Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Seventh Sunday of Easter (C), June 2, 2019 - Psalm 97 and John 17:20-26 and Acts 16:16-34

Bill Coffin after 1961 civil rights sit-in, Montgomery 
Sermon Archive Project by David Coffin
(The arrest referred to in the third poem was in 1972, after crossing the picket line in DC to protest the Cambodia bombings.)

Psalm 97

Who Can You Trust?

We had a black lab once who,
one day when we were away,
tore up all the downstairs door frames
when a fierce thunderstorm rolled through.

I was not happy, of course,
at the subsequent repairs,
but you have to admit,
maybe he knew what he was doing.

I mean, if that mountain a mile away
had melted like wax, what
would have happened to that poor dog
cooped up with no way to get out?

Sometimes you can’t beat
the Psalmist’s imaginations,
not so much on the subject of fear,
but in knowing whose side to trust.

Scott L. Barton

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice; 
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; 
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him, 
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world; 
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, 
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness; 
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame, 
those who make their boast in worthless idols; 
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad, 
and the towns of Judah rejoice, 
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; 
you are exalted far above all gods.

The Lord loves those who hate evil; 
he guards the lives of his faithful; 
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Light dawns for the righteous, 
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, 
and give thanks to his holy name!

+ + +

John 17:20-26

He Asks That They Be One

He asks that they be one just as
The Father and he are one;
It's not an idle prayer, because
It seems we've only begun
To realize just what he means -
He never meant to divide;
The love that opens you to pain
Is love which is bona fide.
The day will come when you and I
Will never, by faith, condemn;
But each will know the other just
As Christ made God known to them.

Scott L. Barton

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

+ + +

Acts 16:16-34

Blessed Be the Tie That Binds

We sang it yesterday with gusto;
The old timers love it,
 - and the new ones will;
What, do you suppose,
Did Paul and Silas sing,
Bound with ties, as they were
To the walls of that Philippi jail?
Perhaps you, too, have read
How Bill Coffin sang in a D.C. jail,
After marching for peace on the Capitol steps,
"Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,"
His Messiah in his heart,
Encouraging the others there,
And probably himself, too,
Binding them together in the same One
Who set free that slave girl,
And who re-binds us still,
Re-ligaments us all,
So our re-ligion, at its best,
Is the song we have to sing,
No matter what.

Scott L. Barton

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Sixth Sunday of Easter (C), May 26, 2019 - Revelation 21:10, 21:22-22:5 and Acts 16:9-15 and John 14:23-29

Lace in the Yugoslavia National Room
Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

Revelation 21:10, 21:22-22:5


Imagine there’s no heaven
And no religion, too;
Oh, can you dare a vision
Which might our lives renew,
Where all our human glory,
And ev’ry nation’s pride,
Where ev’ry race and people
Somehow in God abides?

Oh, can you dare a vision,
Where lies will be no more,
Where cruelty done to others,
All people will abhor,
Where life itself thirst quenches,
And every day we’re healed
By God, o’er all heads reigning,
Our love, light, strength and shield?

Scott L. Barton

And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who practices abomination or falsehood, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

+ + +

Acts 16:9-15

A New Normality

Why do you think that they supposed
A place of worship was where clothes
Were washed? There would the women be! -
Down by the river, where you see
Still, those who for their families care,
In third world countries everywhere.
There, Lydia, by Paul baptized,
And her whole family, then comprised
The founding members of the Way
In Macedonia, arrayed
Not just in royal fabric's hue,
But were with love and prayer imbued,
Which wove their hospitality
Into a new normality.

Scott L. Barton

During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia, being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them. We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.

+ + +

John 14:23-29

His Consistency

Remember how, two weeks ago,
"The Father and I are one," he said?
At first, I wondered, with the text
This week, if back then, I'd misread!
But Jesus' great consistency
Is that he's always giving more;
And so, today, his words about
The Father's greatness help restore
The confidence his friends now need
As they anticipate the worst;
He wants them all to know that
Loving them, and others, is the first
And foremost thing that he's about -
"Not as the world gives," he persuades;
He doesn't seek the credit! Thus,
They'll hear his words, "Be not afraid."
And so, the Spirit still reminds
Us, Jesus gives his own shalom,
So when we love, then God in Christ
With us will make himself at home.

