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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:…
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The Epiphany    January 6, 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Today we have the joy of celebrating the feast of the Epiphany on a Sunday. The word “epiphany” means a “showing forth” or a “manifestation.” On this feast it becomes clear that the new faith in Christ is for all people.

Our first reading is from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah, a disciple of Isaiah writing around 539 B.C.E. King Cyrus of Persia has issued an edict allowing all the people exiled in Babylon to return to their homes. God is calling on Jerusalem to “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Light is one of the major themes of the Epiphany season. God tells the people, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Psalm 72 is a song of praise to the king, and it is also a description of a good leader. The king has a right relationship with God and seeks God’s guidance. The good leader is a good shepherd of the people, a leader who truly cares about the people, who rules with justice and protects the vulnerable, a leader who has true authority, auctoritas , authorship, creativity, a king who nurtures growth, and brings peace and prosperity for all.

In our passage from Ephesians, Paul, or most likely a disciple of Paul, reveals the mystery: the Good News of Christ is for everyone. God loves everyone. Or, as Archbishop Tutu would say, “God has a big family.”

And then we come to our passage from Matthew’s gospel. Wise men from the East come to worship Jesus. We really don’t know who these people were. Some scholars say they were from Persia, some say from Babylon. Persia would be what we know as Iran; Babylon would be Iraq. Some say that the wise men were Zoroastrian priests. Quite a few say that they were astrologers. Most say that these men knew about the stars and other heavenly bodies, that they observed the stars, and that, back in those days, people believed that the birth of a king was usually revealed in the heavens.These wise men believed that the star was guiding them to something very important. They felt compelled to follow that star wherever it led them. Matthew does not tell us that there were three kings, but tradition quickly developed that story, possibly because Matthew says that they offered three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Scholars tell us that these men made a long journey. It probably took them somewhere between a year and two years. By the time they reached Jesus, the text says they entered a house, not a stable. They had to be wealthy to make such a journey and to bring such gifts. Scholars tell us that it is probably accurate to assume that the wise men had many camels, both to carry them as passengers and to carry their belongings, provisions for the journey, and their gifts for the new king. They also had many servants. They were wealthy and powerful, but they were not literal kings. The text calls them kings in deference to the references to kings in our reading from Isaiah and in the prophecy of Micah.

They made a courtesy visit to King Herod, who is the figure in this story who opposes everything this new king stands for. A dream warned them not to return to Herod, but we can assume they had figured that out anyway.

Many people have created paintings of these wise men. People have written stories and poems about them. People have even created names for them. Why is this? I think it is because we are drawn to them and to their journey. Epiphanies, revelations, discoveries are not just a thing of the past. We also journey to worship our Lord and to offer our gifts. And gifts are another theme of the Epiphany season. Each and every one of you offers gifts to God and others every day. What gift will each of us offer to our Lord this Epiphany?

It is very clear that the wise men were Gentiles. Their coming and worshiping Jesus makes it clear that all people are loved and welcomed by God. In those days, when you came to pay homage to a king, you gave gifts as a courtesy, but I think after this long and arduous journey, their offering was much more than a courtesy. I think that their encounter with this very different king changed their lives. All the old rules and theories were gone. This king comes into the world as a little baby, totally vulnerable, and his rule is going to be the reign of love.

Another theme of the Epiphany season is mission. God loves everyone, and we are called to make that clear to everyone we meet. This June, when Bishop Tom makes his final visitation to Grace, we will be celebrating the ministry of our local food shelf and the construction of a new building to facilitate that ministry.

Later on in Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 25, Jesus talks with his followers about ministry and about how his love calls us to treat people. The first thing he says is, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.”

This is our king, who calls us to give food to those who are hungry, to give water to those who are thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, to visit those who are in prison.

This is an entirely new way to look at kingship, leadership and power. In this season of light, love, gifts, and mission, may we give thanks for God’s love, and may we continue to help God build God’s kingdom of peace and harmony.  Amen.

Pentecost 10 Proper 12B RCL July 29, 2018

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

In our opening reading, we are given the opportunity to witness a low point in the journey of King David. The first clue is that David has sent out Joab, his chief military officer, to lead the troops into battle while David relaxes at him. He is not doing his job.

The next step on this downward path is that David uses his power as king to command Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his most faithful soldiers, to come to his home, where he seduces her.

The next step on this downward moral spiral occurs when Bathsheba finds out that she is pregnant and David tries to get Uriah to go down to his house so that all will think the baby is his, but Uriah refuses to go and enjoy the comforts of home when Joab and all the other soldiers are on duty.

Finally, David sinks to the lowest point when he instructs Joab to put Uriah into the front lines and then withdraw in order to allow Uriah to be killed by the enemy.

Uriah’s loyalty, integrity, and sense of duty stand in stark contrast to the behavior of the king. At every step, David is using his power to get whatever he wants with no concern for the dignity of others. He is also using his power to protect himself and his position as king.

In today’s gospel, we move from Mark’s gospel to the gospel of John.

Once again, throngs of people are following Jesus and the disciples because they see how Jesus is healing the sick.

These people are also going to need to be fed, and Jesus asks Philip where they can buy food, Philip points out that they do not have nearly enough money to do that. Andrew has found a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, not nearly enough to feed this huge crowd. But Jesus is never willing to let anyone go hungry. He invites this crowd of five thousand to sit down on the grass. Jesus takes the food, gives thanks, and the disciples distribute the food among the people. When they gather the leftovers, they fill twelve baskets. There is great abundance. There is enough to feed everyone who is hungry.

The people begin to say that Jesus is the great prophet who is to come into the world. They are beginning to sense who he is. They want to seize him and make him king. He goes to the mountain again, He does not want worldly power. He goes to be apart with God.

The disciples decide to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. A strong wind comes up and the waves get bigger. They are rowing with all their might but not making much progress. When they see Jesus walking on the water, they become terrified. In Mark’s account, they think Jesus is a ghost. He speaks to them: “It is I; do not be afraid.” They recognize him and want to take him into the boat, and immediately, they reach their destination.

Jesus did not want earthly power. He constantly tells us that his power is from another realm. No matter how big the crowds are, he always feeds them, physically and spiritually. He goes apart to be with God. Then, when he is ready to rejoin his disciples, he simply walks on the water, even in a high wind. He tells us not to be afraid. When we are in the grip of fear, it is almost impossible for us to get on the beam, to get on track and hear God’s voice calling us.

David committed adultery. Then, because of his fear that this infringement of the law would be discovered, he had a good and loyal soldier murdered.

In our epistle for today, Paul prays that we “may be strengthened in [our] inner being with power through [the] Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith as [we] are being rooted and grounded in love.” He also prays that we “may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints,”—that is, with all our fellow Christians, “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of God which surpasses knowledge.” In other words, Paul is praying that we will be able to sense and understand the breadth and length and the height and depth of God’s love. That is the journey of a lifetime, to even begin to understand the infinite extent of God’s love for us. And Paul says that he wants us to understand just how much God loves us so that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Clearly, if David had kept his eye and mind on God, he would not have embarked on the tragic and destructive course of action he took. In trying to cover his tracks, he sank even lower. The way of faith is so different from the way of fear. Now, as always, Jesus calls to us, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

God’s love for us is infinite. We will never be able to fully understand it. But Saint Paul wisely calls us to try to plumb that mystery. He knows that, as we allow ourselves to know and accept the depth of God’s love for us, we will be filled with God’s presence more and more.

As that happens, fear will wane, and faith will grow., Christ will dwell in our hearts, and we will be rooted and grounded in love.  Amen.