113: Easter 5B (May 3, 2015)


SHOW NOTES -  5/3/2015
Episode 113 Easter 5B
Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 113 for Sunday May 3, Easter 5B.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Last week’s double episode!
  • 92-92-PULPIT (929-278-5748)
  • #50toPentecost
  • Festival of Homiletics - Questions? Send them to us! - Show@pulpitfiction.us subject “FoH”

Quickfire Scripture:  Acts 8:26-40 -- Philip and the Eunuch

  • Who is the Eunuch? Not much is known other than what we have
    • Could have been Jewish (as could have Candance) there were Jewish teachings in Ethiopia going back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
    • Racism would not have been as much of an issue as sexual Status (Karen Baker-Flitcher, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide)
    • Eunuch - castrated male, typically castrated before puberty, be seen as “safe among women” and to perform social functions for royalty (like being a treasurer)
      • ironically stereotyped as sexually immoral
  • Isaiah 53 - refers to one who is “shorn” and was a book of hope to eunuchs, captives and the poor.
    • This can be seen explicitly in Isaiah 56:4-5, “For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant,I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”
  • “the Ethiopian as someone wealthy enough to ride in a chariot, educated enough to read Greek, devout enough to study the prophet Isaiah, and humble enough to know that he cannot understand what he is reading without help. He is also hospitable. When Philip speaks to him (at the direction of the Holy Spirit), the Ethiopian invites the talkative pedestrian to join him in his chariot. For a modern parallel, imagine a diplomat in Washington, D.C., inviting a street preacher to join him in his late model Lexus for a little Bible study.” Barbara Brown Taylor- Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.
  • What is to prevent me from being Baptized? How would you or your church respond to this inquiry?
    • There is no indication that the eunuch believed in Jesus or truly understood who Jesus was, but somehow he heard the good news in Baptism
  • This passage has also been lifted up as a passage of hope among many in the LGBT community for Philip does not acknowledge the eunuch being racially or sexually different, but instead shares the story of Jesus with him and Baptizes him- regardless of biology, sexual or sociocultural norms.

Featured Musician -  Jonathan Rundman, “Treasurer’s Report to Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians” from his album A Heartland Liturgy. Find more of Jonathan Rundman’s music at jonathanrundman.com, @jonathanrundman and on Facebook.

Primary Scripture - John 15:1-8 -- I am the true vine
Initial Thoughts

  • May the Fourth Be With You!
  • The final “I am”
  • Comes right before the Maundy Thursday Commandment
    • Farewell discourse

Bible Study

  • Major Themes: Abiding, bearing good fruit and Interconnectedness
  • Note on vines - “Going Wild” by Paul Bellan-Boyer
    • Vines can be persistent, beautiful, fruitful and life-giving - (kiwi fruit, squash, green beans, peas, melons) or wild constricting, overbearing, life-sucking pests (ivy, kudzu, jungle vines)
    • Many vines need a support- who will your support be?
    • Will we allow ourselves to be abide in God and tended by God or simply grow wild? Growth is not the goal- bearing fruit is!
  • Abiding - dwelling with God
    • Should we still use the word Abide? To dwell or live with, enduring, holding out, staying in place
    • Jesus is the authentic (better translation) vine
      • As opposed to the inauthentic vine - what vine are we the branches of? Jesus or something else?
    • Abiding in God’s love, Christ’s love and love for one another- these are intertwined and inseparable
  • Bearing Fruit and being pruned
    • Jesus as the authentic vine is the source of all good fruit - to be separated from Jesus is to no longer bear good fruit
      • Opportunity to reclaim spiritual practices- to remind ourselves individually and communally what vine we are branching out from
      • Doing good works separated from the vine can lead to “selfish giving”
    • Pruning is not always a bad thing- pruning can lead to an overall healthy plant
      • In what ways is the fear of pruning keeping us from bearing fruit?
  • Interconnectedness
    • Community is not something apart from our lives- but is our life- we are inseparably connected to one another in love
    • Community is not a static institution but a living, growing, thriving and even changing organism
    • Each part affects the entire branch
    • African Proverb: Because we are, I am

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What does it mean to live in Jesus? How do we as a church (or individuals) live in Jesus in the way we worship, teach, welcome, spend money?
  • Who or what in our lives do we feel we cannot be separated from? Family? Friends possessions? What about the church community?
  • What needs to be pruned in your life/community/church?
  • Is the church a withering branch? Have we ceased to bear good fruit?
    • The love that is both the content and aim of Christ's gospel continues to be active in those who understand that what you do "to one of the least of one of these who are members of my family, you did it to me" - Stephen A Cooper - Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.

