145: Advent 3C (dec. 13, 2015)


145 for Sunday December 13, Advent 3C

Featured Musician - Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker, “Coventry Carol” from their album The Hymns of Christmas. Join their online concert on December 17 @ 9pm ET! More info at https://www.concertwindow.com/jenniferknapp

Episode 145, Advent 3C - (Dec 13, 2015)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 145 for Sunday December 13, the 3rd Sunday of Advent,  Year C.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Eric Elnes- Thursday Night Special!

Quick-Fire Scripture:  Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord Always

  • Rejoice. Be Glad. Show gentleness. Do not be anxious. Pray.
  • Difficult words to hear, especially in light of recent conversations about “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims of _________.” Given that by the time we air this podcast, there might be a different city to place in that blank.
  • David Henson’s Blog “After 355 Times, Maybe It’s Time To Say Something Different
  • Context of Letter:

    • Author of the letter is in jail
    • Readers of the letter going through persecution.
    • “Jerked out of their context, the exhortations connote an unrealistic attitude toward life, a Pollyanna religion that ignores the harsh tragedies and calls for a stoic like serenity… But they emerge from and are directed to what some would call the dark side of human experience.” (Charles Cousar, Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 24)
  • Questions to ask of the text:

    • How is the Lord near? Spatial, temporal? Is the Lord coming soon, or is he already present - or both?
    • How can we possibly not worry? Is prayer the antidote to worry?

      • A stress-free life is hardly a life worth living. Yet that is easy to say in a relatively comfortable place.
    • For what am I supposed to be glad?

      • Was Paul glad that he was in jail?
    • What does it mean to have our hearts and minds safe?

      • Notice that the prayers do not guarantee physical safety.
  • Especially at Advent. Especially now. The only way to work for peace is to find it in yourself.

Featured Musician - Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker, “Coventry Carol” from their album The Hymns of Christmas. Join their online concert on December 17 @ 9pm ET! More info at https://www.concertwindow.com/jenniferknapp

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Special Thanks to:

  • Tamara Clothier
  • Sarah Renfro
  • Larry Chitwood

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:7-18 - What up Snakes and Vipers?
Initial Thoughts

  • Part Two of John the Baptist, “He’s Back, and He’s Mad”
  • Part Three is coming after Christmas - on Baptism of the Lord Sunday on January 10.

Bible Study

  • Interesting opening to a sermon.

    • Wakes people up with unapologetic anger.
    • These are people that are coming to be baptized by him, and he warns them not come with simply a desire to be baptized. This isn’t some “get clean quick” scheme.
    • Water isn’t enough, but a total change of heart is what is needed.
    • “Say not within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father - That is, trust not in your being members of the visible Church, or in any external privileges whatsoever: for God now requires a change of heart; and that without delay.”
    • Being Jewish isn’t enough either.

      • Radical claim for a people who defined God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
      • Generational ties were of utmost importance.
      • Remember though, Jesus’ genealogy doesn’t go back to Abraham (like Matthew’s). It goes all the way back to Adam.
  • Three Groups come to John to ask, “What then, shall we do?” These groups represent steps away from those likely to be convinced of John’s preaching, or those that would be considered “least close” to the Kingdom of God.

    • Crowds - People in the wilderness. Not connected to society - or at least temporarily escaping it.

    • Tax Collectors - Collaborators with the Romans, profitting from the struggle of their own community and neighbors.

      • Does not tell them to stop collecting taxes, only tells them to stop cheating people. Granted, this is the way in which they were paid, but JBap is urging people to make money in a more honest way.
    • Soldiers - The Romans themselves. The greatest enemy. Possibly even the ones who would eventually carry out “the wrath that is coming” (the destruction of the Temple).

      • Don’t extort.
    • “Don’t Hoard. Don’t Cheat. Don’t Extort”

      • All of these things deal with possessions
      • All deal with justice
      • All deal with the right way to treat others.
  • He’s not Christ

    • Important to differentiate between John and Jesus.
    • He will baptize with “Spirit and Fire” can also be seen as “Wind and Fire” “Wind and fire were symbol for the Holy Spirit, the powerful presence of God, but also of judgment. Farmers poured wheat from one container to another on a windy day, or tossed the wheat into the air with a fork or shovel so that the chaff would be blown away, leaving the grain clean. The chaff burned with explosive combustion. To this day, farmers know that a fire in a dry wheat field cannot be contained or controlled… When repentance and forgiveness are available, judgment is good news. The primary aim is to save the wheat, not to burn the chaff” (Fred Craddock, Interpretation, p 49)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Why stop at v. 18? Cuts off John getting in trouble with authorities and getting arrested. John’s truth was not accepted by all.

    • “It would be inappropriate to stop reading with v. 18. Verses 19-20 after all, indicate that John the Baptist and Jesus have one more experience in common. Both are rejected for their proclamation. The One whose coming Advent anticipates is also the One the world continues to reject.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year C. p. 28)
    • While John’s message - though harsh - was received by many, it still got him into trouble.
    • On the surface, good news to the poor is bad news for the powerful.
  • John the Baptist as Morpheus, as proposed by Roy Terry in The Hardest Question

    • Not The One, but the one who prepares the way for The One.
    • Reveals that the world is not as it seems.
    • The only way to find freedom is to let go of the ways of this world - to change, repent, take the blue pill and unplug.
    • The Matrix is a system that keeps people under an illusion of freedom so that they may remains slaves. It is only through allowing everything to change that people may experience true freedom - which comes at great cost and struggle.
    • For Neo to be set free, he must unplug (and be baptized)
  • What is the fruit of repentance?

  • All are a part of this kingdom. Which category do you fit?

    • Brood of Vipers
    • Tax Collectors
    • Romans
    • No matter what your ‘position’ in life, there is a chance to live in line with God’s will.

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: Isaiah 12:(1)2-6  Shout Aloud and Sing for Joy
Initial Thoughts

  • READ v. 1!
  • Gaudete Sunday- the Sunday of Joy!!
  • The Isaiah passage no one thinks about during Advent...which is weird

    • Isaiah 2 - swords into plowshares
    • Isaiah 7- Emmanuel
    • Isaiah 9 - people who have walked in darkness see a great light
    • Isaiah 11- Root of Jesse
    • Isaiah 40 - voice in the wilderness
    • Isaiah 61 - good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken, etc.
  • Nice balance to John- perhaps good to preached together

Bible Study

  • Context- a brief joyful interlude amidst judgment (Isaiah 13-23)
  • v. 1 - Comfort

    • anticipates Isaiah 40 - Comfort, O Comfort Ye My People
    • Acceptance of Judgement turns into Reconciliation and Comfort
  • Hymn of praise

    • The original “Advent carol”- ok- definitely not, but a hymn of hope and joy- isn’t that what Advent is all about?
    • Not about what has happened but in anticipation of what will happen
    • Hymn of celebration for the announced return in Isaiah 11
    • Most likely written during the exile and placed here in Isaiah 12 later
    • v. 2 echoes Moses’ song of  praise in Exodus 15:2 upon crossing the Red (or Reed) sea
    • What is it like to preach of such hope amidst great spiritual or national tragedy (Violence in the US- esp. the mass shooting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 and the upcoming anniversary of Sandy Hook)
  • The source of Joy is God

    • different from the springs of destruction in Genesis 6-9
  • Individual Joy is transformed into communal joy

    • The subject changes from the author, “I will give thanks”, “I will trust” to the communal exclamation: “Give thanks”, “Proclaim” “Make Known” “Sing Praises” “Shout aloud”
    • This hymn is not a denial of hardship of the present reality, but a declaration of hope that refuses to give in:

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth's lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro' all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?
Sermon Thoughts and Question

  • What is it like to preach of such hope amidst great spiritual or national tragedy (Violence in the US- esp. the mass shooting in San Bernardino on Dec. 2 and the upcoming anniversary of Sandy Hook)
  • Brueggemann (Isaiah 1-39, Westminster Bible Companion (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 109-10) calls Isaiah 12, “an act of buoyant and determined hope that refuses to give in to debilitating present circumstance”. In a world besieged by terror attacks, rejection of refugees, fear of others and outsiders and escalating violence - what will be our advent “act of buoyant and determined hope that refuses to give in to debilitating present circumstance”?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • The Art of the Sermon, with Dan Wunderlich of Defining Grace. We were interviewed a few weeks ago by Dan, and it was released recently as Episode Five of the Art of the Sermon podcast. And I just want out that Episode Five of the Star Wars Saga is widely understood to be the best of the series.  Coincidence? Probably. Anyway, it was a great time. The Art of the Sermon promises to be an excellent resource for thought, reflection, and discussion. Dan is going to be recording a wrap-up episode, so if you have any comments, questions, or insights that the show conjured, let him know. And you might be in Episode Six, the Return of the Pastors.

Thank you listeners

  • Erin Geoffrion (Jeffrey-On) - UMC Pastor from Virginia

Happy Liturgical New Year
Here's a little poem I wrote for my clergy friends:
May your sermon words be weighty,
Your potluck loads be light,
And may your congregations' worries not keep you up at night.
May your committee meetings not leave you needing beer,
And may God's abiding love and joy
Sustain you through this year!

  • Leanne Zeck

Finally listened to this week's podcast on Zechariah's song, and been sitting with your question about why does Zechariah get muted and not Mary when they both ask the same question of the Angel--"how can this promise happen?"
I wonder if the story of Israel comes into play. Zechariah, a priest, should know the story. Abraham and Sarah having a child in their old age is the Hebrew story. Zechariah should know better?
Mary--is asking how -- when a young woman (virgin in some translations) being found pregnant is not part of the story of Israel...is she asking to find out if she needs to take action in order to make the promise come about?
Just my musings on the subject. Thanks for the work you do.

  • Sharon Campbell- found some broken links- thanks!
  • Twitter: @CrazyMouseMe “A friend suggested @PulpitFpodcast to me today. I just listened to a few episodes & I love it! This is going to improve my Sunday worship”


Featured Musician - Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker, “Coventry Carol” from their album The Hymns of Christmas. Join their online concert on December 17 @ 9pm ET! More info at https://www.concertwindow.com/jenniferknapp

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”).