• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • 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:…

Last Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 29B RCL

Christ the King Sunday

2 Samuel 23:1-7

Psalm 132:1-13

Revelation 1:4b-8

John 18:33-37

Today is Christ the King Sunday. It is the last Sunday of the season of Pentecost. Next Sunday, we will begin the season of Advent.

Our first reading this morning focuses our attention on the reign of King David. David had some major personal flaws and made some bad decisions, as we do, but he is the ideal of the earthly king. One strength that David had was that, when confronted with his errors, he owned up to them and asked God’s forgiveness. Our reading says, “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”

Our king, Jesus, comes from the family of David. This opening lesson places before us Jesus’ ancestral roots and the vision of an earthly king who rules with wisdom and justice.

Our second reading, from the Book of Revelation, gives us John’s vision of heaven. Angels and archangels worship Jesus and God. When John says that Jesus will be coming with the clouds, that is a way of saying that we will all be accountable for how we have lived our lives and how we have used the gifts God has given us.

Here are Herbert O’Driscoll’s words on today’s gospel: “We are seeing the meeting of two empires. Pilate the Procurator embodies the power of Rome. Jesus the prisoner embodies spiritual power….  ‘Are you the King of the Jews’, asks Pilate. The reply he receives must have been startling. ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’ It shows no sign of fear or subservience. The question is from equal to equal.”

O’Driscoll goes on to say, “Jesus is saying that he is not interested in being a worldly king but is very much interested in bringing spiritual truth to the world.”

Christ is our King. Hi kingdom is not a material or an earthly kingdom. It is not based on earthly power, yet it has far more power than the Roman Empire or any other empire could ever have.

What does it mean to say that Jesus is our King? Each of us would probably have a different answer to that question.  In some way, beyond out ability to analyze or explain, Jesus has touched our lives. He is someone we want to follow. We have read about his life and ministry in the gospels. We have seen the way he treats each person with infinite love and respect.  We have seen the way in which he has brought healing and wholeness to people, the way he has taught and lived. All of this has made us want to be more and more like him.

This means that we also feel deeply called to help Jesus to build his kingdom, his shalom. Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls this God’s dream for the world. His description of God’s shalom was read to us by Beth a few weeks ago. I would like to bring it again to our minds and hearts.

“I have a dream, God says. “Please help Me to realize it, It is a dream of a world whose ugliness and squalor and poverty, its war and hostility, its greed and harsh competitiveness, its alienation and disharmony are changed into their glorious counterparts, when there will be more laughter, joy, and peace, where there will be justice and goodness and compassion and love and caring and sharing.  I have a dream that swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, that My children will know that they are members of one family, the human family, God’s family, My family.

In God’s family, there are no outsiders. All are insiders. Black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, Jew and Arab, Palestinian and Israeli, Roman Catholic and Protestant, Serb and Albanian, Hutu and Tutsi, Muslim and Christian, Buddhist and Hindu, Pakistani and Indian—all belong.

This is the vision of God’s shalom for which we are all working. We are also coming to the end of the Thanksgiving holiday. It is wonderful to see family gathered at this special time.  And I want to thank Frank and Priscilla for putting on a wonderful Thanksgiving feast this past Sunday with special gifts of delicious partridge soup and moose meatballs, thanks to Frank’s skill as a hunter, Gods gracious bounty, and Priscilla’s gifts as a cook. I should probably say chef. Thank you so much. Priscilla has suggested we should do this more often. I think that is a great idea.

Today we focus on Christ as our King and thanksgiving for God’s gifts, including God’s vision of shalom. These are the reasons why we will be doing our United Thank Offering ingathering this Sunday and next, why we will be giving to Episcopal Relief and Development during the Christmas season, and why we will be giving prayerful thought to our response to God’s gifts my making our pledges the next several Sundays.

Lord Jesus, may we make you the king of our lives and our hearts. May we be thankful for your many gifts to us. May we follow you always.

Amen.

Pentecost 25 Proper 28 B RCL November 18, 2012

1 Samuel 1:4-20

Canticle—The Song of Hannah 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25

Mark 13:1-8

This is one of those Sundays when the readings work together to help us understand what God may be telling us.

First, we have a reading from the First Book of Samuel. There is a man named Elkanah. He has two wives. This was not unusual in those days. Peninnah has given birth to many children. Hannah has no children. Peninnah never lets Hannah forget this. Back in those days, over a thousand years before the birth of Christ, a woman’s worth was based on how many children she could have. Even though Hannah is unable to bear children, Elkanah loves her very much.

Hannah and Elkanah go to the temple to worship. Hannah prays with great emotion to God. If God will give her a son, she will place that son in God’s service. Eli, the priest, thinks Hanna is drunk, She assures him she is not, Eli finally believes her and gives her a blessing.

