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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 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 December 18, 2022 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 December 25, 2022 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:…

Christ the King — November 26, 2017

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-14
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Our first reading today is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest who served among the people of God exiled in Babylon from about 593 to 563 B.C. The powerful Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and sent many of the leaders and others into exile. Then, in 586 B.C., the Babylonian armies came back and totally destroyed the temple and many of the surrounding buildings. Scholars tell us that this is the point when Ezekiel wrote this passage. Not only are the people in exile, but now the temple, the center of their worship, has been turned to rubble.

At this darkest hour, God calls Ezekiel to speak God’s word to the people. And God is telling the people that God will gather them up. God will gather all of God’s people from wherever they have had to flee, and God will bring them home. God will feed the people with good pasture, and God will be their shepherd.

God will bring back the ones who have strayed. God will bind up the wounds of those who are injured, and will strengthen the weak. But the fat and strong, that is, the leaders who have hurt the people and have prospered at the expense of the people, will face a time of reckoning. God speaks directly to these leaders, who in essence have bullied the people. God says, “Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scatted them far and wide, I will save my flock….”

God says that God will set over them one shepherd, God’s servant David. We know that David had ruled several hundred years before this time in history, so, as Christians, we take this as a reference to the kingship of Christ, who was from the family of David.

In this prophetic writing, from twenty-five hundred years ago, God is calling all leaders to care for their people, not to hurt them.

In our gospel for today, as we celebrate Christ the King, Jesus speaks about the  values and actions of those who are following him and bringing in his kingdom. He tells us that, if we feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty or welcome the stranger or clothe folks who have nothing to wear, or take care of those who are sick or visit those who are in prison, we are doing those things to him.

Our king identifies, not with the rich and powerful, but with those who need help, those who are weak, those who have no power, those who are at the margins of society. When he tells his followers that they have done all these things to him, they are astonished. They had no idea. They were just trying to help a fellow human being.

Jesus is so different from our usual ideas of a king. He is not powerful in the world’s meaning of the word. He has no army. He has no palace. He was born in a stable to a carpenter and his wife. Shortly after his birth, his father had to take the family to Egypt to save Jesus’ life, so they became refugees, aliens in a strange land because King Herod was killing baby boys. Our king has suffered, and he has a special place in his heart for those who suffer.

Our king grew up in a carpenter’s home, worked in the shop with his earthly father, studied at the synagogue with the other kids, and eventually he went to the river Jordan and was baptized by his cousin John.

Wherever he went, he lived the values of his kingdom. When he went into the synagogue and reads the scroll of Isaiah, it said that he was coming to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to comfort all who mourn, and to bring God’s peace and harmony. That is what he did during his entire ministry, and that is what he calls us to do.

Today we make our United Thank Offering and we also begin to pray about our pledges. Today and every day, God calls us to help those who need God’s love and caring. The season of Pentecost is coming to a close, and this coming Sunday we move into Advent.

May we take time to reflect on the depth of God’s love for us and for all people. May we help and serve others in Christ’s Name. Amen.

Pentecost 24 Proper 28A RCL November 19, 2017

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

In our opening reading, the people of God have fallen into the hands of King Jabin of Canaan. The commander of Jabin’s army is Sisera. The people of God have been living under the harsh rule of King Jabin for twenty years, and Sisera has amassed a huge army. He has nine hundred chariots of iron.

In this reading, we meet one of the great women leaders of God’s people, Deborah, who is a judge and a prophetess. She is highly respected, and people come from miles away to consult her. The other hero of this story is Barak, a great military leader.

In this time of crisis, God calls Deborah to lead the people. Deborah is known to have a gift for military strategy. She has the wisdom to ask Barak to make the first move in this military campaign. With the combination of Deborah’s gift of strategy and Barak’s gift of courage and military leadership, God’s people take the important step to conquer King Jabin.

