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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 3A January 26, 2020

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Our first reading, this powerful and moving passage from Isaiah, is also our first reading on Christmas Day. Scholars tell us that this text dates back to around 725 B.C.E. The Assyrian Empire has defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, has been living in deep fear and anguish. They have been terrified that the Assyrians will defeat them, too.

A new king has been born, and God is telling the people that they are moving from the darkness of that fear into the light. God has freed them from the oppressor. There will be a new kingdom of justice and compassion. As Christians, we immediately think of the reign of our King, Jesus, who comes among us to break every yoke/

Our psalm describes what life is like in the light, the presence of God. Yes, life has many challenges, but we do not live in fear. We sense the presence and protection of God. Both our reading from Isaiah and our psalm for today are filled with the  joy of being in the presence of God.

Last week, our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians focused on the gifts which God has given them—and us— so that they and we, can follow Christ and be a loving community. In today’s passage, Paul is beginning to address some of the major problems that are affecting the community in Corinth.

There are some people in the Corinthian community who feel that their gifts are superior to the gifts of other people. For example, some of the people feel that the gift of speaking in tongues is the highest gift of all, and, if you don’t have that gift, you are inferior. In Chapter 13 of this letter, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that the greatest gift is love.

 In today’s text, Paul is pointing out that the members of the community have divided up into factions. Some are following a man named Apollos, a charismatic teacher who had come through town and attracted followers in the congregation. Others are following Paul, others Peter, and so on. The question is, who are we supposed to be following? The answer is, not Paul, nor Peter, not Apollos, but Jesus. 

Herbert O’Driscoll talks about “the indignant claim to being right or superior or more genuine than others….a putting down of someone else, an excluding of them from some real or imagined charmed circle of orthodoxy or shared spiritual experience. The message—rarely put into words—is, ‘I am of Christ, and you are not!’” (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year A Vol. 1, p. 81.)

We can tell from reading this passage that Paul is deeply troubled by these divisions. Christ was crucified for us, not Paul. We were baptized in the name of Christ, and he is the head of the Church. One of the great strengths of Grace Church is that you keep these truths constantly in mind. You remember that you are following Christ, and that he calls you to be a community of love.

In our gospel for today, Jesus learns that John the Baptist has been put in prison. This is ominous news. Jesus had gone South to be baptized by John the Baptist. This brought him closer to Jerusalem, where Herod Antipas ruled. Now he moves north to Galilee, where there is more distance from the center of Herod’s ruthless and unjust tyranny.

And what does our Lord do? He can see that Herod is asserting his deadly control, ready to extinguish any flickering flame of justice or compassion. He could have allowed fear to deflect him from his mission. He could have run away. He could have tried to hide. 

But he does not run away or hide. He knows that it is time for him to form a community. He knows that he is not going to spread the good news of the light and love of God alone. He knows what Isaiah has written. He knows that it is time for the light to shine. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he sees Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, casting their nets, and he says those words we will never forget: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, they leave their nets and follow him. A little further along, he sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee, on the boat with their father, and he calls them. They leave the boat and their father, and follow him.

And then, very simply, Matthew tells us that Jesus went all around Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. We can imagine that, as he and Peter and Andrew and James and John went from place to place, others joined them.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We have seen that light. Our darkness has been enlightened by the light and love of our Lord. We are following him. With his grace, we are sharing his love.

In our Collect for today, we pray that God will give us the grace to answer “the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation…”

This past Tuesday, the clients of the food shelf gathered in the new building. There, Nancy and Debbie welcomed the people and signed them up to receive food. Some folks shared their needs and illnesses and challenges. We prayed with them. And then we prayed together for all the folks who come for help. Meanwhile, our volunteers were at work in the church undercroft packing and distributing the food. It was a very cold day, but they  cheerfully helped the clients carry their food to their vehicles.

Our volunteers did a lot of hard work in that extremely cold weather, but there was no complaining. Our clients had to wait for a long period of time but there was no complaining. There was a lot of laughter, and love, and light. In this and many other ways, we are receiving the grace to answer the call of our Lord and to share the good news of his salvation. Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts. Amen. 

Epiphany 2A January 19, 2020

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

This sermon will be shorter in order to allow time for our annual meeting.

In our first reading, the prophet known as the Second Isaiah is proclaiming God’s good news to God’s people. God is going to bring the exiles home. God’s servant is not only Isaiah but the entire nation of God’s people. All of God’s people are going to become a light to the whole world, and the message of God’s love is going to be extended to all people. Passages such as this are the basis for Archbishop Tutu’s statement that “God has a big family.” God’s family includes everyone.

In our gospel, John the Baptist is telling everyone that Jesus is the Savior. Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus, and he asks them what they are looking for. They answer “Rabbi,” addressing him as a teacher, and he responds, “Come and see.” One of them is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. These two men stay with Jesus and learn from him that day. By the end of the day, Andrew goes to his brother, Simon Peter, and says, “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew takes Simon Peter to Jesus, who takes one look at this man, sees deeply into his spirit, and says, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas,” meaning Peter.  Like Paul who came after him, Simon’s transformation is so profound that he receives a new name. He will be the leader of the apostles.

In our epistle, Paul is writing to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. He begins his letter by emphasizing the many gifts God has given the people in that community. This is true of every community of people following Jesus.

Peter and Paul both realized what Isaiah had said several centuries before them—that God loves all people and that the good news of Jesus is for all people all around the world.

Our collect for today tells us that Jesus is the light of the world. And then our collect carries forward the concept presented by Isaiah, that  we, God’s people, illumined by God’s word and sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. In other words, we are praying that we, you and I, lighted up and inspired by the scriptures we are reading today and the sacrament of Christ’s presence which we will be sharing, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s risen presence, and that we may spread his light and love everywhere we go.

This is a wonderful prayer. As we share the light and love of Christ, we often do that more by attitudes and actions than by words. As we follow our Lord, we find that he is transforming us just as he transformed Peter and Paul and Mary Magdalene and Teresa of Avila and so many others.

In his address to the 79th General Convention on July 4, 2018, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry described what happened when people got to know Jesus. Bishop Curry says, “They found themselves loving the way Jesus loved, giving the way Jesus gives, forgiving the way Jesus forgives, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly just like Jesus.” As Bishop Curry says, “If it’s about love, it’s about God. If it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God.”

Lord Jesus, give us your grace that we may continue to share your light and love.  Amen.

Summer Music at Grace 2020

DSCN2948Grace Church’s summer music series is starting to take shape. Please mark your calendars for Friday, May 22, when the 18th Farewell Reunion comes to Grace and check back soon for the complete schedule.

 

Sheldon Interfaith Food Shelf

Grace Church is pleased to be a partner with our local churches in the Sheldon Food Shelf, hosted and operated by the Sheldon United Methodist Church and located in its new space on Church Street, Sheldon Creek, next to the Sheldon UMC.

The Sheldon Interfaith Food Shelf operates on the third Tuesday of each month, opening at 8:30 a.m. and continuing until all are served.  The food shelf is also available on an as-needed basis by appointment. John Gorton coordinates the food shelf.

Begun in the 1990s as a ministry of the Sheldon UMC, the food shelf served 3919 people from all over