Hannah and Elkanah go home and make love. God blesses them. A son, Samuel, is born. He becomes one of the great leaders of God’s people.  Our canticle for today is Hannah’s song to God after the birth of her son. It foreshadows Mary’s wonderful song, the Magnificat.

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews talks about how human beings gradually realized that sacrificing animals to God does nothing to transform human beings. In Jesus, God showed us the way to become new people and live a new life, The letter calls us to come to worship God with our hearts and minds free of anything negative so that we can focus completely on hope and faith in God so that we can encourage each other to channel God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love, into great deeds of caring for God’s children.

In our gospel, one of the disciples exclaims at the massive size of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus says that it’s all going to be torn down. Indeed, the temple was destroyed in 70 A. D. But that is not what Jesus is talking about. He tells the disciples that there are going to be times of upheaval. He is not referring to any particular time, but to the process of bringing God’s shalom to birth.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “Our God is saying that we must see in the turmoil the possibility that God is bringing new realities to birth.”

A baby is born—Samuel, who will become a great prophet and priest. People move from sacrificing animals to seeking inner transformation by God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that a new kingdom is coming to birth.

People who write about the emerging church are telling us that we can be a part of that new birth, that new expressions of faith are coming to birth all around us.

Jesus had no patience with religious leaders who took advantage of vulnerable people or of religious institutions which did not convey the justice and mercy of God. He had no patience with religious legalism which made it impossible for people to be in touch with God or to grow spiritually, He called us to be honest, genuine, simple, straightforward followers of God’s ways.  He summed it up for us—love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.

When Jesus talks about the temple being destroyed, he is speaking again in metaphors. The old gives way to the new. We are given the gift of being able to meet God face to face as we sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his teachings, as we walk with him and share with him and eat with him and watch how he treats people. We are given the gift of being able to follow him and become a part of him. We are given the gift of a birth in Bethlehem and a new birth in our own lives and in the life of the human family, God’s family. We are given the gift of God’s love and of God’s infinite care for us and for all people and the whole creation. God comes to be among us, to lead us and guide us.

We are indeed blessed as Hannah was blessed. We are moving into that time when we make our pledges for the coming year, and the basis for our pledge is our gratitude to God for everything God gives us.

Today we are invited to gather at Frank and Priscilla’s home for a wild game dinner. This will be our Grace Church Thanksgiving dinner. We have so much to be thankful for. I am so thankful to have the privilege of being here among you. Your love and faithfulness never cease to amaze me.

Out of gratitude to God for all of God’s gifts to us, we prayerfully return a worthy portion to God. This includes time, talent, and treasure. Most of you devote a large portion of your time and talent helping other people. You work in vocations of service to others. Even those of you who are retired naturally engage in ministry to others every day of your lives.

I ask that you prayerfully consider your pledge of treasure and that you fill out your pledge cards either this Sunday or next. The amount of your pledge is between you and God. Please consider carefully all the gifts God has given you and is giving you and make your pledge in thanksgiving to God.

May our hearts be full of thanks for all of God’s gifts.  Amen.

Pentecost 24 Proper 27B RCL November 11, 2012

Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17

Psalm 127

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12: 38-44

Once again, we are following our plan of placing our attention on today’s reading from Mark’s gospel.

Jesus is teaching in the temple. This passage that we read today is his last public teaching in Mark’s gospel. From here on until his death, his teachings will be for the disciples only.

In the temple are all kinds of people from all walks of life. Some of the people are genuinely curious about what Jesus has to say. Others are literally spying on him trying to collect evidence against him.

Jesus begins by telling the people to beware of the scribes, that is, the teachers of the law. His attack is scathing. The scribes like to walk about in flowing robes. These garments are expensive, and, if you wear a long elaborate robe, your clothing makes it clear that you do not do hard work or manual labor, You can’t move quickly. You can’t really be active. So even what they wear makes it clear that the scribes are privileged. They don’t get their hands dirty. They don’t break a sweat.

Their clothing is in itself a sign that they are an honored group.

They liked to be greeted and honored in the marketplace. They sat in the seats of honor in the synagogue and in the banquet hall. The scribes are powerful; they are privileged people, they say long prayers, and yet, Jesus says, they “devour widows’ houses.”  They are hypocrites. They don’t practice what they teach. They talk the talk but they don’t walk the walk.

