Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The First Sunday in Lent (C), March 10, 2019 - Romans 10:8b-13; and Deuteronomy 26:1-11; and Luke 4:1-13

These Syrian refugees make me think of the phrase,
"A wandering Aramean was my ancestor"

Romans 10:8b-13

What Does It Say?

It seems to me Paul doesn’t say
That only those who say these words
Will see salvation come one day,
As if it’s something they deserve.

It’s clear he simply reassured
Those worried they’d not done enough
For blessings that are now ensured
By Christ, who all our fears rebuffs.

Is it enough to feed the poor,
Or must I do - or have - it all?
Is it enough God’s love endures,
Or must I all life’s ills forestall?

What does it say? Christ demonstrates
To need, and simply know you need
You never ought to underrate:
When knowing you’re no god, you’re freed.

Scott L. Barton

But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.”

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

+ + +

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Why Go to Church?

Our forebears knew how great their need
To say their thanks with such a creed
As this, reflecting whence they came.
They gave their ancestors a name:
Not smarter or more powerful 
Than those who sheared them for their wool;
Not self-reliant, needing none,
When by themselves they'd been outdone;
Not conqu'ring heroes who were pure,
And strangers made them insecure;
Not brave, or strong, or hardy stock,
But "wandering!" - like some lost flock
Where someone had to show the way!
That someone was the LORD, portrayed
By how they thanked; and still it's true,
And still why we should sit in pews.

Scott L. Barton

When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lordyour God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

+ + +

Luke 4:1-13

Who’s That Knocking at My Door?

"He departed from him until an opportune time.”
What a strange line.
We assume Luke meant the Garden of Gethsemane;
But we only have the story's bare bones, after all.
What if the devil chose other times that we just don't know about?
"Opportunity knocks," we say;
And maybe the devil does, too.
As maybe he did for Jesus.
But, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," John writes later.
So when I hear it, I say, "Who's that knocking at my door?
"Is it the devil - or the Lord?"
Maybe Luke knew it's never an easy question,
Even for Jesus.
Certainly not for me.
Probably, I daresay, not for you.
Lenten Christians recognize this -
Thus, we have our seasonal temptations;
But not whether or not to eat that piece of chocolate,
Rather, whether or not to think we know it all.
So we go to the door.
And the only way to know if it's Jesus
Is if the choices offered aren't easy.
So he keeps reminding us,
Year after year (if we read between the lines), that
"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

Scott L. Barton

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Transfiguration of the Lord (Year C), March 3, 2019 - Exodus 34:29-35; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; and Luke 9:28-36 (37-43)

Duccio di Buoninsegna: Transfiguration of Christ
Panel from the Maesta altarpiece, Siena, Italy (1308-1311)

By Love Configured

He goes up to the mount to pray
Not knowing what will come his way,
Since just a week ago he said
That he'd be killed, yet from the dead
He'd rise - that is, if he's the one!

Soon, Peter, most of all undone
By such a prayer that went both ways
- That is, be answered! - is amazed
To see the Law and Prophets now
Boiled down to one so light-endowed.

Rebuking, next, that spirit, strong,
The chosen one won't go along
With evil that a boy would ground,
Which did each one who saw, astound.

And Luke, his tale as here configured
Invites us still to be transfigured.

Scott L. Barton

+  +  +

     Crucified Lord Who Rose So We Might Live 

Scott L. Barton (2014)              John Bacchus Dykes (1861)

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
After six days, you-- took them up the mountainside,
There a new defining, in your face all shining,
You, our new Moses, ever here abide.

We have come before you, seeking to adore you,
In this sanctuary, our songs to you we raise,
Your word still astounds us, grace for all surrounds us,
Our love for you, and all, our greatest praise.

There is no delaying, for we hear you saying,
"Follow where I go, and cure the sick and heal the lame;
Folk of every label, welcome to my table,
Fear not, by faith, my love to all proclaim."

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Now we go returning, out to the world you give;
Traveling together, through all kinds of weather,
Crucified Lord, who rose so we might live!

Scott L. Barton
+  +  +

What is it with the Bible and Veils?

Moses' face he has to hide,
It's way too scary being near the
One with whom our God abides;
Then Peter, James and John see Jesus
Dazzling white up on that mount
With Moses and Elijah, talking,
Peter makes a quick head count
(Perhaps the better to preserve it)
Next creeps in - that veil!  A cloud
O'ershadows them! And they see nothing,
Hearing, though, that voice, aloud,
The same voice long ago to Moses,
They know Jesus is the one
To follow down the hill, to where that
Boy is healed - and they become
Astounded  at the mighty acts of
God, who in this Jesus takes
The veils away!  And so St. Paul says,
(Here's the thing:)  Make no mistake!
The glory of this Lord is seen when
By God! We will not lose heart,
But see, somehow, God in each other,
Rather than our God, apart!

Think not in terms of God in veils,
But God in neighbor, grace entails.

Scott L. Barton

+  +  +
Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.  

+  +  +

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

+ + +
Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), February 24, 2019 - Genesis 45:3-11, 15

Marc Chagall: Joseph Recognized by his Brothers (1958)

This Love We’re Still Announcing

I want to know the brothers’ words,
Their groveling apologies;
I want to read just how they felt,
Their deepest guilt psychologies;
I wonder what effect their deeds
Had on lifetime pathologies
Of Joseph and those brothers, grim
At such revealed chronology!
The text, however, doesn’t care
About such modern ponderings;
But rather offers us the choice
To be in awe, and wondering
About the grace this ancient God
Sent to a nation forming,
That it be known by even us,
And lead to our transforming.

Scott L. Barton

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there—since there are five more years of famine to come—so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C), February 17, 2019 - Luke 6:17-26

All Saints church, Haggerston, east London, annual memorial service, 2/3/19, for Joseph Grimaldi, 19th-century English entertainer who popularized modern clowns’ makeup and style.

Send in the Clowns

For Luke, “disciples” means not just “the Twelve,”
Those Jesus gathered, who then dug and delved
To figure out the truth of who he was,
And sang, “What’s happening?” and “What’s the buzz?”

“Disciples” meant the panoply of those
Who simply came to see this man, who chose
To think there still might be, for them, a way
To healing mind and body yet. Today.

Were they some fools to think that they were blessed,
Though poor, though hungry, weeping in distress?
Who were these clowns to hear that if reviled
And hated, they could still rejoice and smile?

Just those who know, through him, how they are loved,
And who, by what he said and did are nudged
To be the clowns together who now show
God works for good. And sing, “Love overflows!”

Scott L. Barton

[Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.