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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 4 Proper 7B June 20, 2021

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

Last Sunday, we read the story of how God sent Samuel to the home of Jesse to anoint David as King of Israel. We remember that Saul, who is still king, has been a great disappointment to both God and Samuel. He was not a good leader.

Very few people know that David has been anointed as King. The young man has been dividing his time between tending the sheep and going to the palace to play his lyre for King Saul, who has developed a very upsetting illness which can be relieved only by the presence of David playing his lyre.

David’s older brothers have been serving in the army, and David has been sent to the front lines to bring supplies to them. As he arrives, David hears Goliath, a giant of a man, hurling insults at the God of Israel and challenging God’s people to send a man to fight him. Just to give us an idea of his size, scholars tell us that six cubits and a span means that Goliath is ten feet tall. Goliath is a bully on steroids. He has no use for God and he relies only on his brute strength and his capacity for endless bragging and threatening.

David delivers the supplies for his brothers and hears the words of Goliath. He offers to go and fight Goliath. Saul is concerned for David’s safety, David assures Saul that he has killed lions and bears in order to defend his flock. Scholars tell us that there indeed were lions and bears in Palestine at that time. Saul is a bit dubious, but David says, “The Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will save me from this Philistine.”  Goliath trusts in his own brute strength. David trusts completely in God. Saul tries to help David by giving the young man his armor, but the weight of the physical armor paralyzes David. He takes his shepherd’s staff, five smooth stones, and his sling. 

Goliath curses and ridicules David. David responds, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…” David runs to the battle line, takes one of those smooth stones, hurls it at Goliath, and kills him.

This story is the classic tale of the victory of the underdog, but it is also a profound statement about the power of faith. Biblical scholar James Newsome writes, “The God of justice is committed to the preservation of faithful people and to the defense of those who cannot defend themselves….The point of the whole narrative is that Goliath is a predator, and as God’s agent of justice David will deal with him as such….The death of Goliath signals that Israel’s new king, this shepherd like no other, will defend his people against their oppressors. But more than that, it reaffirms that the God of Israel will never permit injustice to prevail.” (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, pp. 393-394.)

As he addresses Goliath and prepares for battle, David has a depth of calmness and faith. This theme is carried into our gospel for today. Jesus suggests that he and his team take the boat to the other side of the lake. They have been surrounded by people and they need some time apart. As they head for the other side, a squall comes up. The wind and waves are threatening to swamp the boat. His companions are terrified. Jesus is asleep. In ancient times, the sea was equated with chaos. God’s work of creation brought order and beauty to the chaos. In this gospel passage, the sea becomes chaotic to the point of being deadly, and Jesus sleeps through it. Chaos does not terrify  him because of his deep faith.

All of this made me think of something our presiding Bishop has spoken about recently. He says we have a choice between community and chaos, and, of course, Bishop Curry offers the Way of Love as the basis for community.

To me, Goliath is a symbol of chaos—threatening people, throwing insults, even at God, pushing people around, even killing people. David is a symbol of the kind of deep faith that builds community instead of chaos. Because of his faith, David was able to protect his people that day. He became one of the great kings of Israel. He created community. He even brought the two kingdoms of Israel together.

Jesus is able to still the storms that terrify us. He wakes up and calms the storm. He is able to sleep because of his complete faith in God.

David steps up and offers to fight Goliath because of his deep faith in God and his determination to prevent his people from being enslaved. The life and ministry of our Lord free us from every bondage and set us free to help others.

New Testament scholar Ira Brent Driggers writes, “The world scoffs with Goliath at the prospect of defeating the seemingly unbeatable giant with a single smooth stone, just as it scoffs at the proposition of defeating sin and death through a singular, incarnate love. The Christian story here is not one of violence and bloodshed but trusting that God works within the creation (and in unexpected ways through a shepherd boy and a carpenter’s son) to realize the divine will for creation.” Driggers, New Proclamation Year B 2012, p. 92.)

