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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:…

Epiphany 4C RCL January 31, 2016

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71:1-6
I Corinthians 13: 1-13
Luke 4:21-30

Our first reading today is from the Book of Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet when Jeremiah was only about eighteen years old. Jeremiah did not want to be a prophet. He was probably well aware that the life and ministry of a prophet is not easy or happy and it can sometimes be downright dangerous.

Have you ever been called to do something you just didn’t want to do? Have you ever felt that God was asking you to do something that was just beyond you? I think most of us have. I know I have felt that way at times.

But then, as we are telling God about all the reasons why we just can’t do whatever it is, God tells us that God has known us and loved us since before we were born and God is going to give us the gifts we need to do this challenging thing. And, though we may be reluctant, or even scared, we say Yes to God. The Bible and the lives of the saints are full of the stories of people who felt they were not good enough or strong enough or eloquent enough or wise enough, but who said yes because God promised to go with them and help them every step of the way.

Our epistle for today is First Corinthians, Chapter 13, verses one through thirteen. Paul is speaking to those people in the congregation in Corinth who thought they knew everything and thought they had gifts that were greater than the gifts of others, especially the gift of speaking in tongues, and he is saying that, if we do not have love, we have nothing. I wonder how some of those arrogant people felt when they heard this letter. I wonder if Paul got through to them. He certainly expressed it clearly. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It bears all things, believes all things. hopes all things, endures all things.”

What Paul is describing is the form of love called in Greek agape. This is the kind of unconditional love which God gives to us. It is the kind of love we aim for and will never reach. But it is a wonderful goal for our lives. It is an excellent model, and I know that all of us try to follow that model.

There are some situations in which this model is not to be followed. These are cases of extreme danger and we have to follow different models. One of those is war and the other is situations of abuse or domestic violence. In situations of abuse, for example, we are not called to endure all things. We are called to protect ourselves, to escape, and to save our lives.

Our gospel continues from last Sunday when Jesus read the words of Isaiah which describe his and our ministry to free people from anything that imprisons them. After he finishes reading, Jesus says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The people speak well of him.

Herbert O’Driscoll speculates that Jesus may have heard some adverse comments in the streets of Nazareth. O Driscoll writes, “Have people already said things to him on this visit home that we have not overheard? It sounds as if he has been hurt to some extent and feels resentful.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us Year C Volume 1, p. 93.)

Jesus points out,” No prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.” And then he gives examples of two times when God called prophets to minister to people outside the faith community. Elijah was sent to help the widow of Zarephath, who was a Gentile, and Elisha was called to heal Naaman, who was also a Gentile.

Jesus is making it clear that God’s love is for all people, and this makes the people listening to him so angry that they try to throw him over a cliff.

God loves everyone, and some of the people in Jesus’ hometown did not take kindly to that idea. Some time ago, theologian J. B. Phillips wrote a book called Your God Is Too Small. Some folks got quite upset at that title, but it helps us to realize that we humans tend to try to limit God.

O’Driscoll comments, “Today, this passage warns against our having a limited vision of God. Our Lord pledges his utter commitment to the work of liberating human lives.”

Perhaps the most powerful example of someone who started out with a limited idea of God and had his life transformed by our Lord is Saint Paul. This past Monday, we celebrated the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Saul, a Pharisee and a Roman citizen, thought he was serving God by persecuting followers of Jesus. On once occasion, Saul watched an angry crowd stone a man to death. This man was a faithful deacon  named Stephen, and he became the first Christian martyr.

Paul was on his way to Damascus to continue his mission of persecution when a blinding light shone all-around him and Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Saul did a complete one-eighty and followed Jesus with faith and courage until he died as a martyr in Rome in 64 A.D. We can understand how close he was to our Lord by reading and meditating on the passage in our epistle for today. He was beaten, thrown in prison numerous times, suffered shipwrecks. You name it; he went through it. Yet Paul is the one who wrote, “It is not I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”

What are these readings telling us? It is not always easy to answer God’s call. It is not always easy to follow Jesus. But our Lord is always right here with us, leading and guiding us. St. Paul gives us a description of agape. Jesus brings that description to life. God’s love is limitless. It includes everyone. May we accept God’s love for us. Amen.

