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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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Epiphany 2B January 17, 2021

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Our opening reading this morning comes from the First Book of Samuel. Samuel is a faithful young man who has been serving God and learning from the priest Eli. The text gives us a very important sense of what was going on in those times. “The word of the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were not widespread.”

Eli is getting older. His eyesight has failed, and he cannot see. Eli is resting in his room, and Samuel is lying down in the temple of the Lord. Walter Brueggemann writes, “Eli is portrayed as a feeble old man, emblem of a failed priestly order that has exhausted its its authority and its credibility. Samuel is situated in this narrative as an apprentice to Eli. But he learns quickly and is shown to be more discerning and more responsive to God than is the family of Eli. Samuel is indeed the wave of God’s future.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 106.)

God calls to Samuel three times. Each time, Samuel runs to Eli for instruction and guidance. On the third occasion, Eli realizes that it is God calling this gifted young man, and he instructs Samuel on how to respond. Eli’s sons have done terrible things things that no priest should even consider, things which no person who is supposedly following God should do. They are corrupt and unfit to serve.

God calls Samuel a fourth time, and Samuel responds. What God says puts Samuel in an excruciatingly painful position. God is going to remove Eli’s family from their priestly duties and Samuel is going to replace them. Samuel has always shared everything with Eli. Now, what is he going to do? He loves and respects Eli, and Eli has been his teacher and guide.

The dreaded thing happens. Eli calls to Samuel. Herbert O’Driscoll describes this with unforgettable insight and power: Again, in Eli’s encounter with Samuel in the morning, we see the quality of this great human being. We know from elsewhere in scripture, as well as in this passage, that Eli has fallen on sad times. He has allowed himself to become obese. His sons have shamed and discredited him, and his name, and his high office. He must feel a terrible sense of personal failure. The last thing Samuel wants to do is to report to Eli the terrible things he now knows. But Eli insists, and at last when he hears what the Lord has said to Samuel, we again see the old man’s  greatness. There is not a hint of resentment, not a whisper of self-pity or self-justification.

O’Driscoll concludes, “I see a human being who even in his decline shows what once made him great, an elderly person who is open to the action of God in the present moment, who is totally devoid of jealousy and rancor, and who courageously accepts the consequences without flinching, Such an example must have helped to form the future greatness of Samuel.”  (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year B Vol. 1, pp. 69-70.)

God is going to replace corrupt leaders, Eli’s sons, with the gifted and faithful leadership of Samuel. With deep faith and grace, Eli accepts the healing action of God which replaces brokenness with wholeness and makes it possible for God’s work to continue.

Our psalm for today beautifully and powerfully reminds us that God is our Creator and that God knows us intimately. God has a loving, healing, and creative purpose for us and for the world. God is at work building God’s shalom of peace harmony, and wholeness.

In today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth, we are reminded that everything we do has an effect. The early Church was grappling with the Jewish dietary laws. People were coming into the new faith community from all kinds of backgrounds. Many of the Jewish converts felt it was necessary to continue to follow the dietary laws and wanted everyone else to do so. On the other end of the spectrum, some people had been worshippers of Zeus or Apollo and they felt they could eat anything. Paul constantly emphasized that, if we are following Christ, everything we do should be in accordance with our Lord’s teachings. If folks ate food that was sacrificed to idols, that might make their weaker brothers and sisters do something that would hurt their conscience, something they would later regret. Paul also emphasized that sexual activity is not to be taken lightly, that it is an act of deep intimacy that is best done only in the context of marriage, or a deep spiritual commitment if marriage is not possible.

In our gospel for today, Jesus calls Philip to follow him. Philip has read the scriptures and he knows very well that the Messiah is supposed to come from Bethlehem, so he asks that snarky question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip says those wonderful words, “Come and see.” What an invitation! 

