79: P18A (Sept. 7) Let My Icebucket Go!


For Sunday September 7, Proper 18A/Ordinary 23A/13 Sundays after Pentecost

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SHOW NOTES -  9/7/2014

Episode 79: P18A (Sept. 7)
For Sunday, September 7, 2014
Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, where two local pastors discuss the  lectionary reading for the week.  
This is episode 79 for Sunday September 7, Proper 18A/Ordinary 23A/13 Sundays after Pentecost.

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Introduction and Check-in

Featured Musician -  Richard Bruxvoort Colligan “Your People’s Lament” from his album Worldmaking. You can find out more about Richard’s music at worldmaking.net

Primary Scripture - Matthew 18:15-20 - Community Organizing w Jesus
Initial Thoughts

  • Three parts to this passage are Practical, Perplexing, Problematic.
    • Practical - Conflict resolution
    • Perplexing - What does it mean to fasten and loosen?
    • Problematic - God doesn’t grant wishes of people - even if they wish them together.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context.  Chapter 18 includes other teaching about hospitality, searching, and forgiveness
    • This passage is a part of Jesus’ response to their question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  His answer is multifaceted, and includes some of the most quotable lines of Jesus:
      • I assure you that if you don’t become like a little child, you will not enter the kingdom (18:3)
      • Whoever welcomes one such child, welcomes me. (18:5)
      • If your hand or foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. (18:8)
      • If someone had a hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go search for the one that wandered off? (18:12)
      • Then our passage: “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them…”
    • Then Peter said to Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my brother?”  
      • “Not just seven times, but rather seventy seven times.”
    • In other words, this passage is a part of a larger piece where Jesus is responding to the disciples’ question about greatness.
    • It comes immediately before he talks about the extravagance of grace and the power of forgiveness.
  • Practical - Conflict Resolution
    • This is simply good sense.  Jesus is teaching “Thou shalt not triangulate,” and uses a simple premise found in Deuteronomy (one witness isn’t reliable), and applies it to a personal relationship, and how we live in community.
    • He is ordering the life of discipleship to be different from rest of culture.
    • Sin has consequences.  Unresolved sin must be addressed.  To not look at the sin with honesty is to allow it to fester.
      • Relationships
        • There is debate over the words “against you.”  This could be sins that are well known in the community, or sins that are about an interpersonal relationship.  Since the response is a interpersonal response, it seems as if the “against you” is appropriately included in the text.
        • Relationships that are loving must be honest.  Without authenticity, a relationship is no longer healthy.
        • Jesus is interested in the way we relate to each other, and this teaching reminds us that truthfulness is important.
      • Systemic
        • Cultural sin must be addressed
        • Vast implications for #Ferguson, and other places where systemic sin like racism, sexism, homophobia, and jingoism go unexamined.
        • This is the reason “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” is a terrible compromise in issues of gender and sexuality.  
  • Perplexing - “I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
    • It seems like a strange aside that makes little sense.
    • “Although binding and loosing may in the broader context refer to declaring what is permitted or not permitted, here it seems to mean disciplinary action.  The congregation has the power to punish or exclude.  In so doing, it is acting on God’s behalf.” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew p. 215)
  • Problematic - “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you.
    • Reminds me of being a parent of two kids.  There are moments when you don’t care what they ask for, as long as they aren’t fighting over it. In Grocery Store: “I’ll buy you the stupid Sugar Crisp Cereal if you just stop fighting!”
    • Yet we know (hope) that’s not what Jesus is saying, and we also know that God doesn’t grant every wish, even when we agree on that wish.
    • “Verse 19 appears at first sight to be alien to this context… It can be paraphrased, ‘If two of you can come to an agreement regarding any disputed matter, that agreement will be blessed by my Father in heaven.” (Hare, p. 215).
    • This isn’t about rubbing genie lamps.  It is part of the context of disputes, and reminds those of the importance of community.
    • The reminder that Christ is there foreshadows Christ’s post-resurrection presence in the community.  It is a word of hope for those in dispute, that as long as they stay at the table to work out the conflict, Christ will be in their midst.

Preaching Thoughts

  • Conflict is real, and it need not always be negative.  How we handle conflict might be the single most important skill of pastoral leadership.  Determining what conflict needs to be addressed, and how is extremely important, and probably should be taught more explicitly in seminaries.  Gilbert Rendles, “Behavioral Covenants in Congregations” is a great resource for churches to speak directly about how to live in community.
  • Forgiveness is hard work.  Truth-telling is not easy, but it is vital if you are going to have an authentic relationship.  This process should be held with the 7 times 70 admonition, because too often people either rush to forgiveness, which skips the process and isn’t healthy; or they hold onto grudges, which isn’t healthy.

