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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 4B RCL April 26, 2015

Acts 4: 5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John  10:11-18

Jesus says to us this morning, “ I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” The biblical shepherd goes out in front of the flock. He walks the path ahead of us. There is nothing we can go through which he has not endured. He knows where the good water and the verdant pastures are. He is ready to lay down his own life to protect us.

We know the voice of our Good Shepherd. In biblical times and even now, the shepherd takes the sheep up into the mountains to graze during the day and brings them home at night to a safe place in the village. It may be a cave. It may actually have a wall around it. All the shepherds in the area put their flocks into the fold, and, in the morning, each shepherd comes and calls his sheep, and his flock knows his voice and comes out and follows him. The relationship between shepherd and sheep is an intimate one.

It was not easy to be a shepherd in Jesus’ time. It was a dangerous job, and it was a profession that was on the margins of society. Paradoxically, there was the idea of the shepherd-king, the leader who cared for and protected the people, especially those who were most vulnerable. King David, who was called from tending the flocks, was the most revered example of the shepherd-king.

The twenty-third psalm is one of the most beloved of psalms. and it elaborates on the theme of the good shepherd.  I would like to take a little time to meditate together on this beautiful psalm. I am going to use the traditional version, which is on page 476 of the Prayer Book.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Jesus has already told us that he knows each of us by name. He knows everything about us, good and bad, and he loves us with a love that nothing can stop.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. On the journey of life, our Good Shepherd takes care of us. We have everything we need. He takes us to green pastures where we can graze to our hearts’ content. He leads us to water in quiet, protected places where we can drink in peace. He leads us to the stillness and serenity that make us able to know how fully we are in his presence. The still waters—how rare stillness is in this busy world.

He restoreth my soul; he feeds and strengthens, not only our bodies, but our spirits. He gives us everything we need. He reinvigorates and revitalizes us. He fills us with his love and energy.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. He leads us, not on just any path, not just on a good path, but on the right path so that we can grow into the persons he calls us to be and  glorify his Name.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Because our Good Shepherd is with us in every moment, we do not have to fear anything, even death. Sometimes our journey takes us into some scary places. We can always trust that our Lord will bring us through.

How can we have this level of trust?  The psalm gives us the answer: For thou art with me. He is with us on the journey. He is with us to guide us. When we feel scared or confused, or lost, this is a line we can say to ourselves. For thou art with me. He is with us in everything. We are never alone. We may feel alone, but he never leaves us. He is always there.

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. If jackals or wolves come after us with teeth bared, our Good Shepherd uses the rod and staff to beat them off and protect us. The  rod and staff are also used to keep us from straying off into the thorns and thickets and getting into trouble, Our Good Shepherd uses these tools to comfort us. Comfort is from the roots con-with and fortis-strength. So, comfort actually means strength. Our Good Shepherd strengthens us in times of darkness and danger.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Here, the journey takes us into a situation of a battle. The enemies are gathered all around. Maybe our little flock is surrounded by wolves. Maybe these are human enemies. Maybe it is a spiritual battle and we are being assailed by the forces of darkness.

Whatever the enemies are, our Good Shepherd is creating a safe place, setting a festive table with the best food, and blessing us with the best of hospitality.  Thou anointest my head with oil. In biblical times, a good host would anoint the guests with oil. Scholars tell us that this scene of the table is almost on the level of a royal feast.

There is some threat, and our Good Shepherd is making us safe and hosting a feast into the bargain. The wolves can circle, but they cannot get in.

Biblical scholar J. R. P. Sclater writes, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies becomes a table spread in the midst of the pilgrimage, even when foes are massing to the attack. The verse has been declared to have been a favorite text in London at Communion services during World War II, when the bombing was at its peak, even in one instance when a part of the church was hit, while the service continued.” (Interpreter’s Bible, Ps. 23, p. 128)

My cup runneth over. Our Good Shepherd showers us with abundance. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. With our Good Shepherd leading and guiding us, we will journey with courage to His glory and we will get home to the safety of the fold.

