100: After Epiphany 4B (Feb 1, 2015)


SHOW NOTES -  2/1/2015
Episode 100: After Epiphany 4B
Image: Photo by Brian J Matis
For Sunday, February 1, 2015

Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 100 for Sunday February 1, the third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B.

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Introduction and Check-in  

  • Episode 100!

Quickfire Scripture -1 Corinthians 8:1-13 - God, Idols and Food

  • Hearing only half of the conversation, it is possible to discern the question from the answer. Is it okay to eat the meat that has been sacrificed to other gods?
  • It is also possible to discern the arguments that were being made. It sounds like a social/intellectual elite was saying that it was okay.
  • Paul’s answer is that it is possible for it to be okay to eat the meat, because there is nothing magical about the food itself. What matters is the heart. It is possible to eat the meat without it being a religious act of devotion. Since the gods it was sacrificed to are not gods, then the food is nothing special.
  • There is a potential problem in that it is not an easy thing to judge one’s intention. If you are at the table of a sacrificed idol, it could look as if you are worshiping that idol. Even if you are not intending worship, someone else may interpret it as such. Also, it is much easier to not worship an idol if you aren’t there in the first place.
  • It is possible that some of the elite in the church were not willing to abandon their elevated social status that came along with these meals. They were trying to say, “well, it’s okay for us because we know about Christ.” While this is true, it’s probably not a good idea.
  • Can have vast implications today. Though we may not be sitting at the table of a false idol, we may be invited to a strip club, or casino, or invited into a shady deal. While we may claim that we can be “above it,” it’s still probably not a good idea to enter into it.

Featured Musician -  The Steel Wheels, “The Riverside” from their album Live at Goose Creek. Find more of their music at www.thesteelwheels.com. @thesteelwheels

Primary Scripture - Mark 1:21-28 - Casting Out Demons
Initial Thoughts

  • Demons. Great.
    • A lot can be made of demons. Are we talking about actual, literal, spiritual beings? Are we talking about figurative demons in the same way we still talk of demons in a psychoanalytical way?
    • Regardless of how they are described, a demon is anything that has power of a human that is not of God. Much like enemies in the Psalms do not have to be read as soldiers, demons do not have to be read as spiritual beings. A demon is anything that has power that is not of God.
    • Questions about demons and miracles are not about “Did this really happen?” Instead reader should ask, “What does this really mean?” (Lamar Williamson, Interpretation: Mark, p. 20). Questions about demonic existence or authenticity of miracles would not have occurred to original readers. To fully appreciate the gospel, it is necessary to understand this worldview, without judging it as right or wrong.
    • “Satan’s power is being broken up because the Lord has come to redeem the people. Therefore, the exorcism indicates what it means for the Kingdom of God to draw near. The kingdom cannot be separated from the person of Jesus, who embodies God’s power… The focus of the story remains the divine authority of exercised by Jesus.”  (Pheme Perkins, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. VIII. p.540).  

Bible Study

  • Literary Context
    • First public event of Jesus’ ministry in Mark.
      • Baptism, Fasting (temptation by Satan is three words), Calling Disciples, Cast out demon.
    • Next scene is healing of Simon’s mother.
    • Gospel parallel in Luke 4:31-37.
      • Set in similar place. Temptation is more extensive. He preaches in Nazareth synagogue and is driven out, then goes to Capernaum. Exchange with demon is verbatim. Response of people is close to verbatim. Luke redacts “not like the legal experts.”
  • Themes of Mark introduced
    • It’s a Secret.
      • Not explicit here, but Jesus orders “Silence.” In other parts of Mark, Jesus tells people to “not tell anyone,” and yet his popularity continues to spread.
      • “He may have avoided public recognition for his miracle-working because he didn’t want to be associated with other, fame-seeking healers of the day.” (The CEB Study Bible, sidebar on “Secrecy”, p. 83 NT).
      • Jesus was not interested in people believing because of signs and wonders. He used them to help people, not build a reputation.
    • Jesus has authority, not like the legal experts
      • Conflict between Jesus and Jewish leadership is setup. “Mark consistently sets up Jewish religious leaders as opponents of Jesus” (Pheme Perkins, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. VIII. p.540).  
      • Authority of Jesus revealed in teaching and in signs.
      • Exorcism of demons is a sign of Jesus’ power and authority over all things. Demons’ power over the person is released on the command of Jesus, who has ultimate authority.
    • People are amazed. News spreads
      • There is an element of fear in the amazement. This is not the same as belief, devotion, or a willingness to follow.
      • There is no ascent to follow, just acknowledgment of Jesus’ power.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Jesus’ ministry begins with the public defeat of the power of evil. It takes place in the synagogue - a very public place of worship. It also projects a larger victory and purpose through the question that is asked, “Have you come to destroy us?” the answer is clear: yes. Jesus’ power is sure, acknowledged, and amazing.
  • Vow of baptism in UMC: “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and reject the evil powers of this world?” (United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 95). What does this vow mean? What are today’s spiritual forces of wickedness and the evil powers of this world? There is a place for a strong prophetic word against forces of this world that perpetuate unjust systems.

