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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 17C RCL September 1, 2013

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Psalm 81, 1, 10-16

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Luke 14:1, 7-14

Our opening reading, from the prophet Jeremiah, dates back to 626 B. C. E. After God has been with the people every step of the way, guiding them from slavery into the promised land, they have turned to “worthless things,” to idols, specifically the worship of Baal, the fertility god.

In our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we have a powerful and inspiring description, almost a blueprint, for life in Christian community. We are called to love each other, to extend hospitality, which means to love everyone we meet. We are called to “remember those who are in prison and those who are being tortured.” I know we are all praying for those who are suffering in Syria, as well as in other places around the world. We are called to be faithful to our spouses. We are called to put money in its proper place as a gift from God and not to be caught up in greed. And above all, we are called to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our gospel for today picks up on these themes. In the part left out at the beginning of the reading, Jesus has just healed a man with palsy on the Sabbath. As we have noted, he is always calling us to look at the spirit of the law, not the letter. He is available to heal and free people. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day.

Jesus is invited to go to a Sabbath meal at the home of a Pharisee. Scholars tell us that when a host planned a meal in those days, he was very careful to place each guest in the appropriate seat according to his social status. Especially at an important event such as a wedding feast, people were vying for the places of honor. This was just the way it was. Status was everything.

Into this stratified setting, Jesus brings the vision of his kingdom, his shalom, where the last shall be first and the first shall be last. He tells us not to jostle for position, not to seek the limelight. He says to sit in the most humble place. He is not talking about that kind of false pride which goes and sits in the back seat hoping to be recognized and given the place of honor. He is talking about true humility, total lack of selfcenteredness. The word “humility,” as we know, comes from the root word humus, good, fertile soil open for planting. When we are people of humility, we are open to God’s leading and teaching and love and healing. We are not concerned about power and prestige and status. We know that God loves us more than we could even imagine. And that is enough for us. We are beyond the old world-weary template of seeking power and prestige. We are more interested in helping others than in finding fame and fortune for ourselves. The quality of humility, and the gifts of love and hospitality are clearly evident here at Grace, and that is one reason among many why it is such a joy to be with you.

Jeremiah’s words, written down by his scribe Baruch, may date back almost three thousand years, but we humans still forsake God and worship idols. Most analysts agree that the sin of greed was a major factor in creating the Great Recession. Jesus said that we cannot serve God and money, but some of us haven’t gotten that message. That is one of the major idols in our world today. Power and prestige are two others. There are many groups and people who would scoff at Jesus’ words in today’s gospel. But we do not scoff. We take our Lord’s call to humility very seriously.

Our epistle for today never ceases to amaze me. What fresh, timeless words to live by. Love for everyone, hospitality—feeding and welcoming everyone, and faithfulness in word and deed are the foundation stones of our life together.

This past Wednesday we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the I Have a Dream Speech of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The work of achieving equality for all people is essential to the bringing in of God’s kingdom.

We are also praying and thinking about what is going on in Syria. Driving in the car on Friday, I heard a report from a BBC correspondent in which a father was bringing in his seven month old son for treatment after one of the attacks. The father had been injured as well. My baby grand daughter had just left the day before. The little seven month old baby boy was crying constantly from his wounds. His cries sounded just like the cries of my grand daughter, just like the cries of any baby.

I am not trying to say anything about what we should do in this situation, but these two events this week are both part of the fabric of God’s kingdom, the big family that God is trying to create.

When we are called to “let mutual love continue,” and to extend hospitality to strangers, that includes our brothers and sisters of all races. It transcends and dissolves all barriers that are set up to divide people. And it is based on the truth of God’s love for all people. Those babies and children crying are our grandchildren and our nieces and nephews in the family of God.

The other news story that I happened to see on TV was about a hospital in Israel that is taking in patients who have been injured in Syria. The doctors and other medical personnel are Jewish. The Syrians have been long-term enemies. The medical folks are highly skilled. The care given to burn victims and children and adults who need amputations requires extensive training and expertise. The monetary value of this care is extremely high, in the thousands upon thousands for each patient. The medical folks have no idea where any payment is going to come from. People are bringing these patients to them and one of the doctors said, “They need help, and we are helping them.” That is the shalom of God.

“Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Amen.

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