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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 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 October 16, 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:…

Epiphany 5A February 9, 2020

Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

Our first reading, from the prophet known as Third Isaiah, dates back to the time when God’s people were finally able to return home to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile. At this stage, the temple has not  yet been rebuilt. 

Services are taking place, however, and God has called the prophet Isaiah to point out some major problems in the way the people are conducting their worship and leading their lives. The people are worshiping and fasting, but their lives do not reflect the attitudes that God expects us to have when we worship, pray, and fast.

 God calls Isaiah to tell the people that they fast, but then they pursue their own interests and oppress their workers. They go through the outward motions of worship, but their worship is not reflected in their lives. 

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes of this passage, “There is no doubt that the ‘bonds of injustice’ alludes to the systemic practice of dehumanization.” The appropriate answer to this dehumanization is, in Brueggemann’s words, “the concrete response of caring people.” Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching year A, p. 129.

God then describes the fast that God expects of God’s people: “To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them…” Scholars tell us that, when Isaiah speaks of the yoke, this refers to the burdens that poverty places on people.

Then Isaiah describes what happens when our worship and our lives are congruent and in harmony with God’s vision of shalom. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”

The people have been complaining that they fast but God does not seem to hear them. This passage tells us that, if our worship is truly centered on God and if we are trying to do God’s will, “[we] shall call and God shall answer. [We] shall cry for help, and God will say, ‘Here I am.’” Closeness to God has to do with the sincerity of our worship. Prayer and worship are not empty rituals. They transform us.

Our gospel for today immediately follows the beatitudes. We missed reading those last Sunday because we were celebrating the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are those who know they need God’s help and ask for God’s help and guidance. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God. Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.” One scholar says that in the Beatitudes, Jesus is blessing all the things we don’t want to be. God’s reign is very different from human kingdoms.

Our Lord is saying the same thing Isaiah is teaching us today. When our worship and our lives are congruent with God’s vision of shalom, then our light shines. Then the light of Christ shines forth from us. Then, he tells us, we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world.

Salt is tangy. It preserves things, It adds flavor. Light helps us to see. When we are following Jesus, when we are loving God and loving others, the light of Christ shines in everything we do.

In our passage from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is dealing with the same kind of situation that Isaiah is facing in our first reading. There are some folks in the congregation who think they have a secret wisdom. They are called Gnostics, from the Greek word  gnosis, which means knowing. 

There is nothing wrong with knowing things and learning things. Learning is essential. But these people, tragically, are using their so-called secret knowledge to lord it over others in the congregation. They are also criticizing Paul, who, although he is an expert in rhetoric, the art of public speaking, does not use his knowledge of rhetoric in preaching and teaching. He preaches and teaches from his heart. We could say that Paul’s teaching, preaching, and worship are the opposite of what is going on in Jerusalem in our first reading. The worship and fasting in the temple is all an elaborate show. It is not coming from the heart.

Paul says,”My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature, we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.”

Paul is saying that when we pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ, we grow into maturity in Christ. We grow into the wisdom given by God. And that wisdom helps us to, in Paul’s words,“understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” To put it another way, true wisdom comes from God and leads us to an appreciation of all the gifts given us by God. It does not lead us to lord it over our brothers and sisters.

May we show forth the light and love of our Lord in our lives. May we follow Jesus with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and  may we love our neighbors as ourselves. Amen.

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