127: PROPER 14B (AUGUST 9, 2015)


Episode 127 Proper 14B
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 127 for Sunday August 9, Proper 14, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Ben Leaf needs prayers

Midfire Gospel: John 6:35, 41-51 - I am the Bread of Life...still

  • Yes- begins with the end of the last week
  • Skips a brief comment by Jesus about not losing anyone but keeping all things to the last day
  • Shifting crowds
    • Last Week’s Crowd of John 6:24-35
      • Chasing Jesus
      • Looking for Jesus
      • Demanding to know more about Jesus
      • Want to see signs
      • They are uncertain about Jesus
    • This week’s crowd of John 41-59
      • Don’t want to know more about Jesus
      • Don’t accept the bread of life
      • insiders (John 6:59)
      • The “Church people” can’t see who Jesus really is
      • They are certain about Jesus - Mary and Joseph’s son. 
  • Drawn by the Father
    • Augustine - “…our preaching is only noise to the ears unless listeners are drawn by the Father's love to hear it.”
    • O. Benjamin Sparks - “You just don't come to faith by yourself, through your own deduction, reasoning, and insight alone. You are wooed, invited, even cajoled.” - Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).”
    • We are saved by grace alone
      • There is nothing we can do to deserve God’s grace and nothing we do can keep us from being offered God’s grace.

Featured Musician - Eric Whitacre, “When David Heard” excerpt from Water Night, featuring the Eric Whitacre Singers, London Symphony Orchestra, Julian Lloyd Webber and Hila Plitmann, conducted by Eric Whitacre.

Second Reading - 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 - The death of Absalom, David's son
Initial Thoughts

  • Last Time:
    • Nathan confronts David with the evil of what he had done, we are told that “What David had done was evil in the Lord’s eye.”
    • David is told that he won’t die, but that his son will.
  • What did we skip?
    • “The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne for David, and he became very sick.” (12:15b). David fasts, prays, begs for child’s life before it dies.
    • Through Joab, David defeats Ammonites at Roab.
  • Saga of Absalom
    • Amnon plots to rape his half-sister Tamar, then sends her away in shame.
      • She begs mercy, but she is shown none.
    • When Absalom, her brother, discovers what happens, and takes her in and hates Amnon for what he has done.
    • David does nothing.
    • Two years later Absalom kills Amnon. Then flees for three years.
    • While in exile, Absalom gains followers due to his good looks and wise and kind rule from Hebron.
    • Absalom returns to Jerusalem, and David flees. There is much espionage and intrigue before the armies actually meet on the field of battle.
    • David tells his troops and commanders that they are not to harm Absalom, but he is killed in battle.

Bible Study

  • Death of Absalom
    • The lectionary tells us that David doesn’t not want Absalom killed, but gives no reason or context.
    • Absalom “was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the tangled branches of a large oak tree. Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair while the mule under him kept on going.”
    • One man saw Absalom stuck in a tree, but didn’t kill him, because he knew David didn’t want him to.
    • Joab and his men kill Absalom while he hangs defenseless. Then he sends someone else to tell David.
    • David mourns the death of his son - even though he was an enemy on the field of battle.
  • Aftermath
    • “The victory that day was turned into mourning.”
    • Joab reprimands David for “love those who hate you and hating those who love you.”
    • Rest of Samuel is uprisings and wars.
    • Next week is the death and last words of David.
  • Endearing Mourning Father or Despotic Leader Getting What he Deserved?
    • “On one level it is the story of the consequences of human sinfulness, but on another it is a profoundly moving portrait of natural human grief.. The reader is both attracted to and repelled by the text, for it speaks volumes not only about what human life ought to be, but also about the manners in which we sinners actually shape the contours of our days and years.” (James Newsome, Texts for Preaching: Year B, p. 455. Emphasis added).
    • “David’s cry is an anguished review of all that could have been and was not, of dreams so feebly enacted, of caring so selfishly limited, of pride so cheaply expressed. The specifics of the past are much too deep and too painful to utter.” (Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: 1 and 2 Samuel, p. 323).

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Life is messy. It is not always easy to draw easy lines of cause and effect. “Everything happens for a reason” is seldom a helpful way of understanding God. Why did Absalom die? Was it because of Joab’s ruthlessness, David’s ineffective leadership, Amnon’s lust… How far back do we go? Is it because of David’s lust after Bathsheba? Was it because David himself rose to power because of killing Goliath? How far back do we go? 
  • Why is David mourning? The death of his son? The death of son Absalom? The rape of his daughter? The death of his infant son? The loss of the allegiance of his people? It is a moment of deep despair in the moment, but it carries with it the weight of many failures.
  • Family systems tells us that every moment is loaded with our past. Every moment is pregnant with open possibility, but influenced by what has come before. 

