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    • 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:…
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Lent 4A March 26, 2017

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

Our opening reading today tells the story of how God led Samuel to anoint David as King. David, the youngest, the shepherd, had to be called in from the fields. But he was the one God had called. For me this Lent, the key thought in this passage is, “…for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Our psalm for today is one of the most powerful and inspiring and beloved of all the psalms. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and he will lead us to still waters and nourishing pastures. We have nothing to fear. He will lead us every step of the way into eternal life.

In our reading from Ephesians, we are encouraged to live as people of the light.

Once again, I would like to focus on today’s gospel because it has so much to teach us. Jesus is walking along with the disciples, and they meet a man who has been blind from birth. Immediately they ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”

It is so human that when something bad happens, we want to find someone to blame. Who sinned, this man or his parents. First of all, there is no way that a baby can sin. Secondly, we live in a fallen creation. Bad things happen to good people. So the disciples are asking the wrong question. Sometimes, in our effort to understand something, we do that. We ask the wrong question. We want to find an answer because that gives us some sense of control. We want to be able to say, “That’s what caused it.”

With the state of science in the time of Jesus, even if there was a cause for this man’s blindness, the people of that time probably would not have been able to find it. Perhaps it was some genetic problem. Perhaps it was something that happened during birth which would have been a tragic accident, but with the state of medicine and surgery at that time, nothing could have been done. Sometimes asking why something tragic has happened can lead us down into a pit of hopeless futility.

As Christians, we are called to focus on the attitude of our Lord. What does he say? Neither the man nor his parents sinned. This is an opportunity for us to work with God and bring light and hope into this man’s life. We are not going to dither and worry about why it happened. We are going to make this man whole.

What does Jesus do? He makes a poultice. He spits on the ground and makes a little mud pie with the dirt and spreads the mud on the man’s eyes. Then he tells him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man follows the directions to the letter and comes back able to see.

In times gone by, people would make poultices to heal all kinds of things. Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “poultice” in this way: “A soft, usually heated and sometimes medicated mass, spread on cloth and applied to sores or other lesions.” In the fourteenth century, an anonymous mystic and spiritual guide wrote, “Take the good gracious God just as he is, as plain as a common poultice, and lay him to your sick self just as you are.”

What a wonderful thought—take the Good gracious God and lay God on our human and limited and hurting self like a common poultice.

Jesus puts a poultice on the man and cures him. The man can see. But the people around him are not convinced. They interrogate him. Then they take him to the ultimate authorities, the Pharisees, who interrogate him some more. Then they question his parents. On and on it goes. For this man, it is very simple; he was blind and now he can see. We hear these words in that wonderful hymn, “Amazing Grace” by John Newton, who wrote, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” He left the slave trade, a man transformed. The man in our gospel, who was blind from the day he was born, can now see, thanks to Jesus. But many people do not want to believe this good news. They even accuse Jesus of being a sinner.

All during these interrogations and the continuing harassment from the Pharisees, who are in positions of great power, this unnamed man shows great courage. He never stops stating the facts—“The man put mud on my eyes, then I washed, and now I see.” Finally,  after demeaning and insulting him, they actually chase the man out of town.

Jesus hears about this and goes back to see this man he has healed.

They have a conversation. The man realizes that Jesus is the Savior and becomes one of his disciples. This humble and courageous man who has a disability which has put him on the margins of society, can see who Jesus is. But the learned and respected Pharisees, who have so much power, abuse the man and his parents, and fail to see the reality of Jesus.

Once again, our Lord has a healing encounter with a humble and courageous person who is open to Jesus’ transforming power.

Once again, we see the healing and transforming power of Jesus’ love.

“Take the good gracious God, just as he is, as plain as a common poultice and lay him to your sick self, just as you are….Nothing matters now except that you willingly offer to God that blind awareness of your naked being in joyful love, so that grace can bind you and make you spiritually one with the precious being of God, simply as he is in himself.” (The Cloud of Unknowing and The Book of Privy Counseling, Trans. William Johnston, Image Books, p. 153.)



Lent 3 Year A March 19, 2017

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

In his meditation for the first week in Lent, Brother Mark Brown described the forty days of Lent as an opportunity for Jesus to absorb God’s love. In the gospel of Mark, God says to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.”

Lent is also a time for each of us to absorb God’s love for us. This Lent, I am inviting us to focus on the gospel for each Sunday because each of these gospel accounts shows us Jesus meeting someone, and each of these encounters shows Jesus’ love for the people he meets.

