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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:…

Epiphany 3B RCL January 22, 2012 Annual Meeting

 Jonah 3: 1-5, 10
Psalm 62: 6-14
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Mark 1: 14-20

Today we have Annual Meeting, so this sermon will be short in order to allow time for our deliberations.

Jonah is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. God calls him to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah. Jonah tries to run away from this call and ends up in the belly of a huge fish.  God saves Jonah, and he finally arrives in Ninevah, and, today, we see him walking across the city and calling the people to repent. Sure enough, the people respond.  A fast is declared, the people put on sackcloth and turn from their evil ways. Jonah’s ministry is a huge success. God has mercy on the great city of Ninevah.

Paul calls the Corinthians to live as though Christ were coming very soon. That’s a good thought for all of us.

In our gospel from Mark, four great apostles are called—Peter, Andrew, James and John.  Jesus says, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” And they do follow. And they touch many hearts and change many lives.

That call of Jesus is just as real today as it was two thousand years ago, He has called us, and we have said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you.” Each day, we ask him what he wants us to do, and each day, with his grace to help us, we try to do his will and spread his love. Just as Peter and Andrew, James and John fished for people, so do we. It may not be as dramatic as helping to feed thousands at one sitting or healing people left and right. But we are carrying out his ministry.

Each and every one of you listens to folks who are hurting and extends God’s compassion and help. Each of you helps neighbors who need a hand. Each of you reaches out to folks who just need some time to talk and be heard and figure out what is the next good step to take. Each of you does things that gladden the hearts of those around you.  If I were to take the time to describe in detail the ministries that you carry out on a daily basis, this would turn into a long sermon.

Even getting together once a year and having our Annual Meeting is an important part of our ministry together. We look at where we have been and what we have accomplished with God’s help, and think about and pray about what God is calling us to do next.

 I am thankful to be able to be here with you as we gather to ask God to lead us and guide us and nourish us so that we can go out into the world and spread God’s love. Thank you for being such faithful ministers and followers of Christ.

Give us grace,  O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

                                                                                    Amen

Epiphany 2 Year B RCL Janury 15, 2011

1 Samuel 3: 1-10. (11-20)
Psalm 139: 1-5. 12-17
1 Corinthians 6: 12-20
John 1: 43-51

One major theme of our reading today is the idea of vocation. God calls each of us to minister in God’s name.

In our first lesson, we read of the call of Samuel. Samuel’s mother, Hannah,  left the child in the care of Eli, the priest of Shiloh, when Samuel was very small. Eli has been training Samuel all of this time.

The scripture says, “The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” One aspect of this decline is that Eli’s sons, who are supposed to be the next priests at the temple in Shiloh are scoundrels. They interfere with people who are trying to make their offerings and take the best parts of the meat. They misuse the power of their office. They seem to break every rule in the book . They have no regard for God or for God’s people. So God is about to bring in a new order.

It is night. Samuel and Eli are asleep and a voice calls to Samuel. Samuel thinks it is Eli calling, so he goes in to see what Eli wants. And Eli tells him to go back to sleep. This happens again and yet again, and Eli realizes that it is God calling the young Samuel to be God’s prophet.

The Lord literally comes and stands there, calling “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answers, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

But the story now takes a very difficult turn, for God gives Samuel a wrenchingly painful message to share with Eli. Eli has been a faithful servant of God, but he has not been able to control his sons, so God is going to find new leaders who will take their call seriously and act appropriately. Samuel has to give this news to Eli, whom he loves and respects. Eli orders Samual not to hide anything. Samuel tells him the whole truth. And Eli responds with faith and courage, saying, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.” Eli will accept whatever God does. As we know, Samuel was a faithful and courageous prophet. He was called many times to speak truth to power and he always did so. This was only the first of many such times.

This is so relevant for us because,  as parents, we do not have ultimate control over the behavior of our children. Obviously, God cannot tolerate immoral priests at the temple in Shiloh. But Eli has not been able to persuade his sons to change their ways. As parents we do our very best to teach our children values. In the end, God has given them free will and they make their choices.  But now that Eli is almost ready for retirement, so to speak, God is going to make sure that the worship in Shiloh is carried out as it should be. There are going to be some major changes.

In today’s epistle, some of the folks in Corinth were misinterpreting the teaching that our Lord frees us from sin. They thought they could do anything they pleased. Paul is telling them that we are called to glorify God with our bodies as well as with our minds and spirits. He is calling us to the highest levels of moral conduct. This includes the area of sexuality.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is calling his apostles. He goes to Galilee. He finds Philip and says, “Follow me.” Philip immediately starts calling others to follow Jesus. He goes to Nathanael and tells him that he has found the Messiah. Nathanael asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” One interpretation of this is that Nazareth, and the entire region of Galilee was sometimes looked down upon. It was far from Jerusalem, the big city. Sometimes people sneered at the area up north. Philip tells Nathanael to “Come and see.” Come and meet Jesus. One minute with this extraordinary person will convince you that you need to follow him.

