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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 18 Proper 20B RCL September 23, 2018

Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1
James 3:13—4:3, 7-8a
Mark 9:30-37

Our opening reading is the conclusion of the Book of Proverbs, written about twenty-five hundred years ago. Some scholars advise us to simply skip this passage because it was written in a patriarchal culture, but, if we take a moment and look a bit more deeply into it, this passage is quite interesting, even inspiring.

This woman is intelligent and gifted in many areas. She spins wool and flax and makes clothes for herself and her family. She also makes garments for sale. She buys a field and plants a vineyard. In other words, she is a businesswoman. She works hard and manages her household including servants, with care and efficiency. She has deep faith. She does not fear the future. She is a person of justice, generous with the poor and needy. Although this description was written over two thousand years ago, this woman is a holy example for all of us.

Our reading from the Letter of James is timeless in its relevance. If we want to be seen as wise, we are called to show our faith and wisdom in our actions. If we have “bitter envy and selfish ambition in [our] hearts,” and if we are “boastful and false to the truth,” we are not following our Lord. In fact, James says, “Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” How true this is.

By contrast, James writes, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.” That is what we are aiming for. We may never get there one hundred per cent of the time, but, with God’s grace, we try to get as close as we can to that goal.

Then James tells us, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” If we have God’s peace within us and we share that peace with others in our actions, we help to make the world a better place.

Then James talks about conflicts. He says that, if we want something we do not have, and we let that govern all our actions, we can actually commit murder. We can actually see this happening on a international level. For example, Mr. Putin wanted to take over Crimea, so he sent troops in and killed people to accomplish that goal.

On a level slightly less harmful than murder, James points out that, if we “covet something and cannot obtain it,” we humans “engage in disputes and conflicts.” This was written about two thousand years ago, but it is as true today as it was all those centuries ago.

To move away from this human need for power and control, James calls us to “Draw near to God, and [God] will draw near to [us].” Good advice in any age.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is teaching the disciples about the horrible things that are going to happen to him. They are not understanding what he is saying, and they are afraid to ask him. This reminds us that no question is stupid. Asking questions is the way we learn.

Then our Lord finds out that, not only do the disciples not understand what he is telling them, they have also been arguing along the way about which of them is the greatest. This is a huge sign that they are missing the point. I think they still had vestiges of the idea that the messiah is a military leader who will overthrow the Romans, and they are concerned with what rank they will have in the new kingdom.

As James has pointed out, we humans are so concerned about our rank and status that we will get into conflicts about it, and that is what the disciples have done, arguing about who is the greatest.

They arrive at Capernaum, and Jesus asks them what they were discussing. They are silent, but obviously Jesus figures out what the topic was. He sits down, calls the twelve apostles, his closest followers, and tries to get the point across.

First, he expresses his message in words, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” What a shocking statement. He is turning everything upside down. If we want to be first with Jesus, we have to do what he did. We have to be servants of all. Jesus is throwing out all our human notions about power and prestige and privilege. In his eyes, a buck private is just as good as a five star general. A custodian is just as worthy of respect as the CEO. A little baby in a tiny parish in Vermont is as precious as our Presiding Bishop.

And then he takes a little child in his arms. We have to remember that in Jesus’ time, it was a patriarchal society. Men had all the power. Our woman in the Book of Proverbs is extraordinary. Women and children were considered chattel—possessions, belongings. They could be treated badly, even beaten and thrown out on the street, and no one batted an eye.

Jesus takes a little child in his arms. This little person is at the bottom of the social scale, like a cat or a dog or a chair—a possession, an object. But Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” This is a revolutionary, earth-shattering statement.

Our Lord is saying that every little child is Christ. The most vulnerable people among us are Christ. We are called to treat them as we would treat our Lord Jesus. The hungry, the thirsty, those who have no clothes, those who are homeless, those who are in prison—and little children—when we treat them with love and care, we are doing that to our Lord. He is calling us to see him in the most vulnerable among us.

Lord Jesus, you are alive among us and in us, and we are alive in you. Give us the grace to follow you, to love and serve others in your Name.  Amen.