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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:…

Last Sunday after Pentecost  Proper 29 Christ the King November 24, 2019

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 4, p. 50 BCP
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 12:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday. The season after Pentecost is coming to an end, and we are looking forward to the season of Advent.

In our reading from the prophet Jeremiah, God is speaking to the people. There have been many unfaithful leaders. God is now going to be the shepherd of the people. God will lead God’s people home from exile. And, especially significant for us, God will raise up a Righteous Branch, a good and wise king who rules with justice. In these words we as Christians see a description of our King, Jesus Christ.

Our canticle for today is the song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Zechariah is looking forward to the coming of our Lord, and he is addressing his own infant son, who is going to be the forerunner, telling everyone that the Savior is coming.

In our reading from Colossians, Paul prays that we may “be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,” that is the power of Jesus. He has “rescued us from the powers of darkness.” He is the head of the Church, which is the Body of Christ here on earth, and we are members of that Body. We are as close to each other as the cells in a human body. We depend on each other. We support each other. We are his hands to reach out in love, his eyes to look on others with compassion, his feet to bring help to those in need.

In our gospel for this day, we are at the feet of our Lord as he is being crucified. He asks God to forgive the people who are doing this because they do not understand what they are doing. People taunt him, yelling at him to save himself if he is so powerful.

There are two prisoners, one on each side of him, One joins the cries to Jesus to save himself—and the two criminals. But the other sees who Jesus really is. He sees that Jesus has done nothing to deserve this punishment. He asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. And Jesus tells him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The crowd sees Jesus as an earthly king, an earthly leader who will do anything he can to save himself. But Jesus is not an earthly king. He has come to save others. We are following him. He is our Good Shepherd. He is our king, a king like no other.

Jesus is the eternal Word who called the whole creation into being, and he will come again to complete his work of creation and reconciliation. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. As we read and learn about the ministry of our Lord here on earth, we see how God feels about us.

God loves us with a love that nothing can stop. God gives us gifts so that we can live our lives in joy and do our ministries. Gifts of listening, healing, growing things, rescuing dogs, singing, playing instruments, keeping the books, caring for the creation, making places and experiences accessible, and on and on the list goes.

For the next two or three weeks, we will be making our offerings to the United Thank Offering, also know as UTO. Every time we are thankful for something, we put a coin in our box or other container and at the end of the year, we put it all together and give it to UTO to help people all around our country and the world. The UTO is an outgrowth of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church. Grace Church has a long and active history of participation in this ministry. 

Also, we will be making our pledges to God for the coming year. Our pledge is also a result of thanksgiving to God for all of God’s gifts to us. For me,  the main gift is God’s amazing love. Each of us can spend our whole life just learning to absorb that love. God knows us, knows our flaws and our gifts and our foibles. Even though God knows our weaknesses, God loves us. As Paul says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

God gives us gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Every moment we have is a gift from God. Out of all the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that God gives us, we return a worthy portion to God in our pledge. If we are giving contributions to groups like the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society, those are part of God’s gifts to us that we are sharing with others. When we give time and energy to help others, that is part of our pledge. We do this because we are so grateful to God for all of God’s blessings,

This Thursday is that very special feast of Thanksgiving—a day set apart for us to be with family and friends and to be grateful for all the many gifts God bestows on us. 

This Sunday we have two very important themes. One is the theme of  giving thanks. The attitude of gratitude is a powerful force for good. And the other theme is that Christ is our King, a very different kind of king. He is not focused on power—he has all the power in the world. He is focused on love, and he is focused on loving us. He is leading us into life in a new dimension. He is leading us in a process of transformation. He is calling us to become more like him. He is calling us to help him build his kingdom, his shalom of peace and harmony where everyone treats others as he or she wants to be treated.

This week, let us take time to thank God for the many blessings God is giving us. And let us also take some time to meditate on our King, Jesus, the Lord of Life, and, to quote Richard of Chichester, let us ask our Lord to give us the grace “to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly day by day.”

