First Sunday After Pentecost (Trinity Sunday)

Readings:

  • Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
  • Psalm 8
  • Romans 5:1-5
  • John 16:12-15

The Kindly Tutor

“I like history,” said the boy to the tutor.
“I think it would be nice to know everything
that ever happened.” The kindly tutor

looked up from his computer. “Everything?
Why?” “When someone has a question,
I could answer without a lot of thinking.”

“My friend, the study of history is a progression.
History is always being revised
and you can’t learn everything all at once.”

The tutor held up a thumb drive.
“Suppose we put every truth
of history we know for certain on this drive

and downloaded the contents for you
into your brain. You still must look
at everything and work your way through

all the data—just like reading a book.”
The tutor added, “All the information
is there right now for you to take,

but you’re not ready for everything. Education,
whether it is history or anything else,
is one long process of revelation.”

The boy acknowledged what is best:
allow the miracle of revelation to play out
and let his tutor lead the way.

June 16, 2019

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Day of Pentecost (Whitsunday)

Readings:

  • Psalm 104
  • Romans 8:14-17
  • John 14:8-17

All We Have

Psalm 104: A Setting for Choir

From “The Bible and the Common Reader” by Mary Ellen Chase:

Many of the most beautiful psalms extoll the greatness and glory of God in the physical world. Two of particular excellence are Psalm 19 with its familiar beginning: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork,” and Psalm 104 with its exultant, ecstatic outpourings in praise of God’s manifold creations, from the clouds which are His chariot to the trees which He has made “full of sap,” from the volcanoes and the earthquakes to the conies who live in the rocks and even to the bread “which strengtheneth man’s heart.” This psalm, one of the loveliest in the entire Psalter, is supposedly based on the Egyptian hymn of King Ikhnaton.

The book by Mary Ellen Chase is one I have had since childhood. This book, my family Bible, and my 1928 BCP are, by far, the oldest books in my personal library. Her quote above inspired me recently to take a careful look at Psalm 104.

Psalm 104 plays a very important role in Judaism, according to Wikipedia.

  • Observant Jews recite Psalm 104 in its entirety every day during morning services, and on certain occasions, such as the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh), though customs vary.
  • It is recited following the Shabbat Mincha between Sukkot and Shabbat Hagadol.
  • Verses 1-2 are recited upon donning the tallit during morning services.
  • Verse 24 is part of Hameir La’aretz in the Blessings before the Shema during Shacharit and is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 6, no. 10.
  • Verse 31 is the first verse of Yehi Kivod in Pesukei Dezimra, is part of Baruch Hashem L’Olam during Maariv, and is recited when opening the Hakafot on Simchat Torah.

I don’t know if this has been done before with Psalm 104, but I set the entire psalm to blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter)—with the intention of creating lyrics for a full choir. I added the refrain,

O Lord, all we have comes from you;
In death, all we have returns to you.

So, if you are an ambitious musician/composer, feel free to set my lyrics to music.

Click HERE to see my version of Psalm 104 (NOTE: © David D. Baldwin, 2019).

June 9, 2019

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Readings:

  • Acts 16:16-34
  • Psalm 97
  • Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
  • John 17:20-26

Annoyed

Paul was annoyed.
A slave girl with divination powers
followed him around in Philippi,
crying out, “These men are slaves
of the most high God,
who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”
She was mentally ill,
but her ability to foretell the future
made a lot of money
for her owners.

She annoyed Paul for many days.
Finally, he said to her spirit,
“I order you in the name of Jesus Christ
to come out of her.”
The spirit left her immediately
and she was healed.

Her owners were annoyed
because she was healed.
She lost her powers
and no longer made them any money.

The authorities in Philippi were annoyed
when the annoyed owners
dragged Paul and Silas before them
for the crime of robbing them
of an income.

Everyone was annoyed
except the imprisoned Paul and Silas,
who prayed and sang hymns
throughout the night,
and the grateful slave girl,
no longer imprisoned
in mental darkness.

June 2, 2019

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Year C readings:

  • Acts 16:9-15
  • Psalm 67
  • Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
  • John 14:23-29

Why Things Happen

What is our aim in life?
Snowflakes have a noble aim:
to melt.
But first,
they cloak the world in white.

The beach is bare.
The perishing sun is lighting up
the bottom half of thunderheads.
The day is done,
and Earth depends on us again
To electrify the night,
To cheer the globe
with love’s outrageous light.

A multi-colored young life died
so we could see
the whiter-than-white,
sun-white face of God.

May 26, 2019

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Year C readings:

  • Acts 11:1-18
  • Psalm 148
  • Revelation 21:1-6
  • John 13:31-35

Hope

John of Patmos imagined a transformation
of the first heaven and the first earth
into a new heaven and a new earth;
but little has changed since the emperor Domitian.

