135: Proper 22B (October 4, 2015)


For Sunday October 4, Proper 22, Year B

Featured Musician - Red Molly, “May I Suggest” from their album Love and Other Tragedies. Currently on break but you can get there great music here!
image: from the The Delta Center for the Arts Summer 2009 production of Godspell, by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked

Episode 135 Proper 22B

images: from the The Delta Center for the Arts Summer 2009 production of Godspell, by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked

Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 135 for Sunday October 4, Proper 22, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in 

  • World Communion Sunday
    • Bread for the World
    • God as bread and vine from our Wearing God Sermon Series

Quick-Fire Scripture: Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 - Kingdom of God in Human Hands

  • “Hebrews is well known for what we don’t know about it.” (Common English Study Bible, p. 433)
  • Author, location, date, and even intended audience is unknown. Likely a Greek-speaking Jew who was connected to, but not, Paul. Rome is first guess as intended audience. Some date it at 60 or 64, two different times Christians in Rome were harassed.
  • Important theme of Hebrews introduced: that of the first and last things, or ‘the past,’ and ‘These final days.’
  • The past is marked by the words and teaching of the prophets. These final days are marked by the life, works, and ministry of Jesus.
  • The glorification of Jesus’ suffering can be problematic for modern audience, but must be heard in context of Roman harassment.
  • Jesus’ suffering made it possible for us to endure in this present age.
  • God’s grace allows us to endure.
  • Humanity was created to rule over creation, but sin has made that impossible. The role of Jesus is to restore humanity to that position, where he now sits.
  • As Jesus’ brother, we are to share in the same relationship he has with God the Creator. We are called to glory and honor by his grace.

Featured Musician - Red Molly, “May I Suggest” from their album Love and Other Tragedies. Currently on break but you can get there great music here!


Gospel Reading: Mark 10:2-16 - Divorce & Children
Initial Thoughts

  • Pope may have read this passage before his motorcade in Washington DC
  • There is a joke that the United Methodist Church is full of ex-Southern Baptist clergy.
  • Lectionary softens blow of Jesus’ harsh teaching on divorce with softer side of welcoming the children.
  • “If it’s read out loud, you must preach on it,” Karoline Lewis in Working Preacher. It’s just too painful for many people to read this, and leave it uninterpreted.
    • “A parishioner once told me that hearing this passage read in church felt like having someone dump garbage all over her. It didn't matter if she'd cleaned up and put on her Sunday best for church that morning, because after hearing these words she felt she like she couldn't get rid of the stink of her divorce. For this reason, we might anticipate any number of people listening a little more closely than usual to how you handle this passage.” (David Lose in Working Preacher)

Bible Study

  • Divorce
    • This passage is used to argue both for and against marriage equality.
      • Against: Jesus declares that marriage is between a man and women.
      • For: The practice in most churches is to allow divorced people to remarry. This capitulation to culture is no different, and no less faithful than to allow for same-sex marriage. To argue otherwise is inconsistent and hypocritical.
    • Some things to consider:
      • Pharisees “trying to test Jesus.” This is not a fair question. Pharisees not interested in honest discussion.
      • Jesus never explicitly prohibits divorce. He simply points to God’s intended order, which is that people would be in healthy partnered relationships.
    • Jesus is actually expanding the cultural understanding of adultery.
      • “We need to recognize that divorce in the first century was not at all the same social phenomenon that it is in the twenty-first. There were two schools of thought about divorce in Jesus' day -- both believed a man had a right to put away, dismiss, or divorce his wife. One school was fairly strict -- a man could do this only if his wife were unfaithful; the other was more lenient -- a man could do this if his wife displeased him in any number of ways, including, according to one rabbinic source, "burning her husband's toast." Either way, the consequences for the woman were devastating -- familial and public disgrace, potentially severe economic hardship, and limited future prospects for her and her children. So Jesus' words were likely intended not to set up a standard by which to judge and stigmatize but rather to protect women who were so much more vulnerable before the law then men.” (Lose, Working Preacher)
    • Mistakes we can make:
      • Take Jesus’ words at face value without appealing to cultural context of the time. His words to the Pharisees would have been nearly as controversial and counter-cultural to them as they are to uss.
      • Dismiss Jesus words as antiquated. Jesus believed that marriage was an important part of our created being. He goes beyond the letter of the law to go back to God’s intended purpose for humans - to be in partner relationships. To dismiss the need for taking marriage seriously is to debase God’s intended order. To dismiss the pain that divorce causes, even in divorces that are necessary, is to dismiss the human condition that grieves over the loss of an important relationship.
        • “Jesus describes marriage with utmost seriousness, as something that transcends contractual obligations and economic utility, as something rooted in human identity. This offers a sharp reproof to any who would construe marriage as a contract of convenience, casually formed and casually broken. It impels churches to promote and foster healthy marriages, and in the case of divorce and remarriage to extend compassion and facilitate healing.” (Matt Skinner, Working Preacher)
  • Children
    • Not just an effort of the lectionary to “soften the blow.”
    • Reveals the true nature of Jesus’ ministry, which is not to exclude, but to include.
    • Reveals how Jesus is acting on behalf of those that no one else would support.
    • While the disciples are in the act of dismissing the children, Jesus is bringing them in.
    • “The disciples have bought into ancient society’s valuation of children - they are not important. Children have no status and no rights, and thus their presence is a nuisance. Jesus sees things differently. In fact, the rule of God belongs to persons like this - powerless, vulnerable, weak, persons, who are often deemed a nuisance. In rejecting the children, the disciples have not just made a slight error of judgment - they have missed the whole point of Jesus’ ministry.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 539)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Everyone in the congregation has an experience with divorce. Everyone has either been divorced, had parents divorce, or is the friend of someone that has divorced or their parents have divorced.
  • The idea of marriage being a match of soul-mates is a new idea. For centuries, people married who was available in their cultural circle. Marriage was a property exchange, or a way to ensure stability for a woman, and a way to produce lineage for a man. Applying modern understanding to any Biblical teaching on marriage must be done with caution, because we are not really talking about the same thing anymore.
  • While disciples were trying to dismiss the children, Jesus acted to bring them in. While the Pharisees wanted the Law to help them dismiss divorced women, Jesus acted to bring them in. The practice of divorcing for “burnt toast,” would leave a woman without any recourse. It would leave her without property, family, or any way of living beyond begging or prostituting. By speaking against this practice, he was acting in a loving, compassionate way. “This scene plays out while Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, and his road takes him beyond the usual boundaries so that he may bring the gospel to all people” (Lose)
  • This passage has been used to keep women in abusive relationships, but the fact is that Jesus’ teaching is about freeing women from an abusive system.

