146: Advent 4C (Dec. 20, 2015)


Episode 146 Advent 4, Year C - (Dec. 20, 2015)
image: Madonna of the Magnificat by Botticelli
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 146 for Sunday, December 20, the 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • On to Epiphany!?
  • Blue Christmas

Quick-Fire Scripture: Hebrews 10:5-10 A holy and living sacrifice

  • Beware supercessionist or displacement theology!

    • Writer of Hebrews is once again connecting the death of Jesus to the sacrificial atonement levitical rites
    • Also- the winners write the history- by 70 CE the temple is destroyed and the sacrificial system is gone

      • Interestingly before the building of the 2nd temple- there were no sacrifices and it is from here that the synagogue system is developed (Jack Haberer, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 1: Advent through Transfiguration.)
    • No need to do sacrifices anymore- Jesus’ body was THE sacrifice to end all sacrifices...not not really
  • Perhaps Jesus showed us what true sacrifice is- placing God and others first
  • Offers a new way to be reconciled to God
  • Reminds me of the little drummer boy- what can you offer God? Not sacrifices and burnt offerings- offer God yourself!
  • Preaching thought - look at verse 4, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.”

    • Leads to the question: “Then what do we do about sin?” Jesus is the answer
    • If we could get rid of our own sin then we would not need to be “saved” - what does it mean to be “saved” by Jesus?

Featured Musician - Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, “Your Light Has Come” a Song for Epiphany! Great to use in worship settings

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Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-56 - Mary Visits Elizabeth + Magnificat
Initial Thoughts

  • Lectionary is actually v. 39-56 - not as long as you may think
  • Decide what you want to do- Elizabeth and Mary or Magnificat- there is a lot here so don’t try and do a shotgun sermon (one with 12 points and no focus)

    • Reading the whole passage contextualized Mary’s song
    • Might need to give a little background (vv. 35-38)

Bible Study

  • Whole passage is commonly known as the visitation and Magnificat

    • both affirm God’s sovereignty as a God who is with Mary and Elizabeth (and God’s people) and a God who keeps God’s promises (v.43)
  • vv.39-44- Visitation

    • Mary goes to be with Elizabeth both of whom have received “unexpected blessings”

      • beautiful vision of companionship- similar to Naomi and Ruth
      • Two unexpectedly pregnant women seeking and offering support to one another
      • Contrast of one too young and one too old- yet both are blessed with the gift of new life
    • Holy Spirit

      • The Holy Spirit kicks them into an awareness of God as work with and within Mary and Elizabeth
      • We all need the Holy Spirit to kick us into an awareness of God’s action in and around us
      • God’s blessing falls upon old and young- all will be made new with these births (Acts 2/ Joel 2- The young will see visions and the old will dream dreams)
  • vv.45-56 - Magnificat

    • No mention of birth- possibly adapted from Hannah’s song in Samuel 1

      • Perhaps Mary uses Hannah’s song to express her joy
    • Magnificat is the common name of Mary’s song and alludes to the opening line, “My soul magnifies the Lord”
    • Affirms the sovereignty of God and God’s saving actions
    • is the response to Elizabeth’s blessing - recognition warrants a response
    • Very different from most Advent texts which predict what God will do- this song is about what God has done

      • What has God in your community worthy of praise and humble celebration?
      • Mary’s song foreshadows the ministry of Jesus and the coming Kingdom, but in a way which links it to what God has done- God is not going to turn the world upside down- God already has been!

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Share a time when the Holy Spirit has “kicked” you out of shock, surprise, self-pity or fear into a new perspective of thankfulness and blessing
  • Both Elizabeth and Mary have moments of recognition - Elizabeth recognized that Mary is pregnant with the son of God and responds, Mary recognizes her condition as one of blessing and responds. How do we respond when God’s grace is revealed around us?
  • Mary’s song is similar to Hannah’s song- perhaps she was moved like Hannah to offer celebration and joy using the words she had learned. How are we equipping people with the songs and texts to express their hearts and souls to God?

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 80 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist)

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Second Reading: Micah 5:2-5 Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
Initial Thoughts

  • First thought: Wrong Micah passage.
  • Does this belong as an Advent reading for any reason other than it mentions Bethlehem?
  • Did this have anything to do with Jesus?

    • Yes - Of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and is the one who brings peace. Clearly that is what Micah was talking about.
    • No - Of course not. Jesus probably wasn’t even born in Bethlehem. The gospel writers probably concocted his birth there because of their misreading of this passage.
    • Somewhere in between?

