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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 18, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 7 Proper 10B July 11, 2021

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

Reflecting on our first reading today, Old Testament scholar James Newsome writes, “The presence of God in human life results in a joy that far exceeds that generated by other relationships and by the usual day-to-day experiences of life.” Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 422.)

David has defeated the Philistines, a triumph King Saul could not achieve. The northern and southern kingdoms have been united. The ark of God, which had led the people of God out of their slavery in Egypt, has been at the home of Abinadab. Now David and thirty thousand men take a new cart and bring the ark of God to Jerusalem, where it will rest in a tent constructed by David. Later on, in that very spot, David’s son, Solomon, will build a temple to God. 

David wears the priestly garment, the ephod. He blesses the people. He feeds the people with the food offered at the feast in a kind of eucharistic action. In many ways, his actions are liturgical in nature. He is a religious leader as well as a king. He has been chosen by God to lead the people, and it is from his house that the Messiah will come.

As he leads the people in procession, David dances with great joy. 

We have been back in our beloved building for a few Sundays. It is such a blessing to be here where generations of faithful people have worshipped our loving and healing and merciful God. As wonderful as it is to be here, it is such a profound gift just to be together, to look into each other’s faces, to feel each other’s physical and spiritual presence in such a powerful way. For me this is such a wonderful expression of God’s love.

And that is what the writer of the Book of Ephesians, probably not Paul, but a faithful disciple of his, is expressing. This writer is telling us that God, the creator of heaven and earth, God who spoke to the people from Mt. Sinai, which was at that time an active volcano, God, who created all the plants and animals and everything else on earth, has adopted us as God’s very own beloved children.

Can you believe it? We can call God Dad, or Mom, or Papa or Mama. The creator of the universe bestows that level of love on us. We are that close to God. God is holding us in the palm of God’s hand. God is holding us in God’s loving arms.

To paraphrase James Newsome, the presence of God in our lives results in great joy. That is so true,

Then we come to our gospel for today, which is not about joy. When King Herod hears about all the healings and other wonderful things Jesus is doing, he thinks John the Baptist has come back to life. And then he remembers that he beheaded John, and our reading goes to a flashback.

Herod had arrested John the Baptist. Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John the Baptist told Herod that he had broken the law, You are not supposed to marry your brother’s wife. Herodias hated John the Baptist because he had told the truth about the law and morality.

Herod had a very complicated relationship with John. On the one hand, he did not like that John had criticized him. On the other hand, Herod liked to listen to John’s teachings about the scriptures. Down deep, I think, Herod realized that John the Baptist was a prophet speaking God’s truth.

One day, Herod had a birthday party and all his courtiers were invited. There was a great feast and the guests ate and drank their fill. His daughter came in and danced. Herod was so pleased that he offered her anything she wanted. She went out and asked her mother what her request should be. And her mother, who had a huge grudge against John the Baptist, told her to ask for John’s head. 

Scholars tell us that it is safe to assume that Herod had had far too much to drink. As drunk as he was, he did not want to kill John. He had genuine respect for John. But he had given his word, and what would all these powerful guests think if he went back on it? So he sent a soldier to do the nasty deed. This is one of the most grisly stories in the Bible or anywhere else—a tale of power and hatred gone mad.

John’s disciples come and take his body and give it a decent burial. And when Herod hears about Jesus he thinks it is John the Baptist risen from the dead, a kind of foreshadowing of the resurrection of our Lord. New Testament scholar Charles Cousar writes, “Truth-telling becomes a perilous venture in a world of Herods and Pilates.” (Cousar, Texts for Preaching Year B, P. 427.)

Even in the face of Herods and Pilates, the presence of God in our lives gives us joy. John the Baptist was the forerunner announcing the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is the light of the world and that light is shining in our lives right now. Nothing can change the power of that light and love. Nothing can dim that light. David danced with joy as he brought the ark of the covenant to a more permanent home. We dance for joy to be here now in our spiritual home. That light and love and joy is stronger than hate or fear.  Let us walk in the Way of Love. Let us dance in the Way of Love and Joy. Amen.

Pentecost 5 Proper 8B  June 27, 2021

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

In our opening reading this Sunday, King Saul and his son Jonathan have died in battle. David offers a poetic and powerful lament for these two men. As we know, King Saul had had an illness that tormented him. The only thing that comforted the king was David playing on his lyre, sometimes called a harp. 