Then Jesus sees Nathanael, and calls him “an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” With Nathanael, what you see is what you get. He is honest, forthright, says it like it is. Nathanael asks Jesus how he got to know him, and Jesus says he saw Nathanael under the fig tree before Philip even called him. With Nathanael, as with so many people he met, Jesus clearly sees who a person truly is. He knows who we really are— no deceptions, just the truth. Nathanael acknowledges Jesus as the king of his life. And Jesus says something that makes us think of Jacob wrestling with the angel who is God and discovering his true identity. Jesus says,  “You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Someone has said that as we follow Jesus, we have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven. Jesus creates a thin place, where heaven and earth are very close. He connects us with all that is heavenly, all that is divine, because he is God walking the face of the earth.

We are living in a time of great stress. The stakes are high. We have decided to follow Jesus, as the old hymn says. This means that we are called to live by high ethical standards. We tell the truth, we see others as made in the image of God and we respect their dignity; we try to love others as God loves us, to treat others as we would like to be treated. 

Eli’s sons would normally have succeeded him. Because the sons of Eli were not following the law and were not morally capable of carrying out their duties, God called Samuel, a young man of impeccable moral character, deep faith, and courage to do God’s will in challenging and even dangerous circumstances. In this situation, three thousand years ago, God provided a just, ethical, and courageous leader for God’s people.

We are trying to follow Jesus and live the Way of Love. May our leaders on all levels, local, state, and national, follow the example of Samuel, and lead with ethical integrity, compassion, and justice for all. May we all continue to seek and do God’s will. Amen.

Pentecost 2 Proper 4B RCL June 3, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

Our first reading this morning gives us the privilege of looking into the temple at Shiloh. Samuel is being trained by the elderly priest Eli. The lamp of God has not yet gone out. It is the middle of the night. The text tells us that the word of the Lord was rare in those days. Visions were not widespread. Eli’s sons have committed blasphemy. Eli has not been able to stop them from doing this. Eli is almost blind. He is slipping a bit in his duties. Samuel is sleeping in the temple. Eli is sleeping in his room. As Eli’s sons have been sinking into sin, Samuel has been growing in spiritual depth.

At this moment, a voice calls, “Samuel! Samuel!” The young man immediately responds and runs to Eli, thinking Eli has called him. This happens three times. In spite of all that has happened to his sons, and in spite of his own disappointment, Eli realizes what is happening. He tells Samuel that God is calling him and instructs Samuel on what to do. When God calls again, Samuel responds.

God now tells Samuel that God is bringing in a new order. Eli’s family will no longer hold their priestly offices. Samuel lies awake until morning. How would we feel if we had to tell our long-time mentor and guide that God was going to remove him and his sons from their ministries? A prophet’s job is never easy.

Morning comes, and Eli asks Samuel about his talk with God. Samuel has the courage to tell the whole truth. Eli does not retaliate against Samuel. He does not lose his temper. He has the grace and humility to accept that this is the will of God and even prays that God will “do what seems good to him.”

God is doing a new thing.

In our gospel for today, Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field on the sabbath and his disciples pluck off heads of grain and eat them. The Pharisees immediately challenge this behavior. Under the law, the disciples are harvesting on the sabbath. Jesus counters with the example that David and his companions ate the bread of the presence in the house of God. Our Lord comments that the sabbath is made for human beings and not human beings for the Sabbath.

Then Jesus goes into the synagogue and sees a man with a withered hand. Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life, or to kill?” The Pharisees say nothing. Jesus heals the man. The Pharisees go out and immediately begin to conspire with the Herodians to kill Jesus.

In the ministry of Jesus, God’s love and healing overrule the law. For centuries, the law had been the structure that bound the people together. Now, it is becoming a burden that interferes with the loving and healing work of God.

St. Paul will later write about how his sincere efforts to follow the law made him feel as though he was in prison. Paul writes eloquently about the power of love and grace. That is what we are witnessing in these two vignettes from the gospel.