May we continue to follow him.  May we follow him always.  Amen.

Easter 3B RCL April 19, 2015

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, Peter and John have just healed a lame man who had spent his whole life begging for alms.

The man not only stands up. He leaps for joy. The people looking on are amazed. They think that Peter and John are miracle workers. Peter  explains that this healing has come from God.

Our epistle for today reminds us that we are God’s children. We are called to live lives that show forth God’s light and love.

Our gospel for today comes after the wonderful story of the walk to Emmaus. Jesus joins two of his followers who have witnessed his death and are horrified and devastated beyond belief. But they do not recognize him. He asks them why they are so upset and they tell him what has happened. They still do not realize who he is. They arrive home, and Jesus looks as though he is going to continue on his way, but they invite him in, still not recognizing him.

It is only when they break bread together that the two disciples realize who Jesus is. They rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others they have seen he risen Lord. They find the eleven apostles and the companions who are with them. The two men from Emma’s are bursting with their good news, but the the others are shouting out their own joyful report:“The Lord has risen, and he has appeared to Peter!” The two disciples from Emmaus tell about their encounter with the risen Lord, and how they recognized him in the breaking of the bread.

Then Jesus is among them, again bestowing his peace, his shalom. They are terrified. They think he is a ghost. “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts,” he asks them. He points out his wounds. They are trying to absorb all of this. Joy is beginning to seep up from deep inside them, but they wonder how this could be.

And then, that wonderful moment. “Do you have anything here to eat?” he asks. He is hungry. How human! How down to earth. He is not a ghost. He is risen. It is really Jesus. He has been through all of that torture; he has died, and here he is asking for food.

Sometimes, when we think all hope is gone, It is very difficult to realize that the risen Christ is walking right beside us. We think it is impossible that he could be alive after what he went through. We do not see how he could really care that much about us. Who are we, that he should give himself for us, go through the worst horrors we can imagine, rise again,  and then be with us every moment, leading and guiding us?

That is how his love is. It is beyond our understanding. He is our brother.  He is our Good Shepherd. And he is indeed risen. And he leads us into a new level of living that is impossible without him. A kind of life that values all people, loves every person. A life that is eternal and vibrant with light and energy. A life and love that nothing can destroy.

Have you heard of Weston Priory? This is a community of Benedictine monks down in southern Vermont who live and share God’s love in Christ and in the Spirit. You can go there and visit them. They have come to our diocesan convention. They have a powerful ministry of inclusiveness and peacemaking and support of human rights and care for all people. They also have a music ministry which has touched the hearts and lives many people, including many folks in our Church.

I’m going to play a song of theirs about the Walk to Emmaus and about new life in Christ. It’s called “All Along the Way.” Please feel free to sing along.

Easter Day April 5, 2015

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

We were so happy to see the crowd welcome him. Then we shared the meal, and when he took the bread and wine and said the blessings over them, he told us this was his body and blood and that we should do this in remembrance of him. He had been saying that he would die. Our hearts sank.

Then we went to the garden, and he struggled. We fell asleep. Judas betrayed him. Jesus was arrested. Peter denied him three times. He felt so terrible about that. But when he and Jesus met later on, that was all forgiven.

And then the trial. Pilate wanted to let him go, but the crowd wanted Pilate to free Barabbas. And then the horror of the cross. And his mother right there. How she did it I will never know.

And then he was dead. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling Council, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He took a huge risk. He could have been killed on the spot. Once Pilate made sure that Jesus was actually dead, he let Joseph take that beloved body and put it into Joseph’s own tomb. There were some people in high places who were secret followers of Jesus, but Joseph was the only one who stepped forward to help. Everyone was scared. If they could kill Jesus, they could kill any one of us.

We spent the night in the room where we had gathered. We prayed and cried. His kingdom would have been so different. How could this awful thing have happened, we wondered. He could have raised up an army, but he refused to do it. Through his own power he could have killed them all. But that is not his way. That night, as we mourned, many of us were so angry we almost wished he had killed them all. But we know that he would never have done that. As he hung in agony on that cross, he forgave the people who were killing him.

