130: Proper 17B (August 30, 2015)


For Sunday August 30, Proper 17, Year B

image: Paul K, KT Miura 'The Song of Solomon' (morocco leather and silverfoil) 1987

Featured Musician - Ethan Keller’s “Saints and Sinners,” from his album “Going Down in History, Going Down in Flames”

Episode 130 Proper 17B
image: Paul K, KT Miura 'The Song of Solomon' (morocco leather and silverfoil) 1987
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 130 for Sunday August 30, Proper 17, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in

  • Transitions in Ministry- Pulpit Fiction is moving!
  • James Series?
  • Back to Mark!

Quickfire Scripture: James 1:17-27

  • First of five weeks in James, so if you’re going to follow this track, make sure you read them all ahead of time. A lot of the themes in James can be repetitive. You probably don’t want to preach “Faith without works is dead” five weeks in a row.
  • Cliches you can use to sum up this passage:
    • Put your money where your mouth is.
    • Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk.
    • Practice what you preach
  • Be doer of the word and not just hearers who mislead themselves
  • Admonition to not just look in the mirror and then forget what you look like can be fruitful in today’s selfie-driven world.
    • People are always aware of what they look like. It is difficult to imagine not knowing what you look like at any given moment. Yet to hear the Word and not put it into action is like one who doesn’t remember.
  • What does forgetting look like?
    • Quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
    • Set aside moral filth - a wide interpretation of what that might mean.
    • Control what you say (do no harm)

Featured Musician - Ethan Keller’s “Saints and Sinners,” from his album “Going Down in History, Going Down in Flames”


Gospel- Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 - Clean and Unclean
Initial Thoughts

  • Get out your Bible, and look up Mark 7:16.
  • v. 9-13 Jesus direct answer to the Pharisees. Here, he points out the hypocrisy of their alleged loyalty to the Law. One can almost hear Jesus saying these words Biblical Literalists today.
  • v. 16-20 Not necessary, but omitting them leaves out some a great chance of some comic relief as Jesus engages in some toilet humor, literally.

Bible Study

  • Testing by the Pharisees about cleanliness
    • Jesus’ followers are not following the “rules handed down by the elders.”
    • They follow some of the rules - washing cups, jugs, sleeping mats.
    • They do not follow other rules - thoroughly washing their hands before eating.
      • Be careful with this one, or the six year olds in the house may stop washing their hands before meals, too.
    • Not clear if this is a “trap” question or an honest inquiry. At this point, the relationship between Jesus and Pharisees is not adversarial.
  • Jesus responds to Pharisees
    • Points out the hypocrisy of their customs. They have devised a way to get around God’s Law - honor thy mother and father - through their customs.
    • Calls them out on obeying Tradition over God’s Word.
      • This has to be a great passage for the Lutherans.
  • Jesus responds to the crowds
    • “Nothing from outside a person can contaminate a person in God’s sight; rather, the things that come out of a person contaminate the person.”
    • This was revolutionary. The crowds would have been taught that what they eat is vitally important to their cleanliness.
    • Jesus chooses cleanliness of heart over cleanliness of custom. He claims our outward actions, the way we treat each other, the money we spend, the time
  • Jesus responds to disciples
    • Expounds on his teaching to the crowd.
    • What enters a person does not make them contaminated (unclean), but what comes out of them.
    • The inside - the heart - is what matters.
    • This is a huge part of Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees. While they maintain the letter of the Law - as opposed to perfect Temple ritual - is the key to a relationship with God, Jesus maintains that your own heart, motivation, and the way you treat others is at the heart of your relationship with God.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What Jesus does not do: Explicitly end dietary restrictions. Clearly, the early Christians were still practicing dietary laws even after Jesus was gone (see Acts and Peter’s dream). From Matthew Skinner: “Yet, it's not patently clear that Jesus' words point exactly to this conclusion. Mark may be asserting that Jesus, in this moment,made all foods clean. (Compare "God has made clean" in Acts 10:15.) But this is hardly the main point of the passage, and the lectionary's scalpel encourages preachers to keep more central matters in view. Despite the radical nature of verse 15a, "there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile," we have no evidence that Jesus himself disregarded the dietary laws. (Notice Peter's practice according to Acts 10:14.) In any case, the parabolic nature of Jesus' comments (see reference to "the parable" in verse 17) supports the conclusion that hand-washing and foods are not the main concern here. Instead, Mark 7:1-23 speaks much more plainly about the source of defilement: it's more internal than external. It's more about who you are than about the foods or filth you avoid.“
  • Jesus tells us the source of all evil. It is not the Devil. It is not Satan, or some otherworldly power. “It’s from inside the human heart that evil thoughts come… All these evil things come from inside and contaminate a person in God’s sight.”
  • How many of us will preach this text with the assumption that we and our congregations are the rebellious followers of Jesus who upset the uptight fundamentalist Pharisees? Read a great article at The Hardest Question
  • What are the differences between custom and God’s Law? What is cultural tradition and what is essentially Christian? What are the things that we do because they are the rules the elders passed on? The way bread is served at Communion, the Christmas pageant, who are ushers, is the flag hung in the sanctuary, what do we do on secular holidays, how we dress, when we meet, what a church looks like. Is Christianity that doesn’t look like ‘our’ Christianity still authentic? What happens when the customs of our elders get in the way of following God’s law of love? Civil rights, LGBTQ rights, etc.

