl of whom Isaiah speaks,
Who, soon, would bear a child, and thus critique
The lack of faith that Ahaz came to bear
Upon the country that was in his care?
The child's name, Immanuel, would show
God's people, then (and now!) would ne'er outgrow
Their need to trust that God was in their midst.
This pedigree of faith, which wasn't missed
By Matthew or by Luke, would then describe
A mother and her child, who would inscribe
Upon the hearts of people for all time
A birth we celebrate, and call sublime.

Scott L. Barton

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Matthew 1:18-25

What's In a Name?

What's in a name? Look at them here!
Jesus—the Messiah—Mary—
Joseph—Holy Spirit—the Lord—
And the main character gets three!
This introduction, this prologue,
This tale to whet the appetite,
Foreshadows many other names:
Door—good shepherd—way—truth—life—bread—
Lamb of God—Rabbi—Son of God—
King of Israel—Savior—Lord;
Perhaps the baby reminds us
That he by any other name
Would smell as sweet.

Scott L. Barton

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Third Sunday of Advent (A), December 15, 2019–Isaiah 35:1-10 and Matthew 11:2-11

Isaiah 35:1-10

Gotthardt Kuehl: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God) (1896)

After Disaster

Apparently, you can go home again.
At least, Isaiah has the nerve to think
You can return to what you knew deep down,
Although you drank disaster's bitter drink.

Perhaps it's when you rediscover how,
You were assured, as children, all was right;
Perhaps it's when old innocence you find,
And speaking truth; assume they'll see the light.

Although the pain of what was past remains,
Still, strengthen hands; make firm the feeble knees;
Proclaim to those who love, "Be strong! Fear not!"
God will restore us from such times as these.

Scott L. Barton

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

+  +  +

Matthew 11:2-11

Hieronymus Bosch: John the Baptist in the Wilderness (ca. 1489)
Museum of Lazaro Galdioano, Madrid, Spain.

A Messiah Like That 

To a contractor I have said,
"Are you the one who is to come,
Or shall we wait for another?"
Now let's say I ask it this week,
Since now my particular need
Is getting a load of firewood;
But what if the answer I hear is,
"I am heating peoples' houses
For their entire lives, not just
One load at a time. Pretty cool!"
Would I risk it? Would I believe?
Or would my faith be just in what
I can see - my wood, the stove's flame?
The Preposterous One does more
Than you or I can imagine:
People see the light! Get moving!!
They're no longer outcast!!! They hear!!!!
Their spirits are no longer dead!!!!!
(Can you tell Matthew's shouting now?)

A Messiah like that may be
A better bargain than you thought.

Scott L. Barton

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Second Sunday of Advent (A), December 8, 2019—Isaiah 11:1–10 and Matthew 3:1–12

Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom (1826) 
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Isaiah 11:1–10

Time to Remember

A shoot shall come from Jesse's stump,
A branch from his roots sure will grow,
God's spirit of wisdom,
And right understanding,
The fear of the LORD shall he know.

The wolf shall then live with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie with the kid,
The calf and the lion,
The fatling together,
Shall all by a child be led.

These words from Isaiah all point
To one who would someday be born,
Whom we know and expect
With our houses bedecked,
When waiting will end Christmas morn.

And now is the time to recall
He favors the poor and the meek;
So that none be destroyed,
He our walls would avoid,
Let us Christ, show and tell, breathe and speak.

Scott L. Barton

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

+ + +

Matthew 3:1–12

Full Communion

He's not very Christmassy,
this John the B.,
to people presuming that
they're guaranteed
to have the good life because
priv'leged they are;
But when the one born, who was
brought gifts of myrrh,
reveals a new twist on what
John thought would come,
the world can now know that all
judging succumbs
to he who now chooses to
make from the grain
the bread of his life, so we'll
drink in love's reign.

Scott L. Barton

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Monday, November 18, 2019

The First Sunday of Advent (A), December 1, 2019 - Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matthew 24:36-44

Big news! My book, Lectionary Poems, Year A: Surprising Grace for Pulpit and Pew, is being published by Wipf and Stock! It’s very exciting because all the poems for this upcoming lectionary year will be in one place, with the important bonuses of a scripture index, which will include all scriptural references for the entire year, including those noted at the ends of poems; and a title index for those titles that just grabbed you and which you want to find quickly. I’m extremely glad for your interest in Lectionary Poems over the years, or if you’ve just come upon this blog for the first time! I’ll announce the release date here as soon as possible so you can consider it for your own personal use and library, a church class, or a gift. 

Gratefully yours,
Scott L. Barton

Evgeniy Viktorovich Vuchetich (1908-1974):
Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares (1957)
United Nations north garden area

These two poems are specifically addressed to preachers, although in the second poem, "Christian" could be substituted for "preacher."

Isaiah 2:1-5

No Sermon Necessary?

