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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:…
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Pentecost 7 Proper 12A RCL July 27, 2014

Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
Romans 8: 26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

In our first reading, Jacob has cheated his older brother, Esau, out of their father’s blessing and Esau’s birthright as the elder son. He has fled to Haran in Mesopotamia, where his ancestor Abraham had lived before he followed God’s guidance and journeyed to the land of Canaan.

Jacob’s kinsman, Laban, graciously says that Jacob should not have to work for nothing and offers to pay him. Jacob has fallen in love with Rachel and offers to work for seven years in order to earn Rachel’s hand in marriage.

The seven years pass and Jacob asks to marry Rachel. Laban appears to be keeping his agreement, but he tricks Jacob and gives Leah in marriage. In those days and in that culture, there was a great feast for the wedding, the bride was clothed in layers of veils, and she went into the bridal tent in the dark of night. When morning dawns, Jacob realizes that he has married Leah instead of Rachel.  

Laban now explains that it is their custom to give the elder daughter in marriage first, but he generously offers that, if Jacob will work seven more years, he can have Rachel, and that marriage can take place in a week.

This is a culture in which women were viewed as possessions to be given away by their fathers, and the patriarchs held absolute power. But it is a part of the history of God’s people. The story also involves a reversal for Jacob, the Supplanter, the crafty cheater.  He is outsmarted by Laban. On the other hand, he is not eager to return home, where Esau is still hunting him to kill him. He is happy to spend fourteen years accumulating wives and livestock.

In our passage from the Letter to the Romans, Paul reaches the height of his theological and literary powers. We can all identify with what he is talking about. How many times have we tried to find words to pray in the face of events and situations which make us speechless? When we think of children risking their lives to get from El Salvador or Guatemala or Honduras to the borders of the United States, riding “The Beast,” the train that can carry them to new hope but from which they can fall to a horrible death; or when we think of an airplane being shot down over Eastern Ukraine and innocent people dying; or when we think of people being killed in the struggle between Israel and Hamas; all of these things can and do overwhelm us. Then, when we add personal situations in which people are struggling with illness or tragedy, we simply cannot find words.

Paul tells us that God is so close to us, God’s Holy Spirit is so much with us, that the Spirit “intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” Paul also reminds us that “All things work together for good for those who love God.” Sometimes there seem to be so many bad things happening that we find it almost impossible to see the good.  In our own lives, we can look back on an event that seemed so full of brokenness that we wondered how good could come out of it, but we find that it has made us stronger. It has deepened and tempered our faith and made us better people. Indeed, “All things work for good for those who love God.”

And, finally, Paul assures us so powerfully that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of Christ. These words are so central to our faith that they are placed in the burial service. This passage is one of the scriptures we can chose for the burial of a loved one. These words give us so much hope in the face of so much brokenness in our world.

We end with some wonderful parables of Jesus. We could spend hours on these parables alone. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of seeds and yet it can grow into a bush, a shrub, that is as high as the eye of a horse. That is a pretty impressive shrub. Big things and good things can start very small.  I have no doubt that Jesus would agree that small is beautiful.

The kingdom is like yeast. It is hidden. You cannot see it. Yet it turns a lump of flour into delicious and nourishing bread. The shalom of God is like treasure hidden in a field or like a pearl of great price. When you find it, it is so precious that you will give everything you have in order to get it. The image of the net takes us back to the wheat and the tares growing together. God will sort it out at the end. Our job is to leave the sorting to God and just follow the good every step of the way.

What are these lessons telling us? Well, Jacob is on a learning curve. He isn’t the only shrewd guy around. He is learning patience. He is learning love. He is growing. He is being transformed, slowly but surely.

Paul is telling us that we have nothing to fear. God is with us. God helps us at every turn. God loves us with a love that goes beyond our understanding.

The kingdom of God, the shalom of God, is growing all the time. It is not splashy. It does not take out big ads. It does not do a lot of self-promotion. Wherever people are given a drink of water, wherever and whenever people are valued and cared for, whenever someone chooses honesty over trickery, integrity over shiftiness, compassion over tyranny, the shalom of God is advanced. It almost happens without our noticing. Good news does not usually hit the front page.

