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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 2023 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 February 12, 2023 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 February 19, 2023 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 8 Proper 10 B RCL     July 15, 2018

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Our first reading is full of joy at the gifts of God. David has defeated the Philistines, something that King Saul was never able to do. God’s people are now united under one king. David is going to move the ark to Jerusalem, which he has just conquered. Jerusalem will now be the civil and religious capital of the new kingdom. David and an army of thirty thousand men are going to get the ark of God, which had led the people out of slavery in Egypt, had resided at the temple in Shiloh, and then had been placed at the home of Abinadab, a short distance from Jerusalem.

Scholars tell us that we have no way of knowing what the ark had looked like or exactly what was inside the ark. But for God’s people, it symbolized the presence and power of God. Clearly, it was large and heavy enough to require a cart. David and all the people dance with joy at this celebration of the presence of God.

David wears the ephod, a priestly garment. He makes a sacrifice to the Lord. The people place the ark inside the tent which David has made. All of this is a solemn liturgical action. David then blesses the people and distributes the food of the offering to all the people. All of this reminds us of the Eucharist and the feeding of the huge crowds by our Lord.

The rule of David, the shepherd-king, will be rooted and grounded in God, and this is something to be celebrated by all the people.

Our first reading reminds us that there is great joy in our faith in God, and our epistle builds upon that thought. The Letter to the Ephesians was probably written by a disciple of Paul, and it was a kind of newsletter addressed to the many Gentile congregations in Asia Minor.

This inspiring letter tells us that, before time began, God chose us to be God’s children. God has poured out grace upon us and has given us the gift of forgiveness and newness of life in Christ. We have been made part of the living body of Christ on the earth, and we are working with our Lord, in the power of the Spirit, to build his kingdom. These are gifts we have received from our loving and generous God, and we could spend the rest of our lives dancing with joy in gratitude for God’s many gifts to us.

Our first two readings are filled with joy, but our gospel for today seems full of darkness. Jesus and his disciples have been going around the countryside healing people and teaching about the love of God.  Jesus has just sent the disciples out to teach and preach and heal people. King Herod Antipas thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist resurrected.

It is a grisly story, and we actually have a flashback here.  Herod married his brother Philip’s wife, which was against the law. He was able to do such an awful thing because he was the ruler and no one would dare to try to stop him or even confront him.

Herod Antipas, like his father before him and descendants after him, had no respect for the law and used his power to do whatever he felt was necessary to preserve his position. Very few people would have the courage to challenge such a ruthless leader. But John the Baptist told him that what he had done was wrong. Herod had John thrown in prison, but there was something about John that drew Herod to him. Herod would talk with John from time to time. He respected John. Deep down, he knew John the Baptist was right.

We all know the story. Contrary to what Hollywood has told us, there is no Salome in this story. There is a Salome in some accounts of the resurrection, but that’s a different person.

Herodias comes in and dances. Herod is probably quite drunk, so his judgment is impaired, but he promises her anything she wants. She consults her mother, who hates John the Baptist for telling the truth, and the next scene in this horrific tragedy is the gruesome appearance of John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Herod does not feel good about this but he gave his word, and, probably more importantly, what would all these guests think if he goes back on his ill-advised promise? John’s disciples come and give him a decent burial.

If we look at the actual text, there is a pause of several lines. We come back to the present after that flashback to the death of John the Baptist.  We remember that Jesus has sent his disciples out to share God’s love forgiveness, and healing. The disciples return from their mission trip and tell Jesus about all the healings they have done and all the wonderful gifts God has given people. Then they are surrounded by a huge crowd of people hungry to hear Jesus’ message. Night is coming, and you know this story, too. More than five thousand people are fed, and there are plenty of leftovers.

Then and now, it is a dangerous thing to speak truth to power. John the Baptist and Jesus paid the ultimate price. Many others, following in their footsteps, have also paid that price. But make no mistake: God’s love, as shown forth on the Cross, is the most powerful force in the world. Love is stronger than hate. Love is stronger than fear. God’s kingdom is growing, and God is calling us to help to build it. Now, as always, the followers of Jesus have, as our baptismal covenant says, “the gift of joy and wonder in all [God’s] works,” just as David and the people of God had great joy in God’s presence so many years ago, just as Paul and his followers had deep joy in God’s grace as the followers of Jesus were building new communities of faith.

I close with a prayer which was given to me by my sister in Christ, Sara. It is by William Sloane Coffin. “May God give us grace never to sell ourselves short, grace to risk something big for something good, and grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.  Amen.”

