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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 Day March 27, 2016

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

When the women walked to the tomb early on that first Easter morning, they had just witnessed one of the most horrifying events one could imagine. They had spent three years with Jesus, and, as they watched him and listened to him, they realized that he was different from anyone they had ever met.

They followed him, and the group of followers became larger and larger. He brought healing and hope to everyone he met. He would touch people and they would rise up from their mats where they had lain crippled for years, or he would make a poultice from mud and spit and put it on their eyes and they would see after a lifetime of blindness. He fed thousands at one time.

But what he really wanted to do was to give them and us another way to live, a way based entirely on love and service. He made this clear when he washed their feet at that last Passover and when he said that in this simple meal of bread and wine he would be with us forever.

As they walked to that tomb, their feet dragging with fatigue and  dashed hopes, those women may have thought that his vision for the world, his vision for our lives and our life together, had died.

Have you ever really believed in something or given your all to something or someone, and then realized it was over? Maybe that someone was not who they professed to be. Maybe the vision had some fatal flaws which had not been apparent at the outset. Most of us have had experiences like this. Someone or something we felt passionately about—a person or a dream or a project or a vision comes to an and, falls apart, dies.

And we feel as though it’s all over for us.

What’s the use of trying to go on, we wonder. There’s nothing to live for. These women walking to the tomb were suffering deep grief because they had lost a person whom they loved deeply, a person who had changed their lives and given them hope and a purpose in life. Jesus had died, and they may well have felt that all their hopes had died with him.

When they got to that tomb and found the stone rolled away, and went in, and found no body, they began to wonder. And then, when the two angels reminded them of what Jesus had said and told them that he had risen—they couldn’t get back to the others fast enough to tell them this good news.

Most of us have had experiences of profound loss and disappointment, something that has made our world fall apart, something that has made us lose hope. That is how those women felt, That is how all of Jesus’ close followers felt.

Most of us have also had our own experiences of Good Friday. Our Lord has wrestled with the forces of death and has lost the battle. We go back to the upper room and pray and wonder, what next?

But we have to go and prepare the body for burial. The Sabbath is over and we just have to give him a decent burial. And when we get there, the landscape of our lives is completely transformed.

He told us there was a different way to go  about things. He told us there was a different way to live. And he has just proved that that way leads to new life. It leads to his kingdom his shalom of peace, harmony, and wholeness.

Most of us have had our Good Fridays and most of us have had our Easter mornings. We go to the tomb to prepare the body and it is not there. He is risen.

Yes, the world is full of violence. There has been a terrorist attack in Brussels. Refugees are streaming out of Syria and Afghanistan trying to save their children from the ravages of war. There is violence in our own country as well. Here, and all over the world, people are hungry. They need shelter; they need clothing; they need medical care; they need hope.

We can look around us and think there is no hope. that we can do nothing. But that is not what our Lord is doing. He is risen. He is calling us to follow the commandment he gave us at the Last Supper—to love and serve others as he loves and serves us.

On this Easter morning, March 27, 2016, we are deeply aware that there is much brokenness and violence in this world. At the same time, we must remember that he is risen and he is in our midst. He has a vision, and he is calling us to help him bring in his shalom.

I quote our Presiding Bishop retired, Katherine Jeffers Schori: “The word ‘shalom’ is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but it’s a far richer and deeper understanding of peace than we usually recognize. It’s not just a 1970s era hippie holding up two fingers to greet a friend—‘Peace, bro.’ It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences. Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.

“…Building the reign of God is a great and bold adventure, and it is the only route to being fully alive. If we don’t set out to change the world, who will?” (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and A Prayer, pp. 33 and 35.)

Christ is risen. Christ is alive. He lives in us and we in him. Let us help him build his kingdom, his shalom.   Amen.

Good Friday March 25, 2016

On Palm Sunday, as we prepared to read the Passion Gospel, we were commenting on how much we wish this story could be edited, could turn out another way.