What does it mean that they devour the houses of widows? Scholars tell us that, in Jesus’ time, and in that culture, widows were at the bottom of the social scale. Women had no social standing aside from their husbands. When their husbands died, they lost their source of protection and their source of financial support. Often a widow would, with a trusting heart, ask a scribe to help her handle her finances. What Jesus is saying is that often the scribe would take the widow’s money for himself. So, here we have a member of the congregation trusting a leader, a teacher of the law, with her financial resources, and the teacher misusing the power given to him and cheating the woman out of everything she has. This is a serious misuse of power and privilege.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “Here Jesus speaks harshly of the scribes. He notes their assumed superiority, their grasping for honours and prominence, and he dismisses their religious acts as posturing and hypocrisy. He does not attack the spirituality of Judaism, but he is highly critical of what the organized form og it had become. To Jesus it seemed as if the whole religious system that centered in the Temple had become cynical, self-serving, even rapacious. There is always a danger that a great religion will descend to this state. Our Lord’s words and actions, not to speak of his death and resurrection, will themselves judge the church to the end of time, calling it to be constantly aware of the temptation to be self-serving and self-congratulatory.”

Now the scene shifts. Jesus moves to the part of the Temple where the collection boxes were located. William Barclay tells us that there were thirteen collecting boxes, one for corn, one for wine, one for oil, and so on, collections for items to be used in the sacrifices at the Temple. The collection boxes were in the shape of inverted trumpets, with the narrow end at the top. Once you had put a coin  into the collection, you could not get it out, and no one could steal the collection.

A widow comes along. She is totally vulnerable in the society. She has nothing. She throws in two coins, known as lepta. One coin was known as a lepton, meaning literally, a thin one. This is the thinnest, the smallest coin.

Other people have thrown in much more. But they have a great deal of money left. This woman has thrown in very little, but she has very little money.

The woman is vulnerable, She has no power in that society. When she throws those two lepta into the collection box, I think she feels that she is giving them to God.  She is taking a courageous action, a leap of faith. It is clean and clear and sincere.

William Barclay writes, “We may feel that we have not much in the way of material gifts or personal gifts to give to Christ, but, if we put all that we have and all that we are at his disposal. He can do things with it and with us that are beyond our imaginings.”

Though we are focusing on the gospel, let’s look at our lesson from the Hebrew scriptures for a moment. There was a famine in Judah and Naomi went to Moab with her husband and two sons. Her sons married two Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Naomi’s husband and sons died. All three women became widows. Hearing that the famine in Judah had ended, Naomi decided to go back home. Out of love and faithfulness, Ruth went with her, Once she was back at home, Naomi’s courage increased and she made a decision to secure protection for Ruth by having her marry Boaz, her relative, an honored and honorable man. Their son, Obed, was the grandfather of David, and from that family came Jesus.

The courage and faith of good, ordinary people like us can bear great fruit. Trusting in God is everything. That’s what these stories are about.  Ordinary people who don’t have a lot, but who have faith and trust and hope in God and who seek and do God’s will every day of their lives—people like this widow—are heroes of the faith.

Day by day, dear Lord, three things of thee we pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

Amen

All Saints Sunday November 4, 2012 Year B RCL

Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21: 1-6a

John 11:32-44

Today we are celebrating the feast of All Saints, which actually occurs on November 1. This sermon will be brief because we will be hearing reports on Diocesan Convention.  We will focus on the gospel in a moment, but, first, just a few thoughts about All Saints.

There are capital S saints, like St. Mary Magdalene and St. Francis, and there are what my dear mentor Al Smith used to call small s saints, like us. In the letters to congregations in the early Church, St. Paul would address the saints at Corinth or the saints at Colossae. If he were writing to us, he would probably address the letter to the saints in Sheldon.

We are members of the Body of Christ, which means that we are part of that great cloud of witnesses–those who have followed Christ through the ages—those who have gone before us, those who are here now, and those yet to come.  We have many companions on the journey. The hymn, “I sing a song of the saints of God, makes it clear that saints are people from all walks of life, people you can see anywhere you go. They are just folks like us.  We are all running the same race, the race of faith, which demands that we stay strong in our spiritual practice of praying the prayer of Christ; learning the mind of Christ and doing the deeds of Christ.

Just a brief word on the gospel. When Jesus arrives, his friend Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, scolds Jesus for not arriving earlier. If  you had gotten here earlier, she says, my brother would not have died. Jesus is with us on every step of the journey, but he cannot protect us from every adversity. He cannot protect us from all bad things, but he helps us through every challenge. In this case, he raises Lazarus from the dead, just as he will raise us on the last day. When Lazarus comes out of the tomb, “his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth, “ Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go.” Jesus frees us from everything that binds us or enslaves us.

Because our Lord walks with us on the journey, we can be free. We do not have to be held in the grip of fear or in the grip of any kind of death. We can live life in a new and deeper way.

Our Diocesan Convention theme was, “What About Jesus?” Our speaker was Michael Curry, the Bishop of North Carolina. Our delegates, Beth, Lori, and Jan, are going to share some thoughts on convention.

Like true spiritual athletes, may we run the race, or, as Bishop Curry might say, may we dance with God and each other until we become the new family of God which Jesus came to create.