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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 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 April 9, 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 April 16, 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:…

Easter 2A RCL April 27, 2014

Acts 2:14a. 22-32

Psalm 16

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

Our lessons this morning are not in chronological order. In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, it is the feast of Pentecost. People are gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world. It is fifty days after Passover, about fifty days after the first Easter.

Flames of fire dance over the heads of the apostles. The wind of the Spirit blows. And the apostles tell the Good News in all the languages of the world.

Standing with the eleven because Judas has died, Peter preaches about Jesus. He links Jesus with Jewish history and with the reign and promises of the great King David. Peter proclaims that Jesus has been crucified and has risen. At that point, Peter probably thinks that the followers of Jesus will form a sect of Judaism.

Our epistle comes from years later in Peter’s life and ministry. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his grace he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

By this time, the new faith has spread all around the Mediterranean Sea, giving hope to people living under the yoke of the Roman Empire, When Peter writes that Jesus has given us “a new birth into a living hope,” he is comforting and strengthening many followers of Jesus who are undergoing persecution.

The followers of Jesus were peacemakers. They did not fight in the Roman army. They were therefore seen as subversives who should be punished and persecuted. They were also noted for the love and care which they showed to each other. An author of the time wrote, “See these Christians, how they love one another.” The promise of a new reality, a new hope, and a new way of living attracted thousands of people to the new faith. The love within each community sustained its members and welcomed new folks to join in the fellowship.

In our gospel, it is the evening of the first Easter. The followers of Jesus are in hiding. They are afraid of the authorities. They have heard that Jesus has risen, but only Mary Magdalene has actually seen the risen Lord.

Jesus walks right through the walls of fear. The first thing he says to them is, “Peace be with you.” Shalom be with you. The vision of shalom, the kingdom of God, where there is peace, where there is love and compassion, everyone has enough to eat and drink; everyone has shelter; basic needs are met; everyone has constructive work to do and the chance to lead a healthy and productive life.

Then Jesus breathes the Spirit of shalom into them and us. That first time, Thomas is not there. He tells the others that he will not be able to believe until he touches the wounds of Jesus.

A week later, Jesus comes again. All Thomas has to do is take one look at Jesus.  Thomas knows that it is the Lord, and that he has come through it all and is here to lead us on a new path. On the spot, Thomas believes.

What does it mean to believe? It is important to keep in mind that belief is not a matter of intellectual assent to a proposition. In other words, when we say we believe, we are not saying, “I believe this on an intellectual level.” Belief involves what Jewish thought calls the heart, but the heart is more than just feeling. The heart is the core of the person, It involves the emotions, and it also involves the mind and the will and the intentions.

Once we see Jesus and we get to spend time with him in loving community the way the early Christians did, it is irresistible. We want to be with him. We want to follow him. We want to live the way he calls us to live, We want to help him build his shalom of peace, healing, and harmony. Other people truly become our brothers and sisters.

Like Thomas, we probably won’t have to touch the wounds of Jesus in a literal sense. We know they are real. We know that he went through all that horror. And we know that he came through it stronger than ever. And that tells us that we can meet challenges. We can endure, and not only endure, but flourish.

This morning, we meet our risen Lord. He breathes the Spirit into us to give us the power to carry out his ministry of reconciliation and to bring in his shalom. He calls us to be peacemakers. He calls us to see every other human being as our brother or sister.

Blessed Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread, in the beauty of your creation, in the faces of our brothers and sisters. Give us grace to help build your shalom.  Amen.

Summer Music at Grace returns May 23 with the 12th Annual Farewell Reunion

Young Tradition Vermont and Grace Church present

12th Annual Farewell Reunion

The 12th Annual Farewell Reunion will be presented on Friday May 23, 2014 at Grace Church in Sheldon, Vermont. The benefit concert supports the Tom Sustic Fund, which supports families with children with life-threatening/life-altering conditions.  The concert is presented by Young Tradition Vermont and Grace Church as part of the Summer Music at Grace Series.