Advances in personal comfort are commendable.
We’ve seen great progress by the peoples of earth
in science and engineering and in public health,
and yet the masses are still expendable.

Egregious wealth for the fortunate few
contrasts with millions who lack a home.
It was just like this in ancient Rome.
Write this: these words are trustworthy and true.

When most of the people are trying to cope,
when most of the people live without hope,
John proclaims the Christian ethos
that life is good: God is with us.

May 19, 2019

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

Year C readings:

  • Acts 9:36-43
  • Psalm 23
  • Revelation 7:9-17
  • John 10:22-30

Holy People, Different People

What is a saint? The Gospel word “hagios”
is often rendered as holy, but the root definition
of the Greek word is different, meaning the Christian
is set apart from all others. God chose

at first the nation of Israel to do his service,
to be his holy people, different people.
The plan foundered because proud people
forgot that service, not honor, was the purpose.

We are different not because we deserve
greater honor. That is not the reason.
We are the least of persons. We are chosen
for a greater service to God. We are saved to serve.

May 12, 2019

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Third Sunday of Easter

Year C readings:

  • Acts 9:1-20
  • Psalm 30
  • Revelation 5:11-14
  • John 21:1-19

Brother Saul

Ananias of Damascus was minding his own business
when Jesus spoke to him in a vision: “Get up
and go to the street called Straight, and at the house
of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul.”
“Wait, what?” said Ananias. “Lord, many
of your followers are forced to hide from this evil dude.
The last I heard he was muttering threats against
the saints in Jerusalem, and now he’s coming for us
here in Damascus. This guy is nothing but trouble.”
The Lord said to Ananias, “Go, for Saul
is an instrument I have chosen to bring my name
before Gentiles and kings and before the people
of Israel.” Ananias pushed back, then relented.
Against his better judgment he went to Saul,
laid on his hands, and said, “Brother Saul.”
Because of him, Saul’s sight was restored.
Saul got up and was baptized. After that,
Ananias is out of the story, but think about it:
where would we be today without such courage?

May 5, 2019

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Second Sunday of Easter

Year C readings:

  • Acts 5:27-32
  • Psalm 118:14-29
  • Revelation 1:4-8
  • John 20:19-31

What is Truth?

Imagine truth is a sea where high above
a man can see it all, at least the surface,
but cannot hear or smell or taste or touch.
The pilot knows a fraction of the truth.

The swimmer knows a fraction of the truth.
With every nerve ablaze, he bodysurfs
selected waves on a favorite patch of sand.
His choice excludes a billion miles of beach
and vast unfathomable truth that lies between.

And kneeling by the tide, a poet holds
a chambered metaphor that seems to say it all.
The poet speaks a fraction of the truth.

A Roman governor asked, perhaps in jest,
“What is truth?” He did not wait for an answer.
Like him, we often ask and do not wait.

We cannot know the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth by ourselves.
But we of faith have a fact witness. We put
our trust in Jesus, the faithful witness of the truth
of God, who is and who was and who is to come.

April 28, 2019

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Easter Sunday

Year C readings:

  • Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25
  • Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
  • 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43
  • John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12

The Ballad of the Sheaf of Corn

Bombs were falling all around
in the darkest hour of the war.
Bombs were falling in London town;
death was in the air.

Within the city, there was a parish
where the people soldiered on.
The harvest festival was a time to cherish;
the work of the church goes on.

The church was decked with local fare
on a fateful Saturday morn.
The smells of autumn filled the air.
In the center—a sheaf of corn.

It wasn’t long after that
the Luftwaffe made a call.
The festive church was laid flat.
There was nothing left at all.

Rubble remained in the months ahead.
Winter turned to spring.
Green shoots rose from the dead
as summer was on the wing.

The people of the church could see in the growth
of the ruined sheaf of corn
a sign that life is stronger than death,
a sign of life reborn.

April 21, 2019

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Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday

Year C readings:

  • Isaiah 50:4-9a
  • Psalm 31:9-16
  • Philippians 2:5-11
  • Luke 22:14 – 23:56 or Luke 23:1-49

Rescue Me

My times are in your hand, O Lord.
Whenever my actions come to naught
and I feel as useless as a broken pot,
you rescue me.

My times are in your hand, O Lord.
Whenever I sigh and waste in grief
and flutter to earth like a falling leaf,
you rescue me.

My times are in your hand, O Lord.
Make your face to shine upon me;
let your loving kindness flow free
to rescue me.

April 14, 2019

NOTE: This little poem is now a church anthem, thanks to Kerry Lewis. He set the words for a solo male voice.

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

Year C readings:

  • Isaiah 43:16-21
  • Psalm 126
  • Philippians 3:4b-14
  • John 12:1-8

You Do Not Always Have Me

The flowing lake is always filling,
but is never full.
Once there was a true sense of fullness
of which all that now remains
is an empty print and trace.
The lake strains for completion
with waters around it—
seeking in things that are not there
the help it cannot find
in those things that are.
Instead,
there is a chronic ache
that comes from feeling incomplete.

