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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:…

Epiphany 4B RCL January 28, 2018

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1 Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

In our first reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses is giving his farewell address to the people of God. He will not be going with them into the Promised Land. But he is assuring the people that God is going to raise up leaders who will be as faithful as Moses has been.

This is a comforting word at this time in our diocesan life. Bishop Tom will be retiring by September of 2019. Most of us have had an opportunity to know and work with him over the years, and we have grown to love and trust him. He has been a great support for Grace Church, and we will miss him deeply. This reassurance that God will provide a good and faithful leader is a great help as we face this time of transition.

Our psalm today reinforces the theme of God’s faithfulness and presence with us.

In our epistle today, St. Paul is addressing a thorny issue of that time. Corinth was a bustling port city with temples devoted to all kinds of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. If you went to the market to buy meat, chances were that it had been dedicated to one or another of these gods or goddesses.

The issue of whether to eat meat devoted to an idol is not a burning issue for us today. But Paul’s guidance in how to deal with controversial issues is relevant in all times and places.

Paul says that,  as Christians we know that these Greek and Roman deities are not equal to God. If we eat meat sacrificed to an idol, it means nothing. It is just meat. But, for someone who is new to the faith, it may not be that simple. We can think with our head, “Oh, that meat was sacrificed to an idol, and it does not matter if we eat it.” But, if someone eats that meat and then their conscience bothers them because some part of them believes that eating that meat is somehow wrong, we should not encourage them to eat that meat. Paul is telling the Corinthians and us to be very careful about pushing folks into positions that are not comfortable for them, positions that disturb their conscience. It does not matter if our position is intellectually correct. What matters is our effect on other members of the congregation. So, if we are at a meal and we know that someone in our community would be troubled it we eat that meat sacrificed to an idol, we need to consider that person’s feelings and choose not to eat the meat.

Paul says,”Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” He calls us to avoid doing anything that might make one of our brothers or sisters stumble on their journey with Christ.

In today’s gospel, it is the sabbath, and Jesus teaches in the synagogue in Capernaum. He is magnetic. His person and his words convey the truth of God’s love and faithfulness. He has genuine authority—auctoritas, authority that works on behalf of people, authority that sets people free from things that imprison them.

Now the focus changes to a man in the synagogue who is possessed by a demon. In our terms, the man is seriously ill, possibly with a mental illness or a seizure disorder such as epilepsy. In those days, folks with such illnesses were thought to be possessed by something evil. They were considered unclean and people did not associate with them.

Jesus has no patience with anything that harms people or separates them from others. In a commanding voice, he calls the forces of darkness to leave this man. The revered Biblical scholar Fred Craddock writes of this passage: “Jesus is the strong Son of God who has entered a world in which the forces of evil…are crippling, alienating, distorting and destroying life….But with Jesus comes the word of power to heal, to help, to give life, and to restore. In Mark, a battle is joined between good and evil, truth and falsehood, life and death, God and Satan.” (Craddock, Preaching through the Christian Year, p. 92.

There are many things which cripple, alienate, and distort life today. We have only to think of the epidemic of addiction, particularly of opiate addiction, that is taking lives every day all over our country. The sin of greed, which some have called affluenza, infects people to the point where no amount of money and wealth is enough. The pursuit of power is another destructive force of darkness. People will lie, cheat, and steal to achieve their goals. Violence stalks our streets. All of these are distortions of what human life is meant to be. They destroy individuals and they destroy community. In the face of all these, as Craddock says, “Jesus has the word of power to heal, to help, to give life, and to restore.”

We can see from this gospel passage that Jesus has no patience with anything that is destructive to any of his children. This man was not anyone famous, but Jesus confronted and defeated the evil that threatened him.

God is faithful. God calls us to be faithful. God calls us to use our gift of free will with extreme care and profound love and consideration for our brothers and sisters. God calls us to put the needs of others before our own needs. Our Lord stands clearly and unequivocally against the forces of darkness. He is the light that has come into the world.

Herbert O’Driscoll says that we, who know our Lord as the Compassionate One, may be shocked to see the power with which our Lord vanquishes this demon. He writes, “For me, the value of this passage is the glimpse it gives us of the immense natural authority that was clearly present in Jesus’ words and actions.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Today, Year B, Volume 1, p. 86.)