But it cannot be edited. As T. S. Eliot wrote, “In spite of that, we call this Friday Good.” God loves us so much that God comes among us, shares his love and healing with everyone he meets, treats everyone with the kind of profound respect that can come only from unconditional love, and threatens the power and privilege of both the religious and secular authorities—simply from showing genuine love.

Judas betrays him, probably because Judas is a Zealot, part of a group that wants the messiah to gather an army to overthrow the Roman occupiers and free the people. But that is not God’s vision for this world.

So Jesus endures the mock trial, the taunts and spitting, the crown of thorns digging into his flesh, and then he hangs on the Cross, an instrument of torture and slow death reserved for the worst criminals. He takes all the hate and the anger and all the violent machinations to preserve power and privilege. He absorbs all of it. Love takes all this darkness into himself.

And he works with this darkness. As Barbara Brown Taylor says, he labors with the darkness. He descends to hell. He brings his love to every part of the creation. He labors with the darkness.

And we wait. Here at the foot of the Cross.

He has shared his vision with us. We are here because he lives in us and we live in him. His vision lives in us. His shalom. Our hearts are broken, and our hope is hanging in shreds. But there is one thing we can do, and that is to try, with his grace, to live into that vision.  Amen.

Maundy Thursday March 24, 2016

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

Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum—Mandatum novum—a new commandment. Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Our King washes our feet. Our Savior washes our feet just as a servant would do. Kings don’t wash people’s feet. Kings don’t take off their formal garments, grab a towel, kneel on the floor and wash the feet of travelers and pilgrims on the journey.

Peter is scandalized. “Lord, you shouldn’t be doing this.” But Jesus tells him and us that we can’t have a share in him—we can’t be in the close relationship that we want and need to have with him if we don’t let him serve us. That’s when Peter asks our Lord to wash his hands and his head, too.

Our King washes our feet. This tells us how far his kingdom is from the usual order of things. He calls us to a kingdom in which love and service are the highest ideals. We can’t be in fellowship with him unless we let him serve us. We can’t participate fully in his life unless we love and serve others.

How far this is from a world where terrorists attack innocent people in Brussels. How far this is from the idea that might makes right.

Our King washes our feet. May we let him cleanse us. May we let him come into our hearts and make us whole. May we let him lead us into a ministry of love and servanthood. May we follow him as he leads us into his kingdom.   Amen.

Palm Sunday Year C RCL March 20, 2016

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 22:14-23:56

Palm Sunday is one of those days in the Church year which we moderns might call “intense.” We welcome Jesus as our Savior and our King, and then we walk with him through all he endures, and we stand at the foot of the Cross feeling helpless as he suffers for us.

This is a day full of paradoxes. Were are so happy to welcome him as our K  ing. Then we plunge to the depths of despair as he dies on the Cross. And, as we walk with him, we hope that we would not deny him, as even Peter did. We hope that we would see him as who he really is. We hope that we would not join in the mob mentality and yell, “Crucify him!” at the top of our lungs.

Even Pilate, the great Roman governor, can see no guilt in our Lord.

The soldiers and the priests mock him. One of the criminals admits his own sin but says clearly that Jesus has done nothing wrong and asks our Lord to remember him when Jesus comes into his kingdom. And Jesus tells him, from the Cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

The Centurion has the last word. Here is an officer in the Roman army who commands one hundred men.  he is disciplined; he knows the chain of command; he serves in the legions of the powerful emperor. And yet, he has the courage and the insight to say, “Certainly this man was innocent.”

Jesus, our King, our savior, “set[s] his face like flint,”goes to Jerusalem, empties himself, gives his life for us so that we can realize, at last, that he loves us and that he will lead us into new life.   May we follow him.     Amen.

Lent 5C RCL March 13, 2016

Isaiah 43: 16-21
Psalm 126
Philippians 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

Our first reading today is addressed to the people of God exiled in Babylon. They have been there for about fifty years. Elders have died, babies have been born. Hope is almost gone. The prophet we call the Second Isaiah speaks the word of God to the people and to us.

