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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:…

Advent 1 Year A RCL November 27, 2016

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

This Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, is the New Year’s Day of the Church calendar. We change from Lectionary C to Lectionary A. Our liturgical color changes from green to purple, the color of royalty because Christ is our King, and also the color of penitence because Advent is a time of self-examination when we take stock of our spiritual lives and prepare for the coming of Christ to complete the creation.

But Advent is also a kind of in-between time because we are looking forward to the coming of our Lord, but we are also looking backward to his first coming to earth as a little baby born in Bethlehem. In this in-between time, we recognize that his kingdom has already begun but it is not yet complete. There is much work yet to do.

Advent is a time to get ready, to be awake, to prepare the way of the Lord. It is a good time to clean house, to get things in shape, to make or revise wills, to take time to evaluate our spiritual fitness and to make any necessary adjustments to get ourselves fully in line with our Lord’s model of how to live a human life.

In our first reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the kingdom, the shalom of God is proclaimed. We are called to “beat [our] swords into plowshares, and [our] spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall [we] learn war any more.” God is calling us to turn weapons of war into tools for raising crops and feeding people. God is calling us to turn from violence toward care and compassion. As we look around our world and see what is happening in Aleppo and other places, and see refugees fleeing by the hundreds and thousands, and hear that our Air Guard is going on yet another mission, we are reminded of how much work there is yet to do.

Our psalm speaks powerfully of the beautiful city of Jerusalem, which is a holy place for three major religions of the world. We work and pray for the day when all people may gather as one in that holy city, but the way forward will demand deep thought and more prayer and skilled diplomacy and understanding of centuries of history. Yet this is another step in helping to bring in God’s shalom.

In our reading from his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul strikes another Advent note. God is calling us to be awake. The night of darkness is almost over. The day is near. We are called to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” But this armor is not ordinary armor. It is the fabric of the Being of Christ. We are called to actually dress ourselves in the likeness of Christ. We are called to continue on our journey of becoming more and more like him.

We are called to prepare, to be ready for his coming, and we are told in today’s gospel just how sudden his appearing will be. We need to begin now to achieve total readiness, because there is not going to be much warning. Our Lord calls us to “Keep awake.”

Just as winter comes. clear and fresh and cold, Advent comes to call us to awake to our ongoing process of transformation and our call to help our Lord build his kingdom of peace, wholeness, and harmony for the entire creation.

And today we make our United Thank Offering, a small expression of gratitude for all the gifts he gives us every day. Science is now telling us how powerful gratitude can be. It can improve our physical and mental health. It can actually strengthen us to be stronger and better ministers of Christ.

As we live in this in-between time, we are deeply grateful that our Lord came among us all those centuries ago, not as a rich and powerful king, but as a human being just like us. He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, grew up in the out of the way village of Nazareth in Galilee, helped Joseph in the carpenter shop, learned how to work hard and be honest and care about others as we all do in the small villages of Vermont.

We are grateful that he knows each of us and cares about us and about all people. He loves and cares about every person on this planet. And he loves the entire creation. He calls us to care about each other and about the creation which he called into being.

When he comes to make the creation whole and bring in his kingdom, he wants us to be ready, to be fully awake. When he comes to bring in his shalom, we will each look into his eyes, those eyes full of love for us and for the world he has created. And he is going to want us to be ready to help him in that work of completing his shalom.

The world of his shalom is a far cry from the strife-filled world of today. In that world, because of his abiding love, there will be a place for everyone to live and work and thrive. No one will be left out. No one will be on the sidelines or on the margins. Everyone will be included and valued. Everyone will have enough, not only to survive, but to thrive and grow.

This Advent, let us be fully awake; let us do everything we can to be in top spiritual shape; let us continue to work to help our Lord build his shalom; let us be grateful for his coming among us to live a human life and show us the way to live together. Let us put on his likeness and continue to follow him.  Amen.

Christ the King Proper 29C RCL November 20, 2016

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 4, Page 50 BCP
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday. The season of Pentecost is ending,  and next Sunday Advent begins. This is also the beginning of Thanksgiving week when we take time to be with friends and family to thank God for all the blessings God bestows upon us.

In our opening reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear about Jesus, the righteous Branch. He is the Good Shepherd who leads us to the green pastures and guides us to the still waters.