Psalm Nugget - Psalm 22:25-31 -- The end of "My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?"
Call to Worship (Worldmaking paraphrase by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan)
One: O Holy One, we offer praise in the great congregation because of you,
Many: fulfilling our vows with all those who revere you.
One: All the needy and poor shall eat and be satisfied.
Many: Those who seek the Holy One will lift their praises high.
One: All the ends of the earth will remember and return to God.
Many: Every family of every nation will bow before our God.
One: For all rule belongs to the Holy One who rules all nations
Many: To God the most powerful will bow; even the dead will bow. And I shall live for God.
One: Future generations will serve God.
Many: Our children and our children's children will be in God's heart. They will proclaim God's saving love.

Second Reading: 1 John 4:7-21 -- God is love
Initial Thoughts

  • This is a dartboard passage. You could pin this passage to a wall, throw at it blindly with a dart, and whatever verse you hit, it’s golden.
  • The passage is so simple to understand, but surprisingly difficult to interpret. Partly because it is so simple and beautiful. The greatest challenge is to expound on what feels like a complete, and nearly perfect, thought.

Bible Study

  • God is Love
    • Because God is love, men and women are now free to reflect God’s love in their own love of both God and their neighbor.” (Texts for Preaching, Year B, p 307)
    • “God’s love lies at the heart of the life of faith, indeed, it lies at the heart of all of life.” (Texts for Preaching, Year B, p 307)
    • “Contrary to our inclination toward quid pro quo, God has decided in our favor apart from our ability to reciprocate, gracing us with love prior to and independent of any response we might offer, for no reason other than that love is the very nature of God that is knowable by human beings.... Love is not one thing among many that God does; everything that God does is loving” (Clifton Black, New Interpreter’s Bible, volume XII, p. 433).
    • Love is not just a feeling, it is a conscious decision to act for the good of others. Thus, love is easily seen. There is evidence of love that can be pointed to. It is not earned, but it is examined.
  • Circular Logic
    • “The theology of 1 John contains a certain circularity in that the concepts of 1 John 4:7-21 mutually interpret one another. God is love. When we love, God abides in us. We cannot see God but when we love, we know God abides in us. If we do not love sisters and brothers whom we do see, then we cannot love God whom we cannot physically see. When we love our sisters and brothers, we love God which, in turn, shows that God is love.” (Ron Allen, from Process and Faith)
    • God is love. God’s love is revealed in Jesus. We are to abide in Jesus. This is revealed in how we love.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • How do we talk about God’s love without trivializing or romanticizing it? How do we confess that God is love to those that do not feel God’s love? Peculiar start to Psalm 22 (which the lection cuts out) might be helpful. Even in forsakenness, God is love.
  • The Gospel and Epistle reading work so beautifully together, it is no wonder some call them the same author, and most consider them to be of the same community. Some even read the letters of John as the first Biblical commentary, and must be read in conjunction with the Gospel. Abiding in Jesus, being grafted into the vine, is done through love. There is no way to be a Christian and not love others.
  • The part that is easily missed in this letter is the adversary. This letter is to a community that is under fire. There is conflict. There are false teachers. In the previous paragraph, the writer indirectly points to those who don’t “confess Jesus Christ has come as a human” (1 John 4:3). Yet the call to the abused community, time and again, is love. Never does the writer encourage those to seek out and destroy, defeat, or even convince the false teachers. They are simply encouraged to love as Christ loved. Love each other. That is all.

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • The Lion and Lamb Festival is seeking musicians and speakers. Already featuring friends of the show Heatherlyn and Sarah Renfro. Other participants can apply now. The Festival’s vision is to bring people together to inspire and be inspired by stories of peace, mercy, justice, and love. It is August 8, 2015 in the Quad Cities, Illinois.

TY listeners
Featured Musician -  Jonathan Rundman, “Treasurer’s Report to Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians” from his album Heartland Liturgy. Find more of Jonathan Rundman’s music at jonathanrundman.com, @jonathanrundman and on Facebook.
Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist). 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(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).

AllEric FistlerComment