Performers will include French-American musicians Michele and Fabe Choinere, Cape Breton fiddler Hannah Beth Crary, Irish harper Dominique Dodge and fiddler Rob Ryan, blues guitarist and scholar William Lee Ellis, Scottish style fiddler Frank Heyburn, father-son duo Latimer Hoke and Dave Hoke, hurdy gurdy player Steven Jobe, country singer/songwriter Carol Ann Jones, Highland piper Ken MacKenzie, bluegrass musicians the Missisquoi River Band, Cajun fiddler Bob Naess, gypsy jazz musicians Will Patton and Dono Schabner, jazz and improvisational guitarist Doug Perkins, fiddler and mandolin player Neil Rossi, traditional and folk music duo Shady Rill (Tom MacKenzie and Patti Casey) and others TBA.  Performances begin at 7pm

Admission is a $15 suggested donation at the door (no advance tickets)…… reservations if requested at mark.sustic@gmail.com.

A cookout and potluck on the church lawn begins at 6pm, with Constance Warden grilling chicken and hamburgers….. participants are requested to bring a salad, side dish, or dessert to share…… FREE ice cream for desert.

Young Tradition Vermont helps ensure there are opportunities for young players, singers and dancers to be supported, and have opportunities to learn and perform. YTV encourages young people to develop and experiment as part of a living tradition passed down from previous generations. The organization supports musicians and dancers who are young in age, but are ‘old souls’, the latest in a long line of tradition bearers at the intersection of the past and the future.


For more information contact www.youngtraditionvermont.org or mark.sustic@gmail.com

Easter Year A RCL April 20, 2014

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18

They said I had seven demons. All I know is that I was very ill. I met Jesus and he gave me my life back. I had to follow him.

It was amazing to watch him. He truly loved people, and they knew it. He met them as they were, rich and poor, young and old. He taught them, healed them, treasured every one of them. People flocked to him. But his love was a threat to the people in power.

We went with him to Jerusalem. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. Peter felt awful about that, but later he and Jesus had that wonderful reconciliation on the beach. There was the questioning by Pilate and then one horror after another.

We stood at the foot of the cross. I don’t know how his mother endured it. She is so courageous. And, at last, he died. Two members of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had been secret followers of Jesus. They risked their lives and asked permission to take his body down off the cross and place it in Joseph’s new tomb.

We all gathered to cry and pray. Now it was really over. All our hopes were gone. We would never see him again. I cried most of the night.

Then I realized I just had to go to the tomb. I could not stay away any longer. I had watched him die. I couldn’t do anything then and I couldn’t do anything now, but I just had to go.

When I got there, the stone was rolled away. I ran and got Peter and John. Jesus’ body was gone. We were devastated. Peter and John went back to where we were staying.

I stayed and the tears flowed. It broke my heart to think that some thing had happened to his body. Two angels asked me why I was crying. I suppose they were trying to comfort me. I tried to put it into words.

And then I saw someone I thought was the gardener. I thought maybe he had taken Jesus’ body away. But then he called my name. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize him until that moment. Anyway, I finally realized that it was Jesus. He was alive! There he was, standing right in front of me!

I wanted to hug him. But he asked me not to hold onto him. Oh, that hurt! I was so shocked I could hardly breathe.

Much later, I realized that, now that he is risen, he is with all of us all over the world. I couldn’t hold onto him. We couldn’t keep him in Jerusalem or even in Galilee.

Then, I went to Peter and John to tell them, “I have seen the Lord!” He had journeyed all the way through the hatred and brokenness and darkness and transformed it into love, wholeness, light, and new life.

He is with you. He is with me. He is with each of us and all of us in a powerful way that can transform our lives. I have spent my life absorbing that reality, and I imagine that you have done the same.

When darkness surrounds us; when hope flickers and fades; when all seems lost, let us remember that moment when we are standing in front of that empty tomb and Jesus calls our name and we know that he is risen; he is with us; the light is showing over the horizon, and he is here among us.

We have seen the Lord. He is risen! Amen.

Good Friday–April 18, 2014

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The moving hymn asks that searching question. We were not literally there all those years ago, but, walking the Way of the Cross, we are there now.

Sometimes I wonder, Would I have been so afraid of the authorities that I would have denied him as Peter did? Herod and Pilate could snuff out a life in an instant. Maybe I would have been that afraid. I hope I wouldn’t have betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver the way Judas did, but can I honestly say that I would not have denied I knew him? I don’t know.