This Sunday, we have an extraordinary story of Jesus’ understanding and love for us. Our Lord is in Samaria. As we know from the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, the people of Samaria were viewed as inferior. They did not worship in the right way or in the right place. Yet Jesus is going into their territory because he loves everyone and he wants to reach out to everyone.

Jesus comes to Jacob’s well. He is tired. He sits down to rest. A Samaritan woman comes to the well to draw water. Jews did not share  things in common with Samaritans. Rabbis did not speak with women. Yet Jesus asks this woman for a drink.

The woman asks Jesus how he can think of asking her for a drink? Doesn’t he know about proper customs and manners? And then Jesus does the same thing he did with Nicodemus. He throws her a mystery. If you knew how much God loves you and who I am, you would ask me for living water.

Now the woman is really interested. Living water? Maybe I would’t have to come to this well every day and lower this bucket and lug it back home and do the same thing several times a day.

But then she wonders, “You don’t even have a bucket. Where do you get this living water?”  She is beginning to wonder if this man is either crazy or greater than even Jacob. Then Jesus makes another quantum leap of the mind and spirit. “When we drink this water, we get thirsty again. But the living water that I give gushes up to eternal life.”

The woman wants that living water. Jesus asks her to call her husband and come back. This touches upon a very delicate issue, The woman has had five husbands and she is living with a man to whom she is not married. In the eyes of the average person, she is looked down upon. She is not considered very respectable. Jesus knows all this, but these outward things are not important to him. He loves this woman. In his actions to her and to all of us, he is saying, “You are my beloved child.”

I think the woman senses this. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. He has reached across so many barriers to talk with this woman, barriers of race and religion and custom. She can sense the love in all these actions. When we know that God loves us, we can be honest about even the most painful things in our lives. She tells the truth, “I have no husband.” Jesus tells her that he knows her situation.

Now this woman is thinking that Jesus must be a prophet. She asks him about a burning theological issue. The proper place to worship is the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans do not worship there. So she asks this prophet, this highly respected expert, “Where should we worship?” Jesus says that we should worship in spirit and in truth. Where we worship is not the important thing. Are we worshipping the spiritual reality of God and God’s love?

Now the woman makes a quantum leap. Maybe this man is more than a prophet. She begins to talk about the messiah. He says that is who he is. He tells her she is speaking face to face with the messiah.

This wonderful courageous woman who has just had a conversation with the Savior drops her bucket, runs into the city, and proclaims the Good News. She becomes the first preacher of the gospel.

And what does she tell the people? Come and see a man who told me everything I have done.” Come and meet with our God who comes down to our level, who knows all our strengths and weaknesses, knows all the secrets we are afraid to share, knows all the things that make us the most ashamed, and loves us with a love that nothing can stop, nothing can change.

Back in those days, a woman was supposed to be married, That is how she achieved an identity in the society—as a wife and a mother. She was not supposed to live with a man who was not her husband. Many people of that time would consider her a terrible sinner. God does not see her in that way.  When God calls Samuel to go to the home of Jesse and anoint the next king, God reminds Samuel that God does not see as humans see. God looks at each of us and says exactly what God said to Jesus at his baptism, “You are my beloved. I delight in you.”

In her dialogue with Jesus, this woman did a self-examination and made a confession to Jesus. She was honest. I think she was able to be honest because she sensed the love and respect of our Lord. As we do our work of self-examination, repentance, and metanoia, transformation, this Lent, our awareness of God’s love helps us to know that whatever we need to confess to God and work on with God’s help is going to be received with caring and forgiveness and encouragement, not condemnation.

This woman brought many people to meet Jesus. Her encounter with our loving and healing God welcomed many others to experience God’s love and forgiveness. May we, too, experience and share God’s love. Amen.

Lent 2 Year A March 12, 2017

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Lent is a time for journeying. After God’s people had been freed from slavery in Egypt, they journeyed for forty years in the wilderness until they finally reached the promised land. After he was baptized, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, accepting and absorbing God’s love, growing closer to God, and, through prayer, coming to a clear understanding of the nature of his mission and ministry.

In our first reading today, we meet one of the great heroes of our faith, Abraham. Abraham had a good life in Ur of the Chaldees. Ur was an ancient city located in Mesopotamia. It is located on the right bank of the Euphrates River 225 miles Southeast of Baghdad and about 9.9 miles from the city of Nasiriyah in Iraq.

