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

A HYMN FOR THE END OF THE CHURCH YEAR

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 8.7.8.7 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

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time/Twenty-Third after Pentecost (C), November 17, 2019—2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 and Luke 21:5-19 and Isaiah 65:17-25




2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

For the Love of All

It’s easy to imagine
This text misused without compassion
For people who might have no jobs,
And might be labeled, then, as “slobs.”

But Paul’s demanding attitude
Was aimed at those who misconstrued
The certain coming of the Lord
With working not for room or board.

Thus, Paul condemns religious talk
Which at the common good would balk
Because one thinks one’s faith demands
Ignoring common life at hand.

Though Christ may give you great delight,
Be weary not in doing right.

Scott L. Barton

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

+  +  +
 
Luke 21:5-19

Election Day

"By your endurance you will save your souls."
This is a message that has different goals
Than if one thinks some strong and outside force,
Some revolution, soon will change the course
Of history. Not anger, shouts or hate
Can ever bring God's kingdom, make us great;
No, just the opposite: Forsaking fear,
And giving hope—and blood—and sweat—and tears.
It's giving of yourself, with constancy
For neighbor, yes, whoever that might be—
All this is what it means to follow he
Who calmed the wind with love and stilled the sea.

Scott L. Barton
(2016)

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

+ + +

Isaiah 65:17-25

Lion and Lamb

Every Advent my wife and I send
A lion and lamb Christmas card;
We carry on the tradition
of my Reformation professor,
Charlie Nielsen, and his wife, Eloïse;
It's nice to have a theme,
But it's not always easy.
Sometimes I almost despair
of finding the card with
The right amount of preposterousness!
I don't want it to be "religious;"
Surprise, even comedy, is the key.
For isn't this what we mean by
God's vision for the world?
Unexpected?  Brand new?
And then, as in answer to prayer,
A new lion and lamb appears,
A new take on an old theme, and
A witness, we hope,
To those who will receive it,
So that they might be glad,
And rejoice forever
In what God is creating
—and be a delight, too!

Scott L. Barton
(2013)

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord— and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time/Twenty-Second after Pentecost (C), November 10, 2019—2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 and Luke 20:27-38



2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17


Stand Fast

A college friend from long ago,
Not seen in nearly fifty years,
Reflecting on the climate’s change,
And plastic spreading o’er the sphere,
Proclaimed today that, “We are screwed;
Humanity is finished.
Done."

And I was left to wonder if
Despair once felt by everyone
To whom Paul wrote, became dark hope
It all would end, and Christ would come.
There seemed no more that they could do;
They had been rendered hopeless.
Numb.

But Paul said, no; do not forget
That you are those whom God just chose!
You can’t throw in the towel now;
My job, and yours, is to oppose
The evil in our midst! Stand firm,
Hold fast, do not give up—
Or in.

The glory of the Lord himself
Is where, in Christ, we must begin.
He loved the world to death, and rose!
If we believe this news we’ve heard,
Then follow, strengthened by our God,
And love the world with hearts all
Stirred.

Scott L. Barton

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here.

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

+ + +

If This Be Love

A person dies, someone you love.
Mother, father, sister, brother.
Then this headline, which today blared,
"Girl, 9, dies in bus accident."
Oh, dear God, who can bear such news?
How could any of us survive?
That any do, is miracle.
I weep to think of deaths I've known.
And yet. And yet. Perhaps it's true
That for our God, all are alive.
I know not what that means, except
Even when I'm long forgotten,
Just a tombstone name, in some book -
I'm alive, you're alive, and all
Who've ever lived, in him, somehow
Live, and move, and have our being.

Scott L. Barton
(2016)

The Heart of It

This really is the heart of it, isn't it?
They "neither marry nor are given in marriage."
Or try this:
"The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former."
"We will all be changed."
"They thought it was a ghost."
"Because I live, you also...."
Like a Sadducee,
I just can't wrap my head around any of this.
And maybe that's the point.
This God
...this word
...this news
...this love
Changes everything.
Most of all, my heart.
This really is the heart of it, isn't it?

Scott L. Barton
(2013)

(See also Haggai 1:15b-2:9; plus Paul, Synoptics, John - you name it!)

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.” Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”