Bishop Curry writes, “I am a follower of Jesus of Nazareth because I believe that his way of love and his way of life is the way of life for us all. I believe that unselfish, sacrificial love, love that seeks the good and the welfare and the well-being of others, as well as the self, that this is the way that can lead us and guide us to do what is just, to do what is right, to do what is merciful. It is the way that can lead us beyond the chaos to community.”

The faith of a young shepherd enables him to calm the chaos caused by a predatory bully. The faith of our Lord allows him to sleep through a tempest and then awaken to calm the storm. Our faith enables us to walk the Way of Love and to help God build God’s shalom of peace and love. Amen.

Pentecost 5 Proper 7B RCL June 24, 2018

1 Samuel 17(1a, 4-11. 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

If we think back to our Sunday School days, what Bible passages do we remember? I think today’s first reading would rank near the top of the list for many of us. It is the classic story of the underdog winning the battle.

The text tells us that Goliath’s height was six cubits and a span. Scholars tell us that that translates into a height of ten feet. Goliath is huge; he is scary, and he is a bully. He challenges the Israelites to send one of their men to fight. If Goliath wins the battle, the Israelites will become the slaves of the Philistines.

Meanwhile, David’s father, Jesse, has asked David to bring supplies to his brothers who are at the front. David has gotten up early, left the sheep with a keeper, and brought the supplies. He goes to visit his brothers and hears the taunts of Goliath.

When he goes to King Saul and offers to fight the giant, Saul is afraid that David will be killed. But David assures Saul that, as a shepherd, he has killed bears and lions in order to protect his flock. Saul then offers David his armor, but it is far too heavy and bulky. David goes into battle with his shepherd’s staff, five smooth stones, and his sling.

As Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “David wears armor that we cannot see.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us, Year B, vol. 3, p. 32.)

When David arrives on the battlefield, Goliath hurls threats. David answers, “You come to me with sword and spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” Goliath is trusting in his own physical strength and brutality. David is trusting in God.

In our epistle for today, Paul is writing to the troubled congregation in Corinth. Some people have gotten the idea that Paul is doing his ministry for his own personal gain and that he is insincere in what he is teaching. With all that Paul has been through, including shipwrecks, prison, and beatings it is difficult to conclude that he is in it for the glory, but that is what folks are saying. In spite of all this, Paul says that his heart is wide open to the people of Corinth, and he invites them to “Open wide [their] hearts also.”

If we open our hearts to each other, remembering that in Biblical terms the heart is the center of the person, the source not only of emotions but also of intention, will, commitment, thought, and intuition, opening our hearts is a powerful thing. We are speaking our truth from the depth of our being. When we can do that in a respectful and loving way, hurts can be healed, issues can be resolved, reconciliation can come out of conflict. Paul was a wise pastor and his words are as true today as they were all those centuries ago.

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to get into the boat and go to the quieter side of the Sea of Galilee. They have been surrounded by huge crowds and they need some time away. Of course, the boats follow him. We know the story well. A major storm comes up, with powerful winds and waves so high that the boat is being swamped. The disciples are terrified. Jesus has fallen asleep. They wake him up, shouting, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”  He asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And the text says, “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?”

Biblical scholar Fred Craddock tells us that at this point in their life together, the disciples had not realized who Jesus was. Craddock points out that Mark wrote this gospel for the Church, for those of us who know who Jesus is.

Jesus is with us at every moment in our lives. God is in the boat with us. God was with David. The Holy Spirit is with us. In every storm in life, God is present. Jesus is with us, leading and guiding us, giving us grace and strength to follow him, to rely on him for courage, to follow his lead in doing the right thing.

As I meditated on these readings this week, especially the encounter between David and Goliath, the words of the prophet Zechariah came to mind: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Lord Jesus, our Savior and brother, help us to remember that you are always with us. Give us the grace to transform our our fears into faith. Help us to seek and your will. In your holy Name we pray. Amen.