191: Proper 26C (Oct. 30, 2016)


191: Proper 26C (Oct. 30, 2016)
Voice in the Wilderness: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12 with Jeff Nelson
Gospel Reading: Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus
Second Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 Waiting for the Lord’s Vision
Psalm Nugget: Psalm 119:137-144 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmistPatreon)

Voice in the Wilderness: Jeff NelsonCoffeehouse Contemplative Blog
Jeff’s book Coffeehouse Contemplative: Spiritual Direction for the Everyday

Featured Musician - Paul and Storm, “Cruel, Cruel Moon” from their album Do You Like Star Wars

Episode 191 Proper 26, Year C - (October 30, 2016)
Hello and welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, the lectionary podcast for preachers, seekers and Bible geeks. This is episode 191 for Sunday October 30, 2016, Proper 26, Year C.

Introduction and Check-in

  • All Saints
  • Christmas on a Sunday

Voice in the Wilderness: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12 with Jeff Nelson

Featured Musician - Paul and Storm, “Cruel, Cruel Moon” from their album Do You Like Star Wars

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  • Sandy and Neil Fuller

Gospel Reading:   Luke 19:1-10 Zacchaeus
Initial Thoughts

  • Who was the “wee little man”?

    • As translated, it is unclear who the “he” is. Greek is also unclear who the “he” is referring to in “because he was short.” Jesus could not be seen through the crowd.
    • Probably not a significant theological debate - but maybe it is. Why do we assumed that Jesus is tall, dark, and handsome? Because we like our heroes to look like Vigo Mortenson, not Danny Devito.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • The previous two stories Jesus told were about an unjust judge, a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then on his journey he talks encounters children, a rich ruler, and a blind beggar on the way to Jericho.
    • Now in Jericho, he encounters Zacchaeus, a rich tax collector.
    • The unjust judge and rich man were just made into examples about how to not deal with money.
    • The Pharisee, children, and blind beggar were all examples of humility and faith.
  • Traditional Reading: (Read Carol Howard Merritt or Alyce Mckenzie)

    • Rich Tax Collector Zacchaeus is seen by Jesus, who invites himself over to dinner.
    • Crowd shocked that Jesus would associate with such a terrible person.
    • In response to Jesus’ remarkable kindness, even calling him by name, Zach responds by promising to give half his wealth and to pay back all that he had gotten dishonestly.
    • Jesus responds to Zach’s change of heart by promising him a place in the Kingdom.
    • This reading is supported by NRSV including word “will,” as in: “I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” (NRSV, Luke 19:8, emphasis added)
  • Zacchaeus

    • His name means “pure.” Again, maybe not significant, but given some more grappling with this story, perhaps it is.
    • Climbing a tree is not a ‘dignified’ thing to do (Like father running after his son)
    • “All who saw it began grumbling.” In ch 15, the Pharisees and scribes “were grumbling” when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors. Now all of them are grumbling.
    • “Zacchaeus stood there and said…”

      • “Those who defend themselves stand; those who repent kneel. Zacchaeus’s words are not future, but present tense in Greek. Zacheus is not laying out a plan for future action, but is presenting his customary practices of generosity. Jesus vindicates Zacchaeus and rejects the grumbling accusation that Zacchaeus is a sinner.” (notes from The Wesley Study Bible, p. 1273)

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • If this is not a story about Zacchaeus’s conversion and repentance, than what is it about? Perhaps it is about our tendency to jump quickly to judgement.  Often the gospel states “tax collectors and sinners,” it is easy to lump them into one statement, but simply being a tax collector does not, apparently, make one a sinner. How quickly are crowds today ready to judge someone a sinner. At whom do we still grumble?

    • Remember John the Baptist’s teaching: “Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’” (Luke 3:13)
  • After two examples of rich and powerful men who didn’t get it, we have an exchange with one who does. Zacchaeus is rich and a tax collector AND a child of Abraham. Jesus was not anti-wealth. In fact, he came to the rich man’s house so that he could be a part of his hospitality. It is safe to say however, that Jesus is anti-greed, anti-unfair business practices, and anti-taking-advantage-of-the-poor.