The opening portion of the text is reminding us of how God’s people escaped slavery in Egypt. God parted the waters; the people ran with all their might; the chariots of their captors tried to follow but sank in the mud. The people escaped. And God is saying that God is going to do a new thing that is even greater than freeing the people from that slavery.

God is going to make rivers in the desert. God is going to make a path in the desert for the people to follow.  There will be plenty of water and the desert will bloom.  The people are going home.

Our gospel for today is also found in the three other gospel accounts. In Matthew and Mark, the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet is not named. In Luke, she is described as a sinner, and, in one of the greatest misinterpretations of Scripture that has ever occurred, an ancient writer said that this sinner was Mary Magdalene. Nowhere does the text say that.

In John’s gospel, the woman is one we know well—Mary, the sister of Martha. Mary is the one who sits at the feet of Jesus to learn from him. She thus becomes one of the disciples.

It is six days before the Passover. Jesus comes to the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany, just a little way outside Jerusalem. Some time ago ago, he had raised Lazarus from the dead. This home in Bethany is one of the few places where Jesus can feel safe. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are good friends and staunch supporters. He can talk with them and seek advice from them. He can relax with them.

After dinner, Mary brings a pound of pure nard, very expensive because it comes from the Himalayan Mountains. She anoints Jesus’ feet just as he will soon wash the feet of his disciples. She wipes his feet with her hair. Judas raises a point about the expense. Couldn’t that money have been used for the poor? This is the height of hypocrisy on his part. We know that he took money from their common purse. He was an embezzler in addition to being a traitor.

Jesus defends this faithful woman disciple. Mary is actually anointing Jesus for burial. She knows the price that he is going to pay, and she honors him with her love and loyalty. She will be there until the end.

In our passage from his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul says so much. He has many reasons to be confident according to the world’s values. He holds a very high status. He is a Pharisee and a Roman citizen. But it is as nothing to him. He calls it “rubbish.” All his former prestige is worthless to him. It’s actually a loss on his books because of the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” he writes.

Because of Jesus, Paul is now in right relationship with God, and he says that he wants to get to know our Lord more and more and he wants to become like our Lord in his death so that he can know the power of his resurrection. In other words, we have to give up all the old worldly stuff as Jesus gave up everything. We have to give up the idea of our power and prestige and empty ourselves of all that so that we can live in Christ and he can live in us.

And then Paul says something that gives us great hope, He says that he has not fully arrived. He has not reached the goal, but “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Here on the fifth Sunday in Lent, we are looking forward to one week from now, Palm Sunday, when we will be witnesses at the crucifixion of our Lord. We know that we are not 100 percent living in Christ and allowing him to live in us. We are on the road, but we are not fully there. What a comfort it is to hear that Paul is not fully there either. But then he gives us a powerful example. We are runners in a race. We are spiritual athletes.

There is a great deal of the past that we need to forget. Yes, learn from it and remember those learnings so that we do not make the same mistakes again, but then let it go. Let it go because our Lord has taken care of it. We are forgiven. And then put our energies into living in Christ and letting him live in us. No, we are not fully there, but let us let go of the pain and failure of the past, ask our Lord for help, and move firmly, one step at a time, into the future with him.

We are partners with Christ in this journey. We are called to do our part. He has made a great sacrifice. He did it out of love for us. But he can’t run the race for us. We have to do it in partnership with him. That is what Paul is talking about today.

When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with that priceless nard, she was giving all she had to honor our Lord. We are being called to follow her example. Will we commit ourselves to walking with him? Will we press on toward the goal, counting on his grace but also giving it all we have?

May we follow him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength that we may live in him and he in us.   Amen.

Lent 4C RCL March 6, 2016

Joshua 5:9-12
Psalm 32
2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
Luke 15:1-3; 11b-32

In our opening reading today, Moses has died and God has called Joshua to lead God’s people. They have crossed the River Jordan and have reached the promised land. They celebrate their first Passover in their new home. They have escaped their slavery in Egypt and they are now free. They will no longer need the heavenly manna that has sustained them, for they will be enjoying the produce of their new land. In this lesson, we hear the important themes of freedom from slavery, new beginnings, and, of course, God’s generosity and guidance and love for all of us.