Our reading from the Letter to the Colossians reminds us that God has rescued us from darkness and made us children of the light. We are reminded the Christ is the head of the Church. He is the Vine; we are the branches. We are part of him; and he is part of us. We are alive in him and he is alive in us. He has come to reconcile the world to himself.  We are one in him.

In our gospel, we go to be with Jesus as he is crucified. Jesus asks God to forgive the crowd because they do not know what they are doing. But the people continue to mock him. There are two criminals, one on each side of our Lord. One joins in the mocking, but the other one sees who Jesus truly is. He asks to be a part of the kingdom of Jesus and Jesus says those words we will never forget:  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus is a very different kind of king. We have a beautiful hymn which says, “The King of love my shepherd is.” Love is the basis of his kingdom. He loves each of us even though he knows that we are far from perfect. He knows each of us so well. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He has seen us at our worst and he has seen us at our best. And he loves us through all of it. He is our King, and we are citizens of his kingdom of peace and harmony.  We are members of his Body called to share his love with everyone.

Our loving God gives us every gift we need to live our lives and to carry out our ministries. God gives us gifts of listening, music, art, sewing, sweeping the floor, writing checks, doing woodworking and carpentry, rescuing dogs, helping addicted people recover, caring for our elderly folks and our children, community organizing, advocating for young people, and the list goes on and on.

God also gives us the gifts of faith hope, and love which are the core of our lives and our life together.

And for all of this, all of these amazing gifts, we are grateful. We are here today because we know that God loves us, and we love God. We want to share that love with each other and with others in our communities.

Later this week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, that special time when families gather to share love and delicious food and just be together, which is such a great gift.

This Sunday and next, we will be doing our United Thank Offering in-gathering. We put a coin into our little blue UTO box every time we feel thankful. It doesn’t take much time for those coins to accumulate. Each year at this time, we bring in our offering to send to UTO so that they can give grants to help people all over America and indeed all over the world. Thanks are such a powerful thing. We have so much to be thankful for.

This is also the time when we prayerfully think about our pledge to Grace Church. Our pledge is our expression of thanks to God for all that God gives to us.

God has called us to be stewards of God’s creation, to take care of the earth and to return to God a worthy portion of all the gifts God gives. God gives us time, talents, and treasure. When we devote the time to coming to worship God, that is a worthy portion of our God-given time. When we give time to a friend or neighbor who needs a listening ear and some wise guidance, that is ministry on behalf of God which uses our God-given talents of listening and caring. When we come and clean the church or mow the lawn or shovel snow or paint railings or window trim, those are offerings of time and talent.

Our offering of treasure includes not only our offering to the Church but also our support of organizations which help people, such as the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society or any one of the many groups which do such good work. Please prayerfully consider your offering and then take one of the cards on the table at the back, fill it out, and put it into the offering plate. We would like to have these before our Vestry meeting on December 18.

There is so much to be grateful for. Thanks be to God for coming among us to show us the way to new life. Thanks to each and every one of you for all that you bring to this community and for the ministries of caring and compassion which you do out in the world.

Let us pray together the Collect for Thanksgiving Day, page 246.

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Pentecost 26 Proper 28C RCL November 13, 2016

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our first reading this morning comes from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah. He is writing some time after King Cyrus of Persia has permitted the people of God to return to Jerusalem. They have been in exile in Babylon for about fifty years, two generations. They got married, had families and worked and survived and prayed together and studied the scriptures. God promised them that they would return and rebuild. That hope kept them alive.

Once they arrived home, they found that the temple was a pile of rubble. The Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem. So they set about building houses for their families and planting gardens to raise food and doing what was necessary to preserve life.

Then they began to rebuild the temple. That took them about fifty years, according to biblical scholar James Newsome. And when they finally completed the temple, it was not as splendid and beautiful as Solomon’s original. And there were still piles of rubble everywhere and they had not even begun to build the city wall, which had been totally destroyed. (Newsome, Texts for Preaching NRSV Year C, pp. 696-7.)

People began to lose heart. Some leaders were greedy and corrupt. There were conflicts, even to the point of bloodshed. Some people became so discouraged that they turned to other gods. As much as they had hoped to return and rebuild, the work before them seemed too much to tackle. (Jack R. Lundbom, Feasting on the Word. Year C, Vol. 4. p.291.) The fabric of their society was tearing apart.

