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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 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:…

Pentecost 13 Proper 16B RCL August 23m 2015

1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

In our opening reading, the Ark of the Covenant has been brought to the beautiful new temple. King Solomon offers an eloquent prayer. God’s presence is signified by the cloud, which is so thick the priests cannot perform their duties. Yet King Solomon acknowledges that God is far bigger than this temple, impressive as it is.

As we have followed the story of King David and his son, Solomon, the scriptures have revealed that both these leaders, though they were respected and loved by the people, were, like us, flawed human beings. One of the endearing things about the Bible is that it does not gloss over the weaknesses of our heroes. Both David and Solomon  loved God deeply yet they  sometimes made mistakes and failed to do as God would have them do. This can be reassuring to us. We don’t have to be perfect in order to love and follow our Lord.

This is made clear in our gospel for today. Even among Jesus’ followers, there were degrees of faithfulness. Judas betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Peter denied him three times. And yet, Jesus calls us to abide in him and he says that he will abide in us. In today’s gospel, Jesus can see that some of the disciples are having problems believing in him. Some actually leave. But, when Jesus asks Peter if he wants to go elsewhere, Peter says in his forthright way that there is no one else to go to. Peter speaks volumes when he says, “We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Believing is not something that happens just with the head or with the intellect.  Believing is not simply intellectual assent. Believing and knowing involve every aspect of ourselves and of our lives. Believing involves the heart. We remember that the heart in the Biblical sense, is not just the seat of the emotions. It is also the center of the will and the spirit and the motivations. When we say that we believe in Christ, we are saying that we believe with all of our selves.

Our reading from Ephesians addresses this and gives us tools. The letter was written at a time when the Roman Empire ruled the known world. Following Jesus is seen as a cosmic battle, because the community of faith is surrounded by a culture that is violent, materialistic, and tyrannical. Christian values are very different from the values of the surrounding culture, then as now.

In this passage, Paul calls us to clothe ourselves in the virtues we are going to need, as individuals and as a Christian community. The first thing we put on is the belt of truth. Earlier in the letter, Paul said that we need to speak the truth in love in order to make the Body of Christ healthy and strong. Then we put on the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness does not mean being holier-than-thou. Righteousness is being in a right relationship with God, being in a healthy relationship with God, depending on God for help and opening ourselves to God’s power. The Roman Empire and all empires rest on human power. The Christian community depends on God’s power.

Let us just remind ourselves of the distinction between tyranny, imperium, and authority, auctoritas, as described by the Rev. David Brown. Imperium is the boot coming down and crushing the little guys. Auctoritas is authorship, creativity, calling things into being as our Lord did at the creation, letting be, freeing. Very different kinds of power.

Our reading says, “As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” Shalom, the creation in harmony, with all creatures living in safety and wholeness and health. Then we take the shield of faith. The journey can be challenging. Faith is the only thing that will get us through. We are called to put on the helmet of salvation. Scholars tell us that the Hebrew word for salvation means literally “to make wide.” Kathleen Norris writes that, when Jesus said that a person’s faith has saved him or her, the Greek word would be translated “has made you well.” Salvation is being made whole. It is not something that happens in an instant; it is usually a process. Theodore Wedel says that, when we are saved, we know that we are sinners, but we also know that we are forgiven. In this passage from Ephesians, we put on the helmet of salvation and we know that we are frail humans and sinners, and we also know that we are forgiven, we are on the way to wholeness in Christ, and this gives us a sense of the protection of our Lord. We may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we need fear no evil, because he is with us. We take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Our Lord is with us, the Spirit is with us, and we are called to speak the word of God. And we are called to pray in the Spirit at all times. That is how we stay in touch with God. We keep alert and we pray for all the saints, that is, all members of the Christian community. We are clothed in these gifts, these qualities, as we try to spread the gospel of peace, love, and healing in the world.

What are we hearing in these lessons? Our greatest heroes and heroines of the faith loved God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength, and they were not perfect. Even Jesus’ disciples were not perfect. Salvation is a sense of wholeness in Christ,  and an awareness of God’s forgiveness even as we are also aware that we are flawed.

We are on a journey. We are called to be spiritual athletes. We are called to stay in training. The Greek word for this is askesis. It is translated as ascetic.  But it does not mean that we have to go off into the desert and eat locusts and wild honey. It is what Paul is talking about in today’s reading. To stay strong in order to serve our Lord, there are tools we can use, and Paul is talking about some of those tools. Prayer is a very important one. You dear people are well acquainted with these tools. You use then every day.

We began today with the blessing of the new temple in Jerusalem.

One hundred and ninety-nine years ago, on August 12, 1816, some faithful folks gathered in Sheldon and formed what they called an Episcopal Society. Next year, Grace Church will celebrate its two-hundredth birthday. Please begin to think and pray about how to celebrate this wonderful occasion. Keep up the good work.  Amen.

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