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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 19 Proper 22B October 3, 2021

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

Our opening reading today is from the Book of Job. Job is a good person of deep faith. He has a loving family and is well off financially. He is respected as a person who is just and compassionate. People seek his counsel. Satan, who in those times was seen as a kind of prosecuting attorney, feels that, if Job had a few challenges thrown his way, his faith would quickly evaporate, and he would curse God.

In the portion of the first chapter which has been omitted, several disasters have already occurred. The Sabeans captured Job’s oxen and donkeys and killed the servants who took care of them; a fire burned up the sheep and the shepherds, and the Chaldeans captured the camels and killed the camel drivers. Worst of all, a huge wind came across the desert, collapsed the house, and killed Job’s seven sons and three daughters.

In our passage for today, Job is stricken with sores that cover his entire body. In those days, such a skin condition was considered to be leprosy, so he is now ritually unclean and an outcast. As we look in on the scene, he is scratching his sores with a piece of broken pottery. His wife encourages him to abandon his integrity, curse God, and die. But Job will not abandon his faith. He says that we have to receive the bad that comes from the hand of God as well as the good.

We will be reading the Book of Job for three more Sundays. Does God send bad things for us to suffer? Just a few weeks ago, we read from the Letter of James, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift is from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”In commenting on this passage, Beverly Gaventa says, “The writer insists that good gifts (and not temptations) come from God.” (Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, p.490.

We live in a fallen creation that is not operating in the way God would want it to operate. God’s shalom is not yet here. We are all working to build God’s kingdom of peace, harmony, and love. In Biblical times, people believed that good things happened to good people and bad things happened to bad people. As Christians, we know that that is not true. All we have to do is to look at the cross.

As we read the Book of Job, we will be asking questions such as, why do some people maintain their integrity even in the midst of hardship and suffering? Why do some people have faith that seems unshakeable?  Why do bad things happen to good people? Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a wonderful book responding to that question. Thus far, Job has lost his children and all of his possessions. He now has leprosy and is an outcast. But he still will not curse God.

In our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, the unknown writer, a person of deep faith, tells us that God has “spoken to us by a Son.”  Of the Son, the writer says,”He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being.” Jesus, the eternal Word, is God walking among us. The writer wonders why God would even care about us, but we know that God cares so much that God comes among us. The risen Christ is in the midst of us now, leading and guiding us. When we have times of suffering, we can look to him. He went through the worst experience possible, and through that experience he gave us new life. He made us his brothers and sisters.

In our gospel for today, our lord is facing the Pharisees, and they are asking him a question, not because they want to learn, but because they want to trip him up. Back in those times, a man could divorce his wife for something very trivial. She burned the supper or he didn’t like the way she kept house. A woman could not divorce a man even if he beat her. Women and children were chattel, objects, less than human.

Jesus presents an idea of marriage as a relationship between two people, two human beings, who become so close that they are like one flesh. That is the ideal we are all aiming for. However, there are cases in which a person is not able to keep his or her marriage vows. Domestic violence is one instance of this. There are valid reasons for the dissolution of a marriage. In this gospel passage, Jesus is raising marriage to its proper level as a partnership between two precious and beloved human beings. That is revolutionary thinking for his time.

But the next portion of the gospel is also revolutionary. Little children are trying to come to see Jesus. People want Jesus to touch these little ones. In those times, children were chattel, possessions, objects, expendable. Men did not pay attention to children in those times. That was women’s work. Children were considered a nuisance. They were at the bottom of the social scale. The disciples are trying to keep the children away. They are scolding the children.

And Jesus says something that turns the world upside down: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”

Little children are open, receptive, trusting. That’s how we need to be with God. Open and receptive. Open to God’s love and joy and peace and healing. Listening carefully for the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd, calling us, leading and guiding us. Trusting in the power of the Spirit and the grace of God. 

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, lead us to those still waters and those green pastures where we may be still and know that you are God. Give us grace to build your kingdom of love and peace, in the power of the Spirit. In your holy Name we pray. Amen. 