In our readings today, Moses, St. Paul, and Jesus give us sterling examples of leaders with moral authority. May God give us such leaders in our own time. Amen.

Epiphany 3B RCL January 21, 2018

Jonah 3:1-5
Psalm 62:6-14
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Mark 1:14-20

I am so happy to see you today! We have had to cancel services for three Sundays in a row because of the very cold weather. Welcome back, and Happy Epiphany season!

This sermon will be short because today we have Annual Meeting.

As you know, Epiphany is the season of light and mission. Our first reading today comes from the book of Jonah, one of the so called Minor Prophets whose books are at the end of the Hebrew scriptures.

The story of Jonah actually was designed to tell God’s people that they were supposed to share their faith with everyone. Ninevah, the capital of the Assyrian Empire was seen as a sinful city because of its violence. God called Jonah to go and preach God’s mercy to Ninevah. Jonah didn’t want to do this because he thought Ninevah was just too sinful to save. So, when God called, Jonah ran away on a ship to Tarshish. A storm came up, and Jonah ended up in the belly of a big fish. Jonah called to God for help, and the big fish spat him out on the shore.

Now we meet Jonah again. This time he obeys God, goes to Nineveh, calls the people to repent, and they do. His mission is successful. Later on, Jonah pouts because his mission has been a success. God has to reassure Jonah that no one is beyond God’s forgiveness. God cares about all the people in Ninevah. God even cares about the livestock.

In our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is telling the people to prepare for the coming of our Lord. He is basically saying, “Act as if it is going to happen today.” Always be ready.

In our gospel, John the Baptist has just been arrested. John was a cousin of Jesus, and Jesus loved him very much. The arrest of John was very bad news. Yet Jesus did not let this deflect him from his mission. He went on calling disciples—Peter and Andrew, James and John answered the call. Jesus had said to them, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

God calls all people together. God’s kingdom of love, peace, and harmony has begun. We are called to help God to build that kingdom. Fortunately, we have been following the example of Peter and Andrew, James and John, rather than Jonah. We have been following Jesus to the best of our ability, with the help of his grace. Today, we will gather at our Annual Meeting to take a look at where we have been and where we hope to go. Our collect for today is an excellent prayer for this occasion.

Collect for today—p. 215: Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Epiphany 2 Year B RCL January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

In our first reading today, the young man Samuel is receiving instruction from Eli, the priest at the temple in Shiloh. God calls Samuel, but Samuel does not yet know the Lord and thinks it is his teacher, Eli, calling him. Three times Samuel goes to Eli, and finally Eli realizes what is happening. He tells Samuel that it is God calling and tells Samuel how to respond.

Then a tragic story unfolds. Eli’s sons have engaged in all kinds of unethical behavior. Eli has tried to correct their behavior, but to no avail. God is going to remove Eli and his sons from functioning as the priests at Shiloh. Unfortunately, Samuel is the one God has chosen to tell Eli about this.

Morning comes. Samuel opens the doors of the temple. Eli calls to him and insists that Samuel tell him what God has said. Samuel tells the truth, and Eli accepts God’s judgment. Eli has been a faithful teacher to Samuel and has helped Samuel discern his call. But Samuel’s first task is to share this terrible news.

Our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians begins with some quotes from some of the other teachers who have spent time with the community. One has said, “All things are lawful.” Another has said that “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food.” Some of these teachers have convinced some of the people that they can do anything they want to do, that they no longer have to follow the Jewish law. Others are saying that the material world and the spiritual world are separate. Neither of these things is true. As Christians, we give all of ourselves to God.

Promiscuous behavior was prevalent in the first century Roman Empire. Paul says this is not acceptable. As Christians, we commit our whole selves to our Lord. Christ came to fulfill the law, and, for us, that means that we are called to obey not only the letter but the spirit of the law.

In our Gospel, Jesus is calling his disciples. He finds Philip and says those words which change lives, “Follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and tells him that he has found the Messiah. But Nathanael is dubious. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asks. The prophets said the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem.