Let us turn to page 246 and pray together the collect for Thanksgiving.

 Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Pentecost 23 Proper 28 November 17, 2019

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our opening reading is from the person we call the Third Isaiah. Biblical scholar James D. Newsome places the time of this passage around 475 B.C. (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year C, p. 596.) It is fifty years since the exiles have come back home to Jerusalem from Babylon. They have built the new temple, but it pales in comparison to the original temple built by King Solomon. 

There is still a great deal of rubble in the city. The city walls have yet to be rebuilt. Not all the people have come home to help in this daunting project of rebuilding. Many have remained in the relative safety of the city of Babylon.  The people of God are becoming discouraged

We all know what can happen when a group of people are tackling a huge task. Scholars tell us that, rather than remaining faithful to God’s call to love God and each other, some of the people turned to worshipping other Gods. There were squabbles, and factions developed.

Among the people facing this enormous challenge of rebuilding was the person we call the Third Isaiah. We know very little about him except for his powerful prophetic writings. We can imagine him as a person of deep faith watching the people of God dissolve into arguing and splitting into opposing groups. Newsome writes, “In this despairing situation, however, certain individuals began to raise their heads and to sing the old songs of joy and hope, but in a new key.….Yes… Jerusalem had been restored—somewhat at least. But God’s eye was on another Jerusalem also—a Jerusalem not of bricks and mortar, but of the human heart.” Newsome, p. 597.)

This faithful prophet brings God’s word to God’s people trying to rebuild Jerusalem centuries ago and to us today. God is about to create “New heavens and a new earth.” Infants will live long lives. People will build houses and will not have to leave them to escape an invader. People will plant gardens and vineyards and enjoy the harvest.

God tells us that before we call, God will answer. This is a foretaste of the promise that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we cannot find the words. And then we hear an echo of Isaiah’s vision of the kingdom of God in Chapter 11. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. ….They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

In our epistle for today, The Thessalonians are being led to believe that Jesus is coming very soon or has come already to complete his work of creation. Some people are quitting their jobs. In all the free time they have, they are meddling in other people’s lives. 

When these folks quit their jobs, this means that they are not able to carry out their contributions to the community of faith. Back in those days, followers of Jesus shared their wealth so that they could help out those who needed food or clothing or shelter. In listening to the false teachers who are telling them that our Lord’s second coming is going to happen soon or already has happened, these people are not carrying out their ministries in the community of faith and are weakening the community. Each of us is called to carry out our ministries so that the community of faith can remain strong. 

Paul writes these wise words, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” When our Lord comes again to judge the earth, it will be clear that he is here. Until then, we need to be active in our ministries and be prepared to meet him when he comes.

In our gospel for today, our Lord is preparing his followers for persecution. Many will come in his name and say that they are Jesus who has returned to lead us. The scriptures talk about times of turmoil that will precede his coming again, and this makes it easy for  misguided people to stir up fear by pointing to signs of the end times.

As we look around our world, we see many signs of turmoil. As we look around our nation, we see a great deal of tension and division.

God gives us a vision of new heavens and a new earth, a vision of unity, peace, harmony, and healing. God calls us to work together.

In reference to our reading from Isaiah, the great preacher and scholar Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “There is not a single imperative in the work of Isaiah that we do not need today. To be pointed toward the future. To be given a shining vision of what may be possible. To be called to build enthusiastically and confidently, trusting that there is a purpose in the events of human history. Finally to be given a vision of reconciliation between the endless warring forces of our culture. These are what we long for, These are what we will seek till the end of time.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us Year C Vol 3, p. 166.)

 

Pentecost 22 Proper 27C November 10, 2017

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Psalm 98
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

In our opening reading for today, the people have returned from their terrible time of exile in Babylon. They have begun to rebuild the Jerusalem temple, but they are getting discouraged. As they look at the dimensions of what they have begun to build, they realize this temple will not be as large or as beautiful as the original temple built by King Solomon.

Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest, have been trying to encourage the people, and the prophet Haggai joins in this ministry of encouragement. He asks if there is anyone among them who remembers the glorious original temple, and we can imagine that among those who have returned, there might be some elderly folks who do remember that former temple and think the present effort is not very impressive.

But Haggai calls upon Zarubbabel and Joshua and all the people to take courage. He tells them that God is with them. Speaking on behalf of God, Haggai says, “ My spirit abides among you; do not fear.” And then HaggaI says those words that we remember from Handel’s Messiah. God is going to shake the nations. Historians tell us there was a great deal of turmoil in the world at this time. There were many rebellions in the Persian Empire, notably in Egypt. 

But little Judah, who was a very small part of the great Persian empire at this point in history, escaped all the international struggles. Scholars tell us that they rebuilt the temple. It took a long time, but they did it. They planted their crops, raised their families, and enjoyed increasing prosperity.

God is with us. Always.

In our reading from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, the congregation is in great distress. Scholars tell us that irresponsible teachers had tried to tell the people that our Lord’s second coming had already taken place. This seems to be a popular false teaching. How may times have people proclaimed that the Lord is about to come and we need to go to the top of a mountain or out into the wilderness to prepare. The day comes and nothing happens.

Paul encourages the Thessalonians and us to stand firm and hold fast to our faith. He tells us not to be “quickly shaken in mind” by things we might hear. We are following Jesus, and, with his grace, we are trying to live in such a way that we will be ready to greet him whenever he comes to complete his work of creation. We are a people of faith, not fear.

In our gospel for today, Jesus has entered Jerusalem. His long journey to the holy city is now complete. He has thrown the money changers from the temple. He has wept over the city that kills the prophets. He has wished that the city would let him protect them as a mother hen protects her chicks.

The Sadducees are asking a question, but they are not asking it from a desire to learn. They are trying to trap and embarrass Jesus. They do not even believe in a resurrection, yet they come up with a far fetched example to test Jesus. This is based on the part of the law that says, if a woman’s husband dies, his brother must marry the woman and take care of her. The Sadducees put forth a highly improbable example of a woman who loses seven husbands. And their question is, whose wife will she be in heaven?

Jesus responds in a down-to-earth way. Here on earth, we need to marry and have children so that there will continue to be human beings on the earth, but heaven is entirely different. In heaven, people are like angels. In his First Letter to The Corinthians (15:44), Paul says that in heaven we have spiritual bodies, and I picture our spiritual bodies as something like the bodies of the angels in Madeleine L’Engle’s books— in heaven, we are pulsating beings of light.

Even though the Sadducees are trying to make Jesus look like a fool, he deftly turns the tables on them. And then he makes the most important point of all. God is God of the living, and we are all alive in God.

In this gospel we have a picture of religious authorities who think they are so brilliant with all their irrelevant questions designed to foil Jesus. But they are completely unaware that, in looking at him they are looking into the face of God. 

What are these readings saying to us today? Our lesson from Haggai reminds us that great things often have humble beginnings and that God calls us always to have hope. 

Our reading from Second Thessalonians reminds us not to let false teachers deceive us so that we get alarmed, or shaken, or upset. Any teaching we hear must be measured against the gospel of Christ. Paul writes, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and deed.”

And our Lord reminds us that we are in life eternal. We are being transformed every day. We are growing more and more like our Lord. God is God of the living, and, as Paul says, “In Christ [we] are made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22.) Amen.

All Saints Sunday Year C November 3, 2019

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

Our opening reading today is from the Book of Daniel. This book was written to inspire God’s people during a time when they were being persecuted by an extremely cruel tyrant called Antiochus IV. The book purports to be taking place at the time of the Exile from 586 to 538 B.C.E., but it was actually written during the time of Antiochus. Using information in the book, scholars can actually date it to 167-164 B.C.E. (Gene M. Tucker, Preaching through the Christian Year C, p. 482.)

