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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 18, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 25, 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:…

Easter 2, May 1, 2011

Easter 2A RCL May 1, 2011
Acts 2: 14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
I Peter 1: 3-9
John 20: 19-31

We are beginning the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Easter is not just one day, but the entire fifty days until the Feast of Pentecost. All during this time, we will be reading three lessons from the New Testament or Greek Scriptures. This reminds us that we are an Easter people. We are a community of the resurrection living the new life in Christ.

Today’s lessons begin with Peter’s proclamation of the Good News in the Book of Acts. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles gives us a dynamic running account of the first days of the early Church. I often think that it reads like a fast-paced newspaper account of all these exciting and inspiring events.

In the epistle, we focus on the fact that, because of the resurrection, we are given the gift of life on a new level, a fullness of life, a hope, and a joy we could not have imagined, no matter what the outward circumstances of our lives may be.

In the gospel, we have the story of Thomas, which is so much our story. Thomas is a pragmatic sort of person. In many ways, he embodies the spirit of our age. The other disciples have seen the risen Jesus. He wants to have that experience, too. He wants to see the evidence in cold, hard facts. He does not want to go on second hand information. He has questions.

He has been through the whole ordeal leading up to the Cross. He has heard from the others that Jesus is risen and has appeared to them. But he has not seen for himself. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe,” Thomas tells the others.

A week later, there they are, as they have been, gathering together and praying, but this time Thomas is with them. And Jesus appears. He invites Thomas to touch his wounds, but Thomas does not need to. “My Lord and my God!” Thomas breathes a prayer of deep faith, a prayer of adoration. He has seen the risen Jesus. He knows that it is all true.

The story of Thomas tells us many important things. One of the most important is that people of faith have doubts. People of faith have questions. It is all right to have doubts. It is all right to ask questions. I love the ad that was done by the National Church Office that said something like, “The Episcopal Church knows that God gave us minds. You don’t have to check your brain at the door.” The journey of faith is a journey of questioning and learning and growing. In a community of faith, we are called to question together and to learn together, for we are all journeying together.

When the risen Christ visits his followers, he breathes the Holy Spirit into them and confers on them the ministry of reconciliation. Webster’s dictionary says that to reconcile is “to bring into harmony.” To bring opposing forces into harmony. To bring all things together. To bring the creation into harmony. When Jesus greets his followers, he says, “Shalom. Peace. Shalom means the bringing together of disparate elements, the knitting together of opposite forces in harmony.

Jesus is conferring on his followers and on us the ministry of reconciliation. He is calling us to assist in whatever ways our God-given gifts allow, in the process of bringing peace to the world and to people’s hearts, of ensuring that we in the human family treat each other with genuine respect. A very tall order. Possible only with God’s grace.

Thomas sees the risen Lord and believes. Jesus blesses those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. We have not literally touched the wounds of our risen Lord. We have not seen the risen Jesus in the literal sense. And that combination of the wounds and the risen Christ is at the crux of Thomas’ and our need to see the risen Lord. It is so hard to think that one who has endured that horrible crucifixion can have come through it all and be leading us to new life. But that is the paradoxical truth. The One who has suffered and the One who is risen are the same. Death is not the end. Sometimes things have to die in order to make new life possible. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will not bear fruit,” our Lord told us.

Unlike Thomas, we have not literally seen the risen Lord with our own eyes. We were not in that room with the first community in Christ. Yet we have seen him; we have felt his presence and power. We have experienced deaths which have led to new life. We have seen suffering lead to transformation. We have felt his hand leading us. We have felt his heart loving us, encouraging us on difficult parts of the journey. In many, many different ways he has come to meet us in times of grief and challenge, and we have known that he has walked the way before us, that he knows all the desert places and all the clearest freshest springs, all the rocky climbs and all the great vistas on the journey. He has been there. Nothing is untouched by his loving presence. He is alive and we are alive in him.

May our faith be strengthened by his presence. May we reach out with his love and his ministry of reconciliation. May we see yet again and believe even more deeply.

Amen

Easter, April 24, 2011

Easter Year A RCL April 24, 2011

God has such love for the creation and for us that God comes to be with us, is born in a little town in the Middle East, grows up the child of a carpenter in a village called Nazareth, embarks on a brief ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing in which Jesus builds a community of men, women, and children, a community based on agape, unconditional love, a community which offers a new quality of life called the kingdom of God, the reign of God, the shalom of God. This kingdom is not something only for the hereafter, but for right now.

