• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 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 February 12, 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 February 19, 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:…

Lent 3C RCL February 28, 2016

Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Luke 13:1-9

Our opening reading today is the account of Moses’ life-changing encounter with God. Before we examine this historic moment, let us gather some background.

Just before Moses was born, the Pharaoh had ordered that the midwives kill all the boy babies born to the Hebrew people. God’s people were growing in numbers, and the Egyptian king was threatened. The Egyptian midwives refused to carry out this order. When the king complained that there were still Hebrew boy babies being born, they explained that the Hebrew women gave birth so quickly and efficiently that the birth was done before the midwife could get there. God’s people “continued to multiply and became very strong”, and the king finally commanded that every Hebrew boy baby be thrown into the Nile.

When Moses is born, his mother hides him for three months, but finally she realizes that she can hide him no longer. So she makes a basket of papyrus and seals it with pitch and tar to make it waterproof and  places the basket in the reeds by the river bank. Moses’ sister, Miriam, keeps watch.

The Pharaoh’s daughter comes down to the river to bathe, and Moses begins to cry. She finds the basket, opens it, and sees this little Hebrew baby. She takes pity on him. This is a baby that her father would kill, but she takes him into her home. Miriam offers to find a nurse for the baby, and Moses’ mother gets the job. The Pharaoh’s daughter pays Moses’ mother the usual wages for a nurse. Moses is adopted by the princess and will be raised in the palace as an Egyptian prince, with his mother serving as his nurse and nanny.

There comes a day when Moses leaves the palace and goes out to see what is going on. Even though he has been raised as an Egyptian, he identifies with his own people. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man. Moses looks around to see who is watching,  sees no-one, and kills the Egyptian. The next day, he goes out again, sees two Hebrews fighting and asks the one who is in the wrong why he is fighting another Hebrew. The aggressor asks Moses who made him the judge and then asks Moses if he is going to kill him, too. Moses realizes that he was seen killing the Egyptian. The Pharaoh hears about Moses’ attack on the Egyptian and decides to kill Moses.

Moses flees to the land of Midian. He marries Zipporah, the daughter of the priest of Midian. They have children, and Moses helps with the  family agricultural business.

The fact that Moses is alive is nothing short of a miracle. Moses has survived because of the courage of the midwives who would not murder innocent children; the love  and courage of his mother and sister, and the compassion of the Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted a baby whom her father would have killed.

So here is Moses tending the flocks of Jethro, his father-in-law, and he sees this very strange bush which is obviously on fire but never is consumed. The text says that Moses “turn[s] aside.” He notices. He goes over to look.

Most of the times when God is calling us or guiding us, we are going about our daily tasks. Like Moses, we need to be paying attention. We need to notice. We need to let God speak to us. God calls. “Moses, Moses!” And Moses answers. God tells Moses to take off his sandals, that he is on holy ground. In the midst of our daily routine, we are on holy ground. We are always in God’s presence, doing our daily chores doing the most humdrum things. It is all holy ground.

God tells Moses that he has seen the suffering of the people, and that he is calling Moses to lead the people of God out of slavery. Like all of our heroes of the faith, Moses has questions. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the people? If I go to your people, what is going to make them believe me? And God tells Moses God’s Name,”I am who I am.” Moses is the first person in the Scriptures to hear the Name of God. Moses is becoming very close to God, and God is going to give Moses the grace and gifts to lead God’s people out of slavery.

Moses’ life up until this point is a crucial part of this story. He knows how powerful the Pharaoh is and how easy it is for someone with all that power to kill people. He has had to run away to save his own life. His mother had to set him adrift in a basket to try to save him when he was a baby. He has seen the suffering of his people first hand. He put his own life in danger trying to protect one of his people from an Egyptian.

Moses grew up in the palace. He could have lived his life as a member of the Egyptian royal court. He could have denied his own identity as a Hebrew man. But he did not. He could have lived a life of privilege based on that denial, but he did not choose that path. Moses has been tried and tempered in the fires of his own life experience, and now he is accepting God’s call to lead the people out of slavery into freedom.

Lent is the season in which we move from slavery to sin into freedom in Christ. The life of Moses reminds us that our own experiences of  brokenness or oppression or slavery can be our greatest sources of strength to help others on their journeys.

Fortunately, we are not being called to do what Moses did. but the story of Moses is full of rich insights for us. Our own experiences of brokenness or oppression or slavery of various kinds have strengthened us as Moses’ experiences strengthened him. Because we are walking the Way of the Cross, these experiences make us more compassionate and they give us the wisdom to help others on their journeys to new life.

May we listen for God’s call. May we trust God. May we follow our Lord into freedom and newness of life.  Amen.