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 45 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.

Second Reading - Song of Solomon 2:8-13 - Do you love God?

Initial Thoughts

  • Only place Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is in the lectionary.
  • I know you love Jesus but do you love Jesus?
  • An opportunity to reclaim the beauty of passionate love as a reflection of our intimate love with God
  • This is a sensual passage:
    • Smell- flowers in bloom
    • Taste of figs
    • Sound of the turtle doves
    • When was the last time you preached on sex?

Bible Study

  • Context- Love Poetry:
    • Allegorical
      • Lovers as entwined as the interconnectedness of creation (deer bounding through the hills, winter giving way to spring, the flowers growing in the earth, singing of the birds, fruiting of the trees)
      • Our relationship with God as inseparable, exciting, undefined, hope-filled as lovers
      • God’s special relationship with Israel, the church’s special relationship with Christ
    • Historical
      • Possibly between Solomon and a peasant bride (remember he had over 600 wives)
      • Multiple references to King as well as Solomon by name in 3:9,11
  • Joyful delight- like new love (not necessarily young love)
    • The joy that each lover takes in the other
    • Imagine God’s anticipatory joy like a lover for their counterpart
    • Frolicking, playful joy in the reading- how can we capture that in worship? How do we play as a church?
  • Preparation
    • The lover's prepare for one another as the earth prepares for rebirth in spring
    • We shed the clothes of winter as we prepare for spring
    • The lovers shed their inhibitions as they prepare for one another
    • What spiritual inhibitions are keeping us from loving God and neighbor more fully?
  • This is not about marriage, nor should this be used as a heterosexual text of exclusion
    • This is a story about love (yes in this instance heterosexual love- but that does not matter)
  • Sexuality is not naughty or evil, but it can be complicated
    • Mutuality in the relationship between the two lovers
    • Both speak of affection for the other in the song
    • Balance of power
      • very different from Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey
    • Counter to the objectified sexuality of modern culture
      • neither lover is objectified, but celebrated

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Too often we dismiss, ignore or scandalize sexuality leading culture to set the boundaries of what is right sexual relationship and what is not. When was the last time you preached on sex?
  • What spiritual inhibitions are keeping us from loving God and neighbor more fully?
  • Frolicking, playful joy in the reading- how can we capture that in worship? How do we play as a church?
  • About having a deeper, more intimate relationship with God- which can be both exciting, enticing and unnerving

Tasty Wafer of the Week:
Insights into Religion- working with Technology

Thank you listeners and Shout-Outs

Featured Musician - Ethan Keller’s “Saints and Sinners,” from his album “Going Down in History, Going Down in Flames”

Shout Outs:
Brian Kirk - Hey guys, I was introduced to the "Wearing God" book by poking around on your website recently, and coincidentally I'm in the midst of a sermon series on the book right now, totally unaware that you were offering some great ideas for exploring each chapter. At any rate, glad I have discovered your helpful reflections on this excellent text. Regarding the "Laboring Woman" chapter, which I will cover next Sunday, I have a young woman in the congregation who is a writer and is about to have her first child, so she is writing all our liturgy for the "Laboring Woman" Sunday. I'm also talking with several women who have given birth to help me get some perspective. Lastly, I am drawn to the notion of God experiencing labor pains, and what the Isaiah text has to say to us about how God is with us in the pain of life and the pains of trying to birth the Kingdom. Thanks for your inspiration!                     
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”).