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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 2023 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 April 9, 2023 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 April 16, 2023 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 22 Proper 25B RCL October 25, 2015

Job 42:1-6, 10-17
Psalm 34:1-8 (19-22)
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 10:46-52

As we think about our opening reading, we remember that Job has lost everything. Yet he still has not lost his faith. He wants to see God and plead his case. Last week he had his encounter with God, and God asked Job and us, some searching questions: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?”

Like most of us, Job has had an encounter with the transcendent God, the God who is beyond our imagining. Job has come to realize that he will never be able to understand God, because God is much bigger than we humans are,  and God is more powerful than we humans are. Job apologizes to God for his presumption. And God restores everything Job has lost, and gives Job even more than the abundance he already had.

When we go through those tough times, those times when God seems so far away, those times when everything seems dark and there is no hope to be found, times when we think we will never be able to find the light in the darkness, times when we lose things that are precious to us, and yet we keep searching for God, we hang on to whatever threads of faith we can find. We ask the prayers and support of friends—and most of us have much more helpful friends than Job’s so-called friends who blamed him for his plight—sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually, the darkness lifts and our lives come back together again. And often our faith grows stronger after such times of struggle. Often, we grow stronger having walked through the valley of the shadow of death. Many times, when we have an experience like that, we come to a deeper realization that God was with us all the time.

In our gospel for today, we meet the blind man Bartimaeus. He cannot see. But he can hear Jesus and the disciples coming along the road. Bartimaeus shouts,“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” People tell him to be quiet, but he shouts even more loudly. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus stops. Jesus is always listening for our cries for help. “Call him here,” Jesus says.

So the people tell Bartimaeus, “Take heart, he is calling you.” Most of us are not totally blind, but there are many forms of blindness. Sometimes there are things we do not want to see, things we do not want to recognize and accept. They may be things about ourselves or they may be things about others or about situations. But when we call upon our Lord, he hears, and he stops to be with us.

The people tell Bartimaeus, “Take heart, get up, he is calling you.” When we are in a tough situation, and we have been groping along the best we can and we realize we can ask Jesus for help, that is a time when we can truly take heart. We have been muddling along the best we can, and suddenly we realize that Jesus is there to help us.

We can really take heart. Our spirits lift. There is light at the end of the tunnel after all.

Bartimaeus throws off his cloak, throws off all protection. He springs up and comes to Jesus. He has heard Jesus’ voice, and, though he is blind, he is able to make a bee-line for that voice.

Then Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” And Bartimaeus asks for his sight. Jesus does not even touch him. “Go, your faith has made you well.” What does Bartimaeus do? He follows Jesus. He becomes a disciple.

Sometimes when we are in blindness, and we have not seen some important things, and, gradually or suddenly, these things become very clear to us, sometimes it can be a shock. Our doctor gives us a dreaded diagnosis, or we see something dark in a situation we had thought was full of light, or someone we had trusted betrays us, or we lose a dear friend. And there Jesus is, asking what he can do for us.

It is so important to remember to ask him for his help.

In our reading from the Book of Job, we encounter the transcendent God, the God who is more powerful than we can imagine. In our gospel, there is God on our level. Jesus has come to be with us. Bartimaeus calls out for mercy, and Jesus has mercy on him and heals his blindness.

As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, our Lord knows what it is to be human. He is fully human and fully divine. He has bridged the gap between the all-powerful God and the human level. He has made it possible for us to meet God as our brother and our savior, to see God face to face, and to ask and receive loving help from God.

This morning, Jesus is asking each of us, “What do you want me to do for you?” He is listening for our answer. He cares about each of us and about all of us together. Let us take some time this week and ask for his help. Amen.

Pentecost 20 Proper 23B RCL October 11, 2015

Job 23:1-9. 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

In our first reading, we meet Job once again. When the story began, Job was wealthy. He had 7,000 sheep, 1,000 oxen, 500 donkeys, and 3,000 camels. Best of all, he had seven sons and three daughters. In ancient times, a person’s children were his or her future. But things have changed. Raiders have come and taken away all his livestock and killed his servants. A terrible wind has come up and leveled the house where all his children and their families were gathered. His skin is covered with boils from his head to his toes. Once, he was respected. Now, people avoid him.

Except for three so-called friends, who are now telling him that he must have done something awful to deserve all this suffering. They subscribe to the belief common at that time that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  So, if bad things are happening, you must have done something bad.

Job does an honest and searching self-examination. He has always tried to be faithful to God and compassionate to his fellow humans, and, with God’s help, he has pretty much succeeded. It really hurts that his friends dream up a theory that he has been especially mean to poor people who can’t defend themselves. This is simply not true.

Job really wants to talk to God about this, but he cannot find God. Today’s psalm captures the situation perfectly. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When everything is going wrong, we sometimes feel that God has deserted us. Of course, God is right beside us, but, in the dark night of the soul we don’t realize that God is with us. When he cannot find God, Job wants to be swallowed up by the darkness. Most of us know exactly how that feels. Our life is unraveling, and we think that God has abandoned us.

In our gospel, Jesus is setting off on a journey. He is going to Jerusalem. He is going to the cross. A man runs up, kneels before Jesus, and asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Scholars tell us that in ancient times, if you flattered someone and he accepted the flattery, that created an obligation. He had to do something for you. Jesus does not accept the flattery. He points out that none is good except God. Jesus goes on to tell the man that he knows all the commandments, and Jesus enumerates them, but he adds one. “You shall not defraud.”

The man said he has kept those commandments all his life. Now, this man has asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. When we inherit something, the inheritance is a gift. There is nothing we can do to earn the gift of God’s love and grace. Perhaps what he is really asking is, what must he do to become a follower of Jesus?