Then Jesus sees Nathanael and says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Scholars tell us that this is a reference to Jacob, who was full of scheming and deceit before he underwent a transformation and became Israel. Jesus is able to look into the heart of a person. He knows that Nathanael is straightforward and tells the truth. Nathanael wonders how Jesus could get to know him so quickly. In their brief dialogue, Nathanael realizes that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

Jesus tells his followers that they will see great things. They “will see the heavens opened and angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” That is a reference to Jacob’s experience of seeing the angels ascending and descending on the ladder between earth and heaven, an experience that opened Jacob’s mind to the presence of God.

Nathanael is also known as Bartholomew. When Philip first asked him to meet Jesus, he was full of questions, perhaps even scorn. But, when he actually talked with Jesus and intuitively sensed that Jesus had the ability to look into his heart and to love him, he wanted to follow our Lord.

All of these readings are about being called by God and responding in faith. We have not held services for the past two Sundays because of the record-breaking cold weather and snowfall. During this time, one of our beloved members has had a close call. Thanks be to God, Bryan, and many skilled medical folks, she is with us.

Our readings today speak to us in many ways.  We are all called by God to love and serve others. We all try to carry out our ministries faithfully with God’s help. But events like this remind all of us that each moment is precious, each person is precious, and we are all vulnerable. We are not invincible.

Our psalm today speaks to this awareness. God has made us. God knows us. There is no place we can go where God is not, God is everywhere. At every point in our lives, God has been there, loving us and sustaining us. Sometimes, God has carried us.

We are vulnerable. yes. But God is faithful and loving to us. I would suggest that we read this psalm, 139, this week and meditate on it. The love of God is present in every word of this psalm.

God is holding you in the palm of God’s hand.  Amen.

1 Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord   January 7, 2018

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Today is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the day we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. All of our readings tell about new beginnings.

In our first reading, from the Book of Genesis, God begins with a “formless void.” God makes a wind come up over the waters, and then God says, “Let there be light,” and the light comes into the world. Epiphany is the season of light and the season of mission.

In our reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which gives us the account of events in the early Church, Paul arrives in Ephesus. He finds that Apollos had been there before him. Apollos was a Jewish man from Alexandria who had been deeply impressed with the teachings of John the Baptist and had traveled around the Mediterranean Sea with a group of other followers of John spreading the word about John the Baptist just as Paul had traveled with his helpers spreading the Good News about Jesus.

When Paul talks to the people in Ephesus, he learns the they had been baptized by Apollos into John’s baptism, that is, a baptism of repentance. They knew they had to change their ways and turn to God. But they had not received the baptism of Christ and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

As he learned these facts, Paul did not criticize Apollos. He simply shared the information that there was another, deeper baptism. Once they heard about this, the people wanted to receive that baptism. When he laid his hands on them, they received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is another new beginning. The congregation in Ephesus, composed of twelve people, has taken a giant step in faith, They have become members of the Body of Christ. They have now been equipped to carry out their ministry as ambassadors for Christ.

In our gospel, Mark tells us about John the Baptist, who so eloquently and powerfully called the people to repent and to turn toward God. Thousands of people flocked out into the wilderness to hear him preach and to receive his baptism. He made it clear that he was not the Messiah but that his job was to prepare the way for the Savior. He also made it clear that he baptized with water, but the Savior would baptize with the Spirit. So, when the congregation in Ephesus heard about this from Paul, they could relate it to the teaching they had received from John the Baptist.

To fulfill the word of the prophets, and to begin his formal ministry, Jesus came from Nazareth to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. At that time Jesus was completely unknown and John was a spiritual rock star attracting huge crowds. Yet John, with true humility, knows exactly what is happening. He has done his work. He has called the people to repentance, and they have responded in droves. Now his  work is done. He must decrease, and Jesus must increase.

John immerses Jesus, and, when Jesus comes up out of the waters, he sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove. He also hears the voice of God saying, “You are my Son, the beloved, and with you I am well pleased.” Now the Savior is beginning his ministry. The true light has come into the world. This is the greatest new beginning the world has ever seen.

The true light has come into the world. We are following him. We are patterning our lives after his life. How can we help his light to shine even more brightly? How can we help him to build his kingdom, his shalom, this Epiphany? How can we bear the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control? How can we help Him to make the world a better place? As we discover the answers to these questions, we can be sure that he will be with us every step of the way and that he will give us his grace and love to light our path.  Amen.