138: Proper 25B (Oct. 25, 2015)


For Sunday October 25, Proper 25, Year B

ImageEvangel University Professor Michael Buesking’s oil-on-canvas, “Healing of the Blind Man.”
Featured Musician -  Amy Cox, “You Speak,” from her album “Coming Home to You.”

Episode 138 Proper 25B
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 138 for Sunday October 25, Proper 25, Year B.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Pope stuff

    • Susan Presley - Yikes on the Pope/Kim Davis comment. The Pope was tricked into seeing her, and the Vatican has issued statements about that. He's unusual in meeting with homeless people. Yes, it wasn't LGBTQ youth, but how can we ignore this huge step for the homeless? Somehow, as Americans, we expect everyone -- even the Catholic church -- to be right in step with where we are in our social discourse. And we only just legalized gay marriage for all as a country several weeks ago. If we step back a decade or two, our own churches were right where the Catholic church is now -- or maybe not quite as far as the Pope is (who's said he's not in a position to judge gay relationships). Between this Pope-bashing session and last week's comment by Eric that Jesus sinned, I've been really disappointed in the podcast lately. None of it would be so bad, but it's all said with a tone of derision and eye-rolling that... I don't know. Maybe the problem is me, but it feels like the tone of this one is changing a lot.     
    • David - The thing that bugged me about the Kim Davis stuff from progressive Christians is this: is there any doubt in anyone's mind that Jesus would've met with Kim Davis? Jesus met with people, both who agreed and disagreed with him. If someone reported that Jesus' meeting with someone was his tacit endorsement of them, would that have STOPPED him from meeting with that person? No. I just don't see how meeting with Kim Davis is that bad a thing. Again, it IS bad that he was tricked into doing it, and it's obviously bad that he wasn't informed of the whole situation. But I just don't see how any Christians, ESPECIALLY progressives, can be upset about someone having a conversation with "the wrong kind" of person.                         
  • Cubs

Quick-Fire Scripture: Hebrews 7:23-28

  • Both love and hate Hebrews - I find it intellectually fascinating and inspirationally dull
  • Author of Hebrews continues his arguments about Jesus as the high priest

    • Why is Hebrews so focused on this? Trying to interpret Jesus to the Jews who are used to the notion of a high priest and a priesthood
  • Priests can only serve people while they are alive - Jesus has been resurrected to eternal life- so can serve for all people
  • Priests have to offer regular sacrifices to God on behalf of their own sins and the sins of the community - Jesus’ self-sacrifice was so great that is covers all future sacrifices - Christians don’t need to offer sacrifices
  • The Law was insufficient because the priests appointed through the law were imperfect- Jesus is perfect
  • I like the logic, but comes back to how then is Jesus even remotely relatable? Does the perfection of Jesus undermine the beautiful relationality of the incarnation?

Featured Musician -  Amy Cox, “You Speak,” from her album “Coming Home to You.”

Special Thanks to Joseph Morris:
Solo performance of the Gospel of Mark. About 500 shows to date across the USA, UK, and Canada.
And I'm the chaplain for Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw GA, Berry College in Rome GA, all-around supply priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and a chaplain for the Atlanta Falcons.

Gospel Reading: Mark 10:46-52 - Jesus heals the blind man
Initial Thoughts

  • Excellent lecture by Grace Imathiu  at the 2013 Festival of Homiletics, she used this text as an example of interactive preaching and preaching prep- you can probably find the audio online- we’ll include some thoughts below
  • Bookend of healing- give “sight” to the blind- should be tied to Mark 8:22-26 the healing at Bethsaida

Bible Study

  • Bookends - Between Mark 8:22-26 and Mark 10:46-52 (the two stories of healing) there are many stories of “spiritual blindness”:

    • Peter doesn’t see what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah,
    • Peter James and John don’t see the importance of the Transfiguration and want to stay on the mountain,
    • the disciples cannot see the importance of prayer in healing the boy w the unclean spirit,
    • they do not see that to be greatest is to be least,
    • they do not see the importance of the little children and
    • they don’t see that we need to be served
  • Jericho - a pit stop on Jesus’ preaching tour. Jericho is so uneventful that the moment Jesus arrives he leaves again.

    • The focus is not Jericho - oldest city in the world, city where the Israelites entered the promised land, city of Joshua, city of Rahab, city of Herod’s winter palace, city where the Romans were very present - despite all of the political, historical and theological high points of Jericho, in the end what isn’t what matters
    • What matters? A blind man on the side of the road
    • Sermon thought #2: How often do we overlook the important moments of life in favor of what we think should be important? eg: The brief encounter before church, The person we bump into at the grocery store, the gas station clerk on the way to church. Life happens in the “pit stops” and sometimes the most inconvenient interruption can be transformative and life changing.
  • Bartimaeus

    • Marginalized of the marginalized - blind (strike 1), beggar (strike 2)
    • “Son of David” -  Political declaration - dangerous declaration - heralds Jesus as the Messiah and heir to the throne of David

