90: Christ the King A - Sheep and Goats (Nov. 23) 


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SHOW NOTES -  11/23/2014
Episode 90: Sheep and Goats (Nov. 23)
For Sunday, November 23, 2014
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Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, where two local pastors discuss the lectionary readings for the week. This is episode 90 for Sunday November 23. Christ the King Sunday.

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Introduction and Check-in

  • Christ the King or Thanksgiving?
  • Housing Allowance...faithful?
  • #AmyOnPulpitFiction  According to this report, Amy Poehler is producing a new church-based comedy.  Help us get her attention on Social Media and Twitter.  Ask her to be a guest on Pulpit Fiction.  Tweet something like this: @Smrtgrls and @eeshmu So excited about your new project, please go on @pulpitfpodcast to talk about it #AmyOnPulpitFiction

Featured Musician - Jennifer Knapp,
“Martyrs and Thieves” from her album, Kansas. You can listen to our interview with Jennifer at pupitfiction.us/playlist. You can follow news about her shows and blog at jenniferknapp.com.  You can follow her on twitter @Jennifer_Knapp, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/JenniferKnappMusic.  

Primary Scripture - Matthew 25:31-46 Sheep, Goats, You did unto me

Initial Thoughts

  • “Calling all sheep! All sheep, head this way to heaven! Thanks for feeding and clothing the poor. PS Sorry, goats, you’re on your own.” Matthew 25 from Twible by Jana Riess
  • King is a political term. We recently had an election. What does it mean to declare that Christ is the political head and sovereign? How does that compare or contrast to being a shepherd?

Bible Study

  • Who is Jesus talking to? (for more on this see Greg Cary at workingpreacher.com)
    • v. 32- “Nations” (ethne) can be translated at nations or Gentiles
    • Focused at Christians - commanding them to be faithful
      • Seem to make sense that this entire discourse, the “second sermon on the mount” is directed at the disciples
      • However also leads to a justification by works (not an issue for Matthew, but will be for later Christians)
    • Focused on “Gentiles” meaning non-Christians dictates a justification by faith. Those who believe (and whose believe is shown in their faithful works) will be saved
  • A description or a command? Is Jesus telling us to care for the least of these or simply saying there are those that care for the least of these and those that do not: there are good trees that bear good fruit and bad trees that bear bad fruit.
    • Where then is grace?
    • Comes down to doing good because it is good, bearing good fruit and being faithful for their own sake, not for the hope for reward or fear for punishment.
      • Francis Clark said, "To feel sorry for the needy is not the mark of a Christian—to help them is."
    • Thomas Long: "not the power elite or the moral majority, forcing their will on the nations: they are identified with the weak of the earth and are more likely to be found in hospitals and prisons than in palaces" (Matthew, Westminster Bible Companion)
    • From Kathryn Matthews (Huey) Sermon Seeds: “David Mosser sums up the thoughts of many writers when he notes that in this parable, Jesus "never asks either group what they think about him." On this Judgment Day, "salvation belongs not automatically to those who have faith, but rather to those who do faith." Still, as much as Judgment Day strikes a measure of fear in our hearts, "God does not see the story of our lives as we see the story of our lives. God sees as God sees. This becomes our saving grace" (The Stewardship Companion: Lectionary Resources for Preaching).”
  • Judgement
    • v. 34b “inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you” - Now but not yet Kingdom of God
    • Perhaps the Kingdom of God like eternal life is not something that is coming but something that is- when we care for the least we are living in God’s kingdom
    • When we are not- we are living in eternal punishment because we refuse to see others as our brothers and sisters and to love them as ourselves.

Preaching Thoughts

  • Why do we feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the prisoner? To assuage our own guilt? To make us feel better about us or simply because the hungry, naked, and imprisoned are our brothers and sisters?
  • Is the dichotomy between justification by faith or justification by works imposed by Jesus or by the church? Is it a fruitful or fruitless conversation? Can we truly “believe” our way into salvation without taking action? What about those who “bear good fruit” but don’t beleive?
  • What does it mean to declare Christ as King or the Reign of Christ when all seems to the contrary?

Jennifer Knapp, “Faithful to Me (Reprise)” from her album, Kansas. You can listen to our interview with Jennifer at pupitfiction.us/playlist. You can follow news about her shows and blog at jenniferknapp.com.  You can follow her on twitter @Jennifer_Knapp, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/JenniferKnappMusic.  

