Lent 4A

Providence Rhode Island Skyline by Alex Grinchenko


212: March 26, 2017

Psalm 23 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Voice in the Wilderness:  Ephesians 5:8-14 with Sarah Jayne Hewitt

Featured Musician - Christopher Grundy, “Here in Providence” from his album Here in Providence.

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  • Stations of the Gospel Mark
  • Stations of the Gospel Luke
  • Two similar resources to set up a “Stations of the Cross” style self-guided prayer and reflection. Each reflection builds toward the Cross, but emphasizes the life and ministry of Jesus that led him to the cross, and de-emphasizes substitutionary atonement.


56: March 30, 2014


John 9: 1-41- Jesus: Sinner or Prophet?

Initial thoughts

Bible Study

  • Structure
    • Healing
    • Pharisee Investigation
    • “The Jews” Investigation
    • Spiritual Blindness
  • The Blind Man
  • Man’s blindness
    • Not about sin, about God at work within the Man’s Blindness
    • Instead of a curse his blindness is seen as a blessing - a chance to see God’s work
      • Jesus is responding to the Pharisees who seem to be looking for an excuse not to help or serve the blind man
      • Jesus’s response is not about explaining the blindness away or telling the blind man to be blessed in his blindness, but to in clude the blind man within the realm of God’s blessing
    • Jesus does not explain the blindness in terms of “sin”
    • How do we justify not helping our neighbors? In what ways do we “explain” poverty, isolation, addiction simply as “their” problem and not our responsibility?
  • Divine Providence (George Stroup, Feasting on the Word, year A vol. 2)
    • General Providence: God "watches over the order of nature set by himself." John Calvin (from Calvin’s Institutes)
    • Special Providence: “God so attends to the regulation of individual events, and they all so proceed from his set plan, that nothing takes place by chance." John Calvin (from Calvin’s Institutes)
    • Heidelberg Catechism in response to what the first line of the Apostle’s Creed means, “whatever evil he [God] sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father."
    • How does one hold to divine providence in light of the horrors of mass genocide (Armenia, Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, etc)? Was all this “so that God's works might be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)
    • Stroup: Jesus is speaking to a specific issue not making a broad theological claim - “[N]ot a Christian explanation of history, nor is it a compelling rational answer to and explanation of the horrors of the twentieth century. Providence is a confession by those who are given the eyes of faith that in particular events God works in, around, through those things that oppose God, to accomplish God's purposes.” ~ George W. Stroup, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary - Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 2: Lent through Eastertide.
  • Jesus rejects any interpretation that connects the man’s blindness to sin, but instead focused not on the cause of the malady but on the healing.
    • The result of the blindness is rejection from the community
    • The result of the healing should be acceptance back in, except the community rejects the miracle in favor of the status quo.
    • Not about sin, about God at work within the Man’s Blindness
    • Instead of a curse his blindness is seen as a blessing - a chance to see God’s work
      • Jesus is responding to the Pharisees who seem to be looking for an excuse not to help or serve the blind man
      • Jesus’s response is not about explaining the blindness away or telling the blind man to be blessed in his blindness, but to include the blind man within the realm of God’s blessing
    • Jesus does not explain the blindness in terms of “sin”
    • How do we justify not helping our neighbors? In what ways do we “explain” poverty, isolation, addiction simply as “their” problem and not our responsibility?
  • Rejection of the healed man
    • Investigation:
    • No one, not the formerly blind man, parents, neighbors, pharisees or religious community can explain what happened. Only the blind man has the grace and faith to simply step back and say ”thank you”.
    • More concerned with the fact he is healed than they were that he was a beggar.
    • How do we respond when someone in need comes to our community? How do we respond when someone has an irrational experience with the divine?
    • Nothing worse than someone we have condemned being redeemed
      • Why is this?
    • Everyone rejects him
      • Community
      • Religious authorities
      • Family
    • Response
      • Reject: Fear, Anger, Derision, God-limiting
      • Accept: Wonder, humility, God-expanding
  • Our Theology Box- Is our God too small?
    • How do we continue to explore God , but remain open to the mystery that is God?
    • The Pharisees force God into their theological box of faithfulness and sinfulness
    • How often do we force people into our theological boxes?
    • Do we promote a creative theology or a static theology?
      • How? What do we convey in worship? Prayer? Song? Look?
    • It is about Orthodoxy, Orthopraxis or about simply showing up  and being part of the community?
      • Holding one another responsible
      • Not about being poor or rich, being a drug addict or a suburban soccer dad, about acknowledging our own blindness and seeing one another a fellow children of God.