Pentecost 7 Proper 10B RCL July 12, 2015

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Our first reading describes a memorable and joyful moment in the history of God’s people. King David has defeated the Philistines, which sets the people free for a new beginning. The ark of God, which is the center of God’s presence, the ark which led them through the wilderness into the promised land, is being carried into Jerusalem, which is going to be the religious and political center of the new united kingdom of Judah and Israel under David.

We do not know exactly what the ark looked like, but, clearly, it was large enough to have to be carried on a cart, a new cart to signify the new beginning. This cart was pulled by oxen. The entire journey from the home of Abinadab to Jerusalem, becomes a joyful procession. David and all the people of Israel dance together and sing praises to the glory of God. This celebration is for everyone, not just for the king’s court.

David wears the priestly garment, the ephod, and makes sacrificial offerings to God. When the ark has been reverently placed inside the tent constructed for it, David blesses the people and gives food from the ceremony to all the people to take home.

This event, at the beginning of David’s reign, makes it clear that David is the good shepherd who places his faith in God and takes care of all the people. The king is a spiritual leader as well as a political figure. This whole ceremony reminds us of the Eucharist and the feeding of the five thousand. David is a good shepherd of the people, and this ceremony foreshadows the coming of our own Good Shepherd Jesus.

Everyone present at this celebration will remember it for the rest of his or her life. What a beautiful and joyful beginning to a new reign!

In our reading from the letter to the Ephesians, we read of all the gifts and blessings God has given us. God has adopted us as God’s own children, God has chosen us to be members of the Body of Christ. Most of all, God has come among us and lived among us. Our Lord Jesus has freed us from the mire of our sins and given us the grace to live life in a new way. All these many gifts are not just for a few people, but for everyone. Just as the celebration of David’s kingship was open to all, so the gift of new life in Christ is for everyone.

Our gospel for today is extremely difficult. Let’s place it in context. Last Sunday, Jesus went to his own home town and the people did not accept him. But at the end of that gospel reading, Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to preach the good news and to teach and heal people. So at the beginning of this gospel, the disciples are out in the world carrying on Jesus’ ministry.

Herod Antipas was a very different kind of king from David. He had divorced his wife to marry the wife of his brother Philip. John the Baptist has told him that was wrong. Herod used to go and talk with John the Baptist because he knew John was right, that John had courage and morality, and that he, Herod needed both those things. But at the same time, he rankled that John had named his immoral acts.

When Herod hears about Jesus’ ministry and how word is spreading about this wonderful teacher, he thinks that John the Baptist has come back to life.

Herod’s wife had never forgiven John for pointing out the immorality of her marriage to Herod Antipas. We all know the gruesome story of the murder of John the Baptist. Depending on which gospel we are reading, the details differ slightly. Contrary to what we see in the world of film, the gospels do not mention anyone named Salome in this story. There is someone of that name mentioned in connection with the resurrection.

So Mark is doing one of his sandwich things here. He starts out one story and then inserts another one. Jesus sends the disciples out to do ministry, Herod hears about it and then we have this awful flashback to the killing of John the Baptist. John’s disciples come to get his body and give it a decent burial.

Why is this story here? One reason is to draw a parallel between Jesus and John. They both speak truth to power, threaten power, and are killed. Ultimately, Jesus is going to be crucified.

But let’s look again at the context. What happens after this section of Mark? What happens is that the disciples come back to report to Jesus on their work. And they are full of joy. They have brought healing and good news to people, and the response has been wonderful, They have had success.

What are these readings telling us? What is God telling us this morning? David was not perfect by any means. Later, he would make many mistakes. But he began by rooting and grounding his kingship in faith in God and care for his people. And he felt deep joy in his relationship with God. He danced and sang with joy in God’s many blessings.

Our epistle echoes that theme. How many blessings God has showered upon us, and how much joy we can have in knowing how much God loves us and how much we love God.

And what about this most difficult gospel? Jesus sends the disciples out. Travel light. Trust in God. Stay where you are welcomed. If people do not want to hear you, shake the dust off your feet and go on to the next town.

Yes, Herod killed John the Baptist. People in power use that power to protect themselves. Many of John’s disciples joined Jesus’ followers. And they went out and spread his love and forgiveness. And here we are, inheritors of all those gifts.Yes, there are obstacles and challenges, and persecution. These things are happening right now in our world. But above and beyond all those things is the joy in following Christ, and the gratitude for all his gifts.  Amen.