• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • 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:…

Easter 6C May 26, 2019

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Our first reading, from the Book of Acts, is dramatic. Paul and his team are in Troas, a port city in what was then called Asia Minor. Today we call this country Turkey. Herbert O’Driscoll tells us that, if he had looked across the Aegean Sea, Paul would have been able to see Europe.

That night, Paul has a vision. A man from Macedonia is calling to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul immediately realizes that this is a call from God to go and proclaim the good news to the people of Macedonia. The writer of Acts even describes the course they took.

They end up in Philippi, a leading city in the area and a Roman colony. On the sabbath day, they go to an area outside the city gate where, the text says, “we supposed there was a place of prayer.” Scholars think there was no actual synagogue there, but Paul and his team find a group of women gathered. The good news is about to be preached on European soil for the first time. The new faith is leaping from Asia to Europe.

Lydia is described as a “worshiper of God.” This wording indicates that she is a Gentile who is interested in the Jewish faith; she is drawn to a God of justice and mercy. She has her own business. She sells purple fabric to the wealthy and powerful in the area. She also has her own house. She is a woman of means who is accustomed to dealing with the upper classes. God has opened her heart to listen eagerly to what Paul has to say.

We have no record of what Paul said, but it must have touched the minds and hearts of his listeners. Lydia and the entire group are baptized.  Then Lydia invites Paul and his team to stay at her house. Later on, when Paul returns to stay with Lydia and her household, there is a house church in her home. This is how the new faith spread. The good news was preached; people felt the call to follow Jesus; they gathered in the homes of folks who could afford to have homes, and the word spread.

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, we are in a vision looking down from a mountain onto the holy city of Jerusalem. The light and love of God are shining forth.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is telling the disciples that he will be going to be with God. He will be leaving them. This Thursday, the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension. As the disciples look on, our Lord rises to heaven to be with the Father. This glorious window depicts that scene.

We can only imagine how sad those faithful followers of Jesus were to see him move away from them. They would never see him again.

And yet, here in our gospel, he is telling them and us, “Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” He is telling us that if we love him, our actions will show that love. What we say and do will express his love. True love is not only a feeling. It is actions which respect the dignity of every human being. And Jesus says that, if we live lives centered in him, he will make his home with us. God will make God’s home with us. If we follow Jesus, he will be with us always. He will make his home with us.

Then Jesus tells the disciples and us that he will send his Spirit. Jesus says that the Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has taught us. And our Lord gives us his peace, his shalom, his vision of how human life is to be lived

Retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori writes,”That word ‘shalom’ is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but it’s a far richer understanding of peace than we usually recognize. It’s not just a 1970s era hippie holding up two fingers to greet a friend—‘Peace, Bro.’ It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences. Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the divine gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.” (Schori, A Wing and a Prayer,” p. 33.)

As Jesus gives us his vision of Shalom, he also offers us one more paradox. He says, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.”He is going to be with God, but he will also be with us and he will be giving us his grace so that we can help him bring in his kingdom, his shalom across the whole wide earth.

Love is at the root of it all, his love that we know so well—the love that will seek out every lost sheep. strengthen our weak knees, buoy up our spirits, and welcome everyone into his big family. Nothing ca get in the way of his love. Nothing can stop his love.

This week, especially on Thursday, Ascension Day, we meditate on that paradox: Our Lord has gone to be with God and yet he has made his home with us. He is with us, with that unfailing love and grace, leading us and guiding us into his Shalom.  Amen. 

Easter 5C May 19, 2019

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, which I like to call the newspaper of the Jesus Movement, Peter is meeting with the members of the new community of faith in Jerusalem. Those who are convinced that followers of Jesus must follow every letter of the law are upset that Peter is associating with Gentiles. 

This is a pivotal moment in the history of the new community of faith. Are they going to decide that they must stick to their honored traditions and admit only those who follow the law, or are they going to open up the doors to everyone? Are they going to be exclusive or inclusive?