In our epistle, Paul reminds us that we are children of the light. He calls us to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation,” Most of all, he calls us to keep awake. Advent is coming.

In today’s gospel, we hear the beloved parable of the talents. As we know, a talent was a coin that was worth a great deal of money. Thomas Troegher computes that five talents would be worth $156,000.
The person who received those five talents goes out and makes five more. The two talent fellow makes two more. But the poor fellow who got one talent has gone and buried it. And the master is not at all pleased. Caution and prudence are great virtues, but our one talent man carries them a bit too far. He could have at least put the talent in the bank and gained interest.

Matthew’s congregation was being encouraged not to hide their light under a bushel. They were being called to go out and spread the good news even in the face of persecution. We, too, are called to go out and spread the good news every day of our lives, and all of us take that very seriously. Every one of you is out in the world doing God’s work, and I thank God for that and for each of you.

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. We are moving toward the time when we make our UTO offering, and I suggest that we bring in that offering next Sunday. This is also the time when we think about our pledges for the coming year.

In that context, I submit that each of us has been given the maximum of five talents. We have been given the gift of God’s love. God loves each of us as the apple of God’s eye. God loves us with a love that cannot be stopped. As Paul says in another epistle, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.”

We have been given gifts of God’s healing and forgiveness. We have been given gifts of energy and compassion and caring so that we can go out into the world and do good work and care about people and care for our families and make the world a better place. All these gifts are like the talents in the parable, God gives these gifts to us because God loves us.

What is our response? Our response is to return a worthy portion of or time, talent, and treasure to God. All of you devote time to Grace Church. Many of you devote time to the work of the diocese. All of you devote great amounts of time to helping other people, both in your work and in your spare time. In terms of treasure, we make pledges of money that we are returning to God from the treasure God has given us. This includes not only our pledges to the Church but also contributions we make to charities like the United Way, The Red Cross, and so many others.

Someone once said that we Christians know Whom to thank. We know that God gives us everything. We may go out and help people, but it is God who gives us the ability to do that. And so we thank God with all our hearts. That is what stewardship is all about—thanks.

The attitude of gratitude is a powerful thing. We know that all good things come from God, and we thank God by returning a worthy portion. We have so much to be thankful for. It would take us hours to name all of these things. Thank you, dear Lord, for your love, for our families, for our life together, for our country and our freedoms, for those who have fought for these precious rights, for warm homes, food, clothing, health, the ability to help others, and on and on our lists could go.

The United Thank Offering, UTO, is based on the fact that every day we can put a coin into our UTO box to thank God for some gift that God is giving us or has given us. Incidentally, the UTO is the outgrowth and continuation of the Women’s Auxiliary which was such a key part of Grace’s history for so many years. We continue that tradition in our gifts to UTO.

Please think about all these wonderful gifts from God prayerfully and with full gratitude to our loving God. We will do our UTO ingathering this coming Sunday, and we will also have our pledge sheets available so that we can take them and fill them out.

Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts to all of us. Amen.

Pentecost 23 Proper 27A RCL November 12, 2017

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 78:1-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

In our first reading, the people of God are moving into the promised land. Joshua gathers them together and reviews their history. God brought Abraham from beyond the Euphrates River and led him to Canaan and gave him descendants as numerous as the stars. And the people review a more recent part of their history, the journey from slavery in Egypt into freedom in this new land.

But Joshua is reminding them that they are called to choose to follow God. Scholars tell us that now that the people have crossed into this new land, they are probably hearing about the local gods. In those days, it was customary to pay respect to the gods of an area where you were moving in. And Joshua is making it clear that the people are called to follow one God. He says that his family is definitely gong to remain faithful to God. Then, as now, the commitment of a leader usually means a great deal to people. The people make their commitment to be faithful to God.

In our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, people in the congregation are dying. Many of the early Christians had expected that our Lord would return very quickly, but at the time this letter was written, about 20 years after our Lord’s death and resurrection, he still has not come to bring in his kingdom. Paul is assuring the people that  all will rise to new life.

