• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • 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:…

Lent 4B March 14, 2021

Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, sometimes called Laetare Sunday, from the Latin laetare, rejoice, the first word in the entrance hymn of the ancient Mass for this day, “Rejoice O Jerusalem.” This Sunday is also called “Mothering Sunday.” In the British Isles, it is a time when folks visit their mothers. It goes back to the times when servants were allowed to visit their mothers on this day. In the midst of Lent, we observe a time of rejoicing. Herbert O’Driscoll wisely notes that all of our readings today speak of God’s healing. (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year B, p. 27.)

In our opening lesson from the Book of Numbers, God’s people have to go around the land of Edom because the people of Edom will not let them cross their territory. As always, the journey of the people of God is full of challenges.

The people begin to complain—again. They complain to their leader. Moses. They ask him why he has brought them here to die. They totally forget that they were slaves in Egypt, making bricks for the Pharaoh, who kept increasing their quotas just to see exactly how much work he could get out of them. And they also complain to God.

The journey out of slavery is not easy. Whether it’s an addiction or a pattern of thinking, or the slavery of an abusive relationship that we have finally left, we humans tend to forget how difficult that slavery was. The first elation of freedom wears off, challenges come up, and we wrap our former slavery in a rose-colored haze of amnesia. Like the people of God in the wilderness, we remember the leeks and melons and forget the back-breaking work of bondage.

The people encounter some poisonous snakes, deadly snakes. God tells Moses to make a bronze serpent, put it on a pole, and hold it up. When the people look at the snake, they will be healed. In ancient times, snakes were believed to be objects of healing. Even today, the caduceus, with two snakes entwined on a pole and wings at the top, is a sign for physicians and medical workers. The text tells us that the people would “look on the serpent of bronze and live.”

In our gospel, Jesus refers to this passage from Numbers. He knows that he is going to be crucified, and he links that ancient healing for God’s people in the wilderness with his body hanging on the cross. We know that crucifixion was a horrible torture, and yet, paradoxically, we look on the cross as a sign of healing and life. St. John Vianney told a story of an elderly man, a farmer, who would take time to go into the church and gaze at the crucifix above the altar, just look and contemplate that crucifix. When asked what he was doing, he said, “I look at him, and he looks at me.”

In our own ways, we do that. We look at our Lord and he looks back at us with the deepest love we will ever encounter. We look at him and open our hearts to him and he fills our hearts with his love and our lives with his healing. This is what Jesus was doing on the cross. He was giving his life not only for us but to us. He was giving us his energy and his healing so that we can serve others as he did.

In our reading from Ephesians, Paul, or perhaps a devoted disciple whom I will call Paul, is tracing the spiritual journey of the human race. Once we humans followed “the ruler of the power of the air,” that is, we were self-centered. We did what we wanted to do. We were selfish; we had no idea that there was a difference between what we wanted and what we needed. This turned out to be a dead end. Paul says, “We were by nature children of wrath.” What a profound statement.  There is so much wrath, so much anger in our world. People post all kinds of angry thoughts and others respond with angry posts and it goes on and on. Yes, there are positive posts, but it can seem as though they are hard to find.

Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with Christ.” And then he writes, “By grace you have been saved.” Merriam-Webster defines grace as a, “Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification, b, a virtue coming from God, and c, a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance.” Sanctification is defined as “the state of growing in divine grace.”

Grace is a gift from God. It’s nothing that we can earn. God pours grace out on us every day. The more we open our hearts and lives to God, the more grace, the more freely-given divine help, we receive.

And then Paul writes, “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” The motto of Grace Church is “By grace through faith.” The first case of Covid 19 was diagnosed a little over a year ago. We are still here. Grace Church was founded in 1816, 205 years ago. We’re still here. This pandemic has been very difficult. We have noted that. We have talked about how hard this time has been. I believe this is a healthy thing to do.

While we can see some parallels between us and God’s people in the wilderness, I think we can also thank God for the grace which has enabled us to remain faithful. We haven’t rebelled against our leaders.  We haven’t rebelled against God. We have a long history of using our in-person coffee hour as a time for close mutual support in the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, and we have continued to do that even in virtual space. Over this past year we have shared some major challenges and asked each other’s prayers. Grace is a gift of God, as are faith, hope, and love. We have accepted these precious gifts of God and we have used those gifts to grow in divine grace.

There is reason for rejoicing today, in the midst of this wilderness, this exile. We can rejoice in God’s gifts of faith, hope, love, and grace. I believe that, by giving us these gifts, our loving God has helped us to grow stronger.  God has helped us to grow in grace. As our psalm says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his mercy endures for ever. And to paraphrase the end of the psalm, “Let us offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.” Amen.

%d bloggers like this: