151: Epiphany 3C (Jan.24, 2016)


151 for Sunday January 24, 2016,  Epiphany 3C

ImageSamaritan High Priest and Old Pentateuch, 1905
Featured Musician - Bryan Sirchio, “The Speech that Got Martin Luther King Jr. Killed” from his album Fully Alive

Episode 151 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, Year C - (Jan. 24, 2016)

Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 151 for Sunday January, 24, 2016. The third Sunday after Epiphany,  Year C.

Introduction and Check-in  

Quick-Fire Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a The Body of Christ

  • Picks up right where we left off last week. Next week will pick up right from the end of this week.
  • Continues the metaphor of the body and the gifts of the Spirit.
  • Context of letter - “stress in diversity” is important to note. For a people struggling with hierarchy, status, and diversity, this letter is an antidote.
  • God is the source of diversity, so the diversity itself is a gift.
  • Problems of Corinth are particular, but this explanation remains a powerful metaphor that goes transcends context as well.
  • A pretty straight-forward extrapolation of what the Body is about.

    • Each body part has its own function
    • All parts are of the same body
    • No function is more important than another. All work together as a part of the whole.
    • Division of labor is not a class-system or hierarchy.
    • No one can be everything.
  • “If one part suffers, are parts suffer with it.” (1 Cor 12:26) “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Martin Luther King)
  • “The preacher’s task is to get out of the way and let the imagery work its own effect with the congregation.” (Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 119).

Featured Musician - Bryan Sirchio, “The Speech that Got Martin Luther King Jr. Killed” from his album Fully Alive

DONATE: www.pulpitfiction.us/donate

  • David Connelly -  “I am an old retired Anglican priest in Melbourne, Australia, who is still asked to preach quite often. I used to find preaching a breeze. The older I get, the harder it is on my declining brain cells. Could it be a lifetime of enjoying good Aussie shiraz with dinner? Possibly. In any case, I am so grateful to you for the help you give through your insights, which stimulate my thoughts. In a world where so many, in the church and outside, are turning to conservative, black-and-white, punitive teachings, I love your liberal, questing theology. Bless you - you are fresh air for me. Long may grace abound for you to continue!”

Gospel Reading: Luke 4:14-21 Jesus reads the scroll
Initial Thoughts

  • Um, that’s not how it ends, is it?
  • First of two-part story, so resist the urge to jump ahead. Next week’s lectionary text starts again at verse 21, and continues through the part where they want to throw him off a cliff.
  • I wonder why lectionary doesn’t pick Isaiah 61:1-2 or 58:6?

Bible Study

  • Literary context.

    • Immediately after baptism and temptation. Last week was Baptism of the Lord Sunday, this is his first public appearance.
    • Skips over 4:1-12, which is temptation, which is Lent 1.
    • Kind of a mixed quote of Isaiah 58:6 and Isaiah 61:1-2.

      • These texts are post-exilic, second or possibly third Isaiah.
    • After this he is run out of town, and heads to Capernaum.
    • Lectionary Story:

      • Baptism, First Sermon, Run out of Town, Transfiguration, Temptation (Lent 1)
    • Within this story: Things are going well.

      • News about him spread throughout the whole countryside
      • He was praised by everyone
      • In this one story, Jesus affirms Judaism - Scripture, Synagogue, and Sabbath are all honored.
  • Canonical context

    • Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-58

      • Mark emphasizes Jesus’ ordinariness. Names his family, and people wonder how he got such power. The people are repulsed, and Jesus “can’t perform miracles “except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” He was appalled by their disbelief.

        • Placed after several healings, where response of the people is amazement. Right before death of John the Baptist.
      • Matthew uses Mark story, nearly verbatim. Matthew infers that loss of power came from their disbelief. Places it in different context.

        • Comes right after a series of confrontational parables and right before death of JBap.
    • “The changes convert a short story of confrontation into a programmatic announcement that concerns both the nature of Jesus’ ministry and the character of the church that will follow from that ministry” (Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 119)
    • Places a prophetic, missional edge onto Jesus’ ministry, and places a strong an powerful confrontation at the forefront - at the very root - of Jesus’ life and ministry.
    • For many, especially in progressive churches with a keener eye toward social justice, point to this as Jesus mission statement - and hence the church’s mission - over and above the Great Commission.

      • United Methodist Church mission statement is an intentional blending of the two. “To make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.”
  • What is Jesus calling for, exactly? Or is it just a nice flowery speech?

    • Parallels between Jesus’ first sermon and Mary’s Song.

      • “At the risk of over-psychologizing or perhaps, psychologizing in general because it’s the Bible, what if Jesus first learned what it means to bring good news to the poor from the stories that his mother told him? “ (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher)
    • Liberation can be a hard message to hear in a comfortable congregation.

      • Preach good news to the poor.
      • Proclaim release to the prisoners.

