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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 23 Proper 25B RCL October 28, 2018

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

Our sermon today will be short in order to allow time for our delegates to Diocesan Convention to share their observations.

The theme of Convention was “Go Tell It on the Mountains,” and we explored ways in which we can share the Good News.

This mornings readings are full of that good news. Job realizes, as all of us do, that he cannot possibly understand the mind of God. In turn, God showers Job with even more blessings than he had enjoyed before.

Psalm 34 calls us to “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who trust in him.”

In our gospel for today, Jesus and his disciples arrive in Jericho. As they leave Jericho with the usual large crowd following them, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Some people sternly tell him to be quiet, but he shouts even more loudly.

Jesus stops and calls Bartimaeus to come over to him. Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus says, “My teacher, let me see again.” And Jesus answers, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Bartimaeus does not go anywhere. He follows Jesus.

When we feel our Lord’s love and healing flowing out to us, we want to follow him.

In our Collect for today, we ask God to “increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love.” These are amazing and wondrous gifts which God gives us every day, and, even as we ask God to give us more of these gifts, we know that God is constantly filling us with faith, the faith to follow Jesus and to share his love with others. And with hope, the ability to look at the world around us and know that the Holy Spirit is at work bringing in the Shalom of God. And the gift of love, God’s love which nothing can stop, God’s love for all people, regardless of their race, class, education, social status, gender, or any of the other things which can be used to divide us. In God’s eyes, we are all precious. God stops for the blind Bartimaeus and makes him whole.

God loves everyone.

This week and every week, every day, every moment, let us absorb God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love. Let us be a people of faith, hope, and love. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pentecost 22 Proper 24B RCL October 21 2018

Job 38: 1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104: 1-9, 25, 37c
Hebrews 5: 1-10
Mark 10: 35-45

In our opening reading last Sunday, Job was trying to find God but could not. Job had wanted to plead his case before God.

This Sunday, God speaks to Job out of a great whirlwind and asks Job questions. Where was Job when God created the earth? Can Job cause rain and lightning to come from the skies? Can Job provide food for lions? Can Job create humans and give them minds?

Like Job, we are human beings, and we know that the answer to all these questions is No. God has created the world and everything in it.  God has created the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets. The power and majesty of God shine through this passage. Like Job, we feel quite small and insignificant after reading these words. The transcendence of God is made clear in this passage from Job. God is far more powerful than we are. The majesty of God is almost frightening in this passage.

And yet, God is immanent. God is close to us. In Jesus, God has come to be among us as one of us. To think that the creator of the world cares enough to do this is mind-boggling, but it is true.

In our gospel for today, James and John, two of our Lord’s closest followers, are asking a favor from Jesus. They want to sit beside him in places of honor in his kingdom. Jesus asks them whether they will be able to drink the cup that he will have to drink—that is, his crucifixion. They have no idea what he is talking about and they say that, yes, they can drink that cup, and Jesus tells them that, yes they will suffer. We know that the new faith did undergo persecution.

But then the other ten apostles become angry that James and John have asked for this place of privilege, and Jesus tries to make clear the contrast between his kingdom and the kinds of kingdoms we humans tend to think about.

Jesus says that in the usual way of things, human rulers lord it over their subjects. Leaders are usually tyrants. But in the shalom of Jesus, this is not how it is going to be. In the shalom of Jesus, those who want to be leaders must be servants. The one who is called to be first of all must be the most loyal servant of all.

And our Lord says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Our Lord gave his life to free us from many forms of slavery.

What a profound difference this is from the question James and John were asking. They were asking for the places of honor and glory in an earthly kingdom  and Jesus was saying: the kingdom I am calling you to help build is not like that.

Our epistle also emphasizes this point. The writer of Hebrews begins by talking about the high priest in the temple in Jerusalem. This was someone who in that society had great power. Yet the writer talks about the weakness and frailty of the high priest, who must offer sacrifices for his own sins. The writer says that the high priest must be humble, not presuming to take the office but must be called by God, as Aaron was.

And then the writer talks about Jesus as our great high priest. In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that our Lord “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant….”

Jesus was creating a new community based on love and servanthood. This is such a far cry from the way the world does things that it is difficult to get our minds around it. Even James and John fell back into the usual way of thinking about leadership. Jesus had to remind all his followers that leaders often lord it over their subjects and become tyrants over them.

