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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 18, 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 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 15 Proper 17B RCL September 2, 2018

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8. 14-15. 21-23

Our opening reading for today, from the Song of Solomon, is a poetic description of the love between God and God’s people. Spring has come; everything is blooming, and God calls to God’s beloved, namely, us. The answering psalm is a royal wedding song.

Our epistle, from the Letter of James, is one of the most down to earth portions of the Bible. James begins by saying that all generosity and all generous acts of giving come from God. God gave us the creation and made us stewards of this beautiful world. God came among us as a human being, Jesus of Nazareth. These are two gifts beyond imagining. God loves us so much that God has come among us. God gives us every moment of our lives; God gives us the gift of being alive. At the root of our faith is gratitude for God’s many gifts, especially God’s love.

Out of deep awareness of these gifts from God, we are guided to certain ways of living. We are called to be quick to listen and slow to speak. When we give others the gift of being heard, we are giving a gift of love. Not only does God call us to be slow to speak and to listen carefully,  God also calls us to be slow to anger, because anger does not lead to right relationship with God. James actually calls us to pull out the weeds of anger and other unhelpful traits and prepare the soil of our hearts as we would plow and harrow the earth to receive the planting of the Word within us. We are to “welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save (our) souls.” This reminds us that humility is not groveling before God, It comes from the root word humus, good earth plowed and harrowed, prepared to receive the word of God.

Then we get to the nitty gritty. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” We gather to hear the word of God and then we go out and do our best to live the word of God seven days a week. All of you are doing just that, with God’s help. Thank you for that witness to God’s love.

And then James sums up the essence of both the old and new testaments in his succinct but powerful last sentence: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The words of great prophets such as Isaiah and Amos and the life of our Lord all proclaim that truth. God calls us to care for those who are the most vulnerable. And God calls us to learn to cope creatively in this world while continuing to live according to the values our Lord has taught us. Not an easy thing, but possible with God’s grace.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees scold Jesus and his disciples for failing to wash their hands before they eat. The Pharisees were not evil people. They were deeply concerned with making sure that everyone followed the law in order to make sure that they were ritually pure.

Jesus is saying that it is not what goes into us that causes a spiritual problem, it is what comes out of us. In spiritual life, what matters is our hearts, the seat of our will and intentions.

Jesus says that the words and actions that come out of us can hurt others and hurt us and grieves the heart of God. Jesus says that destructive words and actions come from within, from the human heart, and that’s exactly what James is saying, too.

We are being called today to allow our hearts to beat in harmony with the compassionate heart of God and to conform our words and actions to God’s loving will. God has planted God’s words, God’s love, the presence and power of Jesus and the Spirit within us, and God is calling us to cope from God’s presence in everything we say and do.

This is a tall order, and we can’t do it ourselves. Thanks be to our Savior and Brother, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who is walking out there ahead of us, leading and guiding us, holding us by the hand, helping us over the rocky places, sometimes carrying us. And thanks be to the Holy Spirit, energizing us to synchronize our hearts with the  loving heart of God, who is still calling to us, God’s beloved, and still building the shalom of harmony and wholeness, God’s peace in our hearts, God’s peace in our lives, God’s peace in the whole creation.  Amen.