106: Lent 4B (March 15, 2015)


For Sunday March 15, fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B.

SHOW NOTES -  3/15/2015
Episode 106  Lent 4B
For Sunday, March 15, 2015
Image: Christological sculpture on top of 
Mount Nebo was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni of Mose's Bronze Snake Staff
Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 105 for Sunday March 15, fourth Sunday of Lent, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Augie beat IWU in Conference Championship. Both made it to NCAA Division III tournament. Robb will be donning Augie shirt, pants, scarf, hat, mittens and stole for one day while visiting Fistler family.
  • 5000 downloads in February. Special thank you to Kathy Escobar, Diann Bailey, and Sarah Renfro for being guests on special episodes in February.

Quickfire Scripture - Ephesians 2:1-10   Saved by faith

  • Common thread through all four readings is the relationship between sin and redemption, and God’s never-ending work to draw the people into redemption despite their best efforts.
  • Numbers is a specific instance. John draws on Numbers text to describe Jesus’ work. Psalm describes a long relationship of God saving those that turn away.
  • Ephesians brings this to another level. God’s saving is not just a temporal fix for a present situation, but is directly linked to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The act of God raising up Jesus is tied to God’s will to raise us out of sin and depth.
  • Following Christ means that there is a change in our lives. There is a new way of living as followers.
  • At the same time, salvation is not about changing, but in restoring our lives to what God intended them to be. We are “created for good works,” and sin blocks us from that. Looking to Jesus gives us the ability to get back to who we were created to be.

Featured Musician - Christopher Grundy’s “Then Will Your Light Shine Forth,” from his album Stepping In. Discover more of Christopher’s music at christophergrundy.com. New website - lots of great promise including a lectionary key to songs!

Primary Scripture John 3:14-21  Jesus and Nicodemus
Initial Thoughts

  • First part of the story already discussed on Pulpit Fiction for Lent 2A from March 16, 2014.
  • I feel like I’ve heard this verse before. Probably never paid attention to 14-15, but it makes sense when paired with Numbers text this week.

Bible Study

  • Context: Discussion with Nicodemus
    • Takes place at night, immediately after table turning incident in the Temple. Jewish leaders are not happy with him.
    • Nicodemus, a Jewish leader (Pharisee), is convinced by Jesus’ actions that he is “a teacher who has come from God.” Implies that there are others who have this same belief.
    • Jesus responds that this isn’t enough. You must be “born anew” to see God’s kingdom.
    • Nicodemus does not understand, so Jesus explains that people must be “born of the spirit.” Nicodemus still does not understand. This passage is a part of Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus.
  • v 14-15
    • “Just as Moses lifted up the snake” is a clear allusion to Numbers text for this week.
      • Recalls God’s continued saving work in the world. In the Wilderness, there was a very present danger from which God was able to protect the people.
      • God continues to protect the people, now through raising his Son.
    • “So must the Human One be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.”
      • Crucifixion? Jesus raised up on the cross.
        • “Lift High the Cross” 159 in United Methodist Hymnal
        • “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his sacred name. Come, Christians follow this triumphant sign The hosts of God in unity combine. O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee.” George William Kitchin and Michael Robert Newbolt, 1916.
      • Lifted up as a model? Jesus raised up as the Way in which to follow.
        • “Help Us Accept Each Other” 569 in United Methodist Hymnal
        • “Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to believe we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.” Fred Kaan, 1974
      • Resurrection? Jesus raised from the grave?
        • “Because He Lives” 364 in United Methodist Hymnal
        • “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone. Because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.” Gloria and William Gaither, 1971
  • v. 16-21
    • John often divides things into two distinct categories.
      • Spirit and World
      • Darkness and Light
      • Life and Death
      • Truth and Wickedness
      • Those that believe and those that do not
    • These dichotomies reflect a “minority group defining itself not only within the diversity of Judaism but also defining itself among followers of Jesus. In this context, polemical language against the Jews and secret believers functioned to affirm members of a minority community defining itself in relationship to other communities making similar claims to truth. The purpose is not to exclude others, rather to support those who likely make difficult choices to belong. Likely the intent was to encourage others to join them.” (Marilyn Salmon, from Working Preacher)

    • Purpose of the exclusive language is not actually to exclude, but to invite.
  • The difference is demonstrated in real action
    • All things will eventually be exposed to light
  • Those who hate the light do wickedness. Those who remain in the light do truth.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What does it mean to “do truth.” How can we as a church do more truth? It cannot be just about telling the truth, although that is an important part. Expanding on the concept of “doing truth” could make for a sermon. Truth, Justice, and Love seem to be linked by this passage. Part of loving the world is acting for justice. Part of doing justice is telling the truth. Part of doing truth is living in love.
  • Memorizing John 3:16 separates belief from action.
    • Belief is important, but verses 19-21 reveal that judgment comes not based on belief, but on action.
    • Remain in darkness or live in the light. The choice might start with belief, but it is only revealed in actions.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Secondary scripture Numbers 21:4-9   Moses and the Magic Stick
Initial Thoughts