We had had such high hopes for a different kind of future, a different kind of world. Now those hopes were gone.

We got up early in the morning to go to the tomb and anoint his body. We had no idea how we were going to move that huge stone. We really didn’t want to get there and see his beloved body dead. It took all our strength and prayers to put one foot in front of the other and drag ourselves there. But when we arrived, that enormous stone was rolled away, and there was a young man there—I think he might have been an angel—and he told us that Jesus had risen and we should go to Galilee and find him.

We couldn’t believe it. We had been filled with hopelessness, but the tomb was empty. As we talked about it later, we remembered that, as we got near the tomb and saw the stone rolled away, we began to feel his presence. We knew that it wasn’t just us. We knew that he was with us. Jesus was alive. Jesus is alive.

People began meeting him—on the road to Emmaus, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He came right through the walls of the upper room where we kept gathering to pray. Thomas had had his doubts, but, when he saw Jesus, those doubts evaporated.

Centuries have passed. Millions upon millions of people have chosen to follow Jesus. You are among those people. You gather just as we did all those centuries ago. Because he is risen and he is alive in you and you are alive in him, he is just as close to you as he was to us. He is with you every moment.

You are part of his risen body, You have been given the gift of new life in him. Keep sharing that life and hope and love with others. Keep up the good work!

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


Maundy Thursday April 2, 2015

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
Psalm 116:1. 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:21=16
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

At this last gathering with his closest followers, Jesus did three revolutionary and life-changing things.

The first thing that he did was to wash the disciples’ feet. If you went into the home of a rich person, that person’s slave would wash your feet. The was a profound sign of hospitality. At the very least, all of the apostles realized that Jesus was a rabbi, a teacher. Peter realized that he was the messiah. Some of the others were probably grasping that fact as well.

The savior of the world washes his followers’ feet. All through his ministry he has kept saying, “I am among you as one who serves,” and he calls us to be servants, too.

The second thing is that he takes the bread and wine and says the usual blessings, but then he says that we should share this meal in remembrance of him. He gives us this meal as a way to call him to be among us. This meal reminds us that whenever we gather, he is in our midst.

The third thing is the commandment he gives us: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

May we carry on his ministry of servanthood. May we be ever more aware of his presence among us. May we love one another and love others in his Name.


Palm Sunday Year B RCL March 29, 2015

Mark 11:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14:32-15:39

Today, we welcome Jesus as our King and then we journey with him to his crucifixion. It is a heart-wrenching day, and each year we learn something new about our Lord and about ourselves.

Every Palm Sunday, we read the amazing passage from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Paul wrote this letter from prison, and we know that the congregation in Philippi was suffering persecution.

Our passage begins, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” When Paul says “mind,” he does not mean just the intellect. Charles Cousar writes, “[Our] entire identity—[our] intuitions, sensitivities, imaginations—is to be shaped by the self-giving activity of Christ.”

Jesus upset the secular and religious authorities of his time so much that they felt their only option was to kill him. He also upset many of the ordinary people because they wanted him to conquer the Roman Empire. And so, he was sentenced to one of the most horrific deaths the human mind has ever imagined, a death reserved for the worst criminals. He did not meet violence with violence.

Jesus trusted that God could bring a greater good out of this disaster, and Jesus knew that God loved him and loved everyone of us humans and the whole creation. So Jesus allowed himself to be nailed to that cross.

Twelve step programs have a saying—“Let go, and let God.” When we are in a really tough situation, we let go of our own will and our own plans and thoughts, and we turn the whole thing over to God, knowing that God can do things we could never imagine. That’s what Jesus did on the cross. He suffered agony. He kept trusting in God’s love and power. He forgave those who were doing this awful thing. He died. Like a grain of wheat, he fell into the ground of God’s love.

Sometimes when situations are way beyond anything we can handle, we have to do that. We have to let go and let God. We have to get out of God’s way and let God take over. When we do that, I think we are very close to our Lord. When we do that, we allow God to work.