As his illness progressed, King Saul became convinced that David was his enemy. The king got to the point where he wanted to kill David, so David left the palace and went into hiding. Jonathan continued to be a loyal friend to David. He stayed in touch with David and warned him when Saul was looking for him to kill him. 

In this lament, David is grieving over his best friend and his greatest enemy. Yet he pays tribute to both Jonathan and Saul. “How the mighty have fallen,” he says. He celebrates the courage of Saul and Jonathan and says that they were “Beloved and lovely…swifter than eagles and stronger than lions.”

David was far from perfect, but, at a time of great sadness, he was able to pay tribute to both Saul and Jonathan, people with whom he had extremely complicated relationships. Perhaps the most important theme of this passage is the tragedy of war.

In our second reading for today, Paul is encouraging the congregation in Corinth to follow through on their promise to raise funds to help the poor people in the Church in Jerusalem. The Corinthians have many gifts and much wealth, and Paul encourages them to share their material gifts with the people of Jerusalem. The members of the church in Corinth were Gentiles, and those in Jerusalem were Jewish. Paul is calling them and us to reach out beyond barriers of race and class to help our brothers and sisters.

In our gospel for today, Mark does one of his sandwich stories. He starts out by  telling us about Jairus and his daughter and then interrupts the story right in the middle to tell another story.

Jesus and his closest followers get into a  boat and cross to the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee. A huge crowd gathers. One of the leaders of the synagogue, Jairus, comes up to Jesus. We can be sure that Jairus knows that the authorities in Jerusalem are keeping a close eye on Jesus and trying to find a reason to put him in prison or worse.

When your child is ill, you do anything you need to do to save that child. Jairus puts his own life in danger. He falls to his knees and begs Jesus to come and heal his daughter. He has heard about Jesus, and he has complete faith that our Lord can heal his child. Jesus goes with him.

We remember that there is a huge crowd pressing in on Jesus. They want to get close to him. There is a woman in this crowd. On the social status scale, she is as far from Jairus as anyone can get. She is a woman, and in that society, women are considered as chattel, property. A complimentary way to think of a woman in that culture is that she is the equivalent of a prize cow. She is an object, a possession. In addition to that, she has had a hemorrhage for twelve years. This makes her ritually unclean according to the law. She is supposed to stay away from people. Rabbis, and Jesus is a rabbi. are not supposed to be anywhere near a woman, especially a woman who is unclean. Like Jairus, this woman, who is not named, is desperate. She has spent all the money she had going to doctors and they have done nothing to help her.  She is feeing even worse. She has heard about Jesus, and she believes in him with all her heart. She comes up behind him in the press of the crowd and touches his cloak, She completely believes that touch will heal her. The hemorrhage stops in that instant. Relief flows into her.

But Jesus has felt power going out of him. He asks, “Who touched my clothes?” The woman is filled with fear.  She could try to run away. She could attempt to disappear into the crowd. But she does not. She feels the love flowing from Jesus, a love that changes her life then and there. She is still afraid, but she kneels before him, as Jairus did, and tells him the whole truth. And what does Jesus do? Punish her? Yell at her? No. He says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”

Now, some people come and tell Jairus that his daughter has died. Jairus’ heart sinks. But Jesus tells him, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus takes Peter, James, and John, his closest disciples, and they go with Jairus to his house. Jesus goes into the house and finds a group of people weeping and wailing. He puts them outside. He creates a place of quiet and healing. Then he takes the child’s parents and they go into her room. He takes the girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, get up!” And she gets up and walks around. And then he tells them to give her something to eat. Jesus is always practical, always down to earth. This girl is alive! She needs nourishment.

Jairus and the unnamed woman are on opposite ends of the social scale. Our Lord treats them with the same infinite level of love and respect for their dignity. He knows how they feel. They are both at the end of their tethers. They are willing to risk anything. He gives them his complete focus and energy. He is there for them. He knows their anguish and desperation. He senses the depth of their faith. A woman is healed from something that made her unclean, unacceptable. A twelve year old girl has another chance at life. Our Lord can take us by the hand and give us a new lease on life. God can heal us of things that separate us from others. God can lead us from death to life.

The ministry of healing is a powerful thing, In many and different ways, all of you are involved in ministries of healing, whether it be caring for animals, feeding others, listening to others and sharing God’s love, making prayer shawls, so many ways of sharing God’s healing with others. May our loving and healing God continue to bless you in these ministries.