 Preaching Thoughts and Questions

  • Sometimes we feel unable or ill equipped to witness to God’s glory, perhaps we need to simply share the good things God has done in our lives and leave the theology alone.
  • Are we willing to embrace the mysteries of faith - that God is present in and among our lives even though bad things happen? Can we thank God for the good things in life without blaming someone for the bad things?
    • Perhaps it is time to say, “I don’t know why this happened, but I am happy that it is now better.”
  • How much of our status quo are we willing to sacrifice in order to bring about the Kingdom of God? Change is very difficult and the unknown can be terrifying - are we willing to let go of the present norm in order to embrace a new reality?
  • How do we justify not helping our neighbors? In what ways do we “explain” poverty, isolation, addiction simply as “their” problem and not our responsibility?
  • How often do we force people into our theological boxes?
  • Do we promote a creative theology or a static theology?
    • How? What do we convey in worship? Prayer? Song? Look?
  • It is about Orthodoxy, Orthopraxis or about simply showing up  and being part of the community?

Psalm 23 - The Lord is My Shepherd

Initial thoughts

  • Psalm Song - “My Love Is My Shepherd” by Richard Bruxvoort Colligan
  • Check out Joan Stott’s Timeless Psalms (and from 2011)
  • “So, I’ve never heard this passage before in my life,” said almost no one.
    • According to Wikipedia, quoted in Titanic, Deep Blue Sea, We Were Soldiers, Van Helsing, Lost, Terminator: Salvation, The Book of Eli, True Grit, and War Horse.
  • Use C ommon English - important translation issues and the newness of it will wake people out of “Oh, I’ve heard this already.”

Bible Study

  • Psalm of Assurance and Trust
  • Joan Stott points to three aspects of God: Shepherd, Comforter, Host.
    • Shepherd is strong, and gives us courage
    • In the call to worship she writes, “in life’s complex mix, your loving arms are always open to us. We come with our fears and anxiety quietened, because you are always with us.”
    • God’s generosity and hospitality is radical and remarkable.
  • Clint McCann includes Psalm 23 in his book Great Psalms of the Bible.
    • Often considered “Funeral Psalm”
      • Not a funeral Psalm in history, or in other cultures.  American churches and pop culture have put it into the realm of funerals.
      • Actually “it is as much about life and living as it is about death and dying.” (Great Psalms of the Bible, McCann, p 45).
    • Shepherd metaphor is often heard as a distinctly political metaphor.
      • King David is the shepherd King.  The Lord is my Shepherd can be seen as a cry that “You [whichever corrupt political leader is in power right now] aren’t my shepherd”
      • Green pasture imply food for all, no one goes wanting.
      • Cup overflowing implies need to share.
      • Not a call to arms, but to peacemaking at the table.
      • Res t in God provides security and peace: “The grateful acceptance of God’s gift of life is the foundation of genuine security” (McCann, p. 52)
  • Table for One
    • What if the table is for one?
      • What does it mean to be at the table with your enemies?
        • "Every time we try to draw a line between us and others, Jesus is on the other side." Nadia Bolz-Weber
      • “Goodness and Mercy pursue me.”
        • Pursue, not follow.  Pursuit is active, stalking.  It is the same word as is used when enemies pursue.
        • There is an edge to the pursuit of God, and sometimes, only when we pause long enough to take a deep breath may that mercy catch up to us.

Preaching Thoughts and Questions

  • How can Scripture be used as a comfort, guide, and friend.  How can familiar be a danger, lose the edge of a poem and relegate it to “special occasions.”
  • Where are your green pastures?  When can you take the time to lie down?
  • Take the darkest valley seriously.  God’s presence is there.

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Initial Thoughts

  • David did more than kill Goliath.

