Ep. 48: Jesus Loves Groundhogs or After Epiphany 4A


For Sunday, February 2, 2014, Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

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SHOW NOTES -  2/2/2014

Opening Music: I Got You Babe, by Sonny and Cher
For Sunday, February 2, 2014

Episode 48:


Primary Scripture - Matthew 5:1-12 - The Beatitude

  • Initial thoughts
  • Bible Study
    • Mountain
      • “Up the mountain” - Matthew’s Moses Christology
      • “went up the mountain” is used very often in the OT in relation to Moses
      • Not important physically, but theologically
      • Mountain of revelation - like Sinai
    • Beatitude (latin, Greek = makarism)(M. Eugene Boring, NIB Commentary VIII)
      • Connotes: German  - heil; Greek - soteria/salvation; Hebrew - shalom and English - okay.
      • literary form used to declare a privileged or fortunate people
      • Appear in the Hebrew Bible:
        • Wisdom - Blessing based on observation and experience
        • Prophets - Eschatological blessing for those in dire circumstances
      • Matthew’s Beatitudes - Culminating Declaration (i.e. now, and not yet)
        • Objective reality based on divine blessing, NOT subjective feeling . in other words- these are about God’s actions, not how the poor/meek/oppressed/etc feel.
          • Should not be translated as happy
        • Indicative
          • descriptive of those focused on the Kingdom of God
        • Ethical - community changes in reaction to the indicative declaration
        • Unconditional - there is no condition for blessing (not “if x then Blessed”)
        • Prophetic pronouncement based on the authority of the speaker.
        • Eschatological, not historical - they are tied to a future event
        • Subject is not nine distinct groups but a blessing on the authentic Christian community
    • First 8 beatitudes are split into 2 groups of 4. The first four are related to suffering and the last four are related to actions.
    • Marks of the Christian Community - Physical and Spiritual
      • Poor - awareness of our own need
        • new age “mindfulness” or “emptying”
      • Mourn - awareness of the injustice and suffering in the world
        • See Isaiah 61:2-3
      • Meek - those who are humble and vulnerable
      • Hunger and thirst - called to fight for justice, people of hope
      • Merciful - share in God’s grace given to all, concrete acts
      • Pure in heart
      • Peacemakers
      • Persecuted - “If a gospel is preached without opposition it is simply not the gospel which resulted in the cross. In short, it is not the gospel of love.” Reinhold Niebuhr,  Leaves from the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic.
      • Insulted, persecuted because of Jesus - if this isn’t happening - are we doing it right? - rejection of vengeance
  • Preaching Thoughts and Questions:
    • Are we living “Blessed” lives or are we doing everything we can to avoid being “Blessed”?
    • are and will - the two verbs of Beatitudes can’t have the will without the are
    • When was the last time you blessed your congregation? Are we waiting for perfection?

Transition Music: Blessed by Simon and Garfunkel

Secondary scripture - 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 - Foolishness to the World

  • Initial thoughts
    • This passage appears in lectionary in Lent in year B and in Holy Week every year.
    • How does reading it paired with Beatitudes change the reading from when it is read in Lent?
  • Bible Study

“Situated between two seaports. It was a place where traditions converged, where various languages were spoken and ideas were exchanged as eagerly as money for exotic goods.

Corinth also had more than its share of corruption and vice: the disparity between rich and poor was painfully evident and, as one might expect under such circumstances, prostitution was rampant. In the first century, Corinth was where fortunes were made and where more than a few lives were sacrificed in the process.”

  • Wisdom and Foolishness
    • Passage contains both universal truth and particular application
      • Corinthian church must have been diverse.  Evidence that while most Christians were poor and uneducated, not all were.
      • What do our churches look like?  The makeup of many mainline, middle class congregations is the opposite - mostly comfortably wealthy, with some poor mixed in.
      • Truth remains, “God did not choose you because you deserved to be chosen.  God chose those who are undeserving, by the world’s logic, in order to confound the logic of the world.” Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 124
      • Is there room for intellectualism in the church? Or do
    • God’s wisdom is different than the world’s wisdom
      • “Paul asserts that the cross of Jesus Christ reveals the power of God.  While for Christians some twenty centuries removed from Paul, and accustomed to the cross as a symbol in churches and even in jewelry, this assertion may seem inoffensive, it must have struck some of Paul’s contemporaries as the ravings of a madman.  The cross was, in fact, the antithesis of power - except as it revealed the power of the Roman Empire to crush those regarded as opponents.” Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 123
    • “The Jews” looking for a Davidic monarch
    • “The Greeks” looking for esteem, power, and beauty.
    • Frederick Buechner:

“The message that a convicted felon was the bearer of God's forgiving and transforming love was hard enough for anybody to swallow and for some especially so. For hellenized sophisticates-the Greeks, as Paul puts it - it could only seem absurd. What uglier, more supremely inappropriate symbol of, say, Plato's Beautiful and Good could there be than a crucified Jew? And for the devout Jew, what more scandalous image of the Davidic king-messiah, before whose majesty all the nations were at last to come to heel?

Paul understood both reactions well. "The folly of what we preach," he called it (1:21), and he knew it was folly not just to the intellectually and religiously inclined but to the garden variety Corinthians who had no particular pretensions in either direction but simply wanted some reasonably plausible god who would stand by them when the going got rough.

Paul's God didn't look much like what they were after, and Paul was the first to admit it. Who stood by Jesus when the going got rough, after all? He even goes so far as to speak of "the foolishness of God" (1:25). What other way could you describe a deity who chose as his followers not the movers and shakers who could build him a temple to make Aphrodite's look like two cents but the weak, the despised, the ones who were foolish even as their God was and poor as church mice?”

  • Preaching Thoughts and Questions:
    • What is the folly that we must preach? In the midst of American Civil Religion, it is imperative to reclaim the foolishness of the Gospel.
    • What does the world reward?  The system of the world has created a situation where 85 people have as much material wealth as 3.5 billion combined.  Where is the wisdom in such a system?
    • Sometimes the only way to be a disciple of Jesus is to do that which makes no sense.  Do the beatitudes make any sense?  Does Jesus teaching make sense?  Does an empty tomb make sense?  Do grace, mercy, and justice make sense?  

Transition Music: Closing - “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin

TY: listeners
Opening Music: I Got You Babe, by Sonny and Cher
Transition Music: Blessed by Simon and Garfunkel
Transition Music: “Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
Theme Music: Dick Dale and the Deltones “Misirlou”
Closing music, “Oh No” by Paul & Storm

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