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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 18, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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:…

Pentecost 11 Proper 13C RCL July 31. 2016

Hosea 11:1-11
Psalm 107:1-9. 43
Colossians 3:1-11
Luke 12:13-21

Our opening reading is from the Book of Hosea, an amazing prophet from 2,700 years ago. We recall that he had married a woman who was unfaithful to him. This gave him a profound insight into the way God must have felt when God’s people were unfaithful. In last week’s reading, we learned Hosea’s message that God does not stop loving us, no matter what.

This Sunday, we have the opportunity to gain even more insight into the nature of God’s love. God is speaking to God’s children. God calls Israel out of slavery in Egypt. God takes God’s children into God’s arms. God teaches God’s children to walk, leads them “with cords of  human kindness, with bands of love.  God bends down to God’s children and feeds them.

Commentator James Newsome says that God is described in terms that we could call motherly. God’s love for God’s children is described in terms of the greatest tenderness we could imagine. That is how much God loves God’s children. It is the love of any good parent. It is the love of our divine parent.

But then they and we go and worship other gods, like Baal. We lose our way. We do things we should not do and we do not do things we should do. The passage is hinting at some terrible things that will happen to God’s people. They will be conquered by the Assyrian Empire and later by the Babylonians, but, in the end, God will search for them and bring them home in safety.

There are some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament that can make our hair stand on end. They portray an angry God who seems to be like the caricature of a bad, even abusive parent threatening all kinds of punishment. Through his own experience of loving his wife and children, Hosea was able to convey to the people and to us God’s unfailing and heartbreakingly tender love for us.

In the Letter to the Colossians, Paul is calling us to focus our lives on things above, not on earthly things. He calls us to put to death those earthly things, such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language. He cautions us not to lie to each other. He says that we have “stripped off the old self  and have clothed [ourselves] with the new self.”  And he says an astounding thing. He says that the new self “is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”

We are in a process of transformation which began at our baptisms. We are going from an old self to a new self, and that new self is constantly and continually being renewed so that we will become more like Christ. And in that process of transformation, there are no longer any divisions of race or gender or class or anything that can be used to divide us, because we are all one in Christ Jesus. He is everything there is, and he is in all of us and in each of us.

In our gospel for today, our Lord is also cautioning us against the values of this world, including greed. A man’s farm is producing so much that he plans to tear down all his barns and build bigger ones, so that he can store his growing bounty.

As we read this, we notice that he is not taking any time to thank God for all his blessings and for the abundance of his crops. Nor does he ask God’s guidance about his plans. Also, he says nothing about sharing all of this abundance with others. As Jesus puts it, this man is “Storing up treasures for himself,” not for others, and not for God.

This is the opposite of what we are called to do. If we are in a process of transformation, growing more into the likeness of Christ, and if Christ is in us, that means that all our decisions are made in an attitude of prayer, what the great moral theologian Kenneth Kirk calls, “Referring all questions to God.”

If there is an abundant harvest, the first thing we need to do is thank God. The next thing we need to do is return a portion to God in thanks, and the next thing we need to do is share that bounty with others. This poor fellow is a striking example of what not to do, with his attitude of me, me, me.

An anonymous writer puts it this way. “Not what  you do so much as what you are, that is the miracle-working power. You can be a force for good, with the help of God. God is here to help you and to bless you, here to company with you. You can be a worker with God. Changed by God’s grace, you shed one garment of the spirit for a better one. In time, you throw that one away for a yet finer one. And so, from character to character, you are gradually transformed.”(Twenty-four Hours a Day, April 2.)

To paraphrase the wording of our Alleluia!Fund slogan, “Christ is alive in us. Christ is risen in our deeds.”

May we show forth his love. May we grow more and more like him. May we love him with all our hearts, and may we love others as he calls us to do.  Amen.