Bible Study

  • Micah as a whole

    • “‘Justice, peace, and Messiah: Though the Book of Micah is itself little among the prophetic writings (7 chapters, and usually no more than 5 pages), it deals with these great biblical themes.” (James Limburg, Interpretation: Micah, p. 159)
    • “We can see a pattern of alternation between sayings which announce doom and those which express hope.” (Limburg, 159). Limburg goes on to express that this week’s lectionary text is found within a hopeful portion, built around the model of “distress/deliverance”
    • “ It could be said that Micah is among the angriest of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. He is apparently a rural farmer, furious at the depredations of folk of the big city, calling them thieves (2:2), false preachers, more interested in lighter problems like drunkenness while injustice is rampant in the city (2:11), greedy for wealth, who "hate good and love evil, both tearing and eating the flesh of the poor, breaking their bones in pieces, chopping them up like meat for the kettle, like flesh in a cauldron" (3:2-3).” (John Holbert, Opening the Old Testament)
  • Distress/Relief

    • Problem: Distress is edited out of the lectionary

      • v. 1: “Now muster your troops, Daughter Troop. They have laid siege against us; with a rod they will strike the cheek of the judge of Israel”

        • Strange Hebrew with wide range of translations. Seems to be pointing to a sort of irony that they must take up arms in order to be saved. I read it like Jesus’ words, “live by the sword, die by the sword”
        • The Judge of Israel is the King, who has been assaulted - possibly taken prisoner. The King - who is supposed to be the deliverer, now needs deliverance.
      • Much like last week when the first verse of the Isaiah passage - that which referred to God’s anger - is edited out.
      • It seems strange to call for a leader who will deliver while at the same time cutting out the reason there is a need for a deliverer in the first place.
    • This passage fits within the rest of Micah as the third of three sayings “which promise help to a people in distress.

      • 4:9-10 God will rescue a people in exile
      • 4:11-13 God has a plan and is operating in history by using other nations as a part of that plan.
      • 5:1-6 There will be a rule that comes from Bethlehem that will bring peace.

        • This expression of hope in the form of an individual forms a part of the Messianic understanding of God’s plan (Limburg, p. 187)
  • Bethlehem

    • A little town, but was famous already for being the home of King David.

      • That the ruler will come from Bethlehem indicates that the new ruler will be a new David.
      • Town still relatively insignificant.

        • Ruler will not come from the great cities - like Jerusalem.
        • “We recognize a biblical theme here: God’s choice of the least likely, the littles, to accomplish God’s purpose” (Limburg, p. 186)

          • This theme is lifted up by Luke when expressing that Jesus is not just born in a little, insignificant town, but in an insignificant part of town - a manger in a stable.
  • Messiah

    • Concept of Messiah is in Hebrew Bible is a complicated one, and could be an entire study. Advent texts try to hit the highlights of that understand, which helps point to a Messiah that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. More complete understanding of Messiah does not point so obviously to Jesus of Nazareth.
    • Who is Messiah?

      • Psalms refer to a king who will:

        • Rule all nations
        • Endure forever
        • Rule with righteousness and justice and will bring shalom
        • Defend the poor and the needy.
        • These are the hopes for what the king will be. These were current hopes for current kings, who inevitably fell short.
      • Isaiah

        • Coming deliverer
        • Long Rule
        • Bring peace
        • Justice and righteousness
        • A new David - a shoot from the family tree of Jesse.
        • Special concern for poor and needy
        • Shalom
        • Suffers for the sake of others
      • Micah

        • Comes from Bethlehem
        • Will restore the land to the people.
        • Stand as shepherd of the flock - as opposed to those that have oppressed the people.
        • Keep the people safe.
        • Will defend the people against Assyria and will usher in peace.
      • Writers of New Testament agree that clearly this messiah was Jesus.
    • Micah fits in this tradition, and calls on the future leader who will be a new David,

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • What does Messiah mean to you now? The idea of what the people needed from their savior grew and evolved. What would it mean now? What kind of savior is the world in need of?
  • Where do we look for our savior? Is he/she in Washington? In Hollywood? In one of the great cities of the world, or might our savior be found in Rock Island, Crystal Lake, or wherever you may be in ministry?
  • Allow Micah’s words to exist without filling in Jesus of Nazereth. “By pondering the image that Micah sets out rather than leaping to the assumption that this coming savior is the Christian Christ, the preacher can look for the correspondence between disparate ages of human history with divergent needs, all being saved by a God who is justice, kindness, and humility itself. Faith in God and joy in the coming incarnation is not dependent on the prophet's accurate future predictions.“ (Melinda Quivik, Working Preacher)

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners and

Chris MacBruithin - Dear Robb and Eric! Greetings all the way from Derry in North West Ireland! I just wanted to say a huge thank you for your phenomenal work Pulpit Fiction. I'm a recently ordained deacon in the Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopal) and I was just delighted to come across the website. I'm still finishing my MTh as part of my training, and have really enjoyed listening to the last several podcasts (Olivet discourse, John the Baptist) as I'm writing a thesis on pastorally responsible preaching of judgment texts. A few years ago when I left my old church to look for something more mainline, liturgical and open-minded, I struggled with scripture big time. What a joy to be able to listen to you guys minister to Bible geeks without expecting us to switch off our God-given critical faculties. I thank God for you guys. Blessings!


Featured Musician - Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, “Your Light Has Come” a Song for Epiphany! Great to use in worship settings

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”).