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Secondary scripture - Exodus 12:1-14 - Passover
Initial Thoughts

Bible Study

  • Direct response to Exodus 1 and Pharaoh’s inability to have power over life and death
    • Not sure if it is appropriate to focus too much on the killing of “firstborn” or dwell on the details:
      • God is willing to massacre children in order to make a point? Ends justify the means? This is a slippery slope
      • If God is truly all powerful then surely there is a solution that doesn’t result in slaughtering children
      • If God is going to kill all the firstborn - wasn’t Pharaoh a firstborn? The scripture says nothing about children
    • Amazing look at the plagues and Pharaoh from G-dcast:
  • Defining moments for Israelites - Exodus and Exile:
    • New year- beginning- sets the stage for everything that is to come
    • Exodus - People who are saved by a God who saved slaves and oppressed
    • Community - the lamb is to be killed and shared in community- family and neighbors
  • Boundaries
    • The blood on the door sets the home as a sacred place of safety and peace amidst fear and death
      • Sean White, Feasting on the Word - “In the obedience of the people, God's purposes unfold, so that their faithfulness and God's faithfulness somehow converged in the fulfillment of the promise. Uncertainty, anxiety, fear, obedience, and shalom all comprise the arena of experience with God.”
      • Passover remains a time to annually remember God who has saved, is saving and will save God’s people
  • Ritual (E. Lane Alderman Jr., Feasting on the Word)
    • How does this compare to communion?
    • Passover: festival, communal, remembering God’s saving power, acknowledges fear, oppression sin and death - but trusts in God’s saving grace in the midst
    • Does your Holy Communion liturgy also communicate these things? Should it?
    • Are people any more distracted now than they were at the time of Moses?
    • Does communion remind people of God saving grace- what they are saved from and what they are saved for?
    • “Rituals anchor us in the past, but their real power is in their ability to propel us into the future. It is vitally important for the people to remember what God has done in the past, but the real celebration comes in seeing what God is doing in the present. People are still being liberated. Lives are still being renewed. Hopes are still being restored.”
    • The Israelites share the Passover with girded loins, sandals on and staves at the ready- preparing for what is to come. The Disciples break bread and share the cup with Jesus knowing his death is imminent.
      • When we bread bread and celebrate God’s saving actions- are we prepared for what is to come?
    • Communion Liturgy by Carol Penner (Leading in Worship) done in the “passover style” i.e. what makes this night different?


  • Communion Liturgy by Carol Penner (Leading in Worship) done in the “passover style” i.e. what makes this night different?
  • Great video Jewish commentaries on the plagues from G-dcast:
    • “Bo” by Joel Stanley - What’s it like to be the greatest sidekick ever? Actor and writer Joel Stanley takes us INSIDE the head of Aaron, Moses’s number one man (ahem…and his brother). Plagues! Confrontations! And poison-tinged political drama where Moses and Pharoah’s attendants attack each other…with snakes??
    • “Va’eira” by Rabbi Katie Mizrahi - Possibly the best known Bible story, period. A rousing “Let my people go” kicks off weeks of frogs and hail and boils, but Rabbi Katie Mizrahi explains that those weren’t even the REAL plagues. ?#@$% Find out just what was afflicting those Israelites in this week’s story.

Preaching Thoughts

  • What do we do to make places safe and sacred but not isolated or ignorant? Churches are dedicated when they are built- what about after that?
  • How do we celebrate the passover without creating an us/them environment? ex: They are killed while we are saved.
  • When we bread bread and celebrate God’s saving actions- are we prepared for what is to come?

Shout outs

  • Suz Cate - A thought about losing and finding one's "life": the Greek word for life that is used here is ψυχη--the English cognate is psyche. Y'all got close to the idea of the life in question being more than having breath in the physical body. I think there is a potential to explore what kind of life is available in taking up the cross--a life of wholeness and health in body, mind, and spirit. I keep coming back to shalom...
  • Scott C. - "What does it mean that Jesus began to show them?"I wonder if they ever witnessed a crucifixion? Or a criminal being scourged? (Or maybe the question is how many times...) What if they were at or near a site used for crucifixion during this exchange? Looking at an empty cross or an occupied cross. What kind of weight does that add to Jesus' words? And to Peter's rebuke? And to Jesus' response to Peter (especially if we think about Satan as "the Tempter"). How does it change the impact of the words "let them...take up their cross and follow me"?


  • Chris Strickland @Chrisstrickla -Maybe Jesus says to Pet you have the keys, unlock the gate. Have we inherited that inviting power? #latestarttosundaysermon

Our Featured Musician was - Richard Bruxvoort Colligan “Your People’s Lament” from his album Worldmaking. You can find out more about Richard’s music at worldmaking.net

Thanks to Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Second of May” from their album Live at Goose Creek) and Paul and Storm for our closing music( “Oh No”).
Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our new voice bumpers!