Scott L. Barton

Jesus answered [Judas], “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

"You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe."

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (C), May 19, 2019 - John 13:31-35 and Revelation 21:1-6 and Acts 11:1-18

Vojta Brani┼í: “Post-War Motherhood"
at the Yugoslavia Nationality Room
Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh

John 13:31-35

Message in a Model

“Perhaps the most important sculpture in our town,”
Our guide to Pittsburgh said with love and pride.
An odd remark, I thought, for such a figure small,
Yet soon I found myself quite satisfied.
For here, Slovenes, Croats and Serbs together showed
Our need for common care, and end to war;
In warfare, women and the children suffer most -
A consequence that ought not be ignored.

Thus so, our Lord, when bidding farewell to his friends,
Foresaw the ease with which our ties can tear,
And told them that he had for them a new command,
That by their love, they might their faith declare.
I grieve how Christians eas’ly say another’s wrong,
When what we need is, each, in our own way
To show to all the love from God that we’ve received,
And in obeying Christ, that love portray.

Scott L. Barton

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

+ + +

Revelation 21:1-6

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Christ is the alpha and omega,
The beginning and end,
The be all and end all,
The whole ball of wax.

Christ, the bride adorned,
Forsaking all others,
For better, for worse;
Nothing do we lack.

Never out on a limb,
Or up a creek without a paddle,
Or at a complete loss;
Christ has your back.

All things new,
Trustworthy, true,
Your meat and your drink,
Love to the max.

Scott L. Barton

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.

+  +  +

Acts 11:1-18

New Revised Standard

How int'resting their minds were changed
About one big taboo;
"We know that Gentiles can't receive
New life, like us," they knew,
Until, to Peter, God then came,
And taught him otherwise,
Which, when he told the church, they said,
"Our standard is revised!"
I am amazed how quickly God
Reversed the tried and true;
Or they, amazed more by God's grace
Than we, let God get through!
These days, so wedded are we to
God's gifts to man and wife,
We seem to think God powerless
To fill with grace the lives
Of two whose genders are the same!
Why? How could that bring hurt?
Perhaps we should think back to when
God bade the saints convert.

Scott L. Barton

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (C), May 12, 2019 - Revelation 7:9-17 and Acts 9:36-43 and John 10:22-30

Cappella Palatina di Palermo (mid-12th century)

Revelation 7:9-17

Last Words

“The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night,”
At graves I’ve often said those words,
And it all seemed right.

To martyrs here the text refers,
Who were struck to death;
And offered hope to others who
Faced their dying breaths.

Not many face such reckoning
But we still proclaim
A God whose faithfulness declares
Love is no cause for shame.

Scott L. Barton

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Some Miracle!

Though no daughter of Samantha and Darrin*
This Tabitha bewitched Joppa
By her good works and charity,
But also provided the opportunity
For Peter to follow his Lord
And pull off a Lazarus trick.
Then, to top it all off,
Peter went and stayed at the home of
One Simon the tanner,
As unclean a fellow as you'd ever meet,
By way of his occupation and all,
And apparently didn't even hold his nose,
Let alone wiggle it.

Now, that's some miracle!

Scott L. Barton
(*The popular ABC sitcom, “Bewitched” (1964-72) featured a witch (Samantha) and an ordinary man (Darrin) who tried to live an ordinary suburban life, and their daughter, Tabitha. Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) occasionally did magic by wiggling her nose, which infuriated Darrin (Dick York and later Dick Sargent.))

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

+ + +

John 10:22-30

Don’t Split Him Down the Middle

When in the portico of Solomon,
He gives me quite a clue
About the nature of a faith in him,
When Pharisees construe
He's uttered simple blasphemy to them
In his equation, bold;
I think it's even hard for US to take,
Although the church of old
Attempted to make sense of such a thing:
"The Father's not the Son."
And yet he pulls no punches with this line:
"The Father 'n' I are one."
There seems to be one way that even we
Might answer now this riddle -
Just think of young king Solomon at court -
Don't split Him down the middle!
He's not a human here, and God o'er there,
As if two forms of him might live;
He's what we need to see just what "God" means:
That is, to give, and give, and give.

Scott L. Barton

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”