Pentecost 10 Proper 12C RCL July 24, 2016

Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85
Colossians 2:6-15,  (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

Our opening reading today comes from the first of the so called Minor Prophets, Hosea. His ministry in the Northern Kingdom took place from 743 BCE to 722 BCE  and closely followed the ministry of Amos

Hosea was married to a woman who was unfaithful to him. Obviously, this was a terribly painful experience for him. Through all this suffering, Hosea never lost his love for his wife. His own experience helped him realize that God will never stop loving us, no matter what.

We do not know exactly what problems were troubling the congregation in Colossae, but scholars look at the text and find evidence that some teachers were telling the people that they had to follow the Jewish law, meaning that they had to be circumcised and they had to follow the dietary laws. Others were introducing beliefs which were not in harmony with Christian belief. Paul writes, “See to it that no one makes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition.” Then, as now, there were all kinds of philosophies circulating, and Paul is encouraging the Colossians and us to remain “Rooted and built up in [Christ] just as you were taught.”

He tells the people that they received a “spiritual circumcision,” that they have been made new in Christ and they do not have to receive a physical circumcision. At that point in the Church’s history, some people believed that a person had to literally become  a Jew before they could become a follower of Christ, and Paul is trying to help them to understand that life in Christ is a spiritual transformation, not a physical one. He says that our Lord nailed the law to the cross because he is trying to help us to understand that it is not the letter of the law but the spirit of the law and the work of the Holy Spirit that is important.

Then, as now, there were various spiritual practices which are not appropriate for the life in Christ. Some people were engaging in harsh practices of self-denial and others appeared to be engaging in having visions which were used to, as Paul says, “puff up” their egos. He ends the passage with a powerful description of our relationship with Christ. We need to remember that each of us and all of us are part of the Body of Christ. We are bound together by ligaments and muscles and arteries and veins and nerves, and we are united to each other and to our Lord.

In today’s gospel, Jesus and the disciples have left the home of Mary and Martha, where Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, learning and absorbing his presence. As they had traveled with our Lord, they had seen him go apart time after time to pray. And now, one of them asks him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And he teaches us.

The first thing is that God is our Divine Parent. We address God as Father, or Mother, or even Dad or Mom. We have an intimate relationship with God. God is as close as our breath. God is as close to each of us as our neighbor in the pew. “Hallowed be your name.” The Name of God is holy, We approach God with reverence. “Your kingdom come.” We pray that God’s shalom will come to be here on earth. “Give us each day our daily bread.” And this is a prayer, not only for us, but for the whole world, because we have just prayed “Thy kingdom come.” So we are praying, and we are committing ourselves to work for the day when everyone will have his or her  daily bread, and shelter, and clothing, and the basics of a good and fruitful life. We pray that God will forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. The attitude of forgiveness is crucial to life in Christ. But it assumes that members of a Christian community are committed to treating each other with respect and caring.

We need to make it clear that, in cases of domestic violence and terrorism and war, people need to get to a safe place and stay there, and there are times when, if someone has been abusive but does not have the capacity or the awareness to make amends, true forgiveness is not possible. The one who has escaped must preserve her or his own safety and leave the matter of forgiveness between God and the abuser.

“Do not bring us to the time of trial.” Life is full of joys and also full of challenges, some of which stretch us to the limits of our faith and endurance. Scholars tell us that the “time of trial” probably refers to an occasion of severe struggle with the forces of darkness. We pray that God will be with us and will protect us if such a time comes in our lives.

And then Jesus tells us a wonderful parable. In the world of ancient middle eastern hospitality, if a stranger comes to your door at midnight and says that someone has arrived at his house and asks for a loaf of bread, everyone in Jesus’ audience, certainly every one of the disciples, would have assumed that of course you would get up and give them a loaf of bread.

So, if all of us frail humans would get up and give our neighbor what he needs, think how much more willing God is to give us what we need. “Ask, and it will be given you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened.”

Our Lord is reminding us how much we are loved and how willing God is to give us what we need for the journey. At a time when most of us are praying fervently, Jesus is encouraging us to pray even more. Our Lord is reminding us how much we are loved and how much God wants to give us help and strength.

So, please, continue to pray as you are led by the Spirit.  Prayers are powerful. They can transform us, and they can transform the world, especially if we link them with action. “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” So, let’s keep those prayers going.  Amen.