Would I have gotten caught up in the mob psychology that makes us do things we would not ordinarily do and yelled out, “Crucify him?” I hope not, but I do not honestly know what I would have done.

Mary, his mother, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene followed him every step of the way. There they were, as close to that horrible instrument of torture as anyone could get. Jesus looked down from the cross and told Mary and John, his beloved disciple, that they were mother and son. In the midst of the horror, he created a new family, and we are part of that big family. Would we have had the courage those women had, to follow him, never to waver, and to stand at the foot of that cross? We hope and pray that we would have been faithful and would have followed him to the end, but we do not know for sure what choices we would have made.

But we know what our Lord did. He took all that hate and turned it into love. He took all that death and turned it into life.

His love is stronger than any earthly power. We are with him now. We are standing at the foot of the cross. And he is pouring out that love and filling us with that love and healing and new life. May we accept his love. May we accept the gift of his forgiveness. May we share those gifts with others. Amen.

Maundy Thursday—April 17, 2014

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

In the time of Jesus, if you entered the home of a prosperous person after a long journey, a slave would take you to a special room and there you would take a bath. Most people walked. The roads were dusty. Folks wore sandals or went barefoot. Feet got dirty. If you entered the home after a short journey, a slave would come to you, take off your sandals, and wash your feet as you sat at the table. People usually lounged on cushions around the table.

When he washes the feet of the disciples, Jesus is doing the work of a slave. We can imagine the disciples sitting in shocked silence as he washes their feet one by one. Finally, he gets to Peter, and Peter is not going to have his Lord doing the work of a slave. But Jesus tells Peter that he can have no share with Jesus unless he allows Jesus to wash his feet. What does this mean?

Gail R. O’Day of Emory University writes: “To have a share with Jesus is to have fellowship with him, to participate fully in his life. It draws the disciple into the love that marks God’s and Jesus’ relationship to each other and to the world. One’s share with Jesus, then, is the gift of full relationship with him.” (New Interpreter’s Bible, p. 723.)

We are called to accept Jesus’ model of servanthood, and we are called to do servant ministry in our own lives. We are also called to be cleansed and transformed by Jesus. We are called to realize that there is no task that is below us if it is done in the service of God, and that there is no person who is beyond the love of God.

Again this year, I think of Pope Francis, who so joyfully models Christ’s servanthood for all of us. Pope Francis has a share in the love that is between God and Jesus and the Spirit. That is what we are called to do—to accept Jesus’ ministry to us, to let him cleanse and heal us, to ground ourselves in his love, and then to share that love with others.


Palm Sunday—April 13, 2014

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Our reading from Isaiah is the Third Servant Song. The servant is called to “sustain the weary with a word.” He is encouraging the exiles in Babylon to have hope, to know that God is with them. Isaiah tells the people that God is more powerful than any empire. As Christians we see our Lord as the suffering servant.

Paul writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Paul is calling us to think like Jesus, to model our attitudes and behavior after Jesus’ life.

And then, in the gospel reading, we are with Jesus in the garden, Judas betrays him, Peter denies him. Pilate interrogates him, Barabbas is released, and one horror leads to another. At the end of it all, our Lord is dead.

The Roman Empire used crucifixion to terrify people and keep them under control. Our Lord, who spent his entire life helping people, healing them, teaching them, giving many words to the weary, giving people hope, so terrified the authorities of his time, both secular and religious, that they had to kill him. They had to destroy him because he opened up new ways of thinking, new possibilities that would have threatened their power and domination.

Jesus came to offer a whole new way of living, a way, not of domination, but of compassion and caring. To paraphrase Paul, “Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.” This Holy Week, may we focus on the power of Christ’s love. May we follow his example of servanthood. May we help and support others. May we focus on sharing his love, his hope, his encouragement. We are here today because his love is stronger than any earthly power. Amen.

Lent 5A RCL April 6, 2014

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11: 1-45

Have you ever faced a time when you felt the worst had happened, that things just could not go downhill any further? That is the situation we see in our opening lesson today. The mighty Babylonian Empire has come in and conquered the people of God. The temple has been leveled, the people have been deported to Babylon. Biblical scholar Gene M. Tucker tells us that Ezekiel was one of the first to be deported, Ezekiel was a priest who is known as the prophet to the exiles.

