Friday, June 22, 2018

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), July 1, 2018 - Psalm 130; Mark 5:21-43


(John Moore/Getty Images)

Psalm 130

Today's Psalm

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice!
Now at our border, tears are daily poured by those who have no choice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
Oh, hear the voices of the children, and their parents' lamentations!
If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
Do we, O Lord, know just how blessed are we by this great land?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
For by your love and care alone, O God, have we been reared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
I will not give up the fight, or throw in the towel just to cope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
I stand with those who cry to you, for in your love for them is my warning, your love for them is my warning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
O America, hope in the Lord! For in our treatment of those whom God loves is our esteem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
And our greatness will spring from all our sympathies.

Scott L. Barton

+  +  +

Mark 5:21-43
 

Ilya Repin: Raising of Jairus' Daughter (1871)
Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

When Jairus and the Woman Heard

When Jairus and the woman heard
Of Jesus, there was nothing that deterred
Them both from bowing low before the one
Who'd heal where they had come undone.

Who knows where else they'd gone to find
Not only healing, nor just peace of mind,
But someone with the kind of love that saves,
Not that which just attention craves.

This little girl just twelve years old,
This woman, who, for twelve years unconsoled,
This girl, though dead, the Lord not loathe to touch,
This one who touched, and risked so much;

These two reborn, both at twelve years,
Reveal propriety is far less dear
To God than we, called like the Twelve, surmise;
Great grace is always such surprise!

Scott L. Barton

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.”

So he went with him. And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Friday, June 15, 2018

The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 24, 2018 - Mark 4:35-41 and 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49


 
Rembrandt: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633) 
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of Boston, stolen 1990
  
Two poems, the first on just the Mark text, and the second on both the 1 Samuel and Mark texts. The first poem can be sung as a hymn. There are many 8.7.8.7 D possibilities, but the two I think fit best are Beach Spring and In Babilone.

Even Jesus Used a Pillow

Even Jesus used a pillow;
Maybe someone put it there,
Helped to make his nap more restful,
Knowing all he had to bear.
Noticing, he sidled sternward,
Thinking he might lend a hand,
Tenderly, the head he lifted,
Moved to act with love unplanned.

Soon the wind came up in danger,
Strong the threat to do them in,
"Don't you care?" they soon demanded,
Wet with fear for kith and kin.
Jesus woke, rebuking quickly
Wind, and to the sea, "Be still!"
"Even wind and sea obey him!"
Cried his mates with awe so filled.

Jesus and his pillow bearer
Acted quickly, seeing need,
Empathy's a thing that strikes you,
Voice that calls, with love, you heed!
Lord, compassion never fails you,
May we trust you notice still,
And, when human need next moves us,
May we boldly do your will.

Scott L. Barton
(Frederick Buechner proposed the idea that someone may have been moved to put a pillow under Jesus's head in his page called "Jesus" in Peculiar Treasures, and later in Beyond Words.)

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

 +  +  +

Identifying with Those Once Stirred

Oh, how exciting, these two tales to tell!
The danger and the dialogue propel
Us forward, like a stone that from a sling
Is slung, and soon it all comes to a head!
In story one, Goliath falls down dead,
And we (with Israel's army) cheer and sing
Because in God this David put his trust.
In story two, the waves and blowing gusts -
Which would destroy - are calmed with just a word,
And those who were afraid are filled with awe.
How easily, by such emotions raw,
We can identify with those once stirred
By One who gave such courage to a lad,
Whose word of peace so strong, it makes us glad.

Scott L. Barton

Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; they were gathered at Socoh, which belongs to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid. Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him. David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!” Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them.

Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

+ + +

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 17, 2018 - 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17; 1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13


John August Swanson: Peaceable Kingdom  
Luther Seminary Fine Arts Collection, St. Paul, Minn.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (11-13) 14-17

Question and Answer

It was the best question
Anyone had asked me
In four call interviews,
Plus two for interims. 
"What's your favorite
Bible verse?" asked Jeff,
The smart P.N.C. chair. 

It didn't take me long. 
"If anyone's in Christ,
There's a new creation. 
The past is finished, gone;
Everything is brand new."
It's what it's all about;
The crux, I think, for Paul.

From nothing God creates
For the sheer love of it. 
Stars flung across the sky,
Womb knitted D.N.A.,
Barren couple have child,
Slaves made a free people,
Nation, exile, return. 

Glad tidings to Zion:
From virgin's womb, God's son;
From desert, a calling,
Fishers, then disciples;
From death, resurrection,
Disarrayed fear, then church;
From oppression, vision. 

In love, it's all brand new;
There's nothing can stop it.
No terror strong enough.
No illness deep enough.
No failure wide enough.
No question hard enough.
This is the crux for me.

Scott L. Barton


  
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. 

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!