Pentecost 9 Proper 11C RCL July 17, 2016

Amos 8:1-12
Psalm 52
Colossians 1:15-28
Luke 10:38-42

In our opening reading, we continue to follow the ministry of Amos, the prophet who is called away from his work as a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees to go to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and hold up God’s standards to their society.

Last week Amos’s vision of God’s plumb line showed that the society was not measuring up to God’s ethical standards. This morning, he sees a vision of summer fruit which in a very short time is going to rot. This is an image of the society. It is rotten to the core. People can’t wait until the sabbath is over so that they can go out and cheat their neighbors. They rig the scales so that they show a pound when the weight is less than a pound, and they cheat people out of their hard-earned money. The rulers live in luxury while the common people barely survive.

God says that there will be consequences, and indeed there are always consequences when we humans fail to treat each other with respect, honesty, and fairness. There is going to be a famine, but it is even worse than a lack of food and water. It is a famine for the word of the Lord. People will search high and low to hear the voice of God, but they will not find it. Their lives will be going on without the guidance of God. What a horrible thought.

Our gospel for today is the beloved story of Mary and Martha. Martha is clearly the head of the household, which was an unusual role for a woman in those times. She welcomes Jesus into the house. We can assume that she is preparing a meal, which the customs of hospitality would demand. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus in the classic posture of a disciple, listening to our Lord and absorbing the healing and loving and reconciling energy of his presence.

Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is not helping her with the preparations. Jesus defends Mary’s right to spend time with him and, in fact, to become a disciple.

Is Jesus criticizing those who take action and take care of others? I don’t think so. We need to remember that this story follows right after the parable of the Good Samaritan, in which Jesus praises the Samaritan’s caring for the man who had been beaten by the robbers.

This episode from the life of Mary and Martha and Jesus reminds us that spending time with our Lord is as important as helping others. The two go together, prayer and action. Many wise people tell us that we cannot be people of prayer without being spurred on to action, and I think that is true. Prayer leads us to caring action, and action leads us back to the need for prayer.

I think that probably each of us has a Mary part and a Martha part. Some of us may be more deeply called to action; others may be called more to prayer, but both are essential. Our prayers inform and guide our action.

In the end, I think Jesus would have liked to spend time with both Martha and Mary, and then have all three of them get the meal ready, enjoy the meal together and then wash the dishes together.

Scholars tell us that our reading from the Letter to the Colossians is adapted from an ancient hymn. It is a powerful and beautiful statement about the nature of Christ. “Jesus is the image of the invisible God,” Paul writes, “…for in him all things were created.” Christ is the eternal Word, who called the creation into being. Paul goes on to remind us that our Lord is the head of the Church and that he has reconciled us and all things to himself.

Paul continues, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven.” Through the cross of Christ, the whole creation and everything in it is made one with God.

This is something we need to remember as we continue to pray for those who died and were injured in Dallas, St. Paul, Baton Rouge,  Nice, and Istanbul, for their families and friends and all who mourn. I ask your prayers for our country and our world, which is so plagued by violence of all kinds.

A wise spiritual guide, Sr. Rachel Hosmer, OSH, once said, “Christ has won the victory. We are just part of the mopping up operation.” Our Lord has reconciled the world to himself. We are called to bring that reality into being here on earth in his kingdom his shalom of peace and harmony and wholeness for all people and for the whole creation.

In today’s epistle, Paul also writes about “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ is in each of us, and because of that, we can be people of hope. We can share in new life in him.

During the interfaith memorial service for the five police officers who were killed in Dallas, President George W. Bush quoted a passage from St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. That passage reads, in the King James version, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

At the interfaith memorial service in Dallas, President Obama, quoting from Romans 5:3-5, said that Scripture tells us that “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

I found it deeply inspiring to hear these words of faith from our two most recent Presidents.

May we move forward in faith and hope and love. May we, with God’s grace, work to bring in God’s shalom of peace, harmony, and reconciliation.  Amen.