In this moment, the word of God comes to them. “Thus says the Lord God: For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…..I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.” God tells them that there will be no more weeping. Babies will no longer die. People will live long and healthy lives. People will build their homes and will not be uprooted and sent into exile.

And then God voices the vision of shalom: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together….They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” God is building something even more wonderful than the temple or the city wall. God is building God’s shalom, and God’s holy people, who have been caught in conflict and division, are the builders of that kingdom of peace and harmony. As we know, they rebuilt the city and the city wall, and they rebuilt their community of faith.

In our reading from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, the members of the congregation are advised to “keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition  that they received from us.” Scholars tell us that the word translated as “idleness,” ataktos, is a military term meaning “disorderly” or “undisciplined.” People were not doing the tasks they were called to do on behalf of the community.

Some members were actually becoming “busybodies” and doing other people’s jobs. ( Lance Pape, New Proclamation Year C, p.234.) Some people were thinking that Jesus was going to appear very soon, so they stopped going to their paid jobs and could not make their financial contributions to the community.

People were engaging in irresponsible behavior, and that was interfering with the Church’s work of building the kingdom of Christ. Paul calls the Thessalonians and us to be faithful and loving to each other and to carry out our ministries in the Body of Christ so that we can help to build the shalom of Christ. Thanks be to God that Grace has a long history of such faithfulness and mutual love.

In today’s gospel, our Lord speaks of the destruction of the temple which indeed happened at the hands of the Romans in A. D. 70. Then he speaks of the chaos which will occur before he comes again. He also speaks of persecution, which has happened to Christians for centuries and is happening even now.

A few days ago, I watched a news story on a Christian community which had been in exile and was returning to their village as troops moved toward Mosul and liberated villages along the way. Their church had suffered extensive damage but the walls were still standing. They raised a cross outside and used large chunks of rubble to make the cross stand upright. I could sense and feel their faith and courage over thousands of miles of distance. That is what our Lord is calling us to do—to have faith in him. He is building his shalom, and we are called to help him.

The message of our epistle today is that we are members of the body of Christ, and we are called to love and care for one another so that we can do our ministry together. Each of us is essential to the Body. We are called to be aware of the needs and feelings of everyone else in the Body and to respect each other. Though we are a small community of faith, we cover a broad spectrum of political approaches. We do have differences of opinion. I believe that is a strength. We also have a long history of loving and respecting each other. This is another strength.

As Christians, we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. Our country has come through a time of stress and conflict, and there is still work to be done. But we can all be one in the Spirit of God.

We share the same dreams and visions which are expressed in our reading from Isaiah. Though Americans come from different faiths, all of those faiths share the precepts of the Golden Rule—treat others as we would want to be treated.

During the past eighteen months of this campaign, there has been much focus upon the things that divide us. We need to remember that  the things which unite us far outnumber and outweigh the things that divide us. We have so much in common. We are all connected.

May we be one as Jesus and the Father are one. In His holy Name. Amen.

All Saints Sunday November 6, 2016

Daniel 7:1-3. 15-18
Psalm 149
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6: 20-31

Today, we celebrate All Saints Sunday. This sermon will be short so that we can hear from our Convention delegates.

All Saints is a wonderful feast. Our  Collect reminds us that we are all members of the Body of Christ. We are knit together in one fellowship which spans all time. We are part of the Communion of Saints going back into the time of Peter and Paul and Martha and Mary Magdalene and going forward into eternity.

We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, saints, people just like you and me who loved our Lord and followed him. And, as part of this faithful multitude, we gain strength from their presence so that we can run the race that is set before us.

We are not alone. We do not have to run the race alone. We have help, very strong and good help. We are never alone. Together with the capital S saints such as the folks I mentioned earlier, we have our wonderful small s saints. And here at Grace, as we celebrate the bicentennial of this amazing parish, we can feel them cheering us on—Albert Hopson Bailey, Kate Whittemore, Hoddie, Charlotte, Laura, Harriet, Geraldine, Ruth, Gertrude, Arthur, Gwen, A. J. and Theresa, and all the people who have made Grace Church the faithful, loving, hopeful, and resilient community that it is.

We are not alone. They are all with us, helping us to be faithful to our Lord’s call to love and serve others, here and around the world.

Thanks be to God for this cloud of witnesses! Amen.