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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 3C RCL January 27, 2019

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21

It is so good to see you after two Sundays of having to cancel our services. I will try to be brief because we have Annual Meeting today.

Our first reading, from the Book of Nehemiah, is one of the most important passages in the Bible. The people have returned from exile and they are rebuilding the temple. The leaders gather all the people in the square, and they read passages from the law and interpret them so that everyone can understand. This reading takes an entire day. The people are so deeply moved that they weep when they hear the reading. They are hearing and understanding the guidelines that govern their life together. This is an inspiring moment in the life of God’s people.

In our reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is telling the Corinthians and us that the Church is the Body of Christ. Each member is precious and necessary to the health of the whole Body. The Spirit bestows many gifts, and each gift is as valuable as every other gift. It is just as important to balance the books, sweep the floor, or paint the window trim as it is to preach an excellent sermon. Our Lord calls all of us to work together and to offer our gifts. We are so close that, as Paul says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice with it.” We are all in this together, and what binds us together is the love of Christ.

In our gospel, Jesus is teaching and healing in Galilee. He goes to his hometown, Nazareth, and goes to the synagogue. When he stands up to read, the scroll of Isaiah is given to him.  Jesus reads,“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind…to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That is a description of his ministry and of our ministry.

Today, with these inspiring readings in our minds and hearts, we hold our Annual Meeting. I suspect that most of us are not thrilled by administrative meetings. I know they aren’t my favorite thing.

There are many ways to think about the Church. We can think of it as an institution that has been around for two thousand years and has many structures and procedures and so on. Then we can think of ourselves as the community gathered. Yes, we have to deal with things like electing delegates to convention so that we can keep things running and this year elect a new bishop. Here at Grace, I think we try to take care of these things as efficiently as we can. And we also pray at every meeting we have, which is so important. We ask God’s guidance. We realize we are in the presence of God, that the risen Christ is here in our midst.

And we are gathered here today as a community of faith and as part of an institution that has been around for a long time. We love God. And, because we love God, we truly love and care about each other. We do see ourselves as the Body of Christ, called to carry out the ministries mentioned in the passage from Isaiah. We are here to bring good news and to share God’s love and healing and forgiveness with others.

Thank you for your faithfulness, for your generous offering of your many gifts, for your resilience and humor, and for your love for God, for each other, and for all people. These are precious gifts.

Risen Lord, thank you for being in our midst. Lead us and guide us, O Lord.  Amen.

 

The Epiphany    January 6, 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Today we have the joy of celebrating the feast of the Epiphany on a Sunday. The word “epiphany” means a “showing forth” or a “manifestation.” On this feast it becomes clear that the new faith in Christ is for all people.

Our first reading is from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah, a disciple of Isaiah writing around 539 B.C.E. King Cyrus of Persia has issued an edict allowing all the people exiled in Babylon to return to their homes. God is calling on Jerusalem to “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” Light is one of the major themes of the Epiphany season. God tells the people, “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Psalm 72 is a song of praise to the king, and it is also a description of a good leader. The king has a right relationship with God and seeks God’s guidance. The good leader is a good shepherd of the people, a leader who truly cares about the people, who rules with justice and protects the vulnerable, a leader who has true authority, auctoritas , authorship, creativity, a king who nurtures growth, and brings peace and prosperity for all.

In our passage from Ephesians, Paul, or most likely a disciple of Paul, reveals the mystery: the Good News of Christ is for everyone. God loves everyone. Or, as Archbishop Tutu would say, “God has a big family.”

And then we come to our passage from Matthew’s gospel. Wise men from the East come to worship Jesus. We really don’t know who these people were. Some scholars say they were from Persia, some say from Babylon. Persia would be what we know as Iran; Babylon would be Iraq. Some say that the wise men were Zoroastrian priests. Quite a few say that they were astrologers. Most say that these men knew about the stars and other heavenly bodies, that they observed the stars, and that, back in those days, people believed that the birth of a king was usually revealed in the heavens.These wise men believed that the star was guiding them to something very important. They felt compelled to follow that star wherever it led them. Matthew does not tell us that there were three kings, but tradition quickly developed that story, possibly because Matthew says that they offered three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Scholars tell us that these men made a long journey. It probably took them somewhere between a year and two years. By the time they reached Jesus, the text says they entered a house, not a stable. They had to be wealthy to make such a journey and to bring such gifts. Scholars tell us that it is probably accurate to assume that the wise men had many camels, both to carry them as passengers and to carry their belongings, provisions for the journey, and their gifts for the new king. They also had many servants. They were wealthy and powerful, but they were not literal kings. The text calls them kings in deference to the references to kings in our reading from Isaiah and in the prophecy of Micah.

They made a courtesy visit to King Herod, who is the figure in this story who opposes everything this new king stands for. A dream warned them not to return to Herod, but we can assume they had figured that out anyway.

Many people have created paintings of these wise men. People have written stories and poems about them. People have even created names for them. Why is this? I think it is because we are drawn to them and to their journey. Epiphanies, revelations, discoveries are not just a thing of the past. We also journey to worship our Lord and to offer our gifts. And gifts are another theme of the Epiphany season. Each and every one of you offers gifts to God and others every day. What gift will each of us offer to our Lord this Epiphany?

It is very clear that the wise men were Gentiles. Their coming and worshiping Jesus makes it clear that all people are loved and welcomed by God. In those days, when you came to pay homage to a king, you gave gifts as a courtesy, but I think after this long and arduous journey, their offering was much more than a courtesy. I think that their encounter with this very different king changed their lives. All the old rules and theories were gone. This king comes into the world as a little baby, totally vulnerable, and his rule is going to be the reign of love.

Another theme of the Epiphany season is mission. God loves everyone, and we are called to make that clear to everyone we meet. This June, when Bishop Tom makes his final visitation to Grace, we will be celebrating the ministry of our local food shelf and the construction of a new building to facilitate that ministry.

Later on in Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 25, Jesus talks with his followers about ministry and about how his love calls us to treat people. The first thing he says is, “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.”

This is our king, who calls us to give food to those who are hungry, to give water to those who are thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick, to visit those who are in prison.

This is an entirely new way to look at kingship, leadership and power. In this season of light, love, gifts, and mission, may we give thanks for God’s love, and may we continue to help God build God’s kingdom of peace and harmony.  Amen.