Our gospel for today is the beloved parable of the prodigal son. Some people call it the parable of the lost son because it follows the parable of the lost sheep whose shepherd left the ninety-nine other sheep and searched until he found the lost one. It also follows right after the parable of the lost coin. The housewife searched and searched until she found it. Some people call this the parable of the loving father or the generous father.

Although this story is familiar, every time we hear it we can see it in a new way. We can identify with the younger son in that we, too, have made some unwise decisions in our lives and have asked God’s forgiveness. We can also identify with the older son in situations when we feel that our loyalty has been taken for granted and we have not received enough recognition for our hard work. We can also identify with the father when we think of all that we have done for our children.

The younger son asks for his inheritance and he goes to a far country and spends it all. He ends up feeding pigs, which, for a Jewish young man is terrible because pigs are unclean and now he is considered unclean. He comes to himself. We have all had experiences like this. We go off on a tangent and make a series of bad choices, and one day we realize that this is not who we want to be. This is not our real and true self. This is not who God is calling us to be.

The younger son goes home to ask his father for forgiveness.  His father is out there at the end of the driveway waiting for him with open arms. There is a feast because this son was lost and now is found. When one of us finds our way back, there is great joy in heaven.

The older son is fuming and he tells his father what is on his mind. “Here I have slaved and slaved for you and you never so much as let me have a party with my friends. Now you’re throwing a big wing ding for this son who has spent our family’s money.”

And then the father says the thing that tells us so much. “Son, I know that you have been with me always and you have worked very hard. Everything that I have is yours. This feast is for you, too. But we have to celebrate because your brother is now found.”

It’s a both-and. It’s not that the feast is just for the younger brother. It is a continuous feast for all of us in the Communion of Saints, and it is also a feast for those who have gone way off the path and have returned. It is a feast for those who have been faithful from the word go and all the rest of us who have made mistakes along the way.

Saint Paul addresses some of this when he writes, “We regard no one from a human point of view.” He knows what he is talking about because when he did regard things from a human point of view, he thought that anyone who did not follow the law and anyone who was not part of the in-group should be killed. That is why he went around persecuting the followers of Jesus.

But then he met our Lord on the road to Damascus and Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  Scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he saw the world in an entirely different way. He saw the world from the point of view of Christ. And that is why he can write, with stirring conviction, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new!” Now I know that just because my father gives a feast for my brother who lost his way does not mean that I don’t get a feast, too. God is incredibly generous, loving, and inclusive.

God is reaching out to everyone in a spirit of reconciliation. and God is calling us to carry out the ministry of reconciliation.

But there is an important point to keep in mind. If Saul had not listened to Jesus, if he had continued on his destructive path, we would never have had this letter to read.  If the younger son had not come to himself and repented and turned back toward God and gone home to confess his destructive behavior which affected not only his family but all the workers on his father’s land and all the folks in the surrounding area who depended on his father for their livelihoods; if we humans do not come to our true selves and acknowledge our destructive behavior, and confess it with a sincere intention to change our behavior, there is no reconciliation possible. It is a two-way street. There are people who do all kinds of destructive things to other people and have no idea of the damage they are doing. They think they are doing just fine. Their chances of true repentance and full commitment to changing their behavior are small.

Most of us in this sacred place right now are somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. We are acutely aware of our errors and are genuinely pained by our sinfulness.  We sincerely confess, and we truly want to change. We know we need God’s help. The parable of the prodigal or lost son is for us. We feel so distressed and sad about our sins that it is easy for us to feel hopeless. This is why, especially during this season of self-examination and repentance and metanoia, conversion, we need to hear this parable.

God is out there at the end of the driveway waiting for us to come home—home to God, home to our best and truest self, home to the human family, home to the feast of forgiveness and new life. God is waiting to wrap us in a big hug and welcome us home to the awareness that God’s love and healing are far bigger and deeper than we could ever imagine and that we are welcome to God’s infinite and eternal feast.  Amen.