Psalm Nugget with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan: Psalm 111

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Secondary scripture - Deuteronomy 18:15-20 - Acceptable Prophets
Initial Thoughts

  • Moses looks forward to his successor
  • Some prophets suck - being called as a prophet does not preclude being a selfish jerk
  • Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely

Bible Study

  • Context:
    • Historical: Israelites are in the wilderness but are getting close to the Promised Land.
      • Actually is probably a later exilic addition to the Torah
    • Literary: Part of a larger passage spanning from Deuteronomy 16-18 addressing the duties and tasks of leadership - Judges (16:18-17:13), Kings (17:14-20), Priests (18:1-8), and Prophets (18:9-22)
      • Interesting considering that Kings were not part of Israelite society at this time
    • This section arguable begins with verse 9. Verses 9-14 describe how God will NOT talk to the people and then describes how God WILL talk to the people - through a prophet
  • Prophets- who or what are they?
    • First was Moses - God talked with the people before this, but did not talk through people. The Prophet is the mouthpiece of God - kind of (Remember Moses told Aaron what to say because he was a stutterer)
    • Gift from God
      • Interesting considering that they are the gift we need but not the gift we want - we don’t always want to hear what the prophets have to say
    • Sent to be the intercessors for God and to deliver God’s Word to people
    • Sent to keep people moral and on God’s track
    • People will be held accountable to the prophetic word!
      • These are not suggestions, but commands with consequences (like Exile)
    • ARE HUMAN - easy to forget this - no different than our prophets today
      • Ex: Bonhoeffer was involved in a murder plot, MLK Jr was involved in extramarital affairs
    • Signs of a True Prophet - Katharyn Schifferdecker from workingpreacher.com - check out her article fro a more thorough explanation
      • The true prophet does not seek to be a prophet.
      • The true prophet seeks neither self-promotion nor riches.
      • The true prophet speaks God’s word, not his or her own (Deuteronomy 18:18).
      • The true prophet bears a “family resemblance” to what has come before.
      • The true prophet (and the false prophet) is known by his or her “fruit.”
  • Word of God verses Arrogant words
    • How do we tell the difference? Not based on role- even divinely ordained role. (Good to remember regarding pastoral boundaries and boundary violations)
    • See verses 21-22, tied to verse 19- people will be held accountable to the words of the prophet - do the words of the prophet come true? (in whose timeline?)
    • Howard Wallace on discerning the Word of God  - check out his article for a more thorough explanation (http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/EpiphanyB/Epiphany4.html)
      • Outside- comes from God
      • Life giving - moved us to choose life over death
      • Discerning - it is not flashy or popular, but must be discerned
      • Consistent - Consistent with the word that has come before

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Why do we have such a  hard time with the humanity of our heroes? Do their flaws undermine their achievements? If so why? If not why? How might that change our Christology?
  • How do we determine if a prophet is sharing the word of God or an “arrogant word”?
    • Eric’s thoughts: When the needs of an individual, country, belief or tribe seen as more important or holier than another’s basic needs- you can be sure it is not the word of God

Tasty Wafer of the Week!

TY listeners everyone who has listened over the last 100 episodes
Shout Out to all listeners and guests

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist),  Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Second of May” from their album Live at Goose Creek) and Paul and Storm for our closing music, “Oh No”.


AllEric FistlerComment