152: Epiphany 4C (Jan 31, 2015)


Episode 152, 4th Sunday after Epiphany, Year C (January 31, 2016)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 152 for Sunday, January 31, 2016. The fourth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C.

Introduction and Check-in  

  • Leah Gunning Francis, Ferguson and Faith
  • Winner of Out of Sorts
  • Teachers are amazing

Quick-Fire Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 The Love Chapter

  • One of the most well known and beautiful parts of scripture
  • This is about love within a divided and divisive community - this is a message more to those on the brink of divorce than the beginning of a relationship
  • SHould not be preaching in isolation from I Corinthians 12 - the unity fo the community and the value of each individual finds it foundation in love above all things- EVEN FAITH - a radical declaration for a church founder

    • However- Christ as the basis for that love and the exemplar of love is established previously in the letter: 1:30, 3:7, 8:6
  • Love is greater than any individual gift or status
  • Hannah Haddad’s Letter

Featured Musician - “Hometown” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.

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Gospel Reading: Luke 4:21-30 The Response to Jesus’ Sermon
Initial Thoughts

  • Reminds me of all those awkward seminary and post seminary sermons given at my home church - “Is this not Jon’s son who used to play Dungeons and Dragons in the youth room?”
  • Continuation of last week’s message

    • How much does the response affect the efficacy of the sermon?

Bible Study

  • What angers the crowd?

    • Not his sermon, but his announcement that the good news is for the Gentiles as well as the Israelites

      • “spoke well of him”
      • amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth”
    • Is this not Joseph’s son - not said in a bad way, but in amazement that God chose Joseph’s son
  • Universal Salvation in Luke emphasized

    • John’s message in Luke 3
    • Message of the birth narrative
    • Elijah and Elisha specifically seeking out Gentiles with whom to share God’s grace and power
  • Rage is sparked by Jesus’ proclamation that God’s message is for Gentiles and not the “chosen ones”

    • God continues to reach out - “unfairly” - to those whom we least expect: widows, orphans, Gentiles
    • Jesus’ message is much more consistent with scripture (in the OT) than the desire for one group to be considered special or privileged above others (cf. “Blessed to be a blessing” Gen 12:3)
    • “none of them” is repeated twice- is Jesus denying his hometown the opportunity to participate in God’s Kingdom?
  • Awkward difficulty of the text

    • Both claims, Doctor heal yourself and Do here as in Capernaum are out of place

      • No stories about Capernaum yet
      • No charge of hypocrisy against Jesus
    • Why wouldn’t they want Jesus to do in Nazareth what he did in Capernaum- imagine if you were the parent of child hoping for healing or blind and hoping for sight?
    • Jesus throws their rejection in their faces while they are still basking in the amazed and gracious glow of his sermon.

      • He pre-empts their complaints and rejection
  • Interesting parallel with the passage which follows (but will not appear in the lectionary this year)  

                    Luke 4:16-30                                          Luke 4:31-44

  • A.                 Nazareth                             A.'     Capernaum
  • B.                 Sabbath-Synagogue           B.'     Sabbath-Synagogue
  • C.                 Amazement                        C.' Amazement
  • D.                Gracious Words                   D.'     Speaks with Authority
  • E.                 Questioning                         E.' Questioning
  • F.                  Leaves                               F. ' Leaves

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Connection to the Black Lives Matter movement - why are so many people upset by Black Lives Matters? Could it be that the very nature of the movement highlights both the radical nature and need for the declaration “Black Lives Matter” and the complicit active or passive support for the oppressive system which necessitates the need to proclaim “Black Lives Matter”

    • Jesus is not saying “Gentile/Widow/Leper Lives Matter More”, but is highlighting both the need for that implicit declaration and how the Jewish authorities have created an oppressive system which has isolated and marginalized gentiles, widows and lepers.
  • Jesus’ sermon and subsequent interpretation flies in the face of those who wonder why we care about foreign refugees when we need to focus on what is happening “here at home”
  • Connection with 1 Corinthians: The Gospel of Love will always meet opposition - will we let it end us to can we “pass through it”? Can we hear the opposition, the rejections and the rage and yet still continue our gospel of love?

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 71:1-6 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)
A Call to Worship with Psalm 71.1-6:
One: In you, O Holy One, I take cover; 
All: Let me never, ever be put to shame. 
Women & girls: By your strong justice, deliver me and rescue me. 
Men & boys: Incline your ear to me and free me. 
Women & girls: Be my home, a strong fortress where I can always go. 
Men & boys: Save me in your mighty cliffs of protection.
Women & girls: Rescue me, O Covenant God, from the hands of terrorists. 
Men & boys: Save me from the reach of the wayward and cruel. 
Women & girls: For you, O God, are my clear hope, 
Men & boys: my confident trust since my youth. 
Women & girls: You’ve sustained and held me since my mother’s womb. 
Men & boys: My resounding praise is continually of you. 
Text adaptation by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, Worldmaking.net

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Second Reading: Jeremiah 1:4-10 The Calling of Jeremiah
Initial Thoughts

  • Not a part of a larger teaching about/from Jeremiah. Stand along passage that will need some context. Probably need to do some further teaching

    • Not a bullfrog.
    • Not a good friend of mine.
  • Leaves out second part of chapter 1

    • God warns Jeremiah of what is coming:

      • A pot boiling over in the north
      • Trouble, war, armies coming.
    • “You are an armed city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall against the entire land… They will all attack you, but they won’t defeat you, because I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord.”
    • Trouble is coming from within and without. Trouble for the people, and trouble for Jeremiah. But God will be there.

