Lent 3C

image: “Metanóia” Sondel (Flickr)


156: February 28, 2016

316: March 24, 2019

Featured Musician: Heatherlyn

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Voice in the Wilderness: Nelson Pierce

Psalmist: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Luke 13:1-9

Initial Thoughts

  • Repent or perish!! Seems a little harsh

  • Seems very “John the Baptist-y”

Bible Study

  • Context

    • Slaughter of the Galileans

      • not mentioned outside the Gospel of Luke

      • Presumably refers to Galileans who were killed by Pilate while offering sacrifices at the Temple

    • Jesus is asked to comment on the political issues of the moment- the slaughter of the Galileans, but instead of railing against the oppressive injustice of Pilate- he instead turns the focus back on the crowd- demanding repentance from them. True change begins with us.

  • Sin and suffering

    • God does not enact external punishment on “sinners”

    • Immediate rejection that the Galileans were killed because they were sinners or that this tragedy was God’s punishment

    • God’s wrath seems much more tied to our choice to change our hearts and minds to accept and share God’s grace than external factors

    • Awful things happen, but it is worse to deny or reject God’s love and grace

  • Repent?

    • Terrible translation of metanoia which means a change of Mind, a change in the trend and action of the whole inner nature, intellectual, affectional and moral.

    • The Greek does not contain any sense of regret or moralistic implication but rather a complete and total change of heart, gut, soul and mind

    • Common English Bible is a much better translation

    • About being transformed - not about feeling guilty

  • Barren Fig Tree

    • Allegory - God as the landowner, Christ as the Gardener and we are the fig tree

    • Classical theology as summed up in Romans 3:23 “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

      • We have all failed to bear the fruit expected of us and, therefore, are deserving to be cut down

      • Christ intercedes on our behalf (like the Gardener) and does everything in his power to help us bear good fruit (care, till, fertilize, etc)

      • Still gives us a set time to bear fruit - change our hearts and minds - or face imminent wrath

    • How to handle this in a more progressive sense? There is something to this even if you are not a sacrificial atonement theologian (i.e. Christ died for our sins)

      • Affirm that God’s grace is a gift which is not earned

      • God’s grace can only be fully accepted when we change our hearts and lives toward God and neighbor

      • Eternal life is living in full relationship with God, self and neighbor

      • Christ shows us how to live in that fullness of life

      • By following Christ’s way we have a chance and a choice to accept God and other centeredness and life or self-centeredness and death

      • The “wrath” of God is as much one of our own choosing as it is God’s

Thoughts and Questions

  • Are you and your church honest about the radical transformation required by the Gospel?

    • Are we honest about the complete “change of mind, trend and action of our inner whole” in order to follow Christ or do we make the Gospel palatable and relatable in order to get more members?

    • UMC - “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

  • Jesus is more concerned about being honest regarding the demands of a faithful life- are we willing to be that honest?

  • Jesus is asked to comment on the political issues of the moment- the slaughter of the Galileans, but instead of railing against the oppressive injustice of Pilate- he instead turns the focus back on the crowd- demanding repentance from them. True change begins with us.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Initial Thoughts

  • Tricky exegesis that Paul is doing here.

    • What do you do when Scripture writers treat Scripture in ways we shouldn’t?

      • (We’re looking at you too, Matthew and the “young woman.”)

    • Do we presume to read the text better than Paul?

  • Eternal Christ - wish we could ask Richard Rohr about this concept as it applies here.

Bible Study

  • Literary context

    • Part of a larger explanation to the Corinthian Church about eating foods that have been sacrificed. This issue clearly was a point of contention within the church.

    • Paul’s argument is a subtle one, declaring that people shouldn’t eat of the idol food not because of the food per say, or as a guard against actual idolatry, but as way to protect those vulnerable to back sliding.

    • He offers two examples. The first is himself. He doesn’t eat, even though he knows he can, because it is the right thing to do among new Christians.

    • The second is the Israelites. They grumbled and sinned and God didn’t allow them into the Promised Land.

      • This argument includes the paraphrase (1 Cor. 9:20-21) “To the Jews I am a Jew, to the Gentiles, I am a Gentile.”

    • The Corinthians must avoid this so that they may make it to the Kingdom.

    • This is a precursor to 10:14 “So then, my dear friends, run away from the worship of false gods!” and 10:23  “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial.”

  • Comparing Corinthians to Israelites in Wilderness

    • Parallel experiences of the Israelites in the wilderness and the early church. Like any good preacher, he is connecting the experience of the people to the story of Scripture.

    • “In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Paul includes a rather bizarre retelling of Israel’s exodus to illustrate for the Corinthians their own precarious position as a church living in a wilderness time -- a limbo of sorts between their newfound freedom in Christ and the waited fruition of God’s kingdom.

    • “In this period of waiting, Paul urges the floundering church to learn from the mistakes of their “ancestors” and to be faithful to the jealous God of Israel.” (Carla Works, Working Preacher)

    • “Throughout this passage, Paul describes the inherited tradition -- the story of Exodus and Israel’s wandering in the wilderness -- as examples of what not to do (1 Corinthians 10:6-7, 9, 10). Paul appeals to the Jewish ancestors’ experience as his pedagogical strategy (Exodus 13:21-22; 14:22). He rehearses past failures to instruct the Corinthians on what errors to avoid. The Corinthians should not repeat the blunders of the past.” (Shively Smith, Working Preacher)

  • Adam Hamilton’s Half Truths has a chapter called “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

    • Important to keep the word “tempted” and not “tested” as some try to do.

