137: Proper 24B (Oct. 18, 2015)


For Sunday October 18, Proper 24, Year B

Featured Musician -  Bryan Sirchio. “All Shall Be Well,” from his album “Fully Alive.”

Episode 137 Proper 24B
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 137 for Sunday October 18, Proper 24, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in  

Quick-Fire Scripture:
Hebrews 5:1-10 - Jesus as the High Priest

  • Tread lightly with Christian supersessionism.
  • Main theme of Hebrews: Jesus is supreme and perfect high priest.
    • Might be difficult to grasp without more complete understanding of the role of high priest.  From JewishEncyclopedia.com “The distinguished rank of the high priest is apparent from the fact that his sins are regarded as belonging also to the people (Lev. iv. 3, 22). He was entrusted with the stewardship of the Urim and Thummim (Num. xxvii. 20 et seq.). On the Day of Atonement he alone entered the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for his house and for the people (Lev. xvi.); on that occasion he wore white linen garments instead of his ordinary and more costly vestments. He alone could offer the sacrifices for the sins of the priests, or of the people, or of himself (Lev. iv.); and only he could officiate at the sacrifices following his own or another priest's consecration.
  • Jesus and High Priest alike = Selected by God, vulnerability, function as the one who removes the sins of the people.
  • Jesus and High Priest disalike = Human is inherently flawed. Jesus has perfect relationship with God, and thus superior. “Even as the contrast emerges between Jesus and other priests, highlighting the superiority of Jesus, the high priests of Israel are not demeaned in any way.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year B p. 554)
  • Jesus’ vulnerability is what made him the perfect high priest. His ability to identify, and walk alongside us in our suffering because of empathy makes him perfect.
  • Like Gospel theme of coming not to be served, but to serve; here Hebrews shows that Jesus’ greatest strength was on display when he was vulnerable and weak.
  • Caveat: Do not imply all suffering is good.

Featured Musician -  Bryan Sirchio. “All Shall Be Well,” from his album “Fully Alive.”


Gospel Reading: Mark 10:35-45 - Not to Be Served but to Serve
Initial Thoughts

  • Kind of feel like this one preaches itself.
  • What does lectionary skip? Last week we ended at v. 31, today we pick up at v. 35
  • v. 32-34 On the road to Jerusalem, those following were both amazed and afraid. Then he takes 12 aside and again predicts his death and Resurrection, which will culminate in a clash with chief priests in Jerusalem.
    • Rolf Jacobsen: What if we stopped calling this the prediction, and instead called it an announcement, or a mission statement.
    • In other words, Jesus’ very mission is understood to be one of sacrifice and service. From the start, It is not about triumphalism. It is immediately after this teaching the James on John “call shotgun.”

