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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 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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Pentecost 9 Proper 12B July 25, 2021

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

David was a great king who brought together all the tribes of Israel and united the northern and southern kingdoms. He was a valiant warrior. His people knew him and and loved him. And David was a person of deep faith. Even as a young boy, he attributed his victory over Goliath as the work of God on behalf of God’s people. And God loved him, called him to be king, called him to be the shepherd of God’s people.  The Messiah would later come from the house of David.

In our opening reading for today, we have the account of David’s fall into the depths of depravity. He is not leading the troops into battle. He looks out from the roof of the king’s house in Jerusalem, sees a beautiful woman, inquires about her, and finds out that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his most trusted officers. This should make David stop and think, but it does not. 

David commits the sin of adultery, finds out that Bathsheba is pregnant, calls Uriah in from the  battle, asks about the progress of the war, and tries to get Uriah to go home and spend the night with his wife so that it will appear that the baby is Uriah’s child. 

Uriah must have wondered about the behavior of his beloved commander. It was unusual to call officers home from the front. As a loyal officer, Uriah is not going to go home and see his wife while the army is at war. He sleeps with the servants at the entrance of the king’s house. Even when David gets Uriah drunk, the faithful officer shows his loyalty to his king, does his duty as an officer, and stays at the king’s house. Now David sinks even lower. Knowing that the faithful officer Uriah would never open an official communication, David gives him a letter to deliver to his general, Joab. The letter orders Joab to put Uriah in the front lines and then fall back and leave him to be killed by the enemy. Uriah is carrying his death sentence.

As David said in his lament at the death of Saul and Jonathan, “How the mighty have fallen.” Uriah’s loyalty and integrity are such a contrast to David’s shocking behavior.

In our gospel for today, we have John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. It is near the time of the Passover. Jesus asks Philip where they will buy food for the crowd, knowing what he is going to do. But Andrew, who has apparently been getting acquainted with the people, has already found a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish.

Jesus tells the discipes to make the people sit down. When we are in a big crowd and we sit down on the grass and we are in the presence of Jesus, suddenly there is a sense of order, a sense of quiet, a sense of purpose. As Julian said centuries later, “All will be well.” Jesus takes the loaves, blesses them, breaks them and distributes them. It is a eucharistic action. They gather up the leftovers and there are twelve baskets. The people begin to realize who Jesus is.

Evening comes, and the disciples get into a boat to cross the sea of Galilee. Now it is dark, the wind comes up, the waves grow higher, and there Jesus is, coming to them on the water. They are terrified. And he says those crucial words. “It is I; do not be afraid.”

What are these readings saying to us? First, David was a great leader in many ways. Yet he went far astray. We are all sinners. We all misuse God’s gift of free will at various times in our lives. The Bible does not mince words concerning this truth. Thanks be to God that we can reach out and grasp the hand of our risen Lord. Thanks be to God that we can follow our Good Shepherd.

And then the feeding of five thousand people. Andrew has found a boy with five barley loaves and two fish. We are called to look around us, find out what gifts God is giving us, and use those gifts. Jesus takes, gives thanks, breaks and shares those loaves and fishes. Five thousand people are fed. We have the gifts we need to be Christ’s risen body and share his love with others. Thanks be to God  and our faithful volunteers for our food shelf, which is feeding so many people.

Once David misuses his power and begins his downward slide, many of his decisions are governed by fear. Our Lord says, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Again, we can reach out and touch our risen Lord and be calm and regain our faith and get back on track.

Our epistle gives us some wonderful food for meditation. Paul’s disciple prays that we “may be strengthened in [our] inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith, as [we] are being rooted and grounded in love,” And then this faithful disciple prays “that [we] may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Perhaps that is what happened to that crowd of five thousand people, sitting on the grass by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which is really a fresh water lake, so we can imagine being near Fairfield Pond or maybe Lake Champlain, being seated near the water and eating this meal which Jesus has prepared for us. Or we can think of ourselves, here at Grace Church. We will soon share this Eucharist, this thanksgiving feast at which Jesus is the host.  We will soon share this meal which fills us with the fullness of God. May we always remember that Jesus told us his kingdom is within us. He is with us always, around us and within us. 

Verse six of hymn 370, St. Patrick’s breastplate says, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

And our epistle ends with this benediction: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” 

Pentecost 14 Proper 19C September 15, 2019

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

Our first reading today comes from the prophet Jeremiah. There is an enemy from the North, probably the Babylonian Empire, and the attack of this enemy is going to cause such vast destruction that scholars tell us the wording is similar to that used to describe the chaos before the creation. The earth becomes “waste and void,” and the heavens have no light.