Lent 2C RCL February 21, 2016

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
Psalm 27
Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 13:31-35

Our opening reading from the Book of Genesis is full of insight for us on our journey through Lent. It shows one of the great heroes of the faith, Abraham, in a state of fear. Our lesson opens with God telling Abraham not to be afraid. Here is the great example of faith, Abraham, who has journeyed from Ur of the Chaldeans to a new land, and now he is wondering whether he has made a huge mistake.

As we can see, God is with him, encouraging him. And Abraham asks God the real question that is bothering him. Abraham asks God, “Are you going to give me children as you promised? Am I going to have a future, or has all my journeying been for nothing?” God tries to reassure Abraham, telling him that he is going to have children. But that does not seem to make the point strongly enough

So God takes Abraham out into the night. “Look up into the heavens and count the stars. That is how numerous your descendants will be.”

When we go out at night and look up at the sky, the vastness of it speaks of God’s immense power and glory. It is impossible to count the stars. There are far too many of them.

Somehow, the immensity of God’s creation speaks to the heart and mind of Abraham, as it also speaks to us. If God can create all this and if God is telling me that I am going to have this many descendants, I have to believe it,” Abraham says to himself.

But then he needs a sign. We could say that he needs a liturgical sign. So God instructs Abraham to make a sacrifice. And Abraham does that. A deep sleep falls on him, and when he wakes up, the fire of God comes and burns the sacrifice. This is the sign of the convenient between God and Abraham.

Abraham and Sara had left a prosperous life in Ur of the Chaldeans, had packed up their possessions and their animals, and all they had, and had gone to a new land. God called them to do this, and they responded to that call.

But now Abraham comes to a point where he is doubting or questioning what he has done. Has God really called me to do this? Will God help me to take the next steps? Will God keep his promise to give us children, even though we are old? Is God really going to help me establish my home in this new and unknown land?

Even this great holy example of the faithful person, Abraham, had times of fear and doubt. That can be very reassuring to us. Sometimes we need to ask God to reassure us. Especially when we have made major decisions, even if we have felt that God is calling us to these choices, sometimes we need support and reassurance from God and trusted friends in the faith. Even Abraham needed this reassurance from God.

Questions and doubts are not the opposite of faith. They are part of our human journey of faith.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees are trying to help Jesus. They warn our Lord that Herod wants to kill him. Jesus responds with some blunt comments. He is healing people and doing his ministry and on the third day he will finish his work. On the third day he will rise and lead us into new life. He has to keep moving because Jerusalem, even though it is the site of the temple, is dangerous. That is where those in power, such as Herod, exercise total control over everything. That is where the prophets are killed. That is where those who want to keep complete control over everything that happens exterminate everyone who threatens their power.

And then Jesus says something that is so much from his heart that it brings tears to our eyes: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Jesus wanted so much to share his ministry of love and healing with this most holy city, and it was impossible because the earthly rulers shut him out. All they wanted to do was to kill him. They are so blind and so caught up in their own power that they could not be open to Jesus in any way.

That is something that can happen to us humans. We can actually shut God out from our lives. Jesus is expressing the sorrow of God when people attain so much power that they can prevent an entire city from having access to God.

Jesus tells the Pharisees that they will not see him until what we call Palm Sunday, the day when he will enter Jerusalem and be honored, the beginning of the week when he will die.

In his Letter to his beloved Philippians, Paul is calling them and us to keep following our Lord. By that time in the Roman Empire, moral values were beginning to slip.  As Paul says, “ Our citizenship is in heaven.” The values that Jesus calls us to, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, are not the values of this world.

What are these readings telling us today? First, even Abraham became scared and anxious. When we feel that way, we need to follow Abraham’s example. We need to talk to God about it and ask for help. We can also ask for human help from friends in the faith.

Our other two readings are also reminding us to ask God for help. Jesus would have loved to gather the people together and teach them and help them, But the religious and secular leaders prevented that.

On our Lenten journey and every day, may we ask our Lord for help. May we listen to his guidance. May we follow him in faith. And, when we are scared, may we let him gather us under his wings and protect us. Amen.

Summer Music at Grace 2016

Farewell Reunion…local artists…Village Harmony…and Grace Church’s 200th…oh, my!

Lent 1 Year C RCL February 14, 2016

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2.9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

We are now in the season of Lent. The Alleluias are gone from our service. The green altar hangings have been changed to purple. Purple is the color of penitence, and it is also the color which denotes royalty, and we use it to honor Christ our King. We sing the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, and we follow disciplines of fasting and self-examination in order to become stronger in our faith.

Every Lent we are reminded that our journey is one with the journey of God’s people centuries ago. Joseph’s brothers were angry with him, so they sold him to a slave trader who sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph was faithful and worked hard and became the right hand man to the pharaoh. He was in charge of everything. Eventually, because of a famine, his family came to live in Egypt.

Many years passed, and a new pharaoh came into power. He made slaves of the people of God, and they toiled to make bricks for all of the king’s many construction projects. A new leader was called by God to lead the people out of slavery. That man was Moses.