Jesus sees Nathanael and intuitively identifies him as  “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. Scholars tell us that this is an allusion to the story of Jacob, who wrestled with the angel and became Israel. Jacob was the supplanter, the one who cheated his brother out of his birthright.  He was full of guile or deceit. When he became Israel he was transformed into a person of integrity. Jesus is using allusions to the story of Jacob becoming Israel to comment on Nathanael’s integrity.  Nathanael wonders how Jesus is able to do this. Jesus says that he saw him under the fig tree. Scholars tell us that the implied meaning here comes from the rabbinic scriptures which say that a seat under a fig tree is the right place to study the Torah. The implication is that Nathanael is a true searcher of the scriptures. At this point, Nathanael recognizes Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel. Jesus tells him he will see greater things than these.  Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” This is referring again to the story of Jacob, who saw the angels ascending and descending the ladder which went into heaven. Lots of symbolism here.

We have here two stories of people being called. Eli has taught Samuel faithfully and helps him discern that it is God calling the young man to a new and important ministry.  Jesus seems almost magnetic in his ability to attract people such as Philip and Nathanael. He calls them and they drop everything and follow him.

We are called. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to minister in Jesus’ name. Does this mean we have to drop everything and go far away? Some people are called to do that. A dear friend of mine is a missionary in Zimbabwe. The son of a colleague of mine works with World Vision all over the world.

We are here, in Vermont, in Northern Vermont. It always fascinates me that Vermont is about the size of the Palestine of Jesus’ time. Northern Vermont is a lot like the Galilee—far from the madding crowd, far from the big cities and the centers of power, but a special place, a prophetic place, a place where people care, a place where people seek truth.

For now, we are called to be ministers right here.  Each of us in our own way has felt the power of Jesus’ presence and his call and his love and his healing and his help. And that is why we feel called to share the gift of our Lord with others. I know I have said this before, but I am so deeply aware that each of you shares Jesus with those you meet in your daily lives. We may not mention his name. We may not be able to do that at work or wherever, but we share his presence. We share with others something of what he has given us and gives us each day. And we use the gifts he has given us to build his kingdom and to glorify him with our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. May we continue to follow him and to serve others in his Name.   Amen.

Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Christ January 8, 2012

Genesis 1: 1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19: 1-7
Mark 1: 4-11

This entire Sunday begins with and is framed within God’s work of creation as written in the Book of Genesis. God creates the heavens and the earth, and we always need to remember that God saw that the creation is good. Then the wind, the ruach, the wind of the Spirit sweeps over the face of the waters. And God says, “Let there be light.” And God sees that the light is good. And God creates the day and the night.

This mention of the light emphasizes that Epiphany is the season of light. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it and will not overcome it. The light is growing as the days lengthen. Epiphany is the season of mission and ministry, the season in which we concentrate especially on spreading the good news of God’s love. 

As we turn to today’s epistle, we hear the name of Apollos. He is a charismatic and popular religious leader who travels around creating communities of followers. He knows of the baptism of John, but he does not realize that, when we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit. So, when Paul arrives in Ephesus, he learns that the people in that community of faith do not know about the Holy Spirit. Paul meets the people where they are, He does not criticize Apollos for this lack in his teaching. He simply tells the people about the Spirit. When they are baptized, they burst forth with the gifts of the Spirit.

In Mark’s gospel, there is no birth in Bethlehem, there are no angels, no wise men. This gospel begins with the ministry of John the Baptist in the wilderness.  John wears the same garments as the great prophet Elijah. As professor Paul Galbreath writes,  “John’s rhetoric parallels Elijah’s blistering condemnation of the powerful leaders.” These similarities between John and Elijah lead the people to think that Elijah is returning to announce the coming of the Messiah.

John preaches his message in the wilderness, far from the centers of power in Jerusalem and elsewhere. This renewal movement has its center at the fringes of society. Yet people crowd to the wilderness from those centers of power. Something new is beginning. Going to the wilderness is a symbol of pilgrimage, and this is going to be a pilgrimage to a transformed and new life.

Jesus joins the crowd and is baptized in the Jordan River, the same river where Elijah passed the prophetic mantle to his successor, Elisha, the same Jordan River that Moses looked over but was not destined to cross into the promised land.  However, God’s people would cross that river in their journey with and toward God.  This is a place full of meaning and promise.

John makes it clear that his baptism is a preparation for the ministry of Jesus. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. The root word for baptism in Greek means literally drowning. Baptism is a death to the old life and the beginning of a transformation into the new life. As Jesus is coming up out of the water, God speaks: “You are my Son, the Beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

Herbert O’Driscoll calls us to realize that God is saying this to us. “You are my Son. You are my daughter. My beloved.” God is telling us how beloved we are. God is calling us to be agents of God’s transformation, agents of the Holy Spirit.

