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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 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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Pentecost 25 Proper 27C RCL November 10, 2013

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

This sermon will be brief to allow a report on Diocesan Convention. In our opening reading today, the people are returning from exile in Babylon to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Bruce Metzger, the editor of the Oxford Annotated Bible, writes that the process of returning took place in four stages, beginning under King Cyrus of Persia about 538 B.C. This is the second stage of the return, in about 520 B. C. God says, “My Spirit abides among you; do not fear.” God has shaken the nations, Empires have risen and have fallen, but God will fill the temple with splendor and will be with the people.

In our gospel, the Sadducees are asking a question in order to ridicule the idea of the resurrection. If a woman has been married to seven men, which one will she be married to in heaven? Jesus says that heaven is different from earth. There, people do not marry. Scholars point out that Jesus is trying to dismiss this irrelevant question. However, we have just celebrated All Saints Sunday. We believe that we will go to heaven, and there we will see those who have gone before us. Most of us will not have to cope with seven former spouses, but what if we have had a marriage or a relationship that was abusive. Will we have to dread meeting that person? What if we have been sexually abused? Will we have to meet all of our perpetrators? Or even any of them? Some commentators have actually posed these questions, and the consensus seems to be that heaven is a very big place, and our loving God makes it safe for everyone.

In our epistle, Paul is addressing an issue that faced the early Church. First century Christians thought that Jesus was going to come again at any moment. Sometimes, teachers would come along and stir up people. Herbert O’Driscoll tells us that, in Jewish thinking of that time, there was a belief that great turmoil would come before the end of the world. As we know, some people today believe that because there is such turmoil in the world, the end is coming any minute. The fact is that there is always great turmoil in the world.

Paul tells the Thessalonians and us that we need to avoid fear and hold fast to faith. He ends the letter with this encouraging benediction: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, Who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.”

After several decades, the exiles return home to rebuild at last. It’s a daunting task, but God is with them. People try to trip up Jesus with silly questions, but nothing can divert him or us from the promise of new life in Christ. People try to put fear into the hearts of the Thessalonians, but Paul calls them and us to have faith in God’s love and presence with us.

The other day, someone asked me whether I thought we were in the “end times.” This person, a loving and caring woman, was afraid that she was not going to make it into heaven. We talked about how God wants everyone to be in heaven, and how God is creating a big family and we are all part of that family. There is so much fear in the world these days over so many things. In one way or another, all of our lessons today are calling us to replace that fear with faith in our loving God, who has come to live among us and lead us into newness of life.

Dear Lord, strengthen our faith. Help us to let go of fear and trust in you. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.