But then our Lord says, “It is not so among you.” He tells us that serving others and serving each other is the mark of leadership in his community, his Body. People take care of each other and work together to get the job done. There is no vying for honor or power. There is a great deal of love for God and for each other and for all others. There is a desire to help and serve others. Those are the marks of our Lord’s community.

You and God have built such a community here.  No one is vying for honors. Everyone respects the dignity of every other person. Faithfulness, love, servanthood and service are to be found in abundance. Folks work efficiently and in good humor to get the job done, whatever it might be.

Somehow I find it extraordinarily difficult to imagine any member of Grace Church asking our Lord for the place of honor. And I think that is a greet blessing. Well done, good and faithful servants.  Amen.

Pentecost 21 Proper 23    October 14, 2018

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

In our opening reading from the book of Job, several months have passed, and Job has continued to suffer. Job wants to plead his case before God. He feels that God would consider the matter carefully and fairly, and he would like to hear God’s response to him.

The tragic thing is that Job cannot find God. No matter where he turns, God is not there. Our psalm describes this situation of feeling abandoned by God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the cry of our Lord as he suffered on the cross.

Job says, “God has made my heart faint. If only I could vanish in darkness, and thick darkness would cover my face.” He wants to disappear.

All of us go through such times. St. John of the Cross called this the “dark night of the soul.” In such times, God seems very far away. When we are going though one of those dark night experiences, we can recall times when God was so close we could feel God’s presence, but those times seem far away. Nothing we do seems to help. All we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep trying to follow our Lord, keep praying, and keep hoping.

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” Scholars tell us that the word of God in this context means the scriptures and especially the gospels. If we think about what we know of God from the prophets, such as Isaiah and Amos, God’s word is indeed living and active.

At the same time, the Holy One who will be our judge is someone who understands our weakness. He understands what it means to be human. He has compassion on us, and he will give us the grace to get back on the path and persevere on the journey.

In our gospel for today, a rich young man kneels before Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus reviews the commandments with him. The rich young man has followed those all his life. And then Jesus looks deeply into this man’s spirit with great love and sees, as Fred Craddock notes, that this young man’s wealth defines him, and he is not going to be able redefine himself as a follower of Jesus unless he sells everything and gives the money to the poor.  Craddock writes, “Here stands a person whose life has been defined by wealth, and. sadly, he will not accept a new definition of himself.” (Craddock, Preaching through the Christian Year, Year B, p.441.)

Privilege is an insidious thing. If we have wealth and privilege, it becomes easy to think that we have all this wealth and all these things because of our own strength. It is so difficult for us to remember that everything that we have is a gift from God. We can think that we have worked hard for all these things, and we have earned them and that is true. But God has given us the gifts and the health and the energy to do that work. all good things from God.

Furthermore, people who have wealth and privilege are treated differently. Other defer to them and wait on them. With all the trappings that go along with wealth and privilege, it is easy to fall into feeling self-important, and it is extremely difficult to keep in mind that we are all totally dependent on God and that we are all frail and fallible human beings.

For this particular individual, Jesus tells him to sell everything, give the money to the poor, and come back and follow him. The man cannot do it. Jesus tells the man to do this because he sees that the wealth is going to prevent this man from trusting completely in God and opening himself to God’s grace in order to follow Jesus and carry out his ministry.

The disciples, who have left everything to follow Jesus, wonder aloud, “Then who can be saved?” This is because they have the belief, which was common at that time, that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. So, they reason, if this very wealthy young man cannot be saved, who can?

Our Lord is telling us that wealth and power can get in the way of answering God’s call and building God’s kingdom. Is Jesus saying that everyone has to sell all they have? No, but he is saying that we, as privileged people compared to all the other folks on this planet, have to be very careful to remember to thank God for all God’s many gifts, to share those gifts with others, and to continually seek and do God’s will.

What are these readings telling us? Sometimes, God may seem far away. That happened to Job and to our Lord, so we are in good company. In such times in our lives, we are called to keep on keeping on, keep asking God for help, stay on the path, and the day will come when God is once again as close as our breath.

The scriptures and the life of our Lord speak to all kinds of situations in our lives. They speak clearly and incisively. Always, however, there is the compassion of our Lord, who has walked the way before us.