      • This is not about bad things happening to people to test their faith.

      • The context makes this more clear, but still this phrase persists.

    • Corinth was a port city with many pagan influences.

      • There were many temples, many of them connected to sex, drunkenness, and excesses

      • “Most of the newly minted Christians Paul was addressing had been pagans until the church was founded. They were trying to leave behind the idol worship and the temple prostitutes that were part of religious life… They were trying to follow Jesus, but some of them were going back to their former ways, and Paul was trying to help them.” (p. 82-83).

    • Paul was connecting their story to the Israelites story.

      • See, they were tempted too. When they fell into temptation things didn’t go so well.

      • This passage is a warning and a word of encouragement because following Jesus should affect your life.

      • There are temptations that are damaging to a person, and following Christ should help

Thoughts and Questions

  • Mainline Christians don’t like to talk about sin and temptation. When it comes to sin, we are often “live and let live,” or “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But we must tell the truth about how sin can be damaging to people. How do we walk the line between moralistic legalism and grace-filled encouragement? Sin hurts people. To pretend it doesn’t is to be dishonest. Sexual sin is real. We may not define it in the same way that our conservative evangelicals may define it, but if we pretend it doesn’t exist than the only group that is defining sexual sin is them.

  • Application from the Africa Study Bible “Those who suggest that Africa has become the center of Christianity probable look at the number of new churches that have been planted and the number of people who attend our church services. However, the growth of the church in Africa cannot be measured by the number of people [alone]... All the Israelites saw the powerful miracles of God as they travelled through the wilderness. But God was not please with all the Israelites, and they were scattered… Think of those who started on the Christian journey with you. How many are still serving God? Be sure to stand strong in times of God’s blessings. Also stand strong in your Christian faith and conduct in times of suffering and need. Real believers show their faith when water dries up, when meat is no more, when manna become tasteless, when the enemy is threatening, and when God seems so far away. You may experience moments like these bt stand firm. He is ‘faithful and will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.’” (p. 1673)

  • Remember the question we asked of the Gospel: Are you and your church honest about the radical transformation required by the Gospel?

    • Are we honest about the complete “change of mind, trend and action of our inner whole” in order to follow Christ or do we make the Gospel palatable and relatable in order to get more members?

Isaiah 55:1-9

Initial Thoughts

  • v. 9 seems like a strange place to stop. Every commentary includes 1-13 as a unit. It is the whole of chapter 55, and the end of Second Isaiah. Stopping at 9 seems to end mid-thought.

  • Argument against including 10-13, this makes the reading a little long, and doesn’t really introduce any new ideas. It is more about the mysterious and yet effective nature of God. Expounds on the celebration that is to come, and the renewal of the land and the people, that even the mountains and trees will celebrate.

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • End of Deutero Isaiah, which began with ch 40. (argued)

    • Ch 40 starts with Comfort, a road being made through the Wilderness, a reflection on the withering nature of loyalty, but a promise that “God’s word will exist forever.”

      • Of particular import if you include v. 10-13, which includes affirmation that God’s word will not return to me empty, and that it will provide bread, and plants, and flowers.

    • Ch 55 begins with the invitation to come and drink and eat. In a way, this chapter is the completion of the road through the Wilderness. .

  • Two main themes are the Banquet, with its invitation being open to all; and Repentance, which is God’s ultimate will for all.

    • v. 1-5 Invitation to all to come to God’s Banquet

      • “To the hearer on the edge of exile and in the midst of real displacement from the land which God promised, what is promised here is outrageous. The economy of the promise here reiterated is built not upon the scarcity of exile but upon God’s abundance.” (Samuel Giere, Working Preacher)

      • Only requirement: Thirst and Hunger

        • Chastises those who spend money on things that are not necessities.

        • Extravagances are mocked, but Listening to God is what matters.

      • Covenant with David is still strong, but now it is extended to the community - not just the monarchy and the elite.

      • “A Nation you don’t know.”

        • God is opening up the covenant to include others.

        • God is using nations and leaders (Cyrus) that no one expected

        • God is doing a new thing in new ways - And people may reject that.

    • v. 6-9 Call for all to seek the Lord

      • Seek the Lord - while he can still be found

        • Invitation to all, but limited in time. God is patient, but decision to seek must be made.

        • Mercy offered to those who return to the Lord

        • :”My plans aren’t your plans,”

          • Human plans are often for vengeance and retribution.

        • Only repentance and pardon can open up relationship with God. Anything that we plan to take us to God will fall short.

Thoughts and Questions

  • Invitation to the Great Banquet is open to all. The only requirement is hunger and thirst. Reminiscent of the beatitudes - “Blessed are the hungry and thirsty.” God’s Banquet is open to “the people” and to “nations you do not know.” A radical new understanding of God’s people. Coming at the end of exile, the road through the wilderness has come to this place, where all are welcome and the loyalty for David is extended to all.

  • God wills forgiveness and peace. Human plans get in the way of that all the time, but God’s plan is for forgiveness. While humans like to scheme vengeance and punishment, God’s plan is not like that. This is not the trite “It must be a part of God’s plan” in reference to suffering. God’s plan is not for suffering, and we just have to sit back and figure it out someday. God’s will is peace, but sometimes human plans get in the way.

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 Bryan Odeen for our closing music.