Bible Study

  • The Set Up - 1 Samuel 8-15 are important to the setting.
    • 8 - Israel demands a king.
      • 8:12-18 Samuel: “He will take your sons, and will use them for his chariots and his cavalry… He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, or bakers. He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. He will give one-tenth of your grain and your vineyards to his officials and servants. He will take your male and female servants, along with the best of your cattle, donkeys, and make them do his work…When that day comes, you will cry out because of the king you choose for yourselves, but on that day the Lord won’t answer you.”
      • People: “No! There must be a king over us so we can be like all the other nations. Our king will judge us and lead us and fight our battles.”
    • 9 - Saul chosen to lead Israel
      • 9:17 “When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, ‘That’s the man I told you about. That’s the one who will rule my people.’”
    • 10 - Samuel anoints Saul as king
      • 10:24 “Can you see the one that the LORD has chosen?” Samuel asked all the people. “He has no equal among the people.”
    • 12:13 Samuel to Saul, after Saul does the post-battle offering without Samuel. He overreaches his domain, taking on the role of priest/prophet where he doesn’t belong. And he did so out of fear and military prudency. “‘How stupid of you to have broken the commands the Lord your God gave you.’ Samuel told Saul, ‘The Lord would have established your rule over Israel forever, but now your rule won’t last. The LORD will search for a man following the LORD’S own heart, and the LORD will commision him as leader over God’s people, because you didn’t keep the LORD’s command.’”
    • 15 Saul is commanded to defeat the Amalekites and completely and utterly destroy it all - a common practice of a holy war that proved fidelity from the victor because the battle was not over material gain or wealth. Saul disobeys - not because of a moral high-ground or disgust at such a command, but that so he could pay his soldiers.
    • 15:10-11 “Then the LORD’s word came to Samuel: ‘I regret making Saul king because he has turned away from following me and hasn’t done what I said.’ Samuel was upset with this, and prayed to the LORD all night long.”
    • 15:35 “Samuel never saw Saul again before he died, but he grieved over Saul. However, the Lord regretted making Saul king over Israel.”
      • This passage is set up by the God who regrets.
      • God and Samuel had made Saul King, and they made a mistake.
  • The Rise of David
    • “With the appearance of David, we begin a new piece of literature. Scholars commonly refer to this extended literary piece as ‘The Rise of David.’ The narrative begins with David as an unknown, unvalued shepherd boy and ends with David fully established as the ‘shepherd of Israel.’ The narrative traces David’s rise to prominence and power. Each step of the way is authorized by the will of Yahweh that David should become king… The most interesting interpretive question is the way in which the hidden purpose of Yahweh is worked out through the awkward and raw events of historical interaction” (Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: 1 and 2 Samuel, p. 119)
    • “Actually there are three explanation as to how it happened that David came to Saul’s court. Actually there are three separate stories, each of which focuses on a particular characteristic of what must be regarded as the legendary and ideal David. The first of these three stories describes how David, an innocent shepherd boy, was selected and anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s successor. The emphasis here is on David the unpretentious lad ‘chosen of Yahweh’ for greatness. In folkloric fashion, seven other brothers are passed over, young David is selected, and his career thrust upon him. [the second story is that of David as musician, and the third is that of David the giant killer]” (J Maxwell Miller and John Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah, p. 160)
  • The anointing of David
    • V. 1-3 God gets Samuel to make preparations, but the pick has already been made.
      • This isn’t an audition.
      • This is dangerous, and Samuel knows it. “It is hazardous to anoint a king when there already is a king.. Yahweh does not blink at Samuel’s fear, but instructs him precisely on how to skirt the problem.” (Brueggemann, Interpretation, p. 121)
    • V. 4-5 Elders of Bethlehem mirror Samuel’s concern. Either is Samuel is Saul’s man, which is almost never good to get a visit from the King; or he isn’t, and receiving Samuel puts them against the King. God’s ruse works (is it okay to lie?)
    • V. 6-11 The rejection of the seven brothers
      • Do not be fooled by physical presence (like Saul)
      • Looking for a “right heart”
      • Eighth son - one outside the completed number.
      • Wait for the ‘eighth son’
    • V. 12-13 The anointing
      • The act is private and not publicized.
      • Physical appearance not important, BUT David is a good-looking guy. Not that it matters.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • David is made king as a response to God’s regret. David is God’s second choice. In fact, God wanted no king, but relented and picked Saul. Then he regretted that decision and picked David. One could have a lot of fun thinking about the fact that David was the second pick. David - the King, the Anointed One, the symbol of all that was great about Israel and the United Kingdom,  the ancestor of Jesus - was God’s second pick.
    • In 2007 the Portland Trailblazers chose Greg Oden as the No 1 pick in the draft. Oden played a handful of unremarkable seasons and the Blazers have been a middling team ever since, never doing better than 4th in the Western Conference. The second pick was Kevin Durant, who is now considered a top 5 player in the NBA, once won an MVP, and led his team to the NBA Finals within five years.
    • In 1984, Sam Bowie was the second man selected - also by the Trail Blazers. Bowie had an unremarkable 10 year career and never made an all-star team. The next man selected was Michael Jordan.
  • There are three main ways that David is introduced - Shepherd, Musician, and Warrior. Why is it that Warrior is - by far - the most popular? David, the youngest, almost forgotten, least-likely to be picked to be King is almost always ignored compared to David who killed Goliath.
  • “The young David is one of the marginal people. He is uncredentialed and has no social claim to make.” (Brueggemann, Interpretation, p. 124).

Thank you for listening and get in touch!

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 The Steel Wheels for our transition music(“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).