April 7, 2019

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Fourth Sunday in Lent

Year C readings:

  • Joshua 5:9-12
  • Psalm 32
  • 2 Corinthians 5:16-21
  • Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Jealousy

Your father’s love is certain. This you know.
All that is his is yours. You know it’s true.
If you are safe and sound in your father’s love
and all his blessings still belong to you,
why resent the feast for the prodigal son?
Why the sudden anger? Why the scorn?
Your brother once was lost, but now is found.
Your father must rejoice with love unbound.
Your father cares for you: What has changed?
All his goods are yours: What has changed?

For us, this tale is one we understand.
We may be safely wrapped in our father’s love.
We may enjoy the gifts of his generous hand.
But a rush of jealousy can make us doubt his love.
We need to stop and ponder why we doubt.
Why the anger? What is this about?
Our father’s grace extends to every child.
It pleases him when all his children are reconciled.
Our father cares for us: What has changed?
All his goods are ours: What has changed?

March 31, 2019

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Third Sunday in Lent

Year C readings:

  • Exodus 3:1-15
  • Psalm 63:1-8
  • 1 Corinthians 10:1-13
  • Luke 13:1-19

The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree

In nature’s design, the rule of life is clear.
The useful thrive, advancing from age to age.
They manage to master time’s turning page.
The useless take up space for a while, then disappear.
In God’s design, uselessness is a grave offense.
If we’re not bearing fruit, what good are we?
This is the lesson of the barren fig tree:
If you take sustenance from the soil, you must produce.
Unlike the natural world, in God’s design
there may be room for hope and a second chance.
To achieve your promise, you might be granted grace.
But even the patient planter draws the line.
Take advantage of your one last chance
before he orders the gardener to clear the space.

March 24, 2019

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Second Sunday in Lent

Year C readings:

  • Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
  • Psalm 27
  • Philippians 3:17-4:1
  • Luke 13:31-35

Unrequited Love

I admired a worldly woman
with children in her loving care.
I made my plea for love;
rejection was swift and sure

I wanted to gather her children
as a hen protects the brood,
desiring to set their path
for destiny great and good.

Her friends and close advisors
convinced her I was a fraud
because, they said, I flouted
the Law and disrespected God.

I offered a transformation,
but now it is time to leave.
Her house is left to her.
With a heavy heart I grieve.

However, I shall return
when people with one accord
declare, “Blessed is the one
who comes in the name of the Lord.”

March 17, 2019

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First Sunday in Lent

Year C readings:

  • Deuteronomy 26:1-11
  • Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
  • Romans 10:8b-13
  • Luke 4:1-13

Grace for All

The prophets Isaiah and Joel assure us
that the matter of Law and achievement is flawed.
Zeal for the Law of Moses won’t save us:
the word of faith is the way to God.
This is echoed by the Apostle Paul.
The end of the Law is grace for all.

Legalism is with us still. It is sad
to see justification as a joyless chore
for someone measuring good vs. bad,
wishing and hoping for a plus score.
Listen and learn from the Apostle Paul—
the end of the Law is grace for all.

March 10, 2019

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Last Sunday After Epiphany

Year C readings:

  • Exodus 34:29-35
  • Psalm 99
  • 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
  • Luke 9:28-36

Stay Awake!

Jesus is on a high mountain, deep
in prayer. Simon Peter and the brothers James
and John are on the edge of falling asleep.

As he prays, Jesus’ face begins to change
and his clothes shine as bright as a lightening flash
and the men are shocked to suddenly see the strange

sight of Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus
about the road ahead to Jerusalem and the cross.
Imagine you are there in the company of Jesus.

Are you tempted to lose the plot? Would you suffer the loss
of seeing the great hinge of history in the making
as Jesus prepares to follow in his way of the cross?

The disciples witness glory by staying awake.
Jesus is on the mountaintop and so are you.
Stay awake! and testify to what is true.

March 3, 2019

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Seventh Sunday After Epiphany

Year C readings:

  • Genesis 45:3-11, 15
  • Psalm 37:1-12, 41-42
  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, 42-50
  • Luke 6:27-38

The Good Life

Put on the armor of gentleness.
Defend yourself with gentleness;
stand your ground.
Attack with gentleness;
confound your foe.

Do not envy the self-indulgent.
Self-indulgence
is a basket of perishing fruit.
For the self-indulgent,
setting out to live
is entering into death.

Refrain from anger;
leave rage alone.
Put your trust in the Lord—
your heart will be at peace.

Always show your love!
Only shadows
that cast images
of interleaving aimlessness
are real
in a world without love.

February 24, 2019

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