Oh, how can you improve upon this poem?
Isaiah is the master of the verse.
To read this text, delib'rately and bold,
The one up front who's preaching could do worse
Than simply look out upon the people there
With hope that some day, all of us might hear
The One who calls all people as God's own,
All tribes and factions, with our pride and fear.
The reason that someday we'll beat those swords
Into the implements that would us feed,
Is that we'll know the love God has for all,
Including those of different breeds and creeds.
Reflecting on this hope and faith and dream,
O, preacher, end the reading with a grin;
Then close the book, look out at those you love,
And in the silence, let it all sink in.

Scott L. Barton

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say, 
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, 
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways 
and that we may walk in his paths.” 
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, 
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 
they shall beat their swords into plowshares, 
and their spears into pruning hooks; 
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, 
neither shall they learn war any more. 
O house of Jacob, 
come, let us walk 
in the light of the Lord.

+ + +
Matthew 24:36-44

Freed for Love

Oh, woe to the preacher who parses this text
To figure out how and when Jesus comes next;
For those of the "left behind" ilk are the folk
Who build their theology on such a joke
As worrying whether they all might be saved!
But Jesus calls "worry" a trip to the grave!
For back in verse three, when his friends sought to know
The timetable for the world's powers' overthrow,
He gave this long discourse so they might all see,
The one thing in life that's God's sure guarantee,
Is this day's your chance to see Christ in your deeds;
Leave end times to God—so for love you'll be freed!

Scott L. Barton

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Christ the King/Reign of Christ (C), November 24, 2019 - Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Luke 23:33-43 and Psalm 46

John Singer Sargent: Tyrolese Crucifix 1914 
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Jeremiah 23:1-6

Not On Our Own

I guess it’s not so unique
That a shepherd will scatter
Those entrusted to his care.

Sometimes the sheep, unable
To know the things best for them,
Will find themselves in despair.

That’s the time when they might hear
A faithful prophet proclaim:
Awaken from the nightmare!

One comes not for self, who’s called
“The LORD is our righteousness,”
To change our hearts—everywhere.

Scott L. Barton

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

+  +  +

Luke 23:33-43


This poem can be sung as a hymn for Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday. My original tune idea (which I still find myself singing in my head) is VESPER HYMN (Now On Land and Sea Descending). But it also works with most any hymn with an D meter. Although it may be a bit hard for some congregations, I especially like it with GENEVA (Sovereign Lord of All Creation; Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory) because of the mid-way change from minor to major. It would also work with BEACH SPRING (God Whose Giving Knows No Ending), EBENEZER (Come, O Spirit; Once to Every One and Nation), HYFRYDOL (unless maybe you plan to sing Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus to this tune soon), HYMN TO JOY (Joyful Joyful, We Adore Thee), IN BABILONE (There's a Wideness in God's Mercy), NETTLETON (Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing), or WEISSE FLAGGEN (When the Morning Stars Together).

As the Church's Year Is Done

1. Save the Sundays after Christmas,
Christ the King's* the only one
With his name or title noted,
As the church's year is done—

Though it doesn't change him any,
Doesn't sudd'nly make him king;
Not by churchwide nomenclature
Do his praises now we sing.

2. This day is the culmination
Of the message we have heard,
Starting with the proclamation
Christ would come in flesh, from Word.

Yes, he came, revealed, was baptized,
Then the twelve to him he called,
Suffered, with his death approaching,
Demonstrated giving all.

3. After death, a resurrection,
Each week here we celebrate!
Shouts of joy, what acclamation,
Love o’ercame death’s heavy weight!

Then disciples, still unsure of
How the future would unfold,
Prodded by the Spirit outward,
Learned that grace for all be told.

4. Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Is the basis of our claim
Through our ordinary time, the
Life of Christ is still our aim.

If we choose, if we can own him
As the one who in us reigns,
That's the day in which we crown him,
Ruler, who our lives sustains.

*or Reign of Christ's 

Scott L. Barton
(2016, revised)

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

+  +  +

Psalm 46 
(with a closing reference to Romans 8:28)

God is our refuge
    and God is our strength,
And people these days
    o'er the breadth and the length
Of the Philippines know
    —more than most—
         what this means;
For relief do they cry,
    when relief is unseen;
Oh! What destruction
    as far as the eye
And the news can perceive,
    so with tears we all cry;
But though earth and sea change,
    —and the mountains all shake,
Our God is the one
    who will never forsake;
It's a long ways away
   —to the end of the earth!—
But the one who breaks bows,
    Breaks despair, so rebirth
Will occur! So now know,
    in our comfort,
        though faith may be thin,
That God with us conspires
    for our kith and our kin.

Scott L. Barton
(2013, after Typhoon Haiyan. Perhaps adaptable in another circumstance.)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the
mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its
tumult. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy
habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help
it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his
voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah

Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations he has
brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and
shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I
am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah