134: Proper 21B (Sept. 27, 2015)


For Sunday September 27, Proper 21, Year B

Featured Guest: Rev. Nelson Pierce

Featured Musician: Christopher Grundy, “Church of the Shelved” from his album In This Life.

image: The most important Esther in Robb’s life. Esther Davolio, Robb’s Grandma.
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Episode 134 Proper 21B
images: The most important Esther in Robb’s life. Esther Davolio, Robb’s Grandma.

Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 134 for Sunday September 27, Proper 21, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in 

  • Nelson!
  • “If you don’t think racism exists, you’re white” posted by Chicago Theological Seminary- taken down by Facebook as hate speech

Quick-Fire Scripture:
James 5:13-20 - Prayer for suffering

  • This passage is difficult, but a great opportunity to explore the power of prayer
  • Be authentic and honest- what do you believe about prayer?
  • Pray pray pray
    • suffering
    • cheerful
    • sick
  • A church that prays together stays together...ok this is cheesy but you get what I mean- when was the last time people got together for intentional prayer outside the church?
  • Reality- some prayers get answered (like Elijah) some do not (lots of evidence) - what then is the power of prayer?
    • reorients us in God and community
    • recognizes that God is with us
    • remains in dialogue and partnership

Featured Musician
- Christopher Grundy, “Church of the Shelved” from his album
In This Life.


Gospel Reading: Mark 9:38-50 - Jesus on how to deal with sin
Initial Thoughts

  • vv.38-41 is one of my favorite passages - everyone wants to be part of some exclusive club, but that is not the Gospel

Bible Study

  • Two stories here: The other exorcist and causes of sin
  • The Other Exorcist
    • Jesus has just finished talking about welcoming the least of these and the disciples response is to be exclusive
    • The root of the problem “ he wasn’t following us”
      • We are not called to be followed but to follow Jesus
      • The exorcist was acting in the name and spirit of Jesus- not the disciples
      • In what ways do we demand people follow us?
      • Is following Jesus and casting out evil in Jesus’ name enough? According to Jesus it was and is.
    • A word on demons - Demons can be spirits or malevolent beings, but they can also represent the embodiment of that which is not-God. What are the demons that plague us today?
    • “In Jesus Name” - the power of language, the spirit of Christ
      • Acting on behalf of Jesus or does the name of Jesus contain power in and of itself?
  • Mentioned in conversation: Obery Hendricks, makes references to demon possession in the book, Politics of Jesus. Some of his other works include The Universe Bends Toward Justice and Living Water.
  • Sin and Stumbling Blocks
    • CONTEXT - this comes while Jesus is still embracing a little child the “little one”
    • Better to drown or have a body part cut off than to go to hell - what is hell?
      • “hell is simply wanting to be oneself apart from God's grace and in isolation from others…. Hell is self-destructive resistance to the eternal love of God.” Daniel Migliore quoted in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year B, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ)
      • Jesus uses hell as a fear tactic- perhaps hyperbolic - to be inclusive of the least of these and those who wish to follow Jesus
  • Saltiness - ask how we strengthen one another to “maintain salt” and be at peace instead of trying to be better than one another (v. 34) or exclude one another (vv.38-41)
    • Salt is a preservative - how does one preserve the community- by caring for the least of these and strengthening each other- even those outside the community

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Who are “the exorcists” in you community that are casting out demons in the spirit (if not the name) of Jesus? Are you or is your church working with them or threatened by them? Why?
  • How do we determine who is one of us? How does a community walk the balance between inclusivity and community integrity? Do we?
  • Many churches are concerned with self

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 124 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

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Second Reading: Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22 - Purim: Esther saves the people
Initial Thoughts

  • There’s not much “Bible Study” here, because I think the best study is to read, and get to know the entire story. The preacher this week may best be described as a storyteller. It might be good to allow the story to be, with little commentary. Of course, the way you tell the story can be its own commentary.
  • This is the events that are behind the festival of Purim.
    • The next Purim is March 23, 2016
    • Judaism 101 explains Purim
    • Also known as the Festival of Lots, probably an ironic name since Hamon was going to kill the Jewish people by casting lots.
    • Still celebrated for the salvation of the Jews, and also for the ongoing survival through many trials.
  • This highly edited version of the story is terribly inadequate. Without any context, this reading is little more than a graphic telling of blood-lust and revenge.
  • Effort should be made to lift up the person of Esther, who should be known as one of the great heroes of the Bible.

Bible Study

  • Only instance of Esther in the Lectionary. Wonderful story. Still, proceed with caution:
    • “The book offers some challenges to the preacher. In the Hebrew text of the book, God is never mentioned. Neither is prayer or worship. There is a lot of killing at the end of the book. And there’s the little matter of the way in which Esther becomes queen, a process which, despite the Veggie Tales rendition of the tale, shouldn’t be discussed in the presence of young children.” (Kathryn Schifferkdecker, Working Preacher)
  • The lectionary eliminates parts of the story “that illuminate the rather ruthless side of Esther, in particular, her desire to destroy Haman and his entire family. Eliminating these verses allows the focus to stay on Esther’s courage and willingness to take a risk to save her people… Perhaps it is simply the brutality of the story that has caused the creators of the lectionary to skip these verses. However, I read this story through my own eyes (those of a woman); and I must say, I think that there is a general hostility toward women who are thought to be ruthless. A man who is ruthless can be seen as powerful; but when a woman is ruthless, people are shocked. Ruthless women are not considered powerful. Other words are more likely to be employed to describe women like this. What is remarkable to me is that this book is not only included in the canon, but that the story of a named woman, who was both ruthless and powerful, has survived the test of time.” (Rev Dawn Chesser, UMGBOD)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Consider what Esther risked for the cause of saving the people, it is a wonder why she is not more well known. Esther risked her comfort, her status, and her very life. “How does reading the story of Esther challenge our conceptions of what women should be? Can a woman who is ruthless be seen as strong and powerful today? Can you think of examples of women who have shown extreme courage, but whose actions have been judged negatively by society? Do you think there is a double standard when it comes to how people in our culture view power? How might your congregation address these issues as a community of faith?” (Rev Dawn Chesser, UMGBOD)
  • God is never mentioned. For this reason, some have puzzled over Esther’s place in the canon. Even though God is never named, is there any doubt that God is involved? Though there may not be direct interaction, Mordecai talks of salvation coming from ‘another place.’ And Esther herself draws from great well of courage and determination. How often in life do we fail to attribute things to God because we don’t see the direct quotes or the burning bush? Is it possible for God to be moving in the world in ways that are less explicit, but no less divine?
    • “The preacher might also speak about discerning God’s will and action in the everyday realities of life. We may wish for God’s direct intervention, for a burning bush or an obvious miracle, but most days we (like Esther) don’t get such things. Indeed, most of the time, as a friend of mine says, God is subtle to a fault. And yet, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, we may be able to discern where God is acting in our lives.” (Schifferdecker)
  • Purim is often celebrated with humor. In synagogues, the story of Esther is read, with people booing and hissing the name of Haman and cheering the name of Mordecai. There is a long tradition of spiel songs that retell the story in humorous ways. How does humor play a role in tragedy? This is a story about attempted genocide. What is the power of parody? What is the power in laughing at the enemy?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners and Shout-Outs
Jeff Spencer- wrong intro last week- oops- thanks Jeff!

Featured Musician
- Christopher Grundy, “Church of the Shelved” from his album In This Life.

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”).