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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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Epiphany 4B RCL February 1, 2015

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

Our first reading today is from the Book of Deuteronomy. The people are about to enter the land of Canaan, but Moses is not going with them. Moses is assuring the people that God will provide them with faithful leaders.

Our reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians poses a question which was tearing apart the community in Corinth: Should Christians eat food that is sacrificed to idols? At first glance, this seems like a pretty silly topic. This is not a burning issue for us. But, if we look more deeply into this controversy, it can teach us all kinds of wisdom.

Corinth was a large city which bad many temples dedicated to Greek and Roman deities. If you went to the marketplace to buy meat, all of the meat there had been sacrificed to one or the other of these deities.

When people joined the new faith and became followers of Jesus, some of them felt that it was all right to eat this meat because the Greek and Roman deities were not real gods. There was only one God.

Paul agreed with their thinking. If God is the only true god, then the fact that the meat had been sacrificed to these other deities meant nothing.

Other members of the congregation felt extremely uncomfortable eating meat sacrificed to what they considered idols. On an intellectual or “knowledge” level, they realized that there is only one God, but still the fact that this meat had been sacrificed to Apollo or Artemis did not sit well with them and they chose not to eat the meat.

Paul is asking us to think about the spiritual well being of our brothers and sisters and to put the health of the community first. Some of the folks in Corinth were sure that they were “right.” They were trying to argue their brothers and sisters into doing something that seemed wrong to them. Paul says that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” Logic and reasoning are important, but we are not to use knowledge to bully our brothers and sisters into doing things they consider to be wrong. The most important thing is to love and respect our brothers and sisters in the faith. This is a good passage to keep in mind when the church gets into controversies.

In our gospel, Jesus has called his disciples, and now they go to Capernaum, a city on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus enters the synagogue on the sabbath. His teaching amazes the people.

There is a man with an unclean spirit in the synagogue. The unclean spirit  calls out to Jesus, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus responds with compete authority: “Be silent and come out of him!” The demon leaves. Again, the people are amazed.

This is a healing, and it is also a confrontation between Jesus and the forces of darkness. James M. Childs Jr. of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio writes, “Christ’s triumph over the evils that assail us restores us to community with God and one another. This is a restoration to life and for life. The very real demonic forces of our world, manifest in enmity, jealousy, greed, lust, and manifold forms of cruelty and disregard for life, are divisive. The demonic is mean spirited in its drive to separate us from God and one another and to divide us within ourselves, pitting the impulses of selfishness against the desire to love.”  (Childs, New Proclamation Year B 2002-03, p. 108.)

In this story, our Lord confronts the powers of evil and overcomes them. In the season of Epiphany, the season of light, we remember the words of John’s gospel, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

While we are well acquainted with the love and compassion of our Lord, incidents like this one make it clear that he had no patience with the forces of darkness and brokenness, and that he confronted those forces with unyielding power and conquered them. This is important for us to keep in mind in a world where those forces are so apparent and active. Christ has won the victory over all forces which seek to hurt or enslave God’s children. As Sr. Rachel Hosmer has said, our Lord has won the victory but we are part of the mopping up operation.

Our Lord calls us to build up his kingdom in love, to support each other in our journeys and to reach out to others and extend our Lord’s strength, grace, and healing.

May we follow him. May all our actions be rooted and grounded in love.  Amen.

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