157: Lent 4C (March 6, 2016)


157: Lent 4C (March 6, 2016)

Image: “Yorkshire Pigs at animal sanctuary” via wikimedia commons
Featured Musician - “In Your Eyes,” by Rob Leveridge, from his album Dancing on the Mountain


Episode 157 Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C - (March 6, 2016)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 157 for Sunday March 6, 2016. The fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C.

Introduction and Check-in

Voice in the Wilderness Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 with Rob Leveridge

Featured Musician - “In Your Eyes,” by Rob Leveridge, from his album Dancing on the Mountain

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  • Carroll Bundy - Good Morning Been a Methodist Pastor for almost 2 years now. I am serving at a small rural three church charge. A friend of mine in the Course Of Study recommended your podcast about a year ago. I didn't know what a podcast was. He set your show up on my phone and I have been listening each week since. You guys are great. Really enjoy the comments and ideas. Although I am a bit more conservative, and don't always agree entirely, your podcast have helped me to think outside of the box a little, and helped me to see some of the texts in a completely different light. I greatly appreciate your insights, and look forward to your podcast each week.
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Gospel Reading: Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 The Prodigal Son
Initial Thoughts

  • According to Arland Hultgren (workingpreacher.com) this story was not in the first lectionary. Then it was inserted as an alternative text in the season of Pentecost. In 1992, the Revised Common Lectionary put it in Lent. “The difference in locales within the church year has hermeneutical implications. If the parable is set on a Sunday in the Season of Pentecost, it takes on a more didactic and evangelic character concerning the mercy of God. But if it is set on a Sunday in Lent, and if one is insistent upon maintaining the mood of Lent, it can take on a more paraenetic (or hortatory) character concerning the hearers’ need for repentance.”

    • Paraenetic means “an exhortic composition,” or “advice, counsel”

Bible Study

  • Literary Context is key to understanding this story.

    • Why did Jesus tell the story? Who was his audience?

      • Surrounded by tax collectors and sinners, Pharisees and legal experts “grumbled.”
      • Three stories were a direct response to the grumbling.
    • What were the other parables next to it?

      • Lost sheep
      • Lost coin
      • Lost Son
      • All about the rejoicing over finding what was lost - in direct opposition to grumbling of those who already considered themselves “found.”
  • Which character is Prodigal?

    • Prodigal means wasteful, and this clearly alludes to the wasteful nature of the son’s spending.
    • Son: leaves his connection to family and God and wastes his inheritance on a life that leads him even farther away.
    • Father: Leaves behind his dignity, honor, and right to exact punishment.
    • Father runs to one son, begs the other.
    • He is shameful in how he accepts this son who had disgraced him, even going so far as to run (a most undignified act) to welcome him home.
    • “This may not seem like much to us but a man who ran like this in Jesus time would have been bringing shame on himself. It was below his station and more than that in the act of running he would have exposed his legs in a way which would have been considered indecent. I am reminded at this moment in the story of when King danced with such joy and enthusiasm that his robes also flew up inappropriately. The father risks bringing shame on himself in order to greet the son. This is the depth of his love; he is willing to shame himself and expose his legs, even before the son has offered his confession.” (A Different Heresy)
  • Which son is lost?

    • Brian McLaren, in his book Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road, says “As we tell it, the story climaxes when a runaway boy returns home feeling disgraced, hoping to re-enter the household as a slave, and the father graciously receives him as a son. But the real climax, I propose, comes later, when the father slips out of the welcome-home party to speak with the alienated older brother outside.” (p. 161)
    • The older brother sees himself not as a son, but as a hand, he misunderstands his own place in the Father’s life, so he is offended by the other son’s newfound place in it.
    • Brother says, “This son of yours,” and father reminds him “This brother of yours.”
    • “The primary message is addressed to hostile older brothers who feel right and superior and offended, who won’t join the party by joining God in welcoming and celebrating ‘the other brother.’ (Mclaren, p. 162)
    • “The elder brother is Pecksniff. He is Tartuffe. He is what Mark Twain called a good man in the worst sense of the word. He is a caricature of all that is joyless and petty and self-serving about all of us. The joke of it is that of course his father loves him even so, and has always loved him and will always love him, only the elder brother never noticed it because it was never love he was bucking for but only his due. The fatted calf, the best Scotch, the hoedown could all have been his, too, any time he asked for them except that he never thought to ask for them because he was too busy trying cheerlessly and religiously to earn them.” (Frederick Buechner website, the blog post “Parables as Comedy)
  • Parable as Comedy

    • On the Frederick Buechner website, the blog post “Parables as Comedy” quotes Buechner from his book Telling the Truth, Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. “I think that these parables can be read as jokes about God in the sense that what they are essentially about is the outlandishness of God who does impossible things with impossible people, and I believe that the comedy of them is not just a device for making the truth that they contain go down easy but that the truth that they contain can itself be thought of as comic. It is hard to think of any place where this is more apparent than in the greatest parable of them all, the one that is in its own way both the most comic and the most sad.”

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • Play Guess Who?

    • Which one are you?
    • Different every time we read it. Different any moment of my life. Sometimes I feel like the younger son, who has to “come to my senses.” Sometimes I feel like the older son, wondering why this other one would be loved. Sometimes I’m the Pharisee, grumbling at the truth about the Kingdom which Jesus reveals.
  • Open-ended.

    • Unknown if the brothers actually reconcile.
    • Unknown if the brother was actually repentant, or if he just wanted better food.
    • It is known how the Pharisees responded - “They sneered at him.”
    • Unknown how we will respond

Psalm Nugget: Psalm 32 with Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist)

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Second Reading: Joshua 5:9-12 The Manna Stops
Initial Thoughts

  • Arguable should begin with Joshua 5:1

    • Why pass up the chance to say “Hill of Foreskins” in church?
  • Chance to tell the “end” of the Exodus
  • One of the three times Joshua is in the entire lectionary
  • God’s promise is kept… it only took a little over 40 years

Bible Study

  • Context:

    • Have entered the land, but have not possessed the land - Comes next with the “battle of Jericho”
  • Promise and Fulfillment

    • Possibly a post-exilic editing by the Deuteronomistic writers
    • Message to the Israelites entering the land is similar to the exiles - God’s power is greater than Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar - God will save despite what the “powers” of the world try
    • What do we need to be saved from? What are we being saved for?
    • “Today I have rolled away the disgrace” = you are no longer defined by your slavery and landlessness, but as those who were saved

      • new identity
      • new food
      • new circumcision
      • new ritual
  • Collective Memory and Divine Encounter

    • Israelites recommit to God - “second circumcision”
    • Concern that the Israelites will be tempted away by the Canaanite fertility Gods

      • Easier to be faithful when God is directly providing what we need to survive - harder to see God at work within ourselves and nature
    • Isn’t Lent a kind of re-circumcision? A rededication of ourselves as the people of God
    • It is amazing how a collective memory or experience binds people together - what are we doing to create those memories in the church?
  • Ritual, Remembrance and faithfulness

    • The first generation that did not experience the “Passover”
    • They cannot remember the Passover event itself, but they choose to define themselves by this event of God’s saving action - similar to Eucharist?
    • Rituals have the power to create community and reinforce communal identity
    • Manna is a memory of how God provided during a very difficult time- but also a memory of the unfaithfulness of Israel who complained against God - it is important to remember both the good and the bad in our past
  • Connection with Luke and Psalm 32 (thanks to W. Dennis Tucker from Workingpreacher.com)

    • forgiveness - The Israelites will no longer be defined by their slavery or unfaithfulness, but by their renewed covenant with God - who keeps God’s promises
    • Psalm 32:1 - Happy are those whose transgressions are forgiven

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • It can be very difficult to be thankful and faithful when things are going well. How can we ritualize thankful celebration? How can we remember to thank God for all the good things without deceiving ourselves into thinking we have done it all on our own?
  • Why are rituals important to our life of faith? What are the important “Passovers” in your community that need repeating and remembering?
  • Passover is about salvation (the saving power of God) What is salvation? What are we being saved for? What from?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

Thank you listeners
Brian McLaren: “Pulpit Fiction is bringing thoughtful (and entertaining) theological conversation to a device near you… And that’s a fact!”
Twitter: @NelsonPierceJr “I’m honored to be this week’s voice in the wilderness shared last week’s episode and thanked us for telling you about the Black Liberation Rosary prayer, @ArtofTheSermon celebrated their 10th podcast, and congratulated us on a full lectionary cycle.
Casey Fitzgerald - shoutout on Story Divine


Featured Musician - “In Your Eyes,” by Rob Leveridge, from his album Dancing on the Mountain

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 (“Sunday Morning”, "Real Ride" and “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”).