The vision of Jesus proves a threat to those in power, and all this past week we have walked with him as he surrenders to the powers of death. Actually, though, he is surrendering to the power of God’s love.

He has told us that he comes among us as one who serves. He has washed the feet of his followers. He has endured taunts and jeers, a mock trial, and the horrors of the cross. And even as he endures all of this, he prays for us to be forgiven.

As we have walked the Way of the Cross with him and his disciples, we have experienced some of the horror of his desolation as he gives up his spirit, is taken from the cross and placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

And then, on that amazing morning, we go to the tomb early, hearts so heavy we can scarcely bear it, and the tomb is empty. Death no longer has dominion. Tragedy gives way to hope—ultimate hope in all things. He faces the forces of death and brokenness, and he returns transfigured. We will see him along the Road to Emmaus; we won’t even realize who he is at first, but we will recognize him in the breaking of the bread. And we will see him on the beach, there with a breakfast already prepared for us as we come in from fishing. We will see him in other places. We cannot possibly understand all of this, but the fact is that he is alive. He is risen. He is here in the very midst of us, always, alive and calling us to new life. Paradoxically, he is able to be more present with all of us all around the world than if he had lived.

Because we are his risen body. As Paul said, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

And that means that everything is transformed. All the deaths and the kinds of death, large and small, that we may undergo, are as nothing. Nothing can get in the way of his love and healing. And the quality of life that he had with that first community is available to us—to you and me—as we live in him and he lives in us.

He is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Good Friday April 22, 2011

Good Friday April 22, 2011—A Year of the Lord—Herbert O’Driscoll

We see this extraordinary man of Nazareth walking majestically among them all. He is a helpless prisoner, the butt of cruel jokes, the focus of physical violence. He very obviously feels the stress and pain of it all. He is totally alone in any human sense, yet he remains serene and controlled in the face of that which disintegrates the faith, courage, and integrity of all others. Jesus displays an utter trust that is far more than the stillness of trauma or resignation. That trust and serenity have ever since haunted the human imagination.

To witness and experience that is to witness and experience tragedy, the utter tragedy that human life can be, But, when we actually move through the liturgy of this season, we find another level of experience. We find that the witnessing and experiencing of the majestic self-0ffering of this Good Friday can pierce our perception of life. It can show us new horizons within ourselves and in the structures in which we live and work. To see Jesus Christ on the cross, to realize that he is no unwilling prisoner dragged to execution but rather a king offering himself for his kingdom, is to catch a glimpse of humanity as it is when fully open to the ultimate love and ineffable life of God. All this we are offered by Mary’s son, the carpenter of Nazareth.

When we realize such things, not merely intellectually but spiritually, we who have witnessed a crucifixion long ago find that we have encountered a resurrection in our own experience. That is why we can dare to call this Friday “Good.”

Maundy Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday Year A RCL April 21, 2011

Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them and to us. In the process, he places everything in a new dimension. This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.

In the same way, he takes the cup of wine, says the familiar blessing, but then adds, “This is my blood, which is shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Jesus takes this meal of bread and wine, which is so familiar to his friends, and makes it into a way of calling him into their midst. These most simple elements of bread and wine become himself, His energy. His inspiration for them. And by receiving them. We are fed and transformed into his likeness.

“I am among you as one who serves.” He takes a towel and water and performs the most human service. He washes their feet. We wash each other’s feet this evening to symbolize that we want to follow him in this servanthood, this caring for each other in his name.

Even as he is about to be betrayed and put to death, Jesus shows us the depth of his love. Blessed Jesus, call us into your servanthood and be known to us in the breaking of the bread.

Amen

Palm Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday Year A RCL April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday goes to the heart of what it is to be human. Palm Sunday reveals darker aspects of our humanity which we avoid, aspects which we will do almost anything to explain away. As we look at this crowd, we watch this horror being played out, we would do well to look squarely into the face of our darkness.

We welcome our hero. We throw palms into his path. But we have an agenda for our hero. He is the mighty one who will overthrow the Roman Empire and free us. When he does not act according to our agenda, when he refuses to meet violence with violence, we kill him. It is that simple. In this crowd, we see things about ourselves. We see things which have been played out in Auschwitz, over and over again in the Holy Land, in Ireland, in the Balkans, all over the world, and in our own cities and villages.

Jesus came to show us another way, but, if we have an agenda that is different from his, we can literally be trying to kill him. There is something in us that, unwittingly and unconsciously, and with the highest motives of doing right, can set out to kill ultimate goodness.