What is more important, to save life, or to kill?  Jesus is bringing in a new order. He sees a man with an injured hand in God’s house, the synagogue. He heals the man. This power, the power of God’s love and healing, is a threat to the existing structures.

In both our Old Testament reading and our Gospel for today, God is bringing light into darkness and giving birth to new things. In our epistle for today, Paul writes, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Paul speaks of all the challenges he has faced in carrying the good news “so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

Eli’s sons are not able to be spiritual leaders for the people, so God calls Samuel. In our gospel, old structures are getting in the way of God’s healing and saving work, so God comes among us to show us the way to newness of life. Over and over again, when the light is failing or when old structures are no longer able to nourish our spirits, God comes and brings light and life.

May we listen for God’s call. May we respond with faith and courage.      Amen.

 

Our first reading this morning gives us the privilege of looking in on God’s call to Samuel. Samuel is a young man who is being trained by Eli, the priest at Shiloh. The text tells us that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” Biblical scholar James Newsome notes that the fact that Eli’s eyesight has begun to grow dim may be more than a comment on his physical health. Newsome writes, “The implication is that the absence of visions concerning Yehweh’s will among the people does not arise out of a withholding by Yahweh of the truth,  but that the people, because of the blindness of their leader, and thus of themselves, are unresponsive to Yahweh’s overtures. Eli’s blindness is emblematic of the blindness of the people.” (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 364.)

 

Eli’s sons have committed blasphemy. While the sons of Eli have been sinking further and further into sinfulness, the young Samuel has been growing in spiritual depth, and God is now going to call Samuel to be a prophet. But when God calls him, Samuel thinks that it is Eli calling. This happens three times until Eli realizes that the call is from God and instructs Samuel on how to respond. Samuel receives the message from God. Eli and his sons will be removed from their duties because of the blasphemy of the sons and the failure of Eli to stop them and correct their behavior.

 

Eli senses that something is afoot, and he asks Samuel to tell him what God said. Imagine how it wild feel if you had this message to give to an older man whom you loved, a man who had taught you everything you know. Samuel has the courage to tell the truth to this man who has been his mentor and guide for many years, and Eli has the faith and humility to see this as the will of God.

Epiphany 2 Year B RCL January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

In our first reading today, the young man Samuel is receiving instruction from Eli, the priest at the temple in Shiloh. God calls Samuel, but Samuel does not yet know the Lord and thinks it is his teacher, Eli, calling him. Three times Samuel goes to Eli, and finally Eli realizes what is happening. He tells Samuel that it is God calling and tells Samuel how to respond.

Then a tragic story unfolds. Eli’s sons have engaged in all kinds of unethical behavior. Eli has tried to correct their behavior, but to no avail. God is going to remove Eli and his sons from functioning as the priests at Shiloh. Unfortunately, Samuel is the one God has chosen to tell Eli about this.

Morning comes. Samuel opens the doors of the temple. Eli calls to him and insists that Samuel tell him what God has said. Samuel tells the truth, and Eli accepts God’s judgment. Eli has been a faithful teacher to Samuel and has helped Samuel discern his call. But Samuel’s first task is to share this terrible news.

Our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians begins with some quotes from some of the other teachers who have spent time with the community. One has said, “All things are lawful.” Another has said that “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food.” Some of these teachers have convinced some of the people that they can do anything they want to do, that they no longer have to follow the Jewish law. Others are saying that the material world and the spiritual world are separate. Neither of these things is true. As Christians, we give all of ourselves to God.

Promiscuous behavior was prevalent in the first century Roman Empire. Paul says this is not acceptable. As Christians, we commit our whole selves to our Lord. Christ came to fulfill the law, and, for us, that means that we are called to obey not only the letter but the spirit of the law.

In our Gospel, Jesus is calling his disciples. He finds Philip and says those words which change lives, “Follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and tells him that he has found the Messiah. But Nathanael is dubious. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asks. The prophets said the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem.