Psalm Nugget:Psalm 119:137-144 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com, @pomopsalmist, Patreon)

Second Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 Waiting for the Lord’s Vision
Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Habakkuk

    • Means “to embrace”
    • Contrary to last week- this is not post-exilic but pre-exilic. Most likely right before the final Babylonian invasion: sometime between the first Babylonian invasion of 597 BCE and the destruction of the temple in 587 BCE.
    • Three sections

      • 1:2-2:5 Personal lament
      • 2:6-20 Oracles of Woe
      • 3:1-19 Appearance of God
  • Lament and Theodicy (why do evil and suffering exist?)

    • Questions are raised to God and no answer is given
    • It is still important to keep in the conversation - keep the relationship - sometimes merely asking the question provides a kind of indirect answer
    • Many are quick to voice lament (1:1-4), but are unwilling to stand and wait for a response (2:1-4)
  • Hope

    • Lament is expressed, suffering is felt- the prophet stand diligent
    • Prophet does not use suffering and lament as an excuse to lose faith or lose hope in God - trust in God “whose steadfast love endures forever”
    • The heart of faith- to continue to hope and persevere when all else appears to the contrary - faith flourishes in the darkness of Holy Saturday (perhaps more than the light of Easter Sunday)

  • Hope is born out of an experience of God:

“...a young man goes to visit a wise hermit. He finds the monk sitting outside his cave, enjoying the sun, his dog lying lazily at his side. The seeker asks, "Why is it, Abba, that some who seek God come to the desert and are zealous in prayer, but leave after a year or so, while others, like you, remain faithful to the quest for a lifetime?"
The old man responds, "One day my dog and I were sitting here quietly in the sun, as we are now. Suddenly, a large white rabbit ran across in front of us. Well, my dog jumped up, barking loudly, and took off after that big rabbit. He chased the rabbit over the hills with a passion. Soon, other dogs joined him, attracted by his barking. What a sight it was, as the pack of dogs ran barking across the creek, up stony embankments, and through thickets and thorns! Gradually, however, one by one, the other dogs dropped out of the pursuit, discouraged by the course and frustrated by the chase. Only my dog continued to hotly pursue the white rabbit."
Confused, the young man asks, "What is the connection between the rabbit chase and the quest for God?"
The hermit replies, "Why didn't the other dogs continue the chase? They had not seen the rabbit." They were only attracted by the barking of the dog. But once you see the rabbit, you will never give up the chase. Seeing the rabbit, and not following the commotion, was what kept the old monk in the desert.

  • How can we as pastors and as churches foster the experience of God that endures through lament?

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • The prophet refuses to be “nice” to God choosing instead to be honest. Honestly voicing disagreement, anger and disappointment, but refusing to leave the relationship. How might our churches look if we modeled this behavior of faithful, honest disagreement? Can we as churches speak boldly without breaking the covenant which binds us together in local, region or national community (koinonia)?
  • How do we create opportunities for people to experience God (not just talk about God)?
  • How do we encourage people to stop and listen to what God is saying?

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • How to pronounce weird bible names?


  • Thank you listeners


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    • Christina O’Hara - Thank you so much for your work on Pulpit Fiction!

I have really been using it a lot this fall as I’ve preached through these familiar yet challenging parables from Luke.  I was particularly struggling with the Unjust Judge, and particularly with God as this Judge, so I was so relieved to hear you say you “hated this parable” as well!  Two things you mentioned brought my exegesis to a new level.  Stamper’s quote about the Widow being a prophet hit home for me, as well as Craddock’s quote about prayer and “knocking until our fingers bleed.”  This led me back to Jesus, and I began to wonder if it is Jesus who is the widow “knocking until [his] fingers bleed” and if we are the Unjust Judge.  Jesus persistently knocks at our heart to wake us up from our stupor of injustice.  I also had the creative notion of preaching this sermon as a prayer to Jesus, wrestling with the text.  I think it worked!  Thanks for your input in my seeing this text in a new way!

Featured Musician - Paul and Storm, “Cruel, Cruel Moon” from their album Do You Like Star Wars

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”).