We remember Daniel as the great hero who won the battle against the lions in that famous den. Our passage today describes a vision. The four winds of heaven stir up the great sea, and four great beasts come up out of the sea. The actual descriptions of the four beasts are omitted, but they represent four empires—the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the Greeks.

Earthly empires rise and fall, but the holy ones of God will receive and possess God’s kingdom forever. This was a beacon of hope and inspiration to God’s people struggling under the cruelty of a tyrant who was persecuting them.

In our reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, we read of the precious inheritance we have received. Like all the saints who came before us, we have set our hope on Christ. We read these stirring words. “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which he has called you.” There is that word again—hope. We are a people of hope.

We have received such a great gift. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who have gone before us, those who are here now, and those who will follow, and they are all cheering us on as we run the race, following our Lord Jesus. As Sister Rachel Hosmer of the Order of Saint Helena used to say, “Christ has won the victory. We are part of the mopping up operation.”

As we celebrate All Saints Sunday and think of all those who have gone before us—Laura, Hoddie, Charlotte, Harriet, Gertrude, Geraldine, A. J., Theresa, Gwen, Ruth, Frederika, Kate, Arthur, Eva, Albert, Sue, Alvin, Nat and so many more, we contemplate our gospel for today, Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain.

Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount is easier. It has all blessings and no woes. It is placed more on a spiritual level—“Blessed are the poor in spirit” rather than simply “Blessed are the poor.” In Luke’s gospel, our Lord says, blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who weep, those who are hated, excluded, reviled, and defamed on account of our Lord. Woe to those who are rich, full, laughing. Woe to you when people speak well of you. As many have observed, it is a huge reversal. 

Fred Craddock reminds us of the time when our Lord read the prophecy of Isaiah in the synagogue. When he finished, he said, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled.’ (Luke 4:21.) Craddock writes, “The today that Jesus declared in Nazareth still prevails. The messiah who will come has come, and the prophecy of Isaiah  (Isaiah 61:1-2) concerning the poor, the diseased, the imprisoned, and the oppressed is no longer a hope but is an agenda for the followers of Jesus.” (Craddock, Interpretation: Luke, p.88.)

In this sermon on the plain, on the level, Jesus is calling us to take the poor and hungry as seriously as we do the rich and those who have plenty of food. This is just another way of saying that this gospel is calling us to honor our baptismal covenant to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

The last portion of this reading is even more challenging to us. Our Lord calls us to love our enemies and to pray for those who abuse us. Craddock writes, “This unit… lays down the general principle that Jesus’ followers do not reciprocate, do not retaliate, and do not draw their behavior patterns from those who would victimize them.” (Craddock, p. 89.) At the same time we need to say that, if someone is being abused, they have every right to seek help. healing, and justice. 

And then he sums it up with what we know as the Golden Rule. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Every major religion in the world has this rule or something like it. As we all know, if all of us followed the rule, God’s kingdom would come to the earth.

As we meditate on these readings, I thank God that you and I are not in this moment living in fear of being killed by someone like Antiochus IV, but there are many people who are facing such persecution in one way or another, and I hope we will pray for them and pray and work for the day when there will be peace on earth, when everyone will have enough to eat, water to drink, clothing  and safe shelter and medical care and good work to do.

As I think of these beatitudes, I think of our interfaith food shelf. People are welcomed with hospitality and respect. No one is turned away.  Our two main upstairs greeters who welcome folks and keep our records for the United Way and other agencies know almost all of our clients by name. I have seen them deal with folks who feel ashamed to have to ask for food. I have seen our volunteers extend God’s love to these people. I think that is what our Lord is talking about in this gospel.

As we celebrate with joy this great feast of All Saints, I hope we will feel the energy and love of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. May we continue to build God’s kingdom of peace, harmony, and wholeness  Amen.