“Do not fear, only believe,” our Lord tells us. Loving and gracious and healing God, strengthen our faith. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Pentecost 6 Proper 8B RCL July 1, 2018

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5: 21-43

In our opening reading, Saul and his son Jonathan have been killed in battle. During the reign of Saul, David had spent a great deal of time at the court. As Saul became more and more ill and had trouble sleeping, David used to play the harp and sing to the king. David and  Jonathan were close friends.

As time went on, Saul became more and more afraid of losing power as king. He thought David was plotting to take the throne and tried to kill David. David had at least one opportunity that we know of to kill Saul, but he spared Saul’s life. When David had to escape out into the wilderness to hide from Saul, Jonathan continued to remain a loyal friend, bringing David food and warning him when Saul was searching for him. Even though Jonathan was Saul’s heir, he remained a good friend to David. He put friendship ahead of his own place as the one next in line to be king.

Of course, we know that God had sent Samuel to anoint David as king. David had many flaws. He gave orders that Uriah be sent to the front lines to die in battle so that he could marry Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. At the same time, David had qualities that endeared him to his people. His poem of praise to both Saul and Jonathan is a beautiful elegy for these two men, and it is also a lament on the waste of war. “How the mighty have fallen” is a phrase that has come into our language. David praises both Saul, who tried to kill him and Jonathan, his loyal friend, calling them “beloved and lovely!” David was able to look beyond the complex and tragic personal aspects of the situation and to pay tribute to Saul, who helped Israel begin the transition from a collection of tribes into a nation-state.

Psalm 130 is a powerful song of faith and hope with which all of us can identify. How many times have we been awake in the night watches agonizing over a situation and praying for God’s help for ourselves and others.

This assurance of God’s love and power is what enables two people to reach out to Jesus for help in our gospel for today.

Jesus is back on the busy side of the Sea of Galilee. The crowds are around him. Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue, is so desperate that he comes to this teacher whom the authorities are watching closely. “My daughter is at the point of death, Come lay your hands on her and heal her.” Immediately Jesus follows him to his house.

Things are so hectic and needs are so great that a woman, someone on the other end of the social spectrum, is able to come up and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, certain that just the power from that contact will heal her of hemorrhages that she has had for twelve years. She has gone to doctors but they have not been able to help. Because of this illness, she is marked by the law as unclean, She is supposed to stay away from people, No rabbi is supposed to be near to or touch someone who is unclean. But somehow she knows that Jesus will not be angry at her. She knows that he will care as much for her as he does for an official of the synagogue. So she reaches out over the abyss of social standing and religious laws and touches his cloak.

Jesus feels energy leaving his body. Herbert O’Driscoll says something very important about this, He notes that healing work has a cost. Every one in this congregation does healing work of one kind or another, and it does have a cost. I want to thank you for carrying out these ministries and for paying the emotional and physical price  for your healing work.

Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” We will never know how much that woman might have been tempted to run away, or to melt into the crowd and hide. She had just broken the religious law. But there was something about Jesus. His love and his caring had given her the courage to reach out and touch his garment in the first place, and now she falls on her knees before him just as Jairus had done earlier. Knowing that she had been healed, she told him everything. That’s how Jesus is: we can tell him everything. And he says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” He has just made her a part of his big family.

As he is still speaking, people come from Jairus’ house and tell him, “Your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the rabbi any more.” And Jesus says, “Do not fear, only believe.”  He takes with him only Peter, James. and John. He firmly escorts all the weeping and wailing people out of the house and takes the girl’s mother and father into her room.

Jesus knows the difference between life and death, between despair and hope. He takes the girl by the hand and says, “Little girl, get up!” As she walks around the room, he tells them to get her something to eat.

“Do not fear, only believe.” There are things happening in our own lives and in the world which can make us worried and afraid.  Our Lord is speaking to us and to our fears and worries today when he says, “Do not fear, only believe.” He is calling us to do what he did with these two people. He was not afraid when a religious authority asked his help even when other authorities were watching his every move. He was not afraid when a woman labeled unclean touched his cloak. He was always looking beyond these rules and labels and always moving in faith to bring healing, love and wholeness into the lives of people.

That is what we are called to do—to move beyond the fear and believe that, with God’s help and grace, we can bring love and healing into the world.    And that is what you are doing every day. Amen.