Abraham had a wife, a large extended family, flocks and herds and many possessions.What Abraham and Sarah did not have, much to their sorrow, was children. God called Abraham to leave everything and to journey far from his home into a new land. God said that God would make Abraham a blessing. God also said that Abraham and Sarah would have children as numerous as the stars. Abraham accepted God’s call and became a great icon of faith for all of us.

In our gospel for today, we meet someone else who is on a journey. Nicodemus is a leader among his people. He is a person of deep faith. But there is something about Jesus which compels Nicodemus to go and see him. Being a member of the council of the elders, Nicodemus is taking a great risk to go and talk with Jesus because there are some people on the council who think that Jesus is up to no good, and, if they ever found out that Nicodemus had actually visited Jesus, it could cost him his job and maybe his life.

So Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. Nicodemus tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is a teacher who has come from God. He is going to ask Jesus some questions. but, before he can do that, Jesus throws him a mysterious comment. Jesus says that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they have been born from above. What in the world does that mean?

Well, Nicodemus takes it literally. You can’t be born when you have grown old, he reasons. Only babies are born. Being a member of the council of the elders, he is old. Then he becomes even more literal. He thinks Jesus is talking about going back into the womb. Jesus throws him an even more mysterious comment. We can’t enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit.

In our baptisms, we have been born of water and the Spirit. We are no longer of the flesh, that is, on the human level only. We have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have the gift of newnesss of life. We see things, not only on the human level but also on the level of God’s vision of shalom, God’s kingdom of peace and harmony. Life has a whole new meaning for us.

We can see Nicodemus grappling with these new ideas. And then Jesus ends their discussion with the best of the Good News: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

What does this mean for us, especially now in Lent? There is a  wonderful hymn which says, “Love came down at Christmas.” Jesus came to be with us because of love. Jesus is love. God is love.

Into a world controlled by the powerful and ruthless Roman Empire, God came to be with us. God came to be with us to say to us, “Always remember, I love you, and I will be with you. I will be among you always.

And he says, “The journey can be difficult, It can seem impossible at times. Always remember that I am right beside you. Sometimes I will go ahead of you, like the Good Shepherd that I am. I will go ahead to show you the way. Sometimes, when it seems impossible to take another step, I will even carry you. I will always be with you. You are not alone, You are never alone.”

This Lent, we are following our Lord on his way to the cross, that instrument of torture and humiliation. Yes, our Lord died on that cross. Why? Because he loves us.  And because he was trying to show us another way to do things. Not by earthly power, but by the power of the Spirit, the power of love.

In a profound sense, our Lenten journey is a journey begun, continued and ended in God’s love.  As we accept and absorb God’s love, we are changed. We are reborn. We become new people. We look at the world and at people with different eyes, eyes filled with hope and love and compassion.

And that changes everything. It changes us and it transforms the world. God’s love heals and changes us and the world. By virtue of our baptisms, we are a part of this process of transforming the creation.

Love came down at Christmas. Love lives among us. Love has been crucified and has risen from the dead.  Love is with us always. We are never alone. He will walk with us, He will go ahead to show us the way. He will carry us when the going gets too tough. He is transforming us. He is transforming the world. May we follow him.  Amen.

Lent 1 Year A March 5, 2017


Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

In our Five Marks of Love Lenten series, Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist has a meditation called, “You Are My Beloved.” Brother Mark reminds us that, according to Mark’s gospel, when Jesus was baptized, God spoke to him, saying, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.” Brother Mark goes on to say that Jesus’ journey of forty days in the wilderness gave him time to absorb the reality of God’s love for him.

I was happy to read this meditation because I had been having similar thoughts. During those forty days, Jesus was absorbing the depth and breadth of God’s love for him. His entire ministry was rooted and grounded in God’s love. Every word and action of Jesus during his entire ministry poured out God’s unconditional love.

We know that Lent is a time of self-examination. We take an honest look at our lives. We confess our sins. Sins are those things that get between us and God, between us and others, and between us and our true selves. We humbly confess our sins. And we ask God to give us grace so that we can grow, so that we can become more like our Lord Jesus. And we thank God for the areas of grace and love in our lives, times when we have followed the Ten Commandments, and the cardinal and theological virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and love.

Lent is a time for growth, a time to allow God to give us the grace to take our next steps in our spiritual growth.

In order to do this, we need to accept and absorb God’s love. God loves you. God loves me. Not because of anything we have done, but simply because God loves us. God is saying to us what God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you”

For many of us, perhaps most of us, accepting the sheer fact of God’s unconditional love is extremely difficult. How can God, who knows all our faults, all our frailties, all our mistakes and weaknesses, love us unconditionally? If we are parents or grandparents, or loving aunts and uncles, or if we have a beloved pet, we can begin to understand this. God knows we are far from perfect, and God loves us with the wild abandon of a mom or dad, a grandparent, or a devoted owner of a pet. God loves us without reservation. God loves you and me with all God’s infinitely big heart. Each of us is and all of us are the apple of God’s eye.