There they were, in an alien land. They had some freedom, enough to worship in their own way, but they had lost the land God had given them, and the center of their worship, the temple, was a pile of rubble. In short, they had lost everything. But they gathered together, and they prayed, and they studied the scriptures, and God gave Ezekiel this shatteringly powerful and life-giving vision. God would breathe life into God’s people. Indeed, they did return home. They rebuilt the temple; they rebuilt their lives, and they flourished. Whenever we feel discouraged about the future of the Church or the ability of communities of faithful people to rise up out of the ashes, we need to remember this vision which came true and which comes true over and over again.

As we turn to our gospel for today, we recall that last week Jesus healed the man who had been born blind. The religious authorities were not pleased with this. Then Jesus began to teach that he is the good shepherd. There was a confrontation with the authorities, and a crowd actually gathered to stone Jesus, so he went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing. In other words, he withdrew from Jerusalem for safety.

Now Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill. Mary and Martha send a message. We need to pause and meditate on this. Jesus has withdrawn to a safe place, or a safer place. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus live in Bethany, only two miles from Jerusalem. Jesus has spent many wonderful hours with these dear friends. Mary has sat at his feet in the formal position of a disciple. Martha has served many delicious meals. These are Jesus’ dearest friends. Their home has been a haven for him. But that is no longer true. Any place that near Jerusalem is going to be dangerous for Jesus.

At first, Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill. He delays the trip to Bethany. He knows it will be dangerous. But then he says to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples remind Jesus that people had tried to stone him. Jesus says that their friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but this is a way of saying that he realizes that Lazarus has died. He knows that he must go to Bethany. Then Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas knows how dangerous this is going to be. We are facing the death of Lazarus, and we are also facing the death of our Lord.

When they are still two miles away, Martha comes out to meet them. She is hopping mad. “Lord, if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!” With Martha, you always know what she is thinking. And then she expresses her faith in Jesus. And he says those words which have rung down through the ages, “I am the resurrection and the life Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live….” Mary comes out to see him and says the same thing, “Lord, if only you had been here, this would not have happened.” Mary is more sad than angry. She is in tears.

The depth of what has happened grips Jesus, One of his best friends has died. He cries over this loss. He cries in front of all the mourners who have followed Mary out to meet him. They go to the tomb. Martha points out the facts: there will be a stench. Lazarus has been dead for four days

It is a cave, They take away the stone. Jesus prays. Then he calls to his dear friend, “Lazarus! Come out!” And Lazarus stumbles out of the cave, wrapped in his grave cloths. Then Jesus issues the command, “Unbind him, and let him go!” Jesus calls to each of us, this last Sunday before the beginning of Holy Week. He calls us by name, because he is the good shepherd, and he knows us and we know him. He calls us to move from death to life, He calls us to allow him to free us from anything that might bind us or imprison us or enslave us.

In our epistle for today, St. Paul talks about the difference between lifein the flesh and life in the spirit. When Paul refers to “the flesh,” he does not mean our human body. As Christians, we do not see the body as bad or evil. Herbert O’Driscoll has an excellent way of explaining what Paul means by “the flesh.: O’Driscoll writes, “To be in the flesh means for Paul that one is living out our flawed human nature without reaching for the grace that lies beyond ourselves. The spirit that lives in such a life is a solitary spirit. Paul points to another way of living. This is the way of reaching out beyond ourselves for a Spirit that comes from Christ.” (The Word Today, Year A, Volume 2, p. 42.) Our goal is to allow Christ to live in us and through us.

All of our lessons today remind us that God can and does bring life out of death. This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and we will be with our Lord as he is welcomed as a hero, and we will also be with him as he makes a decision to live out the power of love and self-offering rather than operate on the basis of human and earthly power.

What are these lessons telling us? No situation is hopeless. God can and does bring new life to communities of faith and to communities in general. Seeking our Lord’s will and asking his grace to do his will brings us to life in the spirit, life on a new level.

May we continue to walk the Way of the Cross with our Lord. May our faith grow and deepen with every step. Amen.