The attack is described as a hot desert wind, and scholars such as Walter Bouzard tell us that, though this passage refers to events that happened about two thousand six hundred years ago, we, the people of God in the twenty-first century, can read this passage as an indication of what human activity is doing to God’s creation. Bouzard writes, “The link between human sin and environmental degradation has received a new and less metaphorical meaning in recent decades. Whatever one thinks about the scientific causes of global warming,  the fact remains that human consumption has filled our seas with plastic and our rain with acids. This is not the direct judgment of God, of course, but it does seem that God has created the world in such a way that sin’s consequences are felt in our environment. What might Christians do?” (Bouzard, New Proclamation Year C 2013, Easter through Christ the King, p. 176

Whether it is an enemy from the North, or some other threat, the devastation described in our reading is profound. “The whole land shall be a desolation,” God says. Biblical scholar James D. Newsome says that we might describe the situation portrayed in this reading in two words: “total despair.” (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year C, p. 507.) But this is not the last word. There is a final note of hope. God says, “Yet I will not make a full end.”

Our epistle for today is from the First Letter to Timothy. Scholars have spent long hours, days, and years debating whether this letter was written by Paul late in his ministry or by a faithful disciple of Paul. In either case, the latter is written to convey the thought and spirit of Paul, and it is directed to his beloved helper, Timothy. Once again, we hear the theme of hope. If anyone deserved to be written off by God, it was Saul, the merciless persecutor of the followers of Christ. 

But what did our Lord do? The risen Jesus spoke to Saul of Tarsus and asked Saul why he was killing followers of what was then called The Way.  And Saul was transformed by the mercy and love of Christ.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees and the scribes are complaining because Jesus eats with sinners and tax collectors. Always, we need to keep in mind that the Pharisees and scribes were people like us. We should not label them as the hated Other. They were just trying to keep their faith as it had been handed down to them. Unfortunately, the legal scholars had expanded the ten commandments into six hundred thirty-three rules and regulations that only people of wealth and leisure could follow.

In response to their complaints, Jesus tells two parables. The first one is about the one lost sheep out of a flock of one hundred. Jesus asks which shepherd would not leave the flock and go to find the lost sheep.  The shepherds listening to Jesus would have asked, “Are you crazy? You want us to leave our flock to be eaten by wild animals and go off and find the one lost sheep?”

Thus is just another example of how the kingdom of Jesus turns everything upside down. Yes, Jesus goes out and finds the lost sheep. And he lays it across his shoulders, takes it home, and invites his neighbors in for a feast. In a similar fashion, the woman who has lost the silver coin searches and searches until she finds it and invites her neighbors in to celebrate with her.

In his book, Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus, Robert Farrar Capon writes, “Jesus’ plan of salvation works only with the last, the lost, the least, the little, and the dead; the living, the great, the successful, the found, and the first simply will not consent to the radical slimming down that Jesus, the Needle of God, calls for if he is to pull them through into the kingdom.” (p. 388)

On the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep. Capon writes, “The entire cause of the recovery operation in both stories is the shepherd’s, or the woman’s, determination to find the lost. Neither the lost sheep nor the lost coin does a blessed thing except hang around in its lostness. On the strength of this parable, therefore, it is precisely our sins, and not our goodnesses, that most commend us to the grace of God.  Capon says that the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin “…are parables about God’s determination to move before we do—in short, to make lostness and death the only tickets we need to the Supper of the Lamb…. These stories are parables of grace, and grace only.” (Kingdom, Grace, Judgment, p. 186-187.)

Capon concludes, “It is about the ‘one thing necessary’ (See Luke 10:42): the response of trust, of faith in Jesus’ free acceptance of us by the grace of his death and resurrection. It is, in other words, about a faithful, Mary-like waiting upon Jesus himself as the embodiment of the mystery—and about the danger of substituting some prudent, fretful, Martha-like business of our own for that waiting.” (Kingdom,Grace,Judgment, p. 424.)

I think that “Mary-like waiting” is what our Collect for today is about. This prayer dates back to at least 750 A.D. Our traditional version goes back to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The 1549 version of the prayer reads,  “O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee, grant that the working of thy mercy may in all things direct and rule our hearts.”

