The Genesis reading takes us into the “Jacob Cycle” with the story of the twins, Jacob and Esau (Gen 25:19-34). Themes of miraculous births, younger sons usurping older sons, and duelling nations continue. Theologically, these passages affirm that God chooses the frail, sinful, and broken to receive God’s promises and partner in God’s mission, a theme that continues in Romans 8:1-11. We also discuss the parable of the sower/seeds in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – a passage that speaks about the abundance and reckless generosity of God.
We refer to Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith, and Revolution, Beverley Gaventa’s When in Romans, Brendan Byrne’s Romans Commentary, Warren Carter’s Matthew Commentary, Ben Myers’ Ten Rules for Preaching Parables, and Bill Loader’s Lectionary page.
This week the lectionary offers a rare chance to preach on the love poetry known as Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). Hebrew Bible scholar, Brian Kolia, joins the podcast to unpack Genesis 24:34-38, 58-67, Song of Songs 2:8-13, and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30. We compare Abraham’s quest to get a wife for his son with the erotic, body positive, love poetry of Song of Songs. Themes of place, ethnicity, and love permeate these Old Testament readings, while Matthew’s gospel compares the yoke of Christ with that of the world. We refer to this article by Elaine James.
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This week Robyn and Fran focus on Genesis 22:1-14 – the sacrifice or binding of Isaac. Is this an appalling story of an appalling God? Or a call to obedience in God at all costs? Or a rejection of child sacrifice? We talk about the text being silent on the characters’ psychological dynamics, because of its theological focus. We also discuss Matthew 10:40-42 and note the costly requirement of following Jesus being not simply to offer hospitality, but be willing to be guest – to give up power and control in a genuine posture of missional engagement. We note the nuances in the meaning of ‘welcome’ as it appears in Matthew 10.40.
Power, suffering, conflict, fear, and divine promise are themes in the biblical passages this week. Rachel Kronberger, Uniting Church Minister, joins us to discuss preaching the lectionary readings with a focus on Genesis 21:8-21 and Matthew 10:24-39. We note the importance of Genesis 21 for interfaith relationships and how Matthew speaks a word of comfort to Christians who are under threat but a word of challenge to family peace.
We mention Bill Loader’s lectionary commentary for Matthew 10:24-39.
Rachel Kronberger joins us this week, the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost, when we focus on Genesis 18:1-15 and Matthew 9:35-10:8, with a brief excursus into Romans 5. We trace the covenant promise from Gen 12, and the patience and faith required of Abraham and Sarah. We look closely at Sarah’s role and the subversiveness of her laughter. We note the image of God in Rublev’s (15th cent.) icon with its depiction of the visit of the three figures to Abraham and Sarah as the Trinity, and the way Rublev expresses hospitality in the story. We speak of suffering in both key texts, and note Jesus’ compassion for the people in the Matthew passage, and what it means for the ministry of the whole people of God. We mention Brendan Byrne’s Lifting the Burden, Marylin Robinson’s Home, and Mark Brett’s Genesis.
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Do you have to talk about the Doctrine of the Trinity on Trinity Sunday? Well, no. But this Sunday, in particular, invites us to explore our image(s) of God and what it means for humans to be in that image (Genesis 1). We discuss the relational nature of the God revealed in these texts, how we keep sabbath, and the call to mission in Matthew 28:16-20. We refer to the Enuma Elish and Ben Myers’ tweets on the Trinity.
John Flett joins us this week for a rich conversation about Pentecost and mission. We focus Acts 2:1-21 and John 20:19-23, drawing similarities and contrasts in the way the Spirit is portrayed in each text. We talk joy, peace, freedom, and being sent for the sake of the world, not for our own sake. John outlines ‘what not to do’ in a Pentecost sermon, and then offers a more faithful, radical alternative. We mention John’s latest book Questions of Context, and an article by Craig Barnes, The Spirituality of Quarantine.
Ian Paul joins the conversation to discuss suffering, hope, glory, and discipleship in 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11. We ask what it means to share in Christ’s suffering (specifically) and how we sustain hope in the midst of suffering. We also touch on the ascension in Acts 1:6-14.
Ian Paul blogs about the Bible, theology, and preaching at Psephiz0. You can find a full list of his publications here. We mention this commentary by Ben Witherington and this NYT article by David Brooks.
For Easter 6 (Acts 17:22-31; 1 Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21 and Psalm 66) Robyn and I begin our discussion with 1 Peter 3 by exploring Peter’s description of, and word of comfort for, the unjust suffering in his community. We look at the curious verse 19 “the spirits in prison” and talk about the significance of Christ descending to the dead. We talk about the way the scriptures are realistic about what it is like to live in a world we can’t control, but which shapes and affects us. What is constant is the abiding presence of God and his call on our lives. In this podcast we refer to NT Wright’s article about Christianity and suffering; Leigh Sales’ book Any Ordinary Day; Julia Baird’s book Phosphorescence and William Willimon’s Peculiar Speech: Preaching to the Baptized.
Christian identity and the nature of Christian community in the midst of suffering are themes that run throughout this week’s readings. Fran and Robyn discuss Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 7), John 14:1-14, and 1 Peter 2:2-10 to unpack the numerous metaphors used throughout.
Michael Bird joins the podcast to discuss how he approaches preaching, the image of the Good Shepherd (Ps 23, John 10), the utopian vision of Acts 2, and what we do with the teaching addressed to slaves in 1 Peter 2:18-25. We explore Peter’s teaching on not retaliating, non-violence, and imitating Christ.
Sean Winter joins us this week to continue our focus on 1 Peter, specifically 1 Peter 1:17-23 set for Easter 3. We talk about the nature of holiness as Peter conceives it; the way holiness refers not to individual moral perfection, but to a community’s identity as a consequence of what God has done for us. We discuss exile, and the particular way it is used in 1 Peter, as distinct from Isaiah. In these trying times of isolation, 1 Peter draws us back to see that the Scripture points to that which is enduring: the love of Christ, and the love we are called to give to one another.
How do we proclaim the Good News in the midst of dark times? This episode begins a series focussing on the letter known as 1 Peter, an epistle that appears for several weeks during Easter season this lectionary year. The first epistle of Peter is a letter written to dispersed Christians facing suffering and persecution. We focus here on 1 Peter 1:3-9 and the paradox of rejoicing and finding joy in hard times.
There are great video resources on 1 Peter from the Lambeth Conference group as well as a commentary, 2 chapters of which can be downloaded for free. We mention and recommend this commentary by Eugene Boring on 1 Peter. Here is the link to Garry Worete Deverell’s article on deferring Easter.
Rev Dr Craig Thompson joins us this week to talk about preaching the Resurrection on Easter Sunday – on what may be the strangest Easter for most of us as the covid epidemic rages. Robyn talks about the apocalyptic, cosmic account of the resurrection in Matthew. Craig talks about the Resurrection being ‘God’s yes’ to those who have died’. How might we react to an experience of the presence of God – with fear or joy? What is it to be resurrected with Christ?