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany Year C RCL February 3, 2013

Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 71_1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4: 21-30

In our opening reading today, God calls a young man, Jeremiah, to be a prophet. God tells Jeremiah that God has called him to this task even before Jeremiah was born, that God knew Jeremiah when he was growing in his mother’s womb. Jeremiah tells God that he couldn’t even think of serving as God’s prophet because he is too young. The Bible is full of stories about people being called, and they all offer reasons why they should not be called. For example, Moses said he wasn’t a very good public speaker, and God said, “That’s okay, Aaron can speak for you.”

In the case of Jeremiah, God stops the argument by reaching out and touching Jeremiah’s mouth, and God says, “I have put my words in your mouth,” How can anyone argue with that? Jeremiah is indeed young, probably about eighteen. From other parts of his book we find out that he is a quiet, private person, someone who does not like to be in the public eye. As a prophet, he will be a public figure. He will also have to go through some terrible experiences. He is put in prison; he will be in constant conflict with the rulers of his time; he will have to go into exile. A prophet’s life is anything but easy. Yet, through it all, the grace of God empowers Jeremiah to remain courageous and faithful.

What God is saying to Jeremiah, God is also saying to you and me. God has known us since before we were born. God called us into being. We are the apples of God’s eye. And God has called each of us to our ministry in the Body of Christ and has given us the grace and power to carry out our ministries faithfully.

In our epistle, we continue the reading of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. This is one of the most familiar and beloved pieces of scripture. It is important to remember its context. Paul is writing to a very troubled and divided congregation. This beautiful statement about the nature of love is not a general address; it is especially tailored to speak to a congregation in which certain people are being, well, unloving.

Paul names the very qualities these people need to develop within themselves with God’s help. “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” And Paul makes it clear that love is the greatest of the gifts of the Spirit and it is the foundation of all the gifts. If we do not treat each other with love, all our efforts are in vain. This is the ground upon which our community life must rest if it is to be authentically Christian. This love is what animates the Body of Christ.

This is our goal.

As we return to Luke’s gospel, we remember that Jesus has read the passage from Isaiah which describes his and our healing and freeing ministry. He concludes by saying, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” At first, people are pleased with him. They are happy for the local boy who has done so well.

Then Jesus begins to talk about the nature of his ministry. He says that prophets are not accepted in their home towns. And then he talks about the two great prophets, Elijah and Elisha. During the time of famine, many people were in need of food, but Elijah was sent to the widow of Zarephath in Sidon. He saved this woman and her son. But they were not of the synagogue community. They were Gentiles. They were outsiders.

Similarly, there were many people in the time of Elisha who had leprosy, but God called Elisha to heal Naaman, the Syrian, who was also a Gentile, an outsider. Jesus is making it clear that his ministry is to the whole world, to everyone, not just a select group.

This offends the people and they actually try to throw him off a cliff, but he slips away and escapes. This foreshadows what is going to happen in Jerusalem during Holy Week.

Biblical scholar Beverly Gaventa writes, “The prophets rescued, not the hometown folk but those regarded as outsiders, those who could not call themselves God’s people.”

What does all of this say to us today? First, that God knows each of us and loves us and calls us just as God called Jeremiah to be a prophet in a difficult time of war and dislocation and just as God called Paul to minister to a fractured congregation in Corinth.

Secondly, God called Jeremiah when he was very young. This reminds us of how important our young people are to us. In our classes and gatherings their comments often go right to the heart of the matter.  Their ministries among us and outside in the world make a real difference to all of us.

Finally, the people in Jesus’ hometown got angry because he wasn’t just going to stay there and be their local celebrity. They got angry because the heart of God is so big that God’s love includes everyone.

Beverly Gaventa’s  comment that the prophets rescued “even those who could not call themselves God’s people” got me thinking.

One sad thing about our world today is that there are many people who are actually trying to live as Jesus calls us to live, but they don’t even know enough about Jesus to realize that that’s what they are doing. There are many folks who have not learned the basics about who Jesus is and what he did in his ministry.  Although they are trying to lead lives of compassion, they do not realize that that’s what we as Christians are trying to do, they do not think of themselves as God’s people, and they do not think of going to church.

These are some of the folks we are called to reach out to and share, in our own quiet way, that we are all God’s people, that God loves each of us,  that we are all part of God’s big family, which includes everyone, and we are all called to share the kind of loving community Paul is talking about in today’s epistle.

May we walk in the light and love of Christ, and may we share that light and love with others.

Amen