Then Jesus sees Nathanael and says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Scholars tell us that this is a reference to Jacob, who was full of scheming and deceit before he underwent a transformation and became Israel. Jesus is able to look into the heart of a person. He knows that Nathanael is straightforward and tells the truth. Nathanael wonders how Jesus could get to know him so quickly. In their brief dialogue, Nathanael realizes that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

Jesus tells his followers that they will see great things. They “will see the heavens opened and angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” That is a reference to Jacob’s experience of seeing the angels ascending and descending on the ladder between earth and heaven, an experience that opened Jacob’s mind to the presence of God.

Nathanael is also known as Bartholomew. When Philip first asked him to meet Jesus, he was full of questions, perhaps even scorn. But, when he actually talked with Jesus and intuitively sensed that Jesus had the ability to look into his heart and to love him, he wanted to follow our Lord.

All of these readings are about being called by God and responding in faith. We have not held services for the past two Sundays because of the record-breaking cold weather and snowfall. During this time, one of our beloved members has had a close call. Thanks be to God, Bryan, and many skilled medical folks, she is with us.

Our readings today speak to us in many ways.  We are all called by God to love and serve others. We all try to carry out our ministries faithfully with God’s help. But events like this remind all of us that each moment is precious, each person is precious, and we are all vulnerable. We are not invincible.

Our psalm today speaks to this awareness. God has made us. God knows us. There is no place we can go where God is not, God is everywhere. At every point in our lives, God has been there, loving us and sustaining us. Sometimes, God has carried us.

We are vulnerable. yes. But God is faithful and loving to us. I would suggest that we read this psalm, 139, this week and meditate on it. The love of God is present in every word of this psalm.

God is holding you in the palm of God’s hand.  Amen.

Epiphany 2 Year B RCL January 18, 2015

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

This sermon will be brief because we have Annual Meeting today.

One of the themes running through our readings today is the idea of vocation.

In our first reading, God is calling the young man Samuel to be a prophet. Samuel thinks Eli, his teacher and mentor, is calling him. Finally, Eli realizes that God is calling, and he instructs Samuel to respond to God and obey this call.

Eli serves as a faithful spiritual guide to Samuel and accurately discerns what is going on even though Samuel is going to have the difficult job of pronouncing God’s judgment on Eli’s sons, who have fallen far away from where they should be. Eli has not been able to control them, and now there is going to be a tragic outcome.

In the midst of his own personal tragedy, Eli remains faithful and helps Samuel to respond to God’s call. Samuel grows to become one of God’s most courageous prophets.

In our gospel, Jesus calls Philip, and Philip immediately goes and tells his friend Nathanael that he has found the Savior, Nathanael is a bit dubious but Philip says, “Come and see,” What a wonderful invitation. Nathanael meets the Lord and immediately recognizes who he is. Jesus tells them and us that we will see even greater things. But what can be greater than people meeting Jesus and responding to our Lord’s call to follow him?

Our psalm tells us that, everywhere we go, God is there. Everywhere we go, Jesus is with us. We are here because we know that. We have decided to follow Jesus and help him to build his kingdom of peace and harmony.

Every day of our lives, we wake anew and we make that choice to follow Jesus. Sometimes it is not easy. The world seems to be marching to a different drummer. Sometimes it seems as though it would be a good idea to just take the easy way out. That’s what some of the folks in Corinth were doing. They were not thinking about how their selfish behavior affected other people. Paul calls the Corinthians to remember God’s love for us and to seek and do God’s will.

Thank you for answering the call of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for waking up each day and making that decision to follow him, to serve him, and to serve others in his name. Thank you for your faithfulness, and for your deep life of prayer. It makes a huge difference. Thank you for carrying our your vocations as members of the Body of Christ, bringing his love and healing to others.

You are following in the footsteps of Eli and Samuel and Philip and Nathanael. You are following in the footsteps of our Lord. It is a privilege and a joy to share the journey with you.

Amen.