In our first reading, the people are about to go into their new land. God is calling them to remember their journey from slavery into freedom, and to offer the first fruits of their harvests in thanks to God.

Our loving God has brought each of us and all of us “through many dangers, toils, and snares,” and we offer our thanks to God for leading and guiding us.

Our epistle today is reminding us that God is near us and that we are all one in God. “There is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In our gospel, Jesus has just been baptized. He goes out into the wilderness to struggle, to battle, to go through a process of discernment.

The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. In some ways, that would be a very good thing. In those days, as in our own time, there were many people who did not have enough food. Jesus could have fed the world. That is a good thing.

So many times, we do not have a clear choice between good and evil. Often we face choices between two things that could both be seen as good. Later on, Jesus would feed thousands of people at one sitting. But his real ministry is a spiritual one. He answers, “One does not live by bread alone.” He has come to feed us spiritually. He has come to call us into a journey of spiritual transformation. He also calls us to feed the hungry and to take care of our brothers and sisters.

Then our Lord is shown all the kingdoms of the world.  If he will worship the devil, he will receive all those kingdoms and that power. First of all, this is a very strange proposition on the part of Satan. Christ, the eternal Word,  called the world into being, and he has all power. It is the height of presumption for Satan to offer worldly power to our Lord. He does not want worldly power. He is here to bring in the kingdom of God. He and we are called to worship God alone. As we all know, the values of God’s kingdom are not the values of this world.

Then the devil takes our Lord up to the pinnacle of the great temple in Jerusalem. “Go ahead. Jump off the top. The scriptures say that God’s angels will come and save you.” This is a way for Jesus to say, “Look who I am. God saved me.” It is a publicity stunt. Even in those days, word would have spread fast. Wow! Somebody jumped off the pinnacle of the temple and thousands of angels came and swooped him up.” Jesus would have had instant fame.

But that is not the point.That is not Jesus’ goal. Jesus went to great pains to work quietly. One person at a time, he touched people and made them whole.

We are all on the journey with our Lord. During Lent, we will face our own opportunities to clarify our ministries and to make choices that will help us to stay on track and grow even closer to God.

The Ten Commandments are a time-honored template for our spiritual lives. The cardinal virtues— justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude— can be very helpful as a guide, together with the theological virtues— faith, hope, and love. The fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are also excellent qualities for meditation.

During Lent, we sometimes give up some things as a spiritual discipline. Sometimes we take on additional spiritual practices. such as increased quiet times for prayer. or reading that nourishes our spirits.

Because the word “Lent” comes from the root word for “spring,” I tend to think of Lent as a time of greenness and growth, even though it is still winter. Whatever will help our spiritual growth is the thing to do in Lent.

Ascetic is the branch of theology that deals with spiritual discipline. The Greek root is askesis, and it comes from a root that means “to work, or to exercise.” Lent is a time when we practice askesis. We do our spiritual exercises. We strengthen our spiritual muscles. We become stronger in our faith, and we grow closer to our Lord. Although it is a serious season, it is not a dreary one. Undergirding all of our spiritual work in Lent is the deep joy of growing closer to our Lord.

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

Ash Wednesday February 10, 2016

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6.16-21

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice; to undo the thongs of the yoke; to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” These words which God spoke through the  prophet Isaiah remind us that we are called to help God to free every person from any kind of slavery which binds them.

The people of God in Isaiah’s time were performing the outward rituals of worship, but they were not living the spirit of their faith. Because of this, they were not in harmony with God. They wondered why God was not answering their prayers, but their prayers were not in harmony with God’s vision. God’s vision is that we free our brothers and sisters from oppression and that we take care of each other.

In our gospel, Jesus is giving us a powerful illustration of how to come into God’s presence. The Pharisee is full of narcissistic self-congratulation. He, too, follows every aspect of the Law, but he is so full of himself that there is no room for God. Whereas the tax collector, someone who is hated by all because he collects money for the Roman oppressors, realizes that he is a sinner and that he needs God’s help. His heart and his life are wide open to God;s healing, forgiveness, and grace.

One of the tasks of Lent is to go into God’s presence, take a look at ourselves, and come to a realistic assessment of where we are and who we are. Yes, we are all sinners. We do the things we do not want to do, and we fail to do the things that we want to do and are called by God to do.  We are frail, fallible humans, yet we also know that God’s love and grace are at work in our lives.

Another of our tasks in Lent is to ask God’s help in finding out where we need to grow spiritually, and then ask that God give us the grace to do that growing.

Where do we need to be freed? What aspects of our lives imprison us or bind us? In what ways are we called by God to free others, those who are near and those who are far away?  Recently, we felt called to help to free refugees halfway around the world who are being driven from their homes by unspeakable acts of military aggression.

