Bassano, Jacopo: Christ in the House of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (~1577)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Key to a Successful Life
I count it all as loss for Christ, he says,
Then calls it skubala, or rubbish, trash;
We have a stronger word than that, today,
“Bullshit,” it’s called (if I may be so brash).
All we have gained and saved and held so close,
They’re, all of them, a trivial amount;
It’s not too often that we face this truth
About the things of life that really count.
A cyclone hits, tornado, or a flood,
And homes and memorabilia all are lost;
And people ought to fall and not get up,
To contemplate what’s gone, and all its cost.
Instead, they’re thankful they got out alive!
“We have each other - what could matter more?”
How will you do? What’s up ahead? - “Who knows?”
At such a time they cannot love ignore.
Paul realized that all he’d gained was dross
Compared to knowing Christ, which set him free,
And so he promised he must live to love;
The goal, to love as Christ, became his key.
Scott L. Barton
If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.
Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
+ + +
Then and Now
With Israel in captivity,
It must have been quite hard to see
How Yahweh, who had split the sea,
Could once again a savior be.
The poet said, "Forget all that,
The LORD, who for you, went to bat,
Because, in love, had you begat,
Will now, for you, go to the mat!
"And though, the metaphor be new,
Now, desert rivers will break through;
So you should never misconstrue,
All tried and true, my love for you."
Isaiah thus reminds us how,
Words change, yet still can be endowed
With what is true, if we'd allow
Our God to speak, if then, then now.
Scott L. Barton
Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished,
quenched like a wick:
Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
+ + +
These last three weeks,
We seem to be on the theme of extravagance -
Extravagant care for that lazy fig tree,
Extravagant welcome for that lazy brother,
Extravagant defense for that lazy...
Wait! (You say.)
Hold on here!
You don't mean that Mary....
Well, didn't Martha seem to think so?
And once again, she's serving;
I wonder what she's thinking of her sister this time?
And Judas certainly wants to give a good impression,
That he knows the value of a buck,
Talking as if Mary hadn't really earned
That perfume she'd bought.
Maybe Judas was even sweet on Mary!
But he found her unstealable,
Since she was only sweet on the One
Who points the way
To extravagant death,
Which points the way
To extravagant love.
Scott L. Barton
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”