Bible Study

  • Context of Jeremiah

    • John Holbert gives a nice recap of the historical context.

      • “Thus, Jeremiah began his prophetic career in 627 B.C.E. He spoke God's word, this note says, through the reign of Josiah's son, Jehoiakim, and right up until the exile of Israel to Babylon in the fifth month of 587 B.C.E., the eleventh year of the reign of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah.”
      • Josiah was the great reformer, who was said to have found the Torah, and initiated vast reforms. His sons though, didn’t keep up his reforming spirit, and allowed the idols and various altars to go back up.
    • “Jeremiah is the longest and most complex prophetic book in the Bible. It’s also the most deeply anchored in suffering. Written for survivors of war and exile, the book is filled with pain and trauma. It bears witness to three Babylonian military invasions (597, 587, 582 BCE) resulting in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the royal palace complex, the taking of land, and the death and exile of thousands of people...The book of Jeremiah is disaster literature, then, but it also survival literature. It serves as a survival guide for a suffering people, the historic losers of war… When the prophetic text names Judah’s disaster and grieves its losses, when it refuses to let death and destruction have the final say, and when it imagines a future beyond destruction, it serves as a map for finding hope. In a world crushed with pain, the book imagines God shaping new beginnings from the ruins of fallen worlds.” (Common English Study Bible, introduction to the Book of Jeremiah, p. 1205-6)
    • This context is important to contemplate given that this is the beginning of the story. All of the sadness and pain is still ahead, but it informs even the start of Jeremiah’s journey.
  • “The Lord’s word came to me.”

    • This wasn’t Jeremiah’s doing. He didn’t initiate the relationship, but he was aware of it.
    • Jeremiah gets a sense of God’s intimate relationship, one that has existed from before he was born.
    • Set apart - not above.
    • Prophet to the nations - not just interested in local affairs or even just Judah. God’s authority is set above all nations, so then is God’s prophet.
  • “I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a boy.”

    • Probably means 10-12 years old.
    • Reminiscent of Moses, who also says he does not know how to speak.
    • God’s reply reinforces that it is not about Jeremiah. His agency is not important. God’s direction and words are what matter.
    • Promise to rescue.

      • Implies that there will be danger.
      • Things are not going to go well for Jeremiah, but God’s presence is promised. More than that, God’s rescue is promised.
  • “Then the Lord stretched out his hand and touched my mouth”

    • Reminiscent of Isaiah, who was touched by the hot coal.
    • God said “I’m putting my words into your mouth”
    • Dig up and pull down, destroy and demolish, build and plant”

      • Again, reminiscent of Ecclesiastes
      • Reflects the various “theologies” of Jeremiah. There is never one pure explanation of why these things happen.
      • “Four (pluck up, pull down, destroy, overthrow) of the six verbs God uses to describe Jeremiah’s appointment have negative connotations. Only two verbs (build, plant) have positive connotations. The use of twice as many negative verbs as positive ones affirms that Jeremiah’s message will largely focus on destruction and devastation.” (Alphonetta Wines, Working Preacher)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • Jeremiah called to a purpose, not to a good and happy life. Many preach that God wants us to live a life of meaning and prosperity, but Jeremiah is not called to a happy life.

    • “We who have been taught to think of God as a way to get what we want may find it hard to hear that we are God’s way to get what God wants! Time and again in scripture, God seems to think nothing of placing otherwise contented, happy people’s lives in peril… Here’s the hard question: Can it be that a loving and merciful God is also willing to hurt and imperil faithful lovers of God?” (Will Willimon from The Hardest Question)
  • In a culture - and church culture in particular - so intent on trying to build up (save, rescue, restore) the church. How are we supposed to feel when we are called to pull down, destroy, demolish. What are we called to destroy? Broken systems? Apathy?
  • “The complexity of his message is reflected in the ambivalence of his love-hate relationship with his assigned task. Though compelled to preach, Jeremiah seems to retain the reluctance of his youth throughout his ministerial career” (Alphonetta Wines, Working Preacher) How many of us feel a similar ambivalence? Can we be honest about it? Are there times when we feel as if “the Lord’s word has brought me nothing but insult and injury, constantly I thought, I’ll forget him, I’ll no longer speak his name, But there’s an intense fire in my heart, trapped in my bones. I’m drained trying to contain it; I’m unable to do it.” (Jeremiah 20:8b-9)

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • Fellowship of Prayer 2016 - A Lenten devotional by Sarah Griffith Lund at Chalice Press. It’s not a free resource, but at about $3 per devotional, and less as an ebook, it is very affordable. You can even get a bulk rate if you order more than 25 for your congregation.

Thank you listeners and

Twitter: Renee Roederer @renee_roederer “Thanks Rob and Eric for your reflections on John 2 this week.They great influenced this poem: reneeroederer.com”:

Featured Musician - “Hometown” by Jonathan Rundman from his album A Heartland Liturgy.


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”).