Second Sunday of Easter April 12, 2015

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Today’s gospel takes us back to the beginnings of our faith. It is the evening of the resurrection day. Mary Magdalene has run back and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”  But they have not yet seen him.

The doors are locked because they have watched Jesus die and they are afraid of what the authorities might do. Suddenly, Jesus is with them. “Peace be with you.” he says. He shows them his wounds so that they will know that is it really Jesus. They are beside themselves with joy.

Then he breathes the Holy Spirit into them and he gives them the ministry of reconciliation. Here they are, locked in the room because of their fear which is entirely justified, and now he is sending them out into the world again to bring his healing, to build his shalom, his kingdom of peace and harmony in which everyone is safe and can have a good and useful life.

But Thomas has not been there to see this. Many people have called him “Doubting Thomas,” but I am not sure that is accurate. I have always thought of him as a practical, rather scientific person. He has to have proof. He has to see it to believe it. Not that he is necessarily a doubter.

One of my favorite scholars and preachers, Herbert O’Driscoll, has an interesting view of Thomas which I think could well be true. O’Driscoll does not see Thomas as a doubter but as the kind of person who, “when he makes a commitment  to someone or something, makes a total commitment.”

O’Driscoll continues, “Now his heart is broken by the ghastly death of  Jesus, his world is collapsed, and he is determined never to give his heart to anything again, never to trust life again, never to give his love again. But when our Lord stands in front of him, Thomas gives himself totally once more.”

There is so much truth in this. When something devastates us, it is natural to try to protect ourselves. All of the disciples are hiding behind locked doors. Yet Jesus  walks through the walls of our fear and calls us to go out into the world and knit that broken world back together again. That is what the ministry of reconciliation is all about.

Our other two lessons deal with how that is happening in the early Christian communities. In our reading from the Book of Acts, the community is of one mind and heart and soul in Christ. They share everything in common. They take care of each other.  No one goes hungry. Everyone has what he or she needs. This is a wonderful vision for all of us.

In our reading from the First Letter of John, we are hearing from someone who has been in the presence of Jesus. Think how that must have been in the early Church. The apostles traveled around to teach and preach and heal. Think what it was to meet someone who had actually sat with Jesus and shared meals with him. and learned from him. Someone who might have had his feet washed by Jesus. Someone who had touched Jesus.

John is calling us to walk in the light of Christ, which means that we are called to be loving individuals and a loving community. We can picture communities of followers of Jesus springing up all over during the first century.  From those little shoots, the Church has grown. And here we are, all these centuries later.

May we walk as children of the Light.  Amen.

Good Friday April 3, 2015

Isaiah 52:13;53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
John 18:1-19:42

Jesus came among us to assure us of God’s unconditional love for every human being and for all the creation. Everything he did and everything he said breathed out the Spirit of God’s love, forgiveness, and healing. But some of us, especially those in power, could not stand to hear this good news, and it all led to a Cross.

Jesus did the best he could, and it led to a horrific instrument of torture and death reserved for criminals. There are many things he could have done, but he died on that cross.

On Palm Sunday, I said that I think we can see the cross as the ultimate example of what it means to “Let go and let God.” Jesus had done the very best job he could do. There was nothing more he could do. On the cross, he placed his complete trust in God. He took into himself all the rage and hate and evil of the world, and he and God and the Spirit transformed all of it into life and hope.

When we have been facing a situation full of darkness and brokenness and we have done our best, with God’s help, one of the most creative and loving things we can do is to Let go and let God.

We place ourselves, our will and intentions, and the entire situation in God’s loving hands, and we let go of it. Now it is in God’s care. We pray for God’s help for us and for any other people involved, and we leave it in God’s hands. And God takes the situation, with all its darkness and brokenness and transforms it into new life. We will never be able to understand this because we are frail and fallible human beings, but we do not have to understand. We know it because our Lord has lived it and done it. That is why this Cross is at the center of our faith. We can trust God in everything.