Those who are questioning why Peter would associate with Gentiles are sincere and good people. Peter himself used to feel as they do, that this new faith is only for his own people. But the question for us in every age is: What is God calling us to do?

Peter shares the experience he had up on the roof when he was praying. God showed Peter that people can eat any foods they wish. The dietary laws have been transcended. And there is something else: God has called Peter to go and share the good news with Gentiles. He has just gone to the home of Cornelius the Centurion, and the Holy Spirit has fallen on the people gathered there. Peter and his team have baptized these people because God has given them the gifts of the Spirit.

God is doing a new thing. God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on all people. In this reading, God is showing the early disciples and us that God has a big family. It includes everyone. If those followers of Jesus had not listened to Peter and heard God’s message, we would not be here today. Thank God that Peter and the people gathered in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago listened for God’s voice. May we, too, listen carefully and hear the voice of God.

As we consider our reading from the Book of Revelation, we remember that this book was written in code to inspire and energize the followers of Jesus who were being persecuted. These visions of God and Jesus being worshipped by a great multitude of saints carried our ancestors in the faith through trials and tribulations that we could never imagine.

Just as he spoke to those faithful saints centuries ago, our Lord is telling us, “See, I am making all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” Our Lord will nourish us with living water. He will give us the food of everlasting life. He will help us to meet every challenge.

Our gospel for today is brief, but so powerful. Judas has just gone out to betray Jesus. Our Lord is telling us that by his going through the horror of the cross, God will be glorified. And that is what we Christians believe, that Our Lord has conquered all forms of brokenness, even death. The paradox of the cross is something we all meditate on our whole lives. Out of darkness and suffering and pain, and death, God brings wholeness and hope, and new life. We will never understand this entirely. It is the greatest mystery of our faith. We keep praying about it. Every Good Friday we contemplate the depths of this mystery. In our lives we experience how the presence of God and Jesus and the Spirit can lead us through challenges that we could never have endured without them, and that from these experiences of suffering, we become stronger and more compassionate. From these deathly experiences, we grow more completely into new life.

Jesus is leaving his followers. He will die. They will be without him. They will miss him terribly. But then, as we know, he will appear in a room with locked doors; he will suddenly be there with two followers walking to Emmaus and they will finally realize who he is when they share the bread; he will be there on the beach with a fish and bread breakfast when Peter and the others have been out all night fishing and have caught nothing.

And what is his message to them as he prepares to leave them? What is his message to us, as he hosts this meal for us, as he leads us on the journey of faith?

It’s the message we heard on Maundy Thursday as he washed our feet. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God is doing a new thing. God is dissolving boundaries. The new faith is for everyone. We have a powerful message: God loves everyone.

Yesterday, delegates from all over Vermont gathered in Burlington to elect a new bishop to be a servant leader for the Episcopal Church in Vermont. We have been praying about this for weeks. Our committees have done an excellent job in expressing who we are and in helping us to meet and get to know three wonderful, faithful priests who have felt a call to be the eleventh Bishop of Vermont.

As you may know, we gathered in prayer, and, with God’s help, we called the Rev. Dr. Shannon McVean-Brown to be our Bishop-Elect.                                                                         

Please keep Shannon and her family in your prayers.

On a sturdy foundation of scripture, tradition, and reason, God is doing a new thing. And our Lord is calling us to love one another and to extend his love to everyone.  Amen.

Easter 4C May 12, 2019

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10: 22-30

In our lectionary, whether in Year A, B, or C, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. The psalm is always number 23, and the gospel readings always come from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel.

We begin with this wonderful reading from the Book of Acts. In Joppa, there is a woman who helps people whenever she can, and she loves people. That’s what we, as followers of Jesus, are called to do. Love people and help people. This woman’s name is Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek. Her name means “gazelle.”