Our gospel for today also addresses the issue of the coming of Christ. Matthew’s gospel was written about 90 A.D., sixty years after the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry. People are wondering when Jesus will come again to bring in his shalom. And so Matthew shares our Lord’s parable of the ten wise bridesmaids and the ten foolish bridesmaids.

Herbert O’Driscoll reminds us that a wedding was a feast for the whole community. If someone in the village was getting married, everyone was invited to the celebration. As dusk gathered, the bridesmaids would light their lamps and the lamps would be flickering as the day disappeared. Everyone knew that if you were a bridesmaid, you needed to make sure to buy plenty of extra oil in advance so that you could bring it with you. You never knew quite when the bridegroom would appear. It was something you could not predict. So, you had to be prepared.

We all know the story. The less than wise bridesmaids run out of oil. As the sky darkens, five of those lamps flicker out. The bridesmaids plead to their wiser companions to give then some oil. But they can’t. They have made their commitment to be prepared. The bridegroom arrives in a flurry of festivity. Five of the bridesmaids go in to the feast, and five are left at the door. Our Lord calls us to “Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The call to keep awake is one of the major themes of Advent, which is only a short two weeks away. But this reminder to stay alert and to be ready is wise advice in every season.

Reflecting on this call to “Keep awake,” Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “I never know when God passes by in my experience, when eternity intersects with time, and spirit with flesh. I never know when a door between the worlds opens, and I am invited to a wedding. I may be invited to taste the sweetness of God in a moment of liturgy, in a moment of friendship…in a moment of beauty discovered in art or nature. But if such things are offered, then I must be ready when the offer is made. I must assume that any moment is the potential moment, any place is the potential place, any conversation or encounter is the encounter with God.” (The Word Today, Year A, Volume 3, P. 173.)

Any moment, every moment is a potential encounter with God. We never know when it is going to happen. That is why we need to be ready at all times. We need to be awake to the presence of God in every moment. O’Driscoll mentions Brother Lawrence, who wrote a book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He was a  monk who lived in the seventeenth century. He worked in the kitchen, and as he washed dishes, scrubbed floors, and peeled potatoes, he was deeply aware of God’s presence in all of these small and mundane things.

In our readings today, we are called to follow the example of Joshua and so many others and serve the Lord. We are called to have faith and hope because we believe that we are already in eternal life and that our ultimate destination is the heavenly banquet with our Lord and the saints and angels. And we are called to be awake, to be ready to meet Christ in every moment of life, whether we are scrubbing the floor, talking with a friend, or receiving the bread of heaven, the Body of Christ at the Eucharist.

In all of these moments, in every moment, Christ is present. Christ is alive and is among us at this moment. Amen.

All Saints’ Sunday Year A RCL November 5, 2017

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3: 1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

All Saints is one of the most meaningful  and joyful feasts of the Church Year.

Our opening reading from the Book of Revelation shows us the vision of heaven including all those who have followed their Good Shepherd into eternal life. They are in his presence forever.

Psalm 34 is one of the most beautiful songs of praise in the Bible. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are they who trust in him.”

Our very brief but powerful reading from the First Letter of John describes the results of God’s love for us. We are God’s children now, and we are growing into the likeness of Christ. The text tells us that “We will see him as he is.” This gives us deep hope that reaches down into the springs of spiritual freshness.

And then we have the vision of life which our Lord describes in his Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart, those who are able, by God’s grace, to focus with single mindedness on the love of God and what that love calls us to do and to be.

We are all one in Jesus our Lord. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses—those who have gone before us, those who are here now, and those yet to come, all followers of Jesus. We are all part of what our Presiding Bishop calls the Jesus Movement. And we are all deeply blessed. Amen.

Now we will hear reports on our Diocesan Convention — “Declaring Dignity.”