Now, we are being called to help God to free someone who is very near to us; someone we love; someone who is one of us. Everyone here at Grace has responded to this call from God.

One of us has had to do some very difficult work to see that she is indeed oppressed and in captivity. She has done much of that work and will continue to do that work. The work of seeing that we are imprisoned is the most difficult work we will ever have to do. The resolution to ask God’s help and the help of others in order to get free takes a great deal of courage and grace.

This Lent, we are all responding to God’s call to “break every yoke” and “to let the oppressed go free.”  This is a very special Lent for us because we are actually living this reading from Isaiah. Frail and fallible as we are, broken and imperfect sinners that we are, we are still answering this call because of what our Lord has done for us.

May God bless each of us and all of us. May God’s protection and grace be with us and with all who are helping in this ministry. May we grow closer and closer to God and to each other this Lent, and may God bless us with the fresh green shoots of new growth.  Amen.

Last Sunday after the Epiphany Year C RCL February 7, 2016

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

We are ending the Epiphany season and getting ready to enter the season of Lent. In our opening reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses comes down from the mountain with the tablets of the Ten Commandments in his hand. The skin of his face is shining with the shekina, the light of the presence of God.

Moses is showing forth the glory of God because he has spent time in the presence of God receiving the Law. This makes him a holy person, a person to be revered and admired. It also makes him someone to be feared because people of that time believed that you could not see God and live. So Moses veils his face to protect the people from the light of God’s presence.

As we look at our reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, we remember that Paul was a Pharisee, a legal scholar, and an expert on the Law. He had studied the Law carefully all his life. Yet he is the one who said that the law convicts us. We do the things that we do not want to do, and we do not do the things that we know we should do, and we are caught in a tangle of sin, and we are paralyzed in that tangle and we lose hope of ever making any progress.

In this letter, Paul is contrasting the grace of the law and the grace that comes through Jesus. Moses had to put a veil over his face because people were scared of God. Now, we can see God face to face as we look into the face of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. And so, we are a people of hope. We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

In our gospel for today, we go up on the mountain with our Lord. Just before this, Jesus has asked the disciples who they think he is, and Peter has replied that Jesus is the messiah. We go up the mountain to pray with our Lord, and  with Peter and James and John. And Jesus shines forth with the presence and power of God. Then Moses and Elijah, the two great prophets, are talking with him, and they are shining with the light of God’s presence.

Peter and James and John are, the text says, “weighed down with sleep.” We know how that feels. They have been awake for a long time, They are tired, but they are awake and they see Jesus and Moses and Elijah.

Peter knows that this is a holy moment and he thinks it would be good to build a shrine so that they can come back and see Jesus and these two great prophets. But, like all mountaintop experiences, this one cannot be frozen in time.

And then the cloud, much like the cloud that often hung about Mt. Sinai when Moses was meeting with God, the cloud that signifies God’s presence, descends upon the mountain, and God tells them and us, “This is my Son, my Chosen. Listen to him!”

The next minute, the cloud is gone; Moses and Elijah are gone. Jesus stands alone.

We have all had those mountaintop experiences. There may have been moments on retreats when we have been aware of the closeness of our Lord. We realize that he has been leading and guiding us all the time, and we can sense the depth of his love for us.

Our mountaintop experience may have been time in worship when the beauty of the service touches us so deeply that we cannot even find words to express it. When I first began to attend the Episcopal Church, just those few words at the end of the Lord’s prayer, “For ever and ever,” meant so much to me. They gave me a sense of the everlasting and infinite nature of God. Ancient chants such as, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence” express so much about the power and holiness of God.

So often, these moments come right in the midst of ordinary life. Barbara Brown Taylor writes of feeling close to God as she was hanging laundry on the line in the warm sun and the fresh air. How often have we been deeply aware of God’s presence in a sunrise or a sunset, in a beautiful natural setting.

Many times, we sense God’s presence when we are with people we love. Their acceptance and understanding when we share something that is troubling us; their wise guidance when we are feeling overwhelmed; or their enthusiastic sharing of a triumphant moment in our lives all speak of God’s love.

Today, we are on the mountaintop with Jesus, and we see who he really is. We see the glory of God radiating from him, but we are not like the people of Moses’ time so many centuries ago. We are not afraid. We see who he really is, but we also experience his love. We remember all the sick people he has healed, all the children he has held in his arms, all the people who thought they were outcasts welcomed into his loving community. We remember all that he has done for us.

So, when we are commanded to listen to him, this is something we can do. We can listen to him and we can follow him, because he has taken away the old fear and replaced it with love. He has taken away the old paralysis in the face of the law and replaced it with hope, He has taken away the overwhelming weight of sin and replaced it with forgiveness and the grace to learn and do better.

We are on a journey with him to become more like him. We are on a journey of transformation. May we follow him.  Amen.