A tragedy has struck. Tabitha has died. The followers of Jesus in Joppa have heard that Peter is ministering nearby. They wash Tabitha’s body and lay her out in an upstairs room. Then they send for Peter. Peter gets there as fast as he can and they take him to the upstairs room.

The widows are there, and they have clothing which Tabitha has made. This means that Tabitha had a ministry of giving people clothing which she made herself. The widows are a group of women who also engaged in servant ministry. They were close to Tabitha, and they are devastated. They are weeping.

Peter leads them all outside so that there can be quiet in the room. And then, what does he do? He kneels down and prays. He links himself to God. He opens the channel of communication with God. He becomes a channel of God’s peace and healing. He lets the grace of God flow into him. He allows God to fill him with faith.

And then Peter turns to Tabitha’s body and says, “Tabitha, get up.” We think of so many healings. Elijah raises the son of the widow of Zarephath. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Tabitha opens her eyes, sees Peter, and sits up. He helps her to her feet. The news of this healing spreads all around Joppa, and many believe in Jesus because of it.

And then, Peter goes to stay with Simon, a tanner. The work of a tanner involves touching the hides of dead animals, which according to the law was considered unclean. Peter is staying in the home of a ritually unclean person. The good news is breaking the old boundaries and expanding to include everyone.

This theme of inclusiveness is emphasized in our passage from the Book of Revelation. A great multitude is worshiping God. The new faith is for everyone. God is sheltering and  loving all of them.

Our gospel today is the last part of Jesus’ description of himself as the Good Shepherd. In the earlier parts, he tells us that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him, and his sheep follow him when he calls. He also says that he will die for his sheep. In those days, there were still wild animals in Palestine, and shepherds did indeed die protecting their flocks from wolves and even lions and bears.

It is winter, and Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication of the temple. This is what we call Hanukkah. The religious authorities ask Jesus how long he will keep them waiting. Why won’t he tell them that he is the messiah? The main reason why he does not tell them is that they do not believe anything he is saying. They have no idea what he is talking about. He is calling us to undergo a complete transformation from earthly concerns to the values of his kingdom. They are so focused on their own limited human ideas about preserving their power that they are totally closed to Jesus and to anything he might say.

Jesus puts this in terms that his followers in the crowd will understand. He tells the authorities, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.” Our Lord is saying that the authorities have fought him every step of the way, but his true followers have been with him. They have listened to him, eaten with him, walked with him, learned from him. They know his voice. When he calls, they follow. And he knows us. He loves us. We love him. There is a relationship between him and us that is so close nothing can break it, not even death.

My sheep hear my voice,” he says, “and I know them, and they follow me,” He knows each of us. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, our foibles, our flaws, our sins, our gifts, everything about us. And he loves us, foibles, flaws, and all. He loves us. He’s not trying to protect his turf or get power as the religious authorities are. He simply loves us.

“I give them eternal life,” Jesus says. This means that he gives us life in an entirely new and joyful and deep dimension. Life that’s really worth living. A life in which we are transformed into his likeness so that we can accept his love and share that love with everyone.

And then he says, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” He will protect us. This does not mean that nothing bad will happen to us. Following Jesus does not mean that we are immune from tragedies, illnesses, loss of dear ones. We live in a fallen creation. The shalom of God has not yet come. But he will be with us. He will be out in front of us, leading us to the green pastures and the still waters, helping us to find safety in the midst of it all. And he will be walking beside us every step of the way. And sometimes, when the challenges are beyond us, he will carry us in his arms. He says, “What the Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.” We are in God’s hands. The entire creation is in God’s hands.

And then, “The Father and I are one.” Jesus and the Father are one. Or, as I like to say, Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. If we want to see who and what God is calling us to be, we can look at the life of Jesus in the gospels and see a blueprint for living a human life. That’s what we mean when we say that Jesus is the Word of God, the logos, the model, the blueprint for human living. He is here with us now, He is with us whoever we gather. He is leading and guiding us.

Let us listen to his voice. Let us follow him. Amen.