This morning, we are going to renew our baptismal vows. As we do this, we can ask ourselves some questions.

First,  in what ways does my faith in the Holy Spirit motivate my thoughts and .Do I ask the Spirit to work through me?

Secondly, in what ways is Jesus the guiding light in my life?

As we ask ourselves these questions, it is important for us to place our baptism in the flow and framework of God’s actions from the creation, through the baptism of Christ, which was the beginning of his formal ministry, through all the actions of his ministry—his preaching, teaching, healing, forgiving, accepting, his unwavering insistence on including everyone, his dying because he threatened the status quo and the power of those whose jobs depended on the status quo, his rising to new life, his appearance to the women at the tomb, to those walking the road to Emmaus, to disciples on a beach sharing a meal of fish and bread, to Thomas and others in the upper room, and to us in so many ways today. His ministry is not ended. We are carrying it on at this very moment. He is alive, and we are alive in him and with him.

So, as we renew our baptismal vows, as we reaffirm that we are his ministers by virtue of our baptisms, let us be joyfully aware that we are his body, that we are here to share his love and healing.

The mystic and theologian Teresa of Avila wrote in the sixteenth century:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet.
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

                                                                                                                                  Amen.

The Holy Name January 1, 2012

Numbers 6: 22-27
Psalm 8
Galatians 4: 4-7
Luke 2: 15-21

This is a rare occasion, when we have the opportunity to celebrate the feast of The Holy Name on a Sunday.  This day was formerly called the Feast of the Circumcision. As a Jewish boy, Jesus would have been taken to the Temple when he was eight days old to be circumcised and to receive his name. This would have been a family celebration similar to our sacrament of baptism, a time to thank God for the blessing of this child and to observe the ceremony of his naming, the sign of his identity.

Our reading from the Book of Deuteronomy is about blessings and it is a blessing with which we are all familiar. Let’s look a little more deeply at its meaning. “The Lord bless you and keep you. The original Hebrew meaning is, “The Lord strengthen you and guard you.” The next phrase is, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the meaning here is similar to the expression, “His face lights up when she comes into the room.” The sense of this is that God’s face lights up at the sight of each of us. God loves us that much. Think of that—God’s face lights up at the sight of you.

“The Lord lift up his countenance upon you.” Scholars tell us that, in the ancient world, this means to look someone in the eye. God looks us in the eye. When we are really close, when we are trying to communicate deeply, we make eye contact; we look into each other’s eyes.

The final blessing is God’s shalom. Theologian Beth Tanner writes, “This is a word that is often underestimated today, for it is so much more that the absence of war; it is a state of completeness in all aspects of our lives, of happiness and fulfillment and the achievement of our full humanity. It can only happen in the presence of God, when we have been blessed by our Creator, God, with love and grace. It is a blessing that fits well on the day when we celebrate the naming of Jesus in the Temple and Mary as the Mother of God, both of whom teach us what it means to stand face to face with God.” (New Proclamation 2011 p. 50.)

Our reading from Galatians tells us that Christ has come to show us the way to live, to make us children of God, once again emphasizing our closeness to our loving God.

The gospel for today tells the story that means so much to us. The angels have announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. Shepherds are the little people. On the social scale, they are at the bottom. But the Good News is shared with them first. The shepherds then go to Bethlehem to see Jesus. They share the good news with Mary and Joseph and with the other people there at the manger.

Then comes that wonderful and terrible sentence: “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” A momentous thing has happened. Did she have any idea where this would lead? That it would lead to a criminal’s death on a cross? We know that, when it came to that point, she stood at the foot of that horrible instrument of torture and kept vigil while her son went through that torture. She walked the journey with him to the end. Mary is a person of great courage and strength.

The gospel tells us that the shepherds went back to their flocks, praising God.

And then, just as any ordinary Jewish parents would do, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple to be named and blessed and welcomed into the congregation of the faithful.

Such an ordinary thing to do, just following the law, just being faithful. No fanfare. No trumpets.

God comes among us as one of us, just an ordinary child born to ordinary parents. The angels announce this birth to a bunch of shepherds. We are so used to hearing it that it is difficult for us to absorb what a paradox this is. God comes among us as one of us.

We are children of God. That is our identity. God’s face lights up when God sees us.  Jesus is our brother. He is our Savior, and he is our brother. We are that close. We are called to follow him, to live lives like his.

But it all started just as it did with us. God came among us as a baby born to two very ordinary, everyday people, Mary and Joseph. Two average people, people of deep faith and great courage. People just like you and me.

I hope we will take some time to think about these things. That God loves us ordinary people so much. That God calls us to follow God and then walks the journey with us, right beside us. That God is as close as our breath. That God is here among us, and the face of God lights up when God sees us.

May the rest of your Christmas season—all six days of it—be filled with the presence and love of God.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

                                                                   Amen.