Yes, but—Lent is a time for penitence, a time to look at our sins in their stark reality, confess them, express our sincere sorrow about them, and ask God’s grace to grow closer to God.

That is true. Lent is a time for growth and transformation. But our journey of transformation becomes much easier and much more joyful the more we are able, with God’s grace, to accept the fact that God loves us, sins and all, warts and all, with a love that will forever boggle our minds. God is here right now to help us blundering, bumbling humans to grow into the fullness of the persons God calls us to be.  So, I am encouraging us to spend some time this Lent accepting and absorbing the fact that God loves you no matter what. God will never stop loving you, and God is here to help you.

As we accept God’s love, we are of course called to share that love. The Five Marks of Love tell us what we are called to be doing and are already doing, with God’s help.


  • Proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom (Tell);
  • Teach, baptize, and nurture new believers (Teach);
  • Respond to human need by loving service (Tend);
  • Transform unjust structures, challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation (Transform);
  • Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth (Treasure).

Yes, we are frail and fallible humans, and it is important for us to take stock of our lives and, with God’s help, do any course corrections which may be needed. But, as Brother Mark reminds us, we are also members of the risen body of Christ, called to share his love, healing, and forgiveness in a broken world. Each of us is beloved by God.

May we accept his love. May we absorb his love. May we share his love with others.  Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a time of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins. It is a time for honest self-examination, a time to ask our Lord’s help in allowing him to transform us into the persons he calls us to be. The Greek word for this is metanoia.  We have seen him transfigured on the holy mountain, and we are deeply committed to growing into his likeness. The ashes that will soon form the sign of the cross on our foreheads have been made from the palms that we waved on Palm Sunday to welcome our King. We will go with him to the cross and we will move with him into newness of life.

In our first reading, Isaiah reminds us that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. We will be a people of justice; we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that this is the time to be reconciled to God, that is to grow as close to God as we possibly can.

In our gospel, our Lord calls us not to make an outward show of our spiritual practice, but to do an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and to follow spiritual practices that will build up treasures in heaven, that is, practices that will bring us closer to God. Our Lord also reminds us that deep and true spirituality is the source of great joy.

How do we do an honest assessment of or spiritual condition? One way is the summary of the law, “Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself.” Our reading from Isaiah also speaks to this.

Another guideline would be the Ten Commandments. We will be reading these each Sunday during Lent.

Another set of guidelines for self-examination and transformation are the Seven Root Sins, also called the Seven Deadly Sins, counter- balanced by the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues. These insights have come from many sources, but I especially thank David Brown, beloved mentor and former rector at Christ Church, Montpelier, now retired in Connecticut, for his wisdom and guidance.

So here we go with the Seven Root Sins, or as David used to say, “Sins I have known and loved,” and don’t we all!

First comes pride, doing it our way instead of God’s way.

Wrath, (Ira), not normal healthy anger, but holding onto a grudge, nursing it until it becomes a voracious cancer that infects everything we think and say and do.

Envy—the inability to rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others.

Greed—wanting more than we have.

Gluttony—taking more than we need.

Lust—Using other people, exploiting others for our own needs.

Sloth (acedie)—Giving in to that “I don’t care” attitude. Despair. Giving up hope.

On the positive side, we have the Cardinal Virtues.

Prudence—Kenneth Kirk defines prudence as, “The habit of referring all questions to God.” Constant communication with God. Lord, what is your will in this situation? What would you call me to do or not do?

Justice—treating everyone equally. “Respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Temperance—Balance. Like steel that has been tempered in fire and ice. Flexibility. Again, a sense of humor.

Fortitude. The grace and ability to hang in there with faith and patience on the side of God’s shalom.

And the Theological Virtues—

Faith—Total trust in God.

Hope—The ability to look at a situation in all if its brokenness and see the potential and the path for growth and healing.

Love—Accepting God’s unconditional love for everyone, including ourselves, and extending that love to others.

Always remember that Lent comes from the root word meaning “spring,” a time of growth and renewal.

In addition to all of these resources, many of us are using “Living Life Marked as Christ’s Own.”

May this Lent be full of joy and growth and healing for all of us.

Special prayers for jan’s surgery tomorrow.