+  +  +

1 Samuel 15:34 - 16:13


Synagogue interior wood panel.
Dura Europos, Syria. 
300 B.C.-257 A.D, in current eastern Syria.
Source: Gill/Gillerman slide collection.

When Samuel Sought the Choice of Heaven

The LORD told Samuel not to grieve
When Saul to Yahweh didn't cleave;
Instead, he said, another king
He'd choose from Jesse's male offspring.
To Bethlehem, thus, Samuel came
To see which son the LORD would claim.
From Eliab to number seven
Old Samuel sought the choice of heaven
To be the next anointed one;
But of all those, the Lord chose none.

"Make something of yourself," some say,
As if such making could display
The thing that makes a life worthwhile;
And yet before our work, or style,
Or how we put ourselves to use,
Is something we could ne'er induce
Ourselves - quite simply, that we are!
Such recognition is, by far,
The thing to turn a life around,
And all anxieties confound.

Thus Samuel took his horn of oil,
(Which made, perhaps, the brothers boil)
And witnessed to the faith he knew,
That what we are is not our due,
But outright gift, to me, to you.

Scott L. Barton

Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 10, 2018 - 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20 (11:14-15); Mark 3:20-35


 
1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20 (11:14-15)
Marc Chagall: The Anointing of Saul
 
And Samuel Wept

"We want someone to rule us with authority," they said.
"We want him to be big on the military," they said.
"We want a businessman, who knows how to profit, even from us," they said.
"We want a man who appreciates women, and puts them in their place," they said.
"We want tax brackets shifted to reward the wealthy," they said.
"We want someone who looks like us, whom we can bow down to," they said.
"We like trash talk, tough talk, and lying talk, as long as he likes us, and fights our battles, and always blames someone else for our problems," they said.

And Samuel wept, and said, "Dear God, I hope this never happens again."

Scott L. Barton

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

So Samuel reported all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

…Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly. 

+ + +

Mark 3:20-35
 


Women's Study Bible: Jesus's True Family

Family Man

It used to say, "He is beside himself,"
As if some other person stood nearby;
A twin, perhaps, who also looked the part,
But part one, now, the second part belied.
It turns out too familiar did he seem
For them to see in him the other side,
From which, this bigger family man still calls,
That those who hear, on part two might decide.

Scott L. Barton

...and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), June 3, 2018 - Mark 2:23-3:6


Byzantine mosaic


Does Jesus Still Thumb His Nose?

Two times at them he thumbed his nose,
Not meek and mild, this Jesus shows 
Religious  law is superseded
When graciousness for someone's needed;
The law to God does praise redound -
It's not the other way around!
Thus those who would refuse to bake
For couples gay now take the cake,
For in God's loving Parenthood
God set up laws for human good;
But time makes ancient good uncouth,
And those who stand abreast of truth
Will ask what Jesus might have said
Today, for he is risen from the dead!
His foll'wers find God's rule of love
The sole ingredient of God above. 

Scott L. Barton
(The two lines "Time makes ancient good uncouth" and following are from abolitionist James Russell Lowell's long poem (18 stanzas), "The Present Crisis." The lines were in "Once to Every Man and Nation" in the Pilgrim Hymnal (Congregational, 1958), although not in The Hymnbook (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1955).)

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Trinity Sunday (B), May 27, 2018 - Isaiah 6:1-8 and John 3:1-17





Rembrandt: The King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy (1635)
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

The Odd and Overwhelming Otherness of God

The odd and overwhelming
     otherness of God
- In which Isaiah stands as if
     he's some divining rod
Who's found the source of life
    and all creatIon's power -
Is followed by so deep a self-
     awareness, he just cowers
In his inadequacy:
     Woe! Lost! And unclean!
And he is doomed, for all
     the majesty that he has seen;
But God has means, it seems,
     the doomed one to reclaim,
The coal in tongs atones,
     and guilt departed is proclaimed.
But lest we think the prophet
     basks in holy bliss,
All-glowing with what must have seemed,
     with such an act, God's kiss,
The one who's touched, looks up,
     and from his bended knee,
And knowing what he's called to do,
     says, "Here I am; send me!"
Such odd, persistent grace
     comes when and where it will;
To you, to me, and everyone,
     So love its name fulfills.

Scott L. Barton
(Slightly revised from 5/31/15)

[The phrase "the odd, overwhelming otherness of God," and other ideas in the poem come from Walter Brueggemann's "Isaiah 1-39" in the Westminster Bible Companion series, pp. 57-60.]


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: 

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; 
the whole earth is full of his glory.” 

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.
And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”




Henry Ossawa Tanner: Nicodemus Visiting Jesus, 1899
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia


John 3:1-17 (see also John 7:45-53 and John 19:38-42)

Winded

Nicodemus knew
That Jesus was on to something
With all that talk
About being born from above,
Even though he hadn't a clue
Of the wind's comings and goings.
Thus he went to that meeting
Where the blowhards
Wanted to do Jesus in,
And tried to talk some sense into them.
I wonder where he got such courage,
Going again by night,
The weight of the world on his back,
Or at least a hundred pounds,
To bury his rabbi,
Winded by the law of love?