        • Do we really want this?
        • Is prison system as we know it just?
        • “What if we just freed all the prisoners?” (Lauren Winner, The Hardest Question)

          • “The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
        • Healing Communities - a project of the UMC to end cycles of incarceration
      • Recovery of sight to the blind.
      • Liberate the oppressed.
      • Proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

        • Jubilee Year - the year all debts are forgiven.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Liberation can be a hard message to hear in a comfortable congregation. Economic justice doesn’t sound like good news if you are upper-middle class. What may be the prophetic word from this passage that people can hear? People think churches “only want their money.” Luke especially wants your money. Luke wants you to think about your money. Your possessions, and your relationship with them tell a huge part of the story about your relationship with God.
  • This passage is strong antidote to those that claim, “Jesus was born to die on the cross.” According to Jesus’ own words, he was not born to die. He was born to save, free, and liberate. Especially heading into Lent, this could be a good chance to insert some ways of thinking of Jesus’ ministry beyond simply going to the cross. This text, and the people’s response next week especially, reveal some reasons why Jesus was led to the cross beyond simple blood atonement.
  • Paired with Nehemiah - What is the power in public reading of the text? What role does the BIble play in our prophetic work? How can the Bible bring life and power to our prophetic work for social justice? How can we use the Bible in places, or with people, who place no authority in it?

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 19 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)
Call to Worship with Psalm 19:
Worldmaking translation/paraphrase by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

One:    The heavens are telling the glory of God;
Many:    The earth proclaims God’s handiwork!
One:     The sun rises at one end of the sky, its circuit complete at the other;
Many:     Nothing can hide from its heat.
One:     Our God’s Way is perfect, reviving the soul;
Many:     Our God’s Way is sure, making wise the simple;
One:     Our God’s Way is good, rejoicing the heart;
Many:     Our God’s Way is clear, giving light to the eyes;
One:     The awe of God is pure, enduring forever;
Many:     Our God’s judgments are true and altogether righteous.
One:     They are more to be desired than fine gold,
Many:     Sweeter than honey dripping from the honeycomb.
One:     Clear your servant from hidden faults, O Holy One
Many:     As well as from willful sins.
One:     Do not let sin rule me
Many:     So I can be innocent of wrongdoing.
All:    O my God, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
        be a pleasure to you, O Holy One, my rock and my redeemer.

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, over 180,000 titles to choose from, including some great works by friends of the show Peter Rollins, Adam Hamilton and Nadia Bolz-Weber. We recommend a new book by Sarah Bessey called Out of Sorts. Look for her book and out interview in an just released Thursday Night Special! 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:  Nehemiah 8:1-3. 5-6, 8-10 Ezra reads the scroll
Initial Thoughts

  • vv. 4, 6-7: Up to you whether or not to skip it- do not “spring” this on your readers- A lot of funky names
  • Only appearance of Nehemiah in the RCL (one of 3 appearances in the Episcopal Lectionary)
  • Going to require a bit of unpacking- this is not a familiar text or context

Bible Study

  • Nehe-what?

    • Nehemiah - Second half of the book of Ezra - actually combined in the Hebrew Bible- split in the Christian Old Testament
    • Time: 538-430 BCE - After the Babylonian Exile, returned by Cyrus the Persian to Judah and reconstruct the Temple under Jewish rule in 3 waves or phases:

      • Ezra 1-6: Return and Temple is Reconstructed
      • Ezra 7-10: Return and Community is reconstructed
      • Nehemiah 1-7: Return and Walls are reconstructed
    • Traditionally thought to have been written by Ezra (along with Ezra and 1 & 2 Chronicles- although there is dispute about whether the same author wrote 1 & 2 Chronicles)

      • Perhaps is a combination of older traditions compiled and edited by a post-exilic curator
  • What do we do with this passage?!

    • Story about the reading of the scripture in a place where the Jews have been unable to read scripture for YEARS

      • Hard to grasp for those of us who take the freedom of religion for granted
      • Celebration that the long exile is over and God’s promises have at last been fulfilled
    • Jews have been through a terrible time of attack, decline and exile and are trying to reunite as a worshiping community - sound familiar?

      • Ezra is the new Moses- reading the word to unite the people
      • Jews unite under the Torah
      • Jews reform a covenantal community
  • Community at the Water Gate

    • Place where all were welcome to gather- no ritual purification was required - both the clean and unclean could be in the same place
    • Unity of the people of God - “all” repeated in almost every verse of this passage
  • Hearing the Word leads to action

    • They hear the Word and worship God, not Ezra, no the word itself, but the LORD
    • sharing what they have - v. 10

      • Eat, drink and share with those who do not have food or drink!

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • For those congregations and people who are familiar with the battle of Thermopylae in which ~7000 Greeks held the pass of Thermopylae against ~300,000 Persians (The final group of Greeks was King Leonidas and 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebians who held the Persians army back while the rest of the Greeks retreated to later defeat the Persians at the Battle of Salamis). This is an interesting other side of the story- the Persians - monstrous invaders of the Greeks were also the liberators of the Jews!
  • What do you want people to do? Every sermon should have an invitation to action (Tony Campolo). Ezra reads the word and the people act!

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • Church Marketing Sucks published a list of conferences and workshops which could appeal especially to church communicators. The list includes conferences from all over the country. It could be a useful tool to plan your year of continuing education. Of course, don’t forget to include a donation to your favorite podcasts in your budget.

Thank you listeners

  • @ChrisStrickla offered a sort of benediction: “God loves you and me. God loves those that you and I won’t but you or I can’t do anything about it. So maybe we should love who God loves.”



Featured Musician - Bryan Sirchio, “The Speech that Got Martin Luther King Jr. Killed” 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”).