It is not that we cannot do good things without God. Of course we can. It is, rather, that God is calling us to respond to God’s gifts of grace, love, and mercy, and to trust God to lead us in everything that we think and do because trusting in God frees us from our lostness and allows us to live in our foundness and our freedom as God’s beloved children. May we accept God’s gift of grace. 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.

Pentecost 17 Proper 19C RCL September 11, 2016

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
Psalm 14
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-10

In our first reading, the prophet Jeremiah is telling the people that, because the people are drifting away from God, there will be an invasion from the north and the land will be laid waste.

Back in those days, people believed that everything that happened was directly caused by God. Herbert O’Driscoll offers a modern example. He writes, “Some time ago in Australia, rescuers had to drag bodies from  a number of shattered ski hostels that were demolished by a landslide. Nobody today would say that this was a judgment of God. Yet people did acknowledge that, because of the scarcity of good ski hills in Australia, this area had been heavily over-developed by business interests wishing to make high profits. It was well known that this development was stressing the mountain side severely. In other words—to use the language of morality—greed and stupidity prevailed over intelligence and a healthy respect for the created order.”

O’Driscoll is offering us an excellent example. In biblical times, people would have said that the landslide was sent by God. Now, we have a much more scientific understanding of events, and we also say that moral and ethical laxity have consequences. This is what was happening in Jeremiah’s time. Leaders were forgetting God and relying on human power. They were also failing to care for those who were most vulnerable in the society. Jeremiah is saying that there will be consequences, and he is also saying something else that is very important. God’s love and mercy will prevail.

Our epistle is from the First Letter to Timothy. Most scholars think the this letter was written by a student of Paul, but for simplicity’s sake, I am going to call the writer Paul. From his years of experience, Paul is advising and guiding his beloved assistant, Timothy. Paul can be so refreshingly blunt and honest. He begins by thanking God for judging him as faithful and appointing him to serve God, even though Paul has many flaws.

God chose a persecutor of the Church to be the apostle to the world. Through God’s love and mercy, Paul was given the gifts and strength to speak God’s love and forgiveness to hundreds and hundreds of people around the Mediterranean basin. But Paul does not focus on his life and ministry. He ends by giving glory to God in the words we use in one of our most beautiful hymns. He writes, “To the king of the ages, immortal, invisible. the only God, be honor and glory, forever and ever.”

In today’s gospel, the Pharisees and Scribes are saying that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Yes, our Lord opens his arms to us sinners and does that most intimate and nourishing thing. He breaks bread with us.

Then he tells us how he feels about us. If we are that lost sheep, he is going to look and look until he finds us and brings us back home on his shoulder. He is going to hunt for us the way the woman looked for that lost coin.

As my beloved mentor. David Brown, has said, “The Church is the Communion of Saints, but it is also a hospital for sick sinners.” We have all done things which we ought not to have done and we have all not done things which we ought to have done. We have sinned. We have committed sins of commission and omission. Our Lord has reached out and welcomed all of us. Because of his love and forgiveness and healing, we have been made new in him.

This very day, September 11, 2016, is the fifteenth anniversary of one of the most tragic and horrific events in our history. It is a day that we will never forget. It was such a terrible day that we actually call it by its date—Nine-Eleven.

I am not going to attempt to comment on the meaning of that day, except to say that it has marked each of us and all of us forever. I am not going to try to analyze how we might have avoided that day or how we might prevent another day such as that from ever happening on this earth. I know that we all pray for peace. We pray for all those who lost their lives, and those who were wounded on that day, and we pray for their loved ones. We also pray for the first responders, police, fire fighters, and the many others who went to help and who were injured or lost their lives, and for their families and all who love them.

We pray for the members of our armed forces who put their lives on the line in the fight against terrorism.

When I hear the fighter jets of the Vermont Air Guard flying overhead, as I often do, I always remember that they were the ones sent to protect New York, and we all know that they fly missions all over the world.

As we remember the events of fifteen years ago, our collect offers us some very profound and wise guidance. “O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts. through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

As we move forward in this day and beyond, may we seek the guidance of God in all things; may we work with God to bring in God’s shalom. Amen.

Pentecost 9 Proper 12B RCL July 26, 2015

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

Our opening reading is almost shocking in its stark portrayal of human sin. Here is King David, who loves God and has performed many courageous and noble acts and is much loved by his people, sinking so low that it almost takes our breath away.