      • Bartimaeus sees what the other cannot - like the demons he knows that God has arrived and will act
      • By virtue of being the Son of David- Jesus should care for Bartimaeus
    • They urge Bartimaeus to be quiet

      • What he is saying is dangerous & seditious (Mark is written in the midst or right after the Jewish Revolt was quashed by Rome) - “be quiet or we will all get killed”
      • Bartimaeus is not worthy to call out to Jesus (like the children)
      • Similar to the mainline churches who urged King to tone down his rhetoric
    • Discontent

      • He is not willing to remain by the side of the road
      • He is unwilling to accept the situation and demands that God act
      • He approaches Jesus naked- all pretensions and clothing removed- literally bared before God
    • Once healed- Bartimaeus follow Jesus

      • He has been transformed not just from blind to sight, but from a “road sitter to a Jesus follower”
      • He has courage to leave Jericho

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What are our spiritual blind spots? Where do we need to have our sight restored?
  • How often do we overlook the important moments of life in favor of what we think should be important? eg: The brief encounter before church, The person we bump into at the grocery store, the gas station clerk on the way to church. Life happens in the “pit stops” and sometimes the most inconvenient interruption can be transformative and life changing.
  • Are we willing to leave Jericho? The relative safety and security of the status quo for the unknown trials, betrayal, persecutions and agony of Jerusalem? Jericho is bad (but at least it is known), Jericho is bad but it gives us a paycheck at the end of each month.

    • Sometimes it is very difficult to leave a known bad situation for an unknown calling
  • Are we willing to speak out against untenable situations (rampant gun violence and school shootings)?

Psalm Nugget:  Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)  with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

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Second Reading:  Job 42:1-6, 10-17  - Job's Answer
Initial Thoughts

  • “And Job lives happily ever after…”

    • So, Job wins the lottery and everything that was cool about the book of Job seems to be undone.
  • Listen to our conversation with Walter Brueggemann to hear what he has to say about Job.

    • Maybe the good news of Job is the knowledge that certitude is misguided.
  • Lectionary skips God reprimanding Job’s friends. Job’s new fortune is built on the contrition of his friends, who “haven’t spoken correctly about [God].”

Bible Study

  • The Happy Ending Problem

    • Kathryn Schifferdecker summarizes the problem well: “This epilogue to the book of Job is, for many readers, hard to accept. The whole book up to this point has been (apparently) an argument against the doctrine of retributive justice; that is, the idea that God always rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. Now, at the end of the book, that belief seems to be upheld: Job is rewarded for his piety (or at least reimbursed for his losses). The friends seem to have been right all along. On top of that, we moderns are understandably troubled by the notion that God replaces Job's ten dead children with ten new children at the end of the book, as if children were replaceable.” (Working Preacher)
    • Carol Howard Merritt describes the problem with the happy ending, especially for those who find no happy ending in their own lives. She describes the situation of seeing homeless men in Washington DC:  “l never got used to seeing the men around, going from bad to worse within four seasons and the individual stories often played havoc with my shiny, happy faith. Verses like “all things work together for good” and “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength” began to sound like refrains for the privileged and didn’t always hold up in the midst of people who had much more of the hardness of life than they could handle. Likewise the book of Job began to frustrate me.” (The Hardest Question)
  • The Good News of Job?

    • Job’s friends were repudiated.

      • Schifferdecker explains: “All English translations of these verses translate God's charge along these lines: "You have not spoken about me what is right." But note that the Hebrew can also be translated, "You have not spoken to me rightly, as has my servant Job." This latter translation points out what was true all along. For all their speaking about God, the "friends" never once in the book speak to God; they never once pray for their suffering friend. Job, on the other hand, moves from speaking only about God to speaking more and more directly to God.  The friends theologize; Job prays.”
      • Job is restored.

        • Yes, the trite happy ending might feel troublesome, after all it does seem to go back to the idea that God rewards the faithful and punishes the wicked, but couldn’t it be argued that the story of Resurrection is a trite happy ending?
        • Ultimately, story of Job is about enduring suffering, and finding new life at the other end.
    • Mystery and relationship, not certitude.

      • “This book does not seek to answer the question why good people suffer or indeed, why the wicked appear to prosper. It can enable those people who are willing to enter into a relationship with God to have a sense of the mystery and power of God which may help in times of tragedy. God is there to shout at and to be present with us. As Christians we have an added advantage over Job, knowing God suffered through the incarnation of Jesus Christ and what it means to suffer. God does not govern by the principle of reward and retribution, but by a wisdom which is beyond human ken (Scots for knowledge)” .(Anna Grant-Henderson)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • In a culture that values control over almost anything, the idea of self-determination can itself become an idol. Thus, the good news in Job is a reminder that we are not in control. It is reminder that certainty is elusive.
  • Through enduring suffering, Job has new life.

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners and
Chris Strickland (@ChrisStrickla) “Maybe the Good News is to stop asking "How can I be saved?", but simply asking Jesus to save us. #mark10:17-31”

Featured Musician - Amy Cox, “You Speak,” from her album “Coming Home to You.”

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”).