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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 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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Pentecost 16 Proper 21C September 29, 2019

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16
1 Timothy 6:6-19
Luke 16:19-31

In our first reading, the prophet Jeremiah gives us the exact year. It is the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, and the eighteenth year of King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon, also known as Nebuchadnezzar. It is the year 588 B.C.E. In 587 B.C.E., Jerusalem will fall to Babylon. In our time, Babylon is known as Iraq.

Jeremiah is in prison in the court of the palace guard. King Zedekiah has arrested Jeremiah because Jeremiah predicted that, with all the corruption and injustice that was going on under the leadership of Zedekiah, the Babylonian Empire would conquer Judah.

And yet. And yet. Our reading contains details of a real estate transaction. Jeremiah is from Anathoth. He buys a field from his cousin. The text tells us, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both the sealed deed of purchase and the open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

No matter how bad things get, with God there is always hope. Jeremiah is investing in that ray of hope, and God has the last word.

Our gospel reading for today is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This is not the Lazarus who is the brother of Mary and Martha. The rich man’s clothing and food are the finest available. At his gate lies Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores. In those days, there were no napkins, and the wealthy used pieces of bread to wipe their mouths and then threw those pieces of bread on the floor. Lazarus would have loved to eat those bits of bread. The picture of the dogs coming and licking his sores is particularly moving. It also means that he is unclean and therefore an outcast.

When the the rich man and Lazarus die, there is a great reversal. The poor man is carried by angels to be with Abraham. The rich man descends to Hades, where he is tormented. The rich man looks up and sees Abraham with Lazarus by his side. The rich man calls out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.”

This tells us so much. The rich man knows Lazarus’ name. He went in and out of his gate every day and saw this poor man begging, and he even knew his name, yet he never shared any of his food or clothing or riches with Lazarus. He never really saw Lazarus as a fellow human being.

There is a long tradition that teaches that wealth is a sign of God’s favor and poverty is a sign of God’s disfavor. If someone is poor, they deserve it, says this tradition. In this parable and others, Jesus makes it clear that he does not agree with that tradition. He is calling us to see everyone as a brother or sister in him.

Barbara Brown Taylor reminds us of the version of this parable in the Cotton Patch Gospel. “O Father Abraham, send me my water boy. ‘Water boy! Quick! I’m just about to perish down here. I need a drink of water.’ That old rich guy has always hollered for his water boy. ‘Boy, bring me water! Boy, bring me this! Boy, bring me that! Get away, boy! Come here, boy!’”  (Taylor, Bread of Angels, pp. 111-112.)

Taylor comments, “Even on the far side of the grave, the rich man does not see the poor man as a fellow human being. He still sees him as something less. He thinks Lazarus is Father Abraham’s gofer, someone to fetch water and take messages, but Father Abraham sets him straight. Cradling old bony Lazarus in his bosom, he says No, No, and No.”

We are hearing this parable from our Lord, who has risen from the dead. We are here because we are trying , to the best of our ability and with his grace, to follow him. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paraphrased Unitarian minister and theologian Theodore Parker when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Our epistle gives us clear direction. Paul calls us to “Fight the good fight of the faith.”  “…do good, be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing for [ourselves] the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that we may take hold of the life that really is life.”

This is the first Sunday after the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Shannon McVean-Brown as the eleventh Bishop of Vermont. As you know, the whole process has been conducted in an atmosphere of prayer, and the Holy Spirit has been present at every stage of the journey.

Our new bishop is building on a strong foundation laid by God and her predecessors. She has long and faithful experience in helping the arc of the moral universe to bend toward justice and in helping our Lord to build his shalom. 

May we keep her in our prayers. May we also give thanks for the ministry of Bishop Tom, who helped to build the foundation on which we now stand. And may we give hearty thanks for our Presiding Bishop, Michael. May we continue to keep these faithful and loving servants of God and their families in our prayers.

May we all continue to work together in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the power of the Spirit.

Guide our feet Lord, while we run this race. Amen.

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