First of all, he is not doing what a king is supposed to be doing. He is not leading the troops in battle. He has put Joab in command of the army. David looks down from his rooftop quarters and sees Bathsheba bathing. He finds out that she is the wife wife of one of his most outstanding commanders, Uriah the Hittite. This information should bring him to his senses. It should be a warning. There are precious webs of relationship here which should not be torn apart.

But he has lost his moral compass. He has Bathsheba brought to him and uses his power as king to commit adultery with her. Some time later, she tells David she is pregnant, and he calls Uriah back from the field of battle. When David tells Uriah to go home and be with his wife so that people will think the child is Uriah’s, his faithful officer sleeps outside. Uriah’s loyalty to God, his country, and his fellow soldiers who are sleeping outside makes him continue to observe military discipline. Then David gets Uriah drunk. Uriah will not enjoy the comforts of home when his men are fighting. So David sends Uriah back into battle with a letter ordering Joab to set up Uriah’s death.

Uriah’s self-discipline, loyalty, and integrity provide such a stark contrast to David’s selfishness, depravity, and duplicity that we are forced to face our own potential for darkness. This is a low point on David’s journey. How could someone with so much courage and so many gifts sink that far?

Our own dark times are probably not quite as dramatic as this one, but this story reminds us that we are all sinners.

Our reading from Ephesians is a prayer of adoration to the only One who can lift us out of those depths and save us from our own weakness and sinfulness. A little paraphrase. We bow our knees before God, who is the father and mother of all of us. God is the One who strengthens us in our inmost selves through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God working in us and in the world. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith, as we are rooted and grounded in love. Because of God’s grace, we are able to accept and in some mysterious way understand the depth of the love God has for us. We are filled with the fullness of God. And we give glory to God who can do these things.

Like our ancestor and brother, David, we are sinners.  And yet, at the very same time we are filled with the fullness of God. And this is all reflected in our gospel.  Last week we read the parts in Mark which go before and after the feeding of the five thousand. Now, we read that wonderful story in John’s gospel. The crowd is following but now Jesus and the disciples go up the mountain and sit there together praying. They are in the presence of God. They are fed by that presence.

But the crowd follows them. More than five thousand people, if you count the women and children. Jesus asks Philip, “Where are we going to get food for these people? And Philip answers, “It would take six months’ wages to buy food for them, and then that wouldn’t be enough.” Uh-oh, we’re in trouble. We don’t have enough. Now here is Andrew. “There is a boy here with five little barley loaves and two fish.” But then Andrew goes into that scarcity model: “What is that when we have so many people?”

Jesus asks them to make the people sit down. It is a grassy place. Green. Refreshing. He leads us to the green pastures. We sit down with our extended family group. We feel cherished and safe and taken care of. He takes the loaves, thanks God, and breaks them, and they are shared with all the people, He takes, blesses, breaks, and distributes. A Eucharistic action and it is the time of the passover. Here is the heavenly food of his presence and power and love.  Here is the food that leads us out of slavery to sin.They and we are “filled with the fullness of God.”

There are twelve baskets left over. With Jesus we always have enough, There is always a way to feed folks and care for them. The people try to make Jesus king. This gospel provides a contrast to the story of David which we just read. Jesus does’t want to be an earthly king. He goes up to the mountain to pray and be with God.

The disciples get into the boat and start across the sea to Capernaum. A storm comes up. The wind is blowing so hard you can hear it whistling in your ears, and the waves are several feet high.  They row three or four miles in the wind and waves. That is hard work. He comes walking to them on the sea and they are petrified. And what does he say? “It is I; do not be afraid.” Right away, they reach their destination.

We are sinners. We get lost. We are weak. Thanks be to God, we are not alone. God loves us. We are fed with the fullness of God. We do not have to be afraid. Every day and several times a day, we can go up  toward the mountain to that grassy place and be with our Lord and be fed by him. Every week we can gather at the altar and be fed with his life-giving presence.

Today, we see two different kinds of kings. David was a great military commander who loved God and danced in joy before the Ark of the Covenant. David was also a human being who made some bad choices in our story today.

Centuries after King David came another King, who was of the house of David. Like David, he was a shepherd, our Good Shepherd.

May we follow him and be the people he calls us to be.  Amen.