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 130 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

The Pulpit Fiction Podcast is brought to you in part by audible. For listeners of Pulpit Fiction, Audible is offering a free 30-day trial and get a free audio book simply by going to audibletrial.com/pulpitfiction. There are a ton of books, 150,000 titles to choose from, including some great works by friends of the show Peter Rollins, Adam Hamilton and Nadia Bolz-Weber. We recommend Rachel Held Evans’ new book Searching for Sundays which is available on audible right now! Get it for free at audibleTRIAL.com/PulpitFiction. Again, support the show by going to audibletrial.com/PulpitFiction to start your free 30-Day trial and get a free audio book download.

Wearing God Sermon Series: Laughter
Focus 1: Laughing in the face of injustice

Scripture: Psalm 2, 37 and 59; Luke 6:21,25 “Blessed are those who weep now, for you shall laugh...Woe to you know laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” 

  • In the Psalms God laughs at the wicked
  • God also weeps with the victims, is angry over injustice
  • God’s laughter in the face of oppression and violence undermined the illusion of power and control and reorients the power with God
  • Laughter reorients power- laughter is political
  • “The laughter of God is inseparable from God’s justice.” (Winner, p. 190)
  • Laughter as subversive resistance
    • Suffragettes: Make light hearted jokes as they were being heckled while protesting to turn the favor of the crowd toward them
    • Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, NC dressed up as clowns and made jokes at a KKK rally exposing the absurdness of the white power movement (They would chant “White flour” or “Wife power”
    • The White House Correspondents dinner which has been used by comedians to expose harmful policies

Preaching Thoughts

  • How can we use creativity and laughter to confront injustice in our communities?
    • Like the Latin American Coalition staging a Clown gathering opposite a KKK rally
  • Do you welcome laughter in your church or your worship? How can you encourage laughter and use humor while not making worship “amateur night at the Apollo”?

Focus 2: Jesus as the Holy Fool

  • The Gospels- multiple references; 
  • 1 Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored!”


  • Jesus’ teachings and behaviors model, in many ways, the literary and theatrical archetype of “The Fool”
  • Characteristics of the Fool:
    • Homeless, marginal wanderer
    • Interrupts daily life through violating etiquette, surprise, and mockery
    • Is irreverent of cultural and religious customs
  • Jesus goes where he is unexpected (eating with Tax Collectors, sinners, prostitutes, Gentiles) and does the unexpected (welcomes, heals, challenges, comforts)
  • Jesus is the ironic protagonist in his world changing Crucifixion that ends in comedy - resurrection
  • Comedy is marked by unexpected changes in circumstance:
    • virgin birth
    • Son of a laborer from a backwater town (Can anything good come from Nazareth)
    • Son of God, but doesn’t follow the rules
    • Uses hyperbole and embarrasses the establishment
    • Is “raised up” by the Romans as the “king of Jews” in a grotesque display of Empire and mockery
    • Jesus is raised revealing the powerlessness of the Romans and even death
  • Jesus has the last laugh

Preaching Thoughts

  • Explore Jesus as the fool of the Gospel. Jesus is foolish in his actions, interactions and reactions. How might we too be fools of Christ?
  • “Lord, to laugh in the midst of trial and to rejoice in the darkest valley in another way of saying, “Our hope is in you.” Fill us with laughter and joy as we work for peace strive for justice…” (Prayers for Dec. 21 from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, quoted from Winner, p. 202)

Tasty Wafer of the Week:


Thank you listeners and Shout-Outs
Email from David:
Good Day,
I recently found your podcast and enjoy my morning coffee while listening to you sift through the texts. Keep up the good work. 
I did have a question.  You spoke of a UCC survey where the number two reason folks didn't go to church was the clothes they would wear. Can you provide me with a link to that survey?  Thanks!
By the way, my teenage daughter once wore her cowboy boots and jeans to church. We were going to the county fair immediately after worship. The next week I received an anonymous letter informing me how inappropriate she dressed. Not sure I will mention it on Sunday, but your conversation on dress hit it on the head.  I also recall that my female pastor friends robe every Sunday to help deflect attention on their dresses and shoes. 
Grace and Peace,

Twitter: @RevDrBobL: “Outstanding podcast… really like it.”

Featured Musician - Eric Whitacre, “When David Heard” excerpt from Water Night, featuring the Eric Whitacre Singers, London Symphony Orchestra, Julian Lloyd Webber and Hila Plitmann, conducted by Eric Whitacre.
Eric Whitacre: Water Night
iTunes (deluxe): bit.ly/WNiTunes 
Amazon (UK): amzn.to/yT3oHw 
Amazon (US): amzn.to/xEL0oL 
Amazon (Germany): amzn.to/xV6APo
Listen to extended clips of every track from the album: bit.ly/wPF6oO
Official site: ericwhitacre.com/waternight
Find Eric on: 
Facebook: on.fb.me/l35yqZ 
Twitter: bit.ly/lKJ4VD

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”).