Slowly and often silently, the shalom of God is growing and transforming the world, like a mustard seed, like yeast.  Let’s do everything we can to help God build that shalom. Amen.

Pentecost 6 Proper 11A RCL July 20. 2014

Genesis 28:10-19a
Psalm 139:1-11, 22-23
Romans 8:12-25
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

In our first reading today, Jacob is running for his life. He has cheated his older brother, Esau, out of his father’s blessing and his birthright. Esau is following him, and when he finds Jacob, he will kill him. Jacob is heading for his father’s hometown of Haran.

He stops for the night, takes a stone, and places it under his head for a pillow. During the night, he has a dream or a vision of a ladder coming down from heaven with angels going up and down the ladder.

Jacob’s name means “The Supplanter.” He is crafty and deceitful. He clothed himself in animal skins to fool his father, Isaac, into thinking Jacob was the oldest son, Esau, and that is how he got Isaac to give him his blessing. When Esau came in from hunting and was ravenous, Jacob had some lentil stew simmering on the fire and Esau sold Jacob his birthright for that lentil stew. In older translations, this delectable meal was called a “mess of pottage.”

All his life, Jacob has been scheming to get ahead. Jacob has been thinking about no one but Jacob. But now he has an encounter with God. When he wakes up, he knows that angels are real and that there is Someone much bigger than he is. He builds a monument and names the place Beth El—House of the Lord. Beth means house in Hebrew and El is the first syllable of Elohim, meaning, “The Lord.” Jacob is now aware of God’s presence in his life. He is beginning a process of transformation.

Psalm 139 reinforces Jacob’s experience. No matter where we go, God is there. God is always present in our lives. Every place is Beth El, God’s house.

In our epistle, St. Paul has been talking about life in the flesh and life in the spirit. Paul reminds us of the amazing fact that we are children of God. Because of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can call the God who made the heavens and the earth “Abba.” As you know, “Abba” is an intimate term. It means “Daddy” or “Dad” or “Mom” or “Mama.” God is our loving parent. Paul tells us that there are many sufferings in our world, but that there is reason for hope because God is building God’s shalom, God’s kingdom of peace, harmony and wholeness.

In our gospel for today, we have Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. A man sows good seed in his field. During the night an enemy comes and plants weeds. The servants want to go right out and pull those weeds, but the Master tells them not to do that. They should let the wheat and the weeds grow together, and at the harvest they will be separated.

In our world, there are good things going on and there are bad things going on. In each of us, there are parts of us which are great and there is room for growth. We have only to look at Jacob, the main character in our first lesson. He is a cheat and a liar. But God has chosen him. God is going to work with him. Jacob will grow in faith and he will become a different and better person. We all have our flaws. Yet God loves us and asks us to be the bearers of the Good News.

In our world, and sometimes in the Church, we can be like the servants who want to go right out there and tear out those weeds. In the early Church, there was a big argument about whether only Jews could follow Jesus. Because of Peter’s vision, the Church realized that the faith was for all people. In our country, it took a painful and costly struggle and Civil War for us to realize that slavery was wrong, One person cannot own another. Then we went through a struggle to allow women to go to college and to vote. Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. It is not enough to free the slaves. We must treat all people as human beings worthy of respect. Every person can vote; ride busses, trains, planes; go to restaurants, use bathrooms. We humans have a tendency to want to exclude some people, and that is not part of God’s shalom.

So we have to be careful before we tear out what we think are weeds. We have to listen for God’s voice. We are called to be builders, not destroyers. We need to remember that God is the ultimate judge.

Everything comes back to God. I would like to go back to Jacob’s encounter with God, and I want to share with you a song based on that experience. It can also apply to our present experience. I am just going to read you the words.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place

I can feel His mighty power and His grace.\I can hear the brush of angels’ wings; I see glory on each face.

Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place.


In the midst of His children, the Lord said He would be.

It doesn’t take very many. It can be just two or three.

And I feel that same sweet spirit that I’ve felt oft times before,

Surely I can say that I’ve been with the Lord.




There’s a holy hush around us as God’s glory fills this place.

I’ve touched the hem of His garment; I can almost feel His face;

And my heart is overflowing with the fullness of His joy;

I know without a doubt that I’ve been with the Lord.