We need to be wary of our agendas. We need to be wary of any idea that we have the true way or the right solution. Jesus is the way and the Truth, and the Life. We are not.

I believe that this is truly what Palm Sunday is about, We are a fickle lot, and we want our own way. Christ, who could have summoned a thousand thousand armies, hangs there and shows us what it is to be helpless in the midst of the most humiliating form of death reserved for criminals and yet makes it into a glorious new way of letting go and letting God bring new life.

Let us not flinch from looking at out own dark side, our own brokenness, for looking honestly at our darkness and sin enables us to see the wholeness of our Lord’s saving love and the light of his leading in the Way of the Cross.

Palm Sunday goes to the heart of what God is like. God wades into the middle of our sin and hatred. God allows us to nail God to that cross. God does not walk away. God does not strike back and annihilate us. God forgives us, for we have no idea what we are doing. But, in that forgiveness and healing, God calls us to a higher level of awareness of our brokenness and destructiveness and of God’s ability to make all of it whole.

Amen

Lent 5, April 10, 2011

Lent 5A RCL April 10, 2011
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

 The journey of the people Israel is our journey. We have followed Abraham into an unknown land. We have wandered in the desert and complained to Moses about the hardships of the struggle for freedom; we have watched as Samuel anointed David King of Israel, and now the ultimate disaster has struck. The Babylonian Empire has defeated Judah and has leveled the temple in Jerusalem. The people have been deported to Babylon.

 In the midst of terrible despair, in which many wondered if their history with God had come to an end, Ezekiel has this vision of the valley of dry bones. These are the people Israel, dead, lying in the valley. And the question is, can these bones live? You know God’s answer. God begins with the earthy, the bones, and puts muscles and skin on the bones, and then God breathes the Spirit into these physical bodies. God brings life out of death. Dry bones live.

 In the epistle today, Paul is talking about life in the flesh and life in the Spirit. These are not two aspects of your life or my life. These are two radically different ways of living, two different frames of reference. Life in the flesh is the pursuit of all those dead ends that never lead to God. And life in the Spirit is the blossoming of new life as we allow ourselves to be rooted and grounded in God.

 Then we come to the gospel, a little prefiguring of Easter in the midst of Lent. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus very deeply. I believe that they were among his best friends. He would always stop by and stay with them when he was traveling near Bethany. They loved to eat together and talk and laugh and share ideas.

 When Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill, he does not rush to Bethany. We do not know exactly why. We know that he cares deeply about Lazarus and about Mary and Martha. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus is dead. Martha rushes out to Jesus and scolds him for not coming sooner, as if Jesus could have prevented the tragedy. Martha says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Later, Mary says the same thing. We think that our Lord can save us from all harm. But it is not true. Even Jesus is visibly moved at this death and at the brokenness of the whole situation. He asks. Where have you laid him?” The stone is rolled away. This is real death. There is a stench.

 And then Jesus calls, “Lazarus, come out!” And his dear friend staggers out into the light, his grave cloths still wound around him. And Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go!”

 We all know what it is to be in the valley of the dry bones. A spouse or a dear friend or a relative has died. A much-needed job ends and we don’t know how we’re going to make ends meet. Our physician gives us or a loved one the news of a very serious diagnosis. An accident claims the life of a loved one, or several lives. Our best friend moves halfway across the country. There we are, totally helpless. There is nothing we can do to fix it or even to help in any real way. What can we do? Absolutely nothing, really. It is out of our hands. It’s beyond our control.

Perhaps that is why Jesus did not rush to Bethany. Because he above all others knows that death is exactly what it is and nothing can change that. What God is telling us today is that God brings life out of death. Dry bones live. Lazarus comes forth and is unbound, and so are we, unbound from all that constricts us and kills us in various ways.

 Sometimes we need to know how helpless we are before we can step back, stop trying to fix it, and let God bring the new life. Sometimes we have to face the fact that we are powerless before we can get out of God’s way and let God work. We have to get to the point where we’ve done everything we can think of and we are asking, “Can these bones live?”

God’s answer is a resounding Yes. God brings life, even in the most desperate of circumstances, even when the night seems so long it will never end, even when the loss seems so profound we will never get over it, that we’ll never be able to put one foot in front of the other again in our lives.

Perhaps especially then, God brings life out of death, every time, always, without fail.

                                                                    Amen.