Scott L. Barton


John 3:1-17 (with a reference to Numbers 21:9) 

Divine

It's not just at a football game
Where you will see the sign
That God so loved the world, God gave
God's son; for now "divine"
Means whatsoe'er is given from
The bottom of the heart;
And when that comes, like wind, unplanned,
You'll find your life can start
Again! You're born as if anew,
Since you've looked up to see
The love which from all poison now
Has set the whole world free.

Scott L. Barton
(Previously at 3/16/14)


Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God." Jesus answered him, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." Nicodemus said to him, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

"Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Day of Pentecost (B), May 20, 2018 - Romans 8:22-27; Acts 2:1-21



 Romans 8:22-27

Spirit Help

The headlines that I see each day
Confirm I don't know what to pray,
For would the Lord reverse the course
Of how things are, and love enforce?
With sighs too deep for words I long
For when none need to sing the song
Of self; and pray the love of Christ 
Will somehow reign, somehow, suffice.

Scott L. Barton

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

+  +  +

Acts 2:1-21

The following five poems are each on the Acts 2 text, written each year from 2013-2017:

                                          
4th Century B.C.E. Thracian urn on display
Iskra Historical Museum, Kazanlak, Bulgaria

A Brief History of Bulgaria
                  or
Ode On A Thracian Urn

The Thracians with their works of gold,
And then Bulgarians of old,
The Byzantines of Empire East,
Then Bulgars once again increased,
Then people under Turkish "yoke"
(A word old hatred still evokes)
Revival that was long delayed,
Turks overthrown with Russian aid,
A culture trying to transpose
Until the Communists imposed
A system that would steal the hearts
Of each one's worth and diff'ring arts.

Oh, can a country grow in pride
When hist'ry o'er the years decries
First one group, then again, another,
Believing only blood makes brothers?
Oh, can God's Spirit work its power,
Not by religion, but by showers
Of truth and hope and understanding?
And can we all, our love expanding,
Perceive with empathy each child
Of God, who on the world still smiles?
Oh, let us put our racial pride
And fear, and wrongs, and guilt aside
And work like heav'n to make a world
Where flags of love are e'er unfurled.

Scott L. Barton
 

In St. Mark's cathedral, Korčula, Croatia

Grace in Croatia

I understood nothing,
In St. Mark's Cathedral,
Korčula, Croatia.
Some two hundred had come,
Despite buckets of rain,
Five in the afternoon.
I'd call their hymns praise songs,
Repeated, known by heart,
Yet beautifully faithful.
Their songs of mystery -
And love - and sacrifice -
And, I think, gratitude,
Almost moved me to tears,
Everything understood,
Though no words known to me.
How could this be, given
My inability
To say anything back
About that which filled them?
I, too, was full of grace.

Scott L. Barton



Pentecost, Pope Francis, and the Lightness of Being

It used to be that when the Pope
Would speak, he didn't speak to me;
He's always been the voice of judgment,
And of high authority;
Plus, as a pastor, I had seen
The damage done unto his flock,
When people to our doors appeared,
Cast from their church right down the block;
But this Pope speaks a different line,
The Spirit has him in its grasp;
The lightness of his being shows
A man (like God?) in on the laugh
Of Christ, who doesn't spare the truth,
Yet always sees the world with grace.
All understand! And at his faith
And hope and love I am amazed.

Scott L. Barton



                      Image from St. Mark's & Putnoe Churches: www.thisischurch.com

Oh, What Would They Do?

A sound like the rush of a violent wind
Filled the whole house with all of them there;
These tongues, or this ruach, this fire, appeared,
Like an answer to all of their prayers;
Oh, what would they do, with their Lord up and gone,
Out of sight, vanished, gone, disappeared?
Thus, fire from heaven, like Sinai encore,
All their doubts of the kingdom then cleared:
The news of salvation is not some obscure
Or exclusive thing meant for a few;
All manner of folk, of all nations on earth
Now are given the love that makes new.

Scott L. Barton


How Odd

How odd/ of God/ to choose/ the Jews
I used to like to say;
It was a favorite axiom
I might say some Lord's Day
To help the congregation see
These texts are not obsessed
With moral goodness all around,
But rather, how God blessed
A motley crew of liars, cheats,
And folk like you and me!
Which is, of course, good news today,
For, though we don't agree
On points of doctrine, song or style,
The Spirit gladly speaks
So people hear within their hearts
(Despite our own techniques)
That blessings far and wide abound;
Such things still come from God!
So go proclaim the love you have,
Not like a drunk - but odd!

Scott L.  Barton


When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.” 

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’