May we take God’s presence with us wherever we go.  May we seek and do God’s will. Amen.

Pentecost 4A RCL July 6, 2014

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67
Psalm 45”11-18
Romans 7:15-25a
Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Our first reading today is one we have seen only once before, in 2011. It is a new addition in the Revised Common Lectionary. Sarah has died. Isaac is now grown up. Abraham is getting old. Abraham wants Isaac to have a proper wife from their own extended family. So he sends his trusted servant on a special mission. Scholars think this is his beloved servant Eliezer, who has been with him for years.  God is going to guide every step of this journey, and, if Eliezer does not find a suitable wife for Isaac, he is to come home.

As it turns out, Eliezer goes to the well, the social center of the village, and he finds a wonderful young woman, Rebekah, who extends consummate hospitality. Not only does she give Eliezar a drink; she waters all of his camels. This is an outstanding virtue.

In those days, women and children were treated as chattel—objects, possessions. The father could hand over his daughter to be married. But this does not happen in our passage. Rebekah’s family asks her whether she wants to go and marry Isaac. She has a voice. Her opinion is respected. Her new husband, Isaac, does not treat her as an object. He truly loves her.

This story is a touching and human expression of at least two important themes: asking God for guidance and following that guidance, and showing respect for all human beings.

Our epistle shows Paul at his most human and compelling level. All of us can identify with this passage.  Paul writes, “I do not do what I want, but I do the thing I hate.” We are called to practice the life of prayer, to seek God’s will and, with God’s grace, do God’s will. But it is not always easy. We all fall short. No one is perfect. When we do something we know we shouldn’t do, or do not do something we know we should do, we can acknowledge these sins of commission and omission in our review of our life at the end of the day and ask God’s forgiveness. Usually, slowly but surely, we make progress.

But sometimes there are patterns that defeat us. No matter how hard we try and how devoutly we pray, we just keep doing the same thing over and over again. Addiction is indeed a disease. But it is my best example of sin as well. We know that we are drinking too much these days. We shouldn’t take that drink or that drug, but we do it over and over again. We have no power over it. We are powerless. It could be the sin of ira, wrath. We lose our temper. We pray for help, but we don’t have any control over it. It could be any one of those seven root sins—pride, wrath, greed, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth.  We feel we don’t have enough money or things. We envy someone his or her success.  We fail to be grateful for the blessings God has bestowed on us. Whatever the sin is, when we realize that we have no control over it, we also realize that we are powerless. We need God’s help. We must ask for that help and depend totally upon God to get us out of this mire of sin. And, if we trust God, and Jesus, and the Spirit, we can be freed from that endless bondage of sin.

In our gospel, Jesus is commenting on the fickleness of human nature. Sometimes we are impossible to please. John the Baptist leads the life of an ascetic prophet, fasting and drinking only water, and people find fault with him. Jesus associates with all kinds of people, and eats and drinks and people think he is a drunkard and a glutton. Jesus seems a but frustrated with all of this, and this simply reminds us that he was fully human, and sometimes he had to learn things about us that were not easy to deal with, and sometimes he got frustrated.

Jesus says a little prayer thanking God for giving wisdom to those who try not to complicate things. And then he says that thing which has been such a comfort to us humans over the centuries: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Whenever I think about this passage, I remember that, back in Jesus’ time, a skilled woodworker would make the yoke for each ox. The woodworker would measure the ox’s neck and shoulders and chest and would note every lump and bump on those contours and would exactly mold that yoke to fit that animal. When we decide to follow Jesus—and we make that decision new every day, we ask him to lead us and guide us in every action we take and in everything we say. He knows us and he loves us. He knows all the lumps and bumps and contours of our spirits. And when the going gets tough, he gives us the grace we need to carry the load and to make the journey. As time goes by, and as we more and more naturally, through prayer and grace, follow his will and walk in his way, a task that used to seem impossible is actually pretty doable. Our spiritual muscles are strengthened. And, as unlikely as it may seem, when we are called upon to do something we would have thought impossible, with his help, it becomes as easy and natural as breathing, because he is now living in us. His grace is carrying us through.

“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Dear Lord, thank you for your amazing grace.  Amen.