Jesus looks into this man’s eyes and sees right into his heart and soul, as he does with all of us. This man has great wealth, and that wealth has become his identity. The wealth has gotten to the place where it is going to get in the way of his following Jesus. But without the wealth, the man feels he is a nobody. And so Jesus tells the man that he is going to have to sell everything and give the money to the poor.

The man can’t do it. He walks away grieving.

Is our Lord telling you and me that we must sell everything and give the money to the poor? In my opinion, no. When Jesus gives this guidance to this man, that advice is tailored to that man and his situation.

For us, the question is, what is getting between me and Jesus? What is keeping me from giving my whole life to him? If there is something in the way, we need to ask his help in moving it out of the way.

It is true that, compared to the rest of the world, we are wealthy. So many people do not have a place to live; they do not have enough food and water. They do not have clothing. We all know this, and this is why Grace Church recently gave $778.00 to Episcopal Relief and Development. Thank you for your generosity. We are so blessed. We have so much. And we know that we are called to share God’s blessings with others.

Jesus makes it clear that wealth and power can throw us off the track very quickly. He says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Why is he saying this?

We need to remember the context of this gospel passage. Just before this part of the gospel, he took children into his arms and he told us that we need to become like children. We need to trust God. We need to be open to God’s love grace, and guidance.

When we humans accumulate great wealth and power, it is easy for us to forget about God. It is easy for us to think that we are God. After all, I can do this and buy this.  With huge amounts of money, humans get a great deal of power in this culture, and it is easy to forget God. With great wealth, it is difficult to trust in God as a little child.

We have all had times in our lives when we really needed God’s help, and sometimes we may have felt that God has left us. I hope those times are few and far between for you. Jesus knows how that feels. He felt that on the cross. We have a great high priest who knows how that feels, He knows how everything feels. He is one of us. He understands. Knowing that, knowing that he has walked every step of the way before us, we can throw ourselves into his loving arms and ask him to help us. We can even ask him to carry us.

And he will.    Amen.

Pentecost 19 Proper 22B RCL October 4, 2015

Job 1:1, 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Our opening reading is from the Book of Job. In ancient times, people believed that good things happened to good people, and bad things happened to bad people. Even today, we see vestiges of these beliefs. If something awful happens, we wonder whether we did something to cause it. If we become sick, we think about how we should have exercised more, or followed a more healthy diet. Jesus tells us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

When his three year old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the wise book, When Bad things Happen to Good People. His thoughtful and prayerful struggle with this issue has helped millions of people.

In our reading, we learn that Job is a good man. But Satan, the adversary, the prosecuting attorney in the heavenly circles, is certain that, if God will allow him to afflict Job with bodily suffering, Job will lose his faith and curse God. We will be following his story for the next few weeks.

We all know how easy it is to have faith and hope and love when all is going well. But what happens to us when everything seems to go wrong? What happens to our faith? That is the question we will be looking at as we walk with Job.

The Letter to the Hebrews was written to inspire Jewish Christians in the early days of the faith. Their journey was not easy. They had left the established faith for what appeared to be a little splinter group. In our lesson for today, we read the words, speaking of Jesus, “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word.”

Jesus was fully human, and he was fully divine. To put it more simply, Jesus was God walking the face of the earth. He has told us that he will be with us always, and he will be with us every step of the way. In fact he leads us because he is our Good Shepherd. This is good news indeed. Jesus is with us at this very moment, leading us and guiding us.

In our gospel, the Pharisees are trying to trip Jesus up. They ask one of those questions which is not really seeking knowledge. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In Jesus’ time, a man could divorce his wife for almost any reason, for example,  if he dd not like her cooking or  if he did not like the way she kept the house. Women were viewed as chattel, possessions. Like a piece of furniture or perhaps like a prized cow.

Women could not divorce their husbands, even if they were being beaten.

In this context, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question. “What does Moses say?” Moses allows a man to write a certificate of divorce. If a man wrote a certificate of divorce for his wife and her family did not take her in, she was forced to live out on the street earning her living any way that she could, often by prostitution.

And then Jesus says that Moses allowed for a certificate of divorce because marriage was not being taken seriously enough. He puts marriage on an entirely different, and higher, plane than his culture envisioned. Jesus describes marriage as a deep relationship of mutuality between two people. He is transforming marriage from a situation of a man owning property to a mutual relationship. Under the laws of his time, men were divorcing their wives just because they got tired of them and were marrying other women. In Jesus’ opinion, that amounted to adultery. Unfortunately, the Church sometimes takes things out of context, and  there was a time when people who had taken their marriages very seriously and were divorced for valid reasons were kept from receiving Communion. Thanks be to God, those days are past.

When our Lord takes the little children into his arms, he is carrying out another revolution. In those days, babies and children were not valued. Men did not spend time with children. That was considered a waste of time. By taking these little ones into his arms, and by saying what he has said about marriage, Jesus is telling us that everyone is precious. Women and children are people, too. God loves and values everyone. Everyone is of infinite value in the eyes of God.

Making the commitment of marriage and keeping it is not an easy thing. Nowadays, we know that there is such a thing as domestic violence, which can tear marriages and families to shreds. We know that there are mental illnesses which make it impossible for persons to have the ability to make and keep a commitment. These things were unknown in Jesus’ time. The fact that the Church kept people from Communion when they most needed reassurances of God’s love and the comfort of a faith community is very sad.

Though our gospel is about marriage, it also applies to other relationships, including friendships, our ties with colleagues at work, and the love that binds us together as a parish family. In all these relationships, we are called to value each other, to keep our promises, to be honest, and to support each other.

Jesus reminds us today that no one is inferior to anyone else. He calls us to approach him and each other with the openness and trust of little children.  Amen.