  • Numbers only appears 3 times in the lectionary! (Pentecost A and Proper 21B)
  • Separating this from John 3 and Christian interpretation
  • Covenant theme?
    • Psalm 107

Bible Study

  • Context!
    • Grumbling stories: Exodus 16, Numbers 11, 14, 16, 20 - all stories of the Israelites failing to trust God (and or Moses)
    • Occurs immediately after God has answered their prayers (Number 21:1-3)
  • Grumbling/Complaining and Repentance
    • Sin, Confession and repentance occur in community- not as individuals
      • Many sins happen in a community - those that don’t speak out, that enable, justify or passively condone sins
    • Craig Kocher, Feasting on the Word - every church has it’s “Let’s go back to Egypt” committee: a group of people that will never be content with the present but want to return to the nostalgia of the past.
    • Communal and individual- while the sin, confession and repentance are communal- the acceptance of grace- looking at the staff - is  individual
  • Faith: Belief or trust? The Israelites are not asked to believe in any specific creed, religion or doctrine, they are simply asked to trust God (sometimes the creed, symbol or doctrine can get in the way - 2 Kings 18:4)
  • Magic Stick (not to be confused with the Lil Kim song)
    • A symbol of death is transformed into a symbol of life - it is not the “thing” in and of itself but the meaning we put on it. What symbols hold meaning in our lives?
      • poisonous snakes - bronze serpent
      • blood of the lamb- Passover
      • cross - crucifixion
    • A tool to reveal the faithfulness of God - not something holy in and of itself
    • Could be seen as a false idol- snakes were often used as images for deities in the ancient near east
    • This actually happened- people began to make sacrifices and offerings to the Bronze snake- so Hezekiah (the good king) had it broken and removed from the temple (2 Kings 18:4)
    • See Sermon Notes
    • Interesting Side note: The symbol of the snake and the staff as a symbol of healing also appears in Greek mythology as the Rod of Asclepius (Asclepius being the Greek God of healing) and is used currently as a symbol of healing and medicine.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • The Israelites acknowledge that their sin was communal and subsequently their confession and repentance was communal as God’s grace. How do we raise the communal aspects of sin, confession and forgiveness other than a unison prayer in the service? Should we do more to acknowledge the communal sins of our churches and society in general and take responsibility?
  • What are things that have  been lifted up as examples or tools of God’s faithfulness that have become idols in their own right? What Bronze snakes live in our temples that need to be broken and discarded?
  • A symbol of death is transformed into a symbol of life - it is not the “thing” in and of itself but the meaning we put on it. What symbols hold meaning in our lives?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • Church Social Media Chat every Tuesday evening on Twitter at 9 Eastern. Follow #ChSocM. You can use tweetchat.com to help follow along. Always a great discussion, and a supportive community for those that are interested in using social media for the gospel.

TY listeners
Shout Out:

  • Scott Elliot for a great comment on Jesus in the Temple on Facebook.. "If Jesus was about anything he was about breaking down beariers." I come at this text from a bit different perspective, i.e., if Jesus was a about anything he was about love and forgiveness. The turn your cheek non-violent Jesus is not to be found in John's re-telling--or our image of it. Moreover it would have been impossible for him to do all that violence in the Temple without the Roman guard swooping in and stopping Jesus. So John's exaggerating what happened. Robb suggests finding a non-angry Jesus is a soft peddle. I think he was angry, but controlled, maybe even harsh, but non-violent. I am beginning to understand the Temple Protest as part 2 of Jesus Holy Week protests. Part 1 is a Palm Sunday parade protesting (mocking) Pilate's entry with an army to quell unrest. Part 2 is the Temple disruption, protesting the lack of unrest by followers of God--the leaders/worshipers agreeing to quell their unrest. (Borg and Crossan explain the meaning of the Jeremiah quote about "robbers" along these lines in "The Last Week.") The Temple in the past was protested by prophets as only a place of worship in the space, God does not care for such stuff without action outside the Temple for justice in the world. I lean toward thinking that is what Jesus was protesting. . It's amazing how many theories there are on what Jesus was protesting, I appreciated hearing yours. I thought I'd toss in mine”
  • @padraicglenn on twitter: “Thanks @PulpitFpodcast for giving me a good argument against re-baptism…Anyone up for re-circumcision?”
  • @EPC_PastorJoe who posed two good questions for the upcoming Holy Week Roundtable.
  • Sharon Stowe Cooke (a fellow IWU alum) who had a great suggestion for a friendly wager on the CCIW Championship game.

Featured Musician:   

  • Christopher Grundy’s “Then Will Your Light Shine Forth,” from his album Stepping In. Discover more of Christopher’s music at christophergrundy.com. New website - lots of great promise including a lectionary key to songs!

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist) Using Psalms in Lent? Check out Richard’s great album “Sharing the Road” the first album of the Psalms Project which is full of Psalm songs for Lent!
Thank you to 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”.