96: Christmas 2B (Jan. 4) “Happy EpiphaNewYears- Part Deux”[RE]


For Sunday January 4, the second Sunday of Christmastide, Year B (and Epiphany)

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SHOW NOTES -  1/4/2015
Episode 96: Christmas 2B (Jan. 4) “Happy EpiphaNewYears- Part Deux”[RE]

Image: "Adoration of the three kings by brian whelan 2004" by Wendyroseberry (talk) (Uploads) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia

For Sunday, January 4, 2015
Welcome to the Pulpit Fiction Podcast, where two local pastors discuss the lectionary readings for the week. This is episode 96 for Sunday January 4, the second Sunday of Christmastide, Year B. Today’s show was originally recorded last year, but focuses on the two gospel readings for the this Sunday:

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Introduction and Check-in  

Featured Musician - Dan Holmes, “A Christmas Carol” from his album Have A Little Faith. More about Dan and his music at danholmesmusic.com. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dan.holmes.5895

Primary Scripture - John 1:1-18 - the Prologue to John
Initial Thoughts

  • “The Gospel of John opens with one of the most challenging texts in the New Testament.”  (Gail O’Day, New Interpreter’s Bible, v. IX, p. 516)
    • Just look at a few different versions of the Bible, and note the footnotes.  There are a lot of “Or this could mean…” footnotes.
    • Poetry - not easy to interpret.  Open to many different ways to understand
      • Poetry is the language of Creation.

Bible Study

  • Overall movement of “The Prologue”
    • v. 1-5 God, the Word, and Light.
    • v. 6-8 God, John, and Light.
    • v. 9-13 Light, the World, God’s people, God’s new people.
    • v. 14-18 The Word, the flesh, God’s new people.
  • God, the Word, Light enjoy a close intimacy
    • The relationship between God, The Word, and The Light is a poetic relationship that is difficult to sort out.
    • “In the beginning” is direct parallel to Genesis and the creation, which occurs by God speaking
  • John is not the Light
    • Knowledge of John’s ministry and life is a given to the author.
    • John’s only role is to point to Jesus.
    • John does not baptize Jesus, but merely sees “The Holy Spirit coming down from heaven like a dove, and it rested on him” (John 1:31).  
  • Something new, and yet eternal, is happening
    • Johannine community is claiming Jewish roots, but clearly the separation from the Synagogue is complete.
    • Much of the polemic in the rest of the Gospel of John is rooted in v. 11. “God’s own people didn’t welcome him”
    • The rejection of Jesus by “The Jews” is seen as the primary tragedy of human creation.
      • Historically, this has become the source of much evil.
    • Rejection by “God’s people” forces a redefining of who God’s people are.
    • No longer birthright, or by Covenant with the Law, but by belief in The Word.
    • Following “The Word,” or seeing “The Light” is prerequisite to seeing God.
    • Adoption as God’s people only happens by seeing God through Jesus.
  • The Word is made flesh - The Incarnation
    • v. 14 “The Word became flesh and made his home among us.”
      • ‘made his home’ = ‘pitched his tent’
      • Reminiscent of God in Exodus, residing in the Tabernacle.
      • Implies deep intimacy, not just a passerby or temporary guest.
      • At the same time, something different, and not fully native.
    • v. 18 “God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side.”
      • Reminiscent of the seating at the Passover (13:23) “One of his disciples, the one who Jesus loved, was at Jesus’ side.”
    • Jesus is flesh - not a gnostic rejection of flesh and the material world.  

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • We are invited into God’s eternal activity.  Becoming adopted by God is not initiation into a club.  It is joining in God’s eternal work to redeem Creation.
  • On this, the first Sunday of the Year, what can be made new?  How can we participate in the ongoing work of creation?  How are we being created, even now?
  • What does it mean to welcome God (v. 12)?  
  • How has the Word made its home among us?  Where is the Incarnation today?  It is in a manger in a stable, among shepherds.  It is in a small village, with strange foreigners bearing gifts, amidst the tyranny of a jealous king.  What other strange yet ordinary place is the Word made flesh?

Music - “Home By Another Way” covered by mumd2003 original by James Taylor- you can find it on YouTube at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJp5IVzwouM

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Secondary scripture -Matthew 2:1-12 the Visit of the Magi
Bible Study

  • Bible vs tradition:
    • Magi (magos in Greek) is the actual name of the visitors
      • not wise men or kings
      • magi referred to the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism who spent much of their time studying astrology
      • Later changed as magic was seen as the work of the devil
    • Three? Never says there were three - simply Magi
      • Melchior the Persian, Caspar (Gaspar) the Indian and Balthazar the Arabian - all added 500 years after Jesus in Alexandria.
    • Never says there they are from
  • Star
    • astronomical event
      • very difficult to pinpoint an actual event that it could have been.
      • May have been the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn - but this would not have led the Magi west to Jerusalem or south to Bethlehem
      • May have been a comet - but these were usually interpreted as bad omens- not signs of good things to come
      • Could have been Uranus passing close to Saturn, but this would be barely visible to the naked eye
      • Could have been a Supernova from a nearby galaxy - impossible to prove or disprove
      • CONCLUSION - It may have happened or it might not have…
  • Gifts
    • Typical gifts given to a king
      • Myrrh - anointing oil, frankincense - luxury perfume and gold
      • King Seleucus II Callinicus offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Apollo at the Miletus temple in 243 BC
    • Symbolic of who Jesus was and who he would be
      • Myrrh - an embalming oil and foreshadowing of his death
      • Frankincense - Priestly incense used in rituals
      • Gold - sign of kingship
      • Origen in Contra Celsum: "gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God." (TY Wikipedia :) )
    • Medicinal and symbols of healings/salvation
      • Myrrh- was used to help pregnant women who have excessive bleeding
      • Frankincense was chewed and eaten to promote female health and healing wounds
      • Gold - used by Joseph to pay for their flight to Egypt and back
  • Separating Gospel from Pop-theology myth
    • This is not a story about wise men or stars or human Kings, but the Son of God, the Messiah, proclaimed by Jewish prophets being born
    • Who is affected by this Epiphany?
      • the local town of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Israel, unknown country
      • not just for one place, one tribe, or one people- but even the unknown gentiles in “their own country”
  • The work of God is proclaim in the heavens for all the world it is full of wonder, gratitude and joy, the work of human politicians happens in the shadows and is full of distrust and fear
    • Magi represent something new and foreign, yet are drawn to something which emerges out of the Jewish faith
  • “When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer” by Walt Whitman
    • When I heard the learn'd astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • What brings you here to Church? What is your response when you get here? What do you see, feel, encounter?
  • What is emerging from our faith that threatens to make all things new, to change everything, yet is deeply embedded in our tradition?
  • There are many ways to interpret the Magi’s gifts to Jesus - how do we interpret our gifts to God? Symbols of Jesus’ ministry? Elements of healing and salvation? Simple adoration?
  • Are we willing to leave everything and follow the signs? In the midst of a world where school shootings, civil war, economic injustice and political divisiveness are the norm- where do we look for hope? What are the stars we are willing to follow and bring the good news back to our “own countries”

Psalm Nugget

  • Psalm 147 in a new segment! Psalm Nugget by our Psalm Correspondant Richard Bruxvoort Colligan!

Tasty Wafer of the Week!

TY listeners:

Blog Comment!

  • Rev. Sherry Elliott: Thank you for very helpful insights into this week's texts. Simeon and Anna are essential characters in the narrative of Jesus' temple experiences. The comments are cohesive and well organized. Thank you for sharing them.

Tweets Galore!


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”.