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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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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 25, 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 3 Proper 5B RCL June 10, 2018

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15)
Psalm 138
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-35

Last Sunday, we were present as God called Samuel to be the last of the judges, the leaders who mediated between the Israelites when they had a conflict, but were also spiritual leaders and prophets. Ironically, Samuel is now in the position that Eli was in last week. Samuel has grown old; his sons are not able to carry out the work of a judge, and the people want a  king just as all their neighbors have.

Samuel may be old, but he has not lost his wisdom or his integrity. He knows that, in the words of Lord Acton , “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” Samuel warns the people that their king is going to place their sons in military service; and he will he will take their daughters to serve his court in the palace; and he will take over fields and orchards and give them to his courtiers and will demand tithes of all the produce of the land.

As usual. Samuel consults God about this issue, and God instructs Samuel to listen to the will of the people. In the end, Samuel anoints Saul as king. This is the beginning of a tragic time in the history of God’s people.

As Christians, we are called to understand the right use of power. Here again, we can remember David Brown’s distinction between auctoritas and imperium. Auctoritas, authority, the right use of power, is authorship, creativity, helping the people to be creative and to flourish. Imperium is tyranny, control, the opposite of true authority.

In our epistle, Paul is writing to his beloved congregation in Corinth. People have been accusing Paul of being insincere, and he is struggling to help the Corinthians realize that charge is simply not true. Yet, as Herbert O’Driscoll points out, Paul is becoming discouraged. Paul writes powerfully and eloquently, “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” We’re all getting older, but God is constantly renewing us. Our “earthly tent,” our mortal body, will perish, but our spirits will dwell forever with God. How anybody could accuse Paul of being insincere about the faith when he could give us such poetic insights about God’s love and the nature of life in Christ is beyond me, but there were folks in Corinth who wanted to take control of the congregation and teach some ideas that were very far from our faith. There again, we have an example of people who were trying to seize power and then misuse that power.

In our gospel for today, we have a complicated and heart wrenching scene. Jesus is surrounded by huge crowds. His truth and his love and healing are magnetic. Word is going around that he has lost his mind. Some people are saying that he is doing all these healings by the power of the devil. It is a very serious and terrible thing when we give credit to the devil for the works that God is doing. It is a serious distortion of reality when we call what is good evil and what is evil good. The scribes, supposedly religious leaders and scholars are doing this. That is a horrendous misuse of power. Jesus vehemently denounces this. Biblical scholar Bruce Metzger writes, “The unforgivable sin is the utter rebellion against God that denies him as the doer of his own acts.” (Note, Matthew 12:31-32, NRSV NT p. 18.) It is difficult to fathom how anyone could watch what Jesus was doing for God’s people and accuse him of being possessed by the ultimate evil forces.

Meanwhile, there is another encounter happening in this gospel. Jesus’ family has come. Even his mother, Mary, has made the long journey. Perhaps they have heard the rumors that Jesus has lost his mind. I think it is more likely that they know the authorities are watching Jesus and trying to entrap him and they are hoping to persuade Jesus to go with them and lie low for awhile. The crowd is so big that they can’t get anywhere near Jesus, but they do get a message to him. “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” And Jesus responds, “Who are my mother and my brothers? He looks around at those near him and says, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Herbert O’Driscoll invites us to think about how Mary must have felt when she heard that. It always reminds me of that time the family headed home and found out Jesus wasn’t with them and went back to the temple in Jerusalem. When they told him how worried they were, he said, “Didn’t you know I have to be about my father’s business?” That must have been a shock to Mary and Joseph.

This time, I think he is trying to say that he is creating a new family. It does not erase the former family, but it includes everyone who does God’s will. It may have hurt Mary and Jesus’ siblings to hear that comment about family.

We do not know the rest of the story, but we do know that Jesus would steal away to the mountains to pray, or take some time and go to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. We can imagine that he found some time to get away and talk with Mary about what God was calling him to do and to reassure her of his love for her and his brothers and sisters. We know that one of his brothers, James, became Bishop of Jerusalem and died for his faith. Obviously, the family of Jesus cared deeply about him. They all showed up to try to help in whatever way they could. Jesus, the personification of love, cared about them as well.

And, of course, we recall that, in John’s gospel, when Jesus was dying on the cross, Mary stood there at the foot of that horrible instrument of torture and John stood beside her, and Jesus made them a family, He said, “Son, here is your mother; Mother, here is your son.” He was asking his beloved disciple John to take care of his mother. That was part of forming that new family. He wasn’t abolishing existing family ties; he was expanding the concept of family to include all of us.

There is so much to think about in these lessons. May we choose leaders who have true authority. May we, with your help, O Lord, accurately discern between good and evil. May we know the power of your love and healing. In your holy Name. Amen