Pentecost 17 Proper 19C RCL September 15, 2013

Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28
 Psalm 14
 Timothy 1: 12-17
 Luke 15:1-10
In our opening lesson from Jeremiah, God’s people have strayed from God’s values of compassion. The ultimate result is that their society is crumbling and that they will suffer a foreign invasion.
In his letter to Timothy, his student and apprentice, Paul expresses his gratitude to Jesus, who has called Paul to minister in Jesus’ name and has given Paul grace to carry out his ministry even though Paul was, in his own words, “a persecutor and a man of violence.” As we know, until he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul was totally dedicated to killing the followers of Jesus.
In our gospel for today, we see Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who leaves the ninety-nine sheep who are safe and secure and goes out to rescue the one who is lost and in danger.
Our lessons and collect for today lead me to take some time to reflect on a topic we had discussed some time ago, and some folks had asked for some reflections on this topic of Original Sin and Original Blessing.
There is one strain of Christian theology that was strongly promoted by St. Augustine of Hippo, who had led a wild life before he finally found faith. This theology says that all of us are born sinners. Even little babies are born sinners, and we will all be very bad people and will do bad things except for the grace of God. This is also the theology that says that unbaptized babies will go to hell or limbo. And this theology says that we baptize babies to prevent them from going to hell or limbo. This theology makes God into a bad and hateful parent.
The theology of Original Blessing is a theology that looks at the account of the creation in the Book of Genesis and sees that, at every stage of that creation, there is a wonderful refrain, “ and God saw that it was good.” Original Blessing, or Creation Theology, also says that God created people as good. Little babies are not horrible sinners bent on doing evil. They are wonderful little human beings who are curious, open to love and learning. They need good guidance from all of us to grow up and be creative people.
The theology of Original Blessing says that all people are created essentially good and that God has given us free will. We have choices.God loves us with all of God’s heart. God loves us unconditionally. God wants us to love God back. But, if God simply programmed us to love God and others, like robots or puppets, that love would mean nothing because it would not be our free choice. So God gives us free will.
The story of Adam and Eve in the Bible is an early attempt to explain how evil came into the world. Adam and Eve are given a beautiful garden and all they have to do is not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and, as we all know they eat the fruit. This story is the basis for the theology of Original Sin. Basically, the theology says, Adam and Eve committed that first, original sin, and now we are all afflicted with the sin that originated with them, namely, Original Sin. That theology says that we were all mired in sin, and God sent God’s only Son to free us from that curse.
The theology of Original Blessing, described by Matthew Fox in his book, Original Blessing, says that God created the world and it was good, and God created people and they are basically good. God gave us the gift of free will and we can make some humdingers of bad choices and messes, but God never stops loving us and is always there to help us.
This loving God would never condemn his Son to die as a sacrifice for us because God is not a God who needs sacrifices. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth, God came among us to lead us and guide us and show us how to live, how to love God and how to love other people.
We humans do have a tendency to want to do it our own way rather than to follow God’s guidance. This is what we call the sin of pride. We don’t want to stick to those boring old Ten Commandments. We don’t want to pursue the virtues of faith, hope, and love, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. We can find ourselves at times drawn almost irresistibly to pride, wrath, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, and sloth. We can be like two year olds. We don’t want to love God back and love our neighbor.
All of this means that we can sure use some good help, and that is why Jesus came to be with us, to show us the way, to be someone we can follow and to give us the grace and power to follow in his footsteps. This is our loving God seeing that we need help and grace and coming to be with us.
Because the creation is good and we are trying to follow Jesus, we are also called to cherish the creation—the earth, the oceans and lakes and rivers and seas and skies, the plants and animals, everything that God has given us. In other words, we are called to be good stewards of every part of the beautiful world that God has given us.
Celtic theology expresses many of these concepts in a beautiful way, and there was a Celtic theologian, Pelagius, who tried to express the idea that God made the creation good and saw that it was good, and this included people. But his words and ideas were twisted and misinterpreted, and he was branded a heretic.
I have always loved our collect for today. Here is the version from the 1928 prayer book. “O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
In this prayer, we are saying that without God we are not able to please God. Does this mean that we cannot do anything good without God’s help? Does this mean that we are helpless without God? I don’t think that is the meaning. I think the meaning is that God has created us good and that we can do many good things, and that God wants us to choose to be partners with God. God wants us to be co-creators with God in doing and creating good things, in taking care of the creation, in loving
God back and in loving others as God loves them. I think that it means that what pleases God the most is our accepting God’s love and loving God back. When we do that, our “hearts are fixed where true joys are to be found.” We will be following Jesus for the rest of our eternal lives.
Amen.