We need to give up the things that get in the way between us and our Lord. We need to depend totally on him. Even when we cannot feel his presence, he is with us, and he is helping us to get through those difficult times, and he is giving us the three greatest gifts: faith, hope, and love.   Amen.

 

Pentecost 20 Proper 22B RCL October 7, 2018

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

In our opening reading this morning, we are looking in at a meeting of the heavenly beings. God points out a man named Job, who is faithful to God and chooses good over evil. Satan, who at that time in history was seen as a kind of prosecuting attorney, challenges God. Satan is certain that, if forced to endure all kinds of challenges and tragedies, Job will eventually curse God. So God gives Satan permission to visit these trials upon Job.

Our reading ends with the very sad picture of Job sitting in ashes with sores all over his body. Job’s wife tells him to give up his integrity, curse God, and die. Job refuses to do so. In the course of doing that, he insults his wife’s intelligence, revealing the sexist views of his time. Women were considered to be less intelligent than men. But we must remember that the book was written about twenty-five hundred years ago. Let’s hope that we have made some progress on that issue.

Back in those times and even now, there is a belief that, if we trust in God and do God’s will, we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. If we are faithful, we will be prosperous. This belief can be summarized as good things happen to good people; bad things happen to bad people.

Such beliefs fall under what I call BT, Bad Theology. We have only to look at the life of our Lord to see that good people indeed suffer. Jesus endured the worst possible death and humiliation that anyone could suffer in his time.  Many of God’s most faithful servants have faced great difficulties. Yesterday in our calendar, we remembered William Tyndale, who was killed for translating the Bible into English!

Job loses all his many possessions; his family and friends desert him, except for some so-called friends who spout Bad Theology to him, adding to his suffering. People laugh at him. Where once he was sought out for advice and counsel, people avoid him. And still he will not curse God. He will not abandon his faith. He will not give up hope. The Book of Job does not solve the problem of evil, but it does assure us that bad things happen to good people and that just because someone has great riches and power does not mean that that person is following God.

We live in a fallen creation. This world us not operating in the way that God would want it to. At the center of our faith is a cross, and, as we look upon that cross, we realize how far this world is from what God would call it to be. On that cross, some very powerful humans tried to kill the love of God.

We had another clergy conference this week on racial reconciliation. One of the books we were asked to read was White Like Me by Tim Wise. Tim is the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. He is white. He grew up in Nashville, and, for some reason, he had more African-American friends in school than white friends, that is, up through middle school. In middle school, he noticed that the classes were supposedly arranged according to ability, but the white students ended up in the accelerated classes and the African-American children ended up in the slower classes, no matter how intelligent they were.

When he got to high school, the system became even more rigid. There were college-bound tracks and vocational tracks. No African-American young people ended up in the college-bound tracks. At one point, early in high school, one of Tim’s closest African-American friends tells Tim that he will no longer speak to him because they are in different worlds. Simply because he was white, Tim had opportunities that students of color did not have.  When it comes to issues of race and gender and class, we are not on a level playing field.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees ask one of those questions that indicate that they are not trying to learn anything; they are trying to trick Jesus.  In Jesus’ time, it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for the most minor reason. He could divorce her if he didn’t like her cooking or if she didn’t keep house the way he wanted her to. The woman, on the other hand, did not have the same rights. She was his property. It was almost impossible for a woman to get a divorce for any reason.

In order to be responsible interpreters of the Bible, we must pause and say that when our Church barred divorced persons from receiving Communion, that was a misuse of Scripture. There are times when divorce or annulment of a marriage is warranted. Domestic violence is real, and it kills marriages. Also, some people can appear to be capable of holding up their end of a marriage commitment but, as time goes on, it becomes apparent that they do not possess that ability.

Jesus is telling us that marriage is a lifelong commitment, and he is also telling us not to treat any human beings as property. The reason we know this is that Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him. It is hard for us to believe, but in those days, children were chattel, possessions, and, worse, they were almost considered dispensable. 

A man of that time and culture would not spend time with children. He was too busy going about important business to waste his time with a little child. That was women’s work.

Yet our Lord takes these little ones and cherishes them. And he tells us that we need to receive his kingdom with childlike openness and wonder and trust and faith. As we read the Book of Job, we can see that Job has that almost childlike faith. He will not give up on God. He trusts God.

Our Lord is also calling us to treat the most vulnerable among us with the same love and respect with which he treated those children.  Amen.