Bible Study

  • The Story
    • James and John’s Request:
      • After this teaching about impending death, James and John approach Jesus and ask, “We want you to do whatever we ask.”
      • Seriously strange request.
      • Interesting to note that in Matthew, it is their mother that asks this question.
    • Jesus’ Response:
      • You don’t know what you’re asking
      • I am going to suffer a great deal, I don’t think this is the joyride you’re expecting.
    • J and J: Yes we can.
    • Jesus’ Second Response:
      • You’re right.
      • Shotgun is not mine to grant. There is someone else driving this car.
    • Other 10 get mad
      • Their anger demonstrates they are no better. They’re mad at James and John for trying to finagle a better place. They still think of the ‘better place’ in the traditional way.
      • They’re probably just mad that they didn’t think of it first.
    • Jesus Third Response:
      • Leadership is different now.
      • Power in the Kingdom of God is not defined in the way it always has been. Power is not about control and coercion. Instead, it is about service.
  • Interpretation
    • “James and John have fully embraced the wonder and power of Jesus. But they seek to turn his promise and power to their own advantage. In doing so, they show how badly they have misconstrued his intentions. In one of his most remarkable utterances, Jesus reverses field and redefines the largeness of the gospel.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p. 549)
      • Reverses common understanding of what power is.
      • Redefines the patronage system, turning it on its head.
      • Continues the themes from last week, especially how it ended.
    • James and John do not lack ambition. It is not their ambition that Jesus has a problem with. He redirects their ambition to match the Kingdom, as opposed to their own glory.
      • He never says “no.” He simply warns them that honor and glory only comes through service and sacrifice.
      • “Maybe the greater sin in the seminary and the church is not misplaced ambition but complacency and lack of ambition altogether. Where ambition exists, it can be redirected and purified. But where it is entirely absent, mediocrity takes hold, the status quo hardens, and professors and committees debate endlessly about methodology and procedure. Yes, it is too easy to demonize James and John; their act of stepping forward matters more to Jesus than their immediate reasons for doing so.” Stephen Chapman, Christian Century, Oct 17, 2006)
    • NRSV: Ransom vs CEB: Liberate
      • “At the same time, Jesus' mention of a "ransom" indicates that his death will be more than just an inspiring example or a martyr's tragic protest against an unjust system. The word in question (in Greek,lytron) indicates that his death does something; it secures a release. This verse often sparks lively debates, and it has a history of, in my opinion, being misunderstood by those who take the notion of a "ransom" to mean a specific type of payment. In those readings, Jesus' death is transactional, a payment made to satisfy the penalties accrued by human sin or to repay something owed to God. “
      • Jesus’ mission is “to serve and to give his life to liberate many people”

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What is the place for ambition in the Church? Can ambition be pointed in the right direction? Is mediocrity a recipe for disaster?
  • When new people come into our church, are we honest about what they’re getting into? If the church is simply a place to come and feel good, meet friends, and be encouraged for the rest of the week, then there is really no need for a warning (and no need for a church). Is the church doing anything that would get us crucified? Is the church taking any chances? Is there a prophetic voice, a move for justice?
  • If Jesus’ prediction of his death and resurrection isn’t a prediction, but instead a mission statement. What does that mean?
    • He’s redefining messiah.
    • He’s redefining power, greatness, and honor.
    • He’s redefining God, and God’s mission in the world

Psalm Nugget:
 Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

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Second Reading: Job 38:1-7, (34-41) - God's Answer
Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Interesting phrasing of questions:
    • Who are you?
    • Where were you?
    • What do you know?
    • Can you?
    • Is God giving Job a new perspective? Is this way of God telling Job that these are only “first world problems”?
    • Is there any satisfactory answer God can give Job?
  • The Sovereignty of God vs the Goodness of God
  • Calvin Response:
    • Accept that God is both all powerful and all good and you simply cannot comprehend this rational paradox
    • Basically Job’s response is the correct response which is repent for questioning the might and goodness of God
  • Process Response: Omnipotence is a Theological Mistake rooted in the book of Job
    • God is the root of all power
    • God chooses to limit God’s power out of love for creatures which allows them to freely respond to God’s love and grace
    • Creation’s rejection of God’s love and grace is the root of “evil” and suffering
    • However, the goodness of God is maintained as God lures all of creation into loving, interdependent relationship
  • James Gustafson response: Our theology is too anthropocentric (human focused)
    • As we learn more about the cosmos, we learn that humans are far from the “center of the universe”
    • We learn more about the vastness of what we do not know
      • Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s brain bomb about no intelligent life on earth
    • While human goodness may be rooted in our understanding of God, God is not bound by that human notion what is good because the very nature of God is beyond our meager comprehension

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • Can we hold to the notion that God is both all powerful and all good? If so- then how do we address issues of deep tragedy without simply saying “it is a mystery” or “this is for the greater good”?
  • What can we know about God given the rhetorical questions presented in this passage? Can we still serve and love God and one another without being able to answer the theodicy question of why the innocent suffer?
  • How do we maintain both empathy in listening to one another’s concerns,  while also providing helpful perspective on what matters?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:


Thank you listeners and
Aileen Lawrimore - mentioned Pulpit Fiction in her blog (aileengoeson.com) on 10 podcasts she likes! Thanks Aileen!

Featured Musician - Bryan Sirchio. “All Shall Be Well,” from his album “Fully Alive.”

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”).