Pentecost 5 Proper 8B June 28, 2015

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8: 7-15
Mark 5: 21-43

In our opening reading, King Saul and his son, Jonathan, have died in a battle against the Philistines. King Saul was the first king of Israel, and he brought Israel from a confederation of tribes into the beginnings of a nation-state. David had become one of Saul’s greatest warriors, but, as King Saul became more and more ill, he began to plot to take David’s life.

Jonathan and David were very close friends, but, as King Saul’s illness because worse and he felt David was his enemy, it became more and more difficult for Jonathan to continue to be David’s friend because Saul might think that Jonathan was taking David’s side against Saul. By the usual right of succession, Jonathan, as Saul’s son, would have been the heir, but, as we know, God had sent Samuel to anoint the next king, and that king was David.

In spite of all the complications in this situation, Jonathan and David remained loyal to each other, but Jonathan also stayed loyal to his father, Saul. Now, we see the tragic end to this saga as both Jonathan and Saul die in battle.

Though Saul has been trying to have David killed, David honors Saul and Jonathan in this hymn. In spite of Saul’s plots to kill him, and in spite of all his own faults, David is able step back and honor the first King of Israel and his son Jonathan.

In our epistle for today, Paul is asking the Corinthians to be generous in their participation in a fund drive Paul is conducting for the Christians in Jerusalem.

In our gospel, Jesus sails back to the busier side, the Western side of the Sea of Galilee. This is also the Jewish side of the sea. He reaches the shore, and there is again a great crowd gathered around him. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, a prominent man honored in the community because of his position, comes to Jesus in desperation.

He falls at Jesus’ feet, a position of deep reverence. and tells Jesus that his little daughter is at the point of death. Immediately, Jesus goes with him. The crowd is surging around Jesus.

Now someone at the other end of the social spectrum, a woman who has been suffering from bleeding for twelve years, approaches Jesus. Because she is shedding blood, this woman is considered unclean. She has spent all her money on doctors and she has only gotten worse. This woman has deep faith in Jesus. If she simply touches his robe, she will be healed.

Jesus is considered a rabbi, and she should not be near him, says the law. She should be staying away from people because she is unclean. But she is desperate. Maybe she intuitively senses something else about Jesus. Yes, he can heal her, but, perhaps more importantly, he has come into the world to transcend these barriers of clean and unclean, acceptable and unacceptable, in and out.

She comes up behind him. She knows she is not supposed to be there. She reaches out. As soon as she touches his robe, she knows she is healed. But she probably has not realized that Jesus would know that some energy had gone out of him when she touched his robe. Jesus turns around and asks, “Who touched me?”

It is almost impossible for us to understand how humiliating it was for someone in that culture who was considered unclean. They had to stay by themselves, They were supposed to warn people if they had to walk in the street around people. It was terrible. And here this woman had gone right into the middle of the crowd and touched Jesus’ robe.

Now Jesus has detected that something has happened. What is she going to do? It would have been understandable if she had run as fast as she could or tried to slink quietly away without being detected. But something happens when we get close to Jesus. We know that he loves us. He gives us courage. And perhaps we even begin to realize that all the divisive rules that are based on class and gender and color and all those ways we humans have of dividing ourselves and classifying ourselves as good, bad, and indifferent—well, those things simply do not matter to God. As Archbishop Tutu says, God has a big family, and God loves all of us.

Maybe this woman knows that on some level. At any rate, she shows steely courage. She is terrified and trembling, but, like Jairus, she falls at Jesus’ feet in humble reverence and tells Jesus the whole truth. And Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Of course, she already knows she has been healed.

Without skipping a beat, Jesus goes on to the home of Jairus. Some people have come to tell Jairus that his daughter is dead and he shouldn’t bother Jesus any further, but notice that Jesus is never bothered by our needs. He is always ready to respond with love and healing. Jesus tells Jairus and us, “Do not fear, only believe.” Faith is such a powerful thing. Then he takes his closest followers, Peter and James and John into the girl’s room, puts the people weeping and wailing people outside, and then reaches out to this  girl, “Little girl get up!” She gets up, and the ever-practical Jesus asks them to get her something to eat.

Jesus heals the daughter of a prominent man, and he heals a woman who is an outcast. He loves each of them infinitely. No matter what our social status, we are part of his family. I know that all of us have been praying for the people of Mother Emanuel Church and for the healing of racism. The love that has been pouring out from Mother Emanuel and for Mother Emanuel is spilling out into Charleston and South Carolina and our nation and the world. Thanks be to God for that love, which breaks down barriers and heals all of us and makes us whole.  Amen.