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Secondary scripture -Ezekiel 34:11-24 Skinny and Fat Sheep

Initial Thoughts

  • A part of the New Interpreter’s Bible, volume VI, which at 1612 pages is the biggest book in my office.
  • Connections between this and the New Testament readings are clear.
  • Cut out of a longer piece concerning shepherds.  The beginning of chapter 34 sets the tone to “Prophesy against Israel’s shepherds.”
  • King as Shepherd is a common metaphor, one appropriate for Christ the King Sunday.

Bible Study

  • Historical Context
    • Ezekiel was a priest in the Temple of Jerusalem.  A part of educated, privileged society.
    • Exiled to Babylonia in 597 BCE
    • Commissioned prophet in 593 BCE.  A harsh critic of Yahwism of his day that had two main branches: 1. Emphasized that God’s promises were coming, thought that Jerusalem and Temple were untouchable, and people just had to wait it out.  2. Resignation capitulation to Babylonian deities and culture.
    • Ezekiel warned that a total destruction was coming.  That Yahweh was indeed orchestrating a total collapse as a result of the unfaithfulness of Israel.
    • Second exile in 586 with destruction of the Temple.
    • Ezekiel was not around for the post-exilic period.  
  • Literary Context (from Common English Study Bible notes on Ezekiel, p. 1315-16)
    • Three parts of Ezekiel reflect movement over time.
    • 1-24: Judging the house of Israel
    • 25-32: Against foreign nations and gods.
    • 33-48: Promise of restoration
    • This three part organization is the result of editing.  His oracles reached a 20 year span, from 593-571
  • Beginning of the “Restoration” section of Ezekiel.  Still starts with judgment of the shepherds of Israel.  End with promise that God will restore things, and make a new covenant of peace.
    • Reason behind judgment is not within lectionary passage.  34:2b-5a “Doom to Israel’s shepherds who tended themselves! Shouldn’t shepherd tend the flock? You drink the milk, you wear the wool, and you slaughter the fat animals, but you don’t tend the flock. You don’t strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, or seek out the lost; but instead you use force to rule them with injustice.  Without a shepherd, my flock was scattered.”
      • Matthew 9:36 “ When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
  • Good news for some, not really for all
    • “I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak.  But the fat and the strong I will destroy, because I will tend my sheep with justice.” (34:16)
    • Good news for the least and lost.  Not such good news for the fat and strong.  
    • Again, lectionary cuts off an important line. “I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be their prince.  I, the Lord have spoken.  [end of lection] I will make a covenant of peace for them, and I will banish the wild animals from the land.  Then they will safely live in the desert and sleep in the forest.”  (34:24-25).  

Preaching Thoughts

  • Is this good news?  Perhaps lingering on this question is the most important thing we can do.  Every context is different, but in most mainline Protestant, middle class congregations, is this good news?  This is good news for the prey, what about the wild beasts?  Giving honest thought to how we receive this oracle is important.  How do you explain privilege to someone who works hard and makes an honest living?  Is it possible to be fat and strong and not a part of the problem that Ezekiel describes?
  • This passage can be deeply political.  When we talk about shepherds and kings, it is hard not to hear a call to our current leadership.  Is the government the good shepherd?  Given the remarkably low approval ratings, it is hard to imagine that anyone thinks of government as a good shepherd.  Many feel that government leaders are more interested in “tending themselves then their flock.”  What would it look like for a government that cared more for people than itself.  

Especially close off the heels of an election, this passage could clearly be used.  Jana Riess’s The Twible picks up on that: “G runs for Shepherd! Makes lavish campaign promises of peace and prosperity. Harsh smear campaign against his rivals though.” What is the difference though, between politicians’ campaign promises and the promises found in Ezekiel?  

Tasty Wafer of the Week!

  • Rethink Church’s Advent resources.  Checking, Decking, and Dashing to Christmas. Includes worship notes, visuals, videos, sermon starters, and outreach materials.  There even time to order a customized video that can include your church’s name and service information.
  • 11 Ways to #BeChristInChristmas As “War on Christmas” and “Keep Christ in Christmas” rhetoric flares up, this idea to “Be Christ in Christmas” could be a salve.  There are several practical ways that people can put their faith into action during the holiday season.  Spoiler Alert: Getting upset that Target has a “Happy Holidays” sign is not one of them.

TY listeners


The 2014 Advent Run will start on Thanksgiving. Can we break last year's mark?

Musician: Jennifer Knapp, “Martyrs and Thieves” and “Faithful to me (Resprise)” both  from her album, Kansas. You can listen to our interview with Jennifer at pupitfiction.us/playlist. You can follow news about her shows and blog at jenniferknapp.com.  You can follow her on twitter @Jennifer_Knapp, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/JenniferKnappMusic.  

Thanks 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(“Second of May” from their album Live at Goose Creek) and Paul and Storm for our closing music, “Oh No”.