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 26 withRichard 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: Job 1:1; 2:1-10 - The Patience of Job
Initial Thoughts

  • A Story about Theodicy (the problem of evil or how God can be good in the midst of great suffering)
  • Next four weeks are on Job! Beginning - Middle and End!
  • Major theological points of the book of Job by: Mayer Gruber, "Job: Introduction," in The Jewish Study Bible, ed. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translation (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1499-1500.
    • While some suffering is brought about by sin, sometimes the innocent suffer as well
    • to argue contrariwise misconstrues the character of the person who suffers unjustly as well as that of God
    • how God can be affirmed as good and just in the light of such innocent suffering is a mystery beyond our finite human comprehension

Bible Study

  • BACKGROUND - God and Satan
    • Tell the story of Chapter 1 before heading into chapter 2
    • Satan is not the evil anti-God as depicted in Milton or Dante, but rather the Satan (in hebrew Satan is preceded by the article “the”)
    • The  Satan works for and on behalf of God- as a servant of God
    • Satan acts on God’s behalf in this story- not against God
    • Do not get bogged down in God and Satan discussion as that is not the focus of this story
  • FOCUS - v.8-10 and generally the book of Job
    • Where does suffering come from? From God or something else?
      • Job claims suffering comes from God-”shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
      • God as sovereign is tempting but also carries great difficulty- do you believe in a God who allows or even causes suffering?
    • Who suffers? The faithful or those who are unfaithful?
      • While some suffering is brought about by sin, at other times the innocent suffer.
      • Suffering is not a sign of sin - correlation, but not always causal
    • How do we respond to suffering? remain in relationship or leave?
      • Job remains in relationship with God - he does not “Curse God and die!”

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • All of the questions described in the FOCUS section can be explored by a congregation. We all experience suffering
  • We cannot control the world, but we can control how we choose to respond to the world and the joys and sufferings it presents
  • Is hardship an excuse to sin? No. Jesus too lost everything- yet remained faithful to the end. Explore why do we believe? because we anticipate good things for us or because our faith reveals the true essence of the world?
    • CS Lewis in the Screwtape letters, the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood "Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's [i.e., God's] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of [God] seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners and
Hey guys,
I'm so glad I found your podcast this week. My wife works at a Methodist church in North Carolina and I am preaching in lay speaker capacity this week. The lectionary looked daunting so I was going to play it safe and preach on John 6. Then I heard what you said about 2 Samuel and it gave me a great launching point and the courage to preach on 2 Samuel.
Thanks so much and we are so excited we found the podcast.

Jess - I am such a big fan of your podcast and regularly recommend it to my Young Clergy Women Project colleagues. Thank you both for being allies to your female counterparts in the ministry.
I write with a question about how you began. I've watched as your website has grown and taken on a very professional appearance. But when you were first beginning, what sort of storage/set-up did you use? My husband and I share a parish of five Lutheran congregations across two counties in WV and are looking for a way to start posting our sermons as podcasts. We don't have a very large budget and we are looking to start small and feel it out from there.
Any advice you might provide will be greatly appreciated! If it is more convenient, I can be reached on Facebook (Facebook.com/jessfelici) as well.
Peace be with you!

Also check out the resources from our eChurch powerpoint

Featured Musician - Red Molly, “May I Suggest” from their album Love and Other Tragedies. Currently on break but you can get there great music here!
Thanks toourPsalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you toScott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Summertime”) andThe Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) andPaul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).