Pentecost 20 Proper 22B RCL October 7, 2018

Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Mark 10:2-16

In our opening reading this morning, we are looking in at a meeting of the heavenly beings. God points out a man named Job, who is faithful to God and chooses good over evil. Satan, who at that time in history was seen as a kind of prosecuting attorney, challenges God. Satan is certain that, if forced to endure all kinds of challenges and tragedies, Job will eventually curse God. So God gives Satan permission to visit these trials upon Job.

Our reading ends with the very sad picture of Job sitting in ashes with sores all over his body. Job’s wife tells him to give up his integrity, curse God, and die. Job refuses to do so. In the course of doing that, he insults his wife’s intelligence, revealing the sexist views of his time. Women were considered to be less intelligent than men. But we must remember that the book was written about twenty-five hundred years ago. Let’s hope that we have made some progress on that issue.

Back in those times and even now, there is a belief that, if we trust in God and do God’s will, we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. If we are faithful, we will be prosperous. This belief can be summarized as good things happen to good people; bad things happen to bad people.

Such beliefs fall under what I call BT, Bad Theology. We have only to look at the life of our Lord to see that good people indeed suffer. Jesus endured the worst possible death and humiliation that anyone could suffer in his time.  Many of God’s most faithful servants have faced great difficulties. Yesterday in our calendar, we remembered William Tyndale, who was killed for translating the Bible into English!

Job loses all his many possessions; his family and friends desert him, except for some so-called friends who spout Bad Theology to him, adding to his suffering. People laugh at him. Where once he was sought out for advice and counsel, people avoid him. And still he will not curse God. He will not abandon his faith. He will not give up hope. The Book of Job does not solve the problem of evil, but it does assure us that bad things happen to good people and that just because someone has great riches and power does not mean that that person is following God.

We live in a fallen creation. This world us not operating in the way that God would want it to. At the center of our faith is a cross, and, as we look upon that cross, we realize how far this world is from what God would call it to be. On that cross, some very powerful humans tried to kill the love of God.

We had another clergy conference this week on racial reconciliation. One of the books we were asked to read was White Like Me by Tim Wise. Tim is the son of a Jewish father and a Christian mother. He is white. He grew up in Nashville, and, for some reason, he had more African-American friends in school than white friends, that is, up through middle school. In middle school, he noticed that the classes were supposedly arranged according to ability, but the white students ended up in the accelerated classes and the African-American children ended up in the slower classes, no matter how intelligent they were.

When he got to high school, the system became even more rigid. There were college-bound tracks and vocational tracks. No African-American young people ended up in the college-bound tracks. At one point, early in high school, one of Tim’s closest African-American friends tells Tim that he will no longer speak to him because they are in different worlds. Simply because he was white, Tim had opportunities that students of color did not have.  When it comes to issues of race and gender and class, we are not on a level playing field.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees ask one of those questions that indicate that they are not trying to learn anything; they are trying to trick Jesus.  In Jesus’ time, it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for the most minor reason. He could divorce her if he didn’t like her cooking or if she didn’t keep house the way he wanted her to. The woman, on the other hand, did not have the same rights. She was his property. It was almost impossible for a woman to get a divorce for any reason.

In order to be responsible interpreters of the Bible, we must pause and say that when our Church barred divorced persons from receiving Communion, that was a misuse of Scripture. There are times when divorce or annulment of a marriage is warranted. Domestic violence is real, and it kills marriages. Also, some people can appear to be capable of holding up their end of a marriage commitment but, as time goes on, it becomes apparent that they do not possess that ability.

Jesus is telling us that marriage is a lifelong commitment, and he is also telling us not to treat any human beings as property. The reason we know this is that Jesus tells the disciples to let the children come to him. It is hard for us to believe, but in those days, children were chattel, possessions, and, worse, they were almost considered dispensable. 

A man of that time and culture would not spend time with children. He was too busy going about important business to waste his time with a little child. That was women’s work.

Yet our Lord takes these little ones and cherishes them. And he tells us that we need to receive his kingdom with childlike openness and wonder and trust and faith. As we read the Book of Job, we can see that Job has that almost childlike faith. He will not give up on God. He trusts God.

Our Lord is also calling us to treat the most vulnerable among us with the same love and respect with which he treated those children.  Amen.