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Year A, Ordinary 15, 2017 – Good Guy, Bad Guy, Same Guy?

July 12, 2017 / Molly Douthett / Ordinary Time

Welcome back! I spent a couple weeks lately playing Batman: Arkham City. I’m not a huge fan of the Batverse, but two of the passages for this week brought a character from this world to mind for me – Harvey Dent, aka Two Face. In the complex world of Batman, Harvey Dent did not begin his time as a villain. He originally was a district attorney who turned to crime after he was attacked with an acid that gave him disfiguring burns on one side of his body. He did not handle this new reality well and descended into madness which expresses itself as an obsessive pursuit of duality. This Good Guy/Bad Guy occupying the same space is a classic literary theme. Despicable Me 3 raises the question of whether a character is good or bad or a little of both and in his review of Marcus Borg’s Days of Awe and Wonder, Tom Long points out Borg’s own binary path to faith. In the Lectionary selections for this Sunday, twins wrestling for dominance in Genesis and the apostle Paul’s dual options for obedience echo this two faced struggle. I’m still not entirely certain how this theme expresses itself in the Gospel, except that one can either hear and reject Jesus’ message, or hear and understand it and bear bountiful fruit. Let’s go take a look.

(We bought some new sound equipment that we aren’t used to yet, so please excuse some rough spots in the audio quality this week. The learning curve isn’t too steep, so it should be better from here on. Thanks for your patience.)

This week’s texts are:  

Genesis 25:19-34 [01:59]  

While we tend to shy away from WORD smart in favor of bringing out the other intelligences, the origin stories of Genesis are difficult to bypass. By the time they were written down, they had likely been told as oral history for generations. Any good story teller will select generously from the palette of literary techniques, as we illustrate with Aesop the Fableist and the folk tales surrounding Paul Bunyan. In BODY smart, we consider infertility and multiple births, as well as suggest making and serving lentil stew. The timing of this meal could be crucial! Was hunting in Esau’s day much different than in ours? We have some links in NATURE smart. Finally, was Jacob a good guy who had to game the system in order to survive or a not so good guy who took advantage of his family to come out on top? We have some questions to consider in PEOPLE smart.


Romans 8:1-11 [10:54] 

Binary options run through this passage from Romans. Paul is getting deeper and deeper into his thesis in these verses – that thesis is this: as a disciple of Christ, you have a choice. Set your mind to live in the Spirit or set your mind to live in the flesh. Whichever choice you make, there are consequences, and Paul’s descriptions of them are vivid. He is working hard to make a sale for the first option, and in EYE smart, we have some illustrations for comparative advertising. In MATH smart, we wonder if Paul is laying a foundation or a capstone with this passage. A little of both maybe! We have some NATURE illustrations that may help people understand the ongoing reality of living into this faith. While Paul is writing to a fellowship of believers, each person must learn to discipline their lives as forgiven people. We have some ideas in SELF smart that could be very powerful learning options.


Matthew 13:​1-9​, 18-23 [22:32] 

At first glance, this parable of the Sower does not seem to lend itself to the dual theme apparent in Romans and Genesis. But wait! Jesus tells this parable because he has been facing some fierce opposition to his ministry. As he ends the story, he even says, “Let anyone with ears, listen!” In other words, make a decision. In WORD smart, we look at the literary use of parable and allegory and offer some examples to illustrate it. We have a unique challenge for a special effect, too! Stories are rich soil for musical settings, so we have some options in MUSIC smart. Again, another challenge – write your own song!  We are back to the idea of hearing in order to understand in PEOPLE smart and in SELF smart we have questions for you, the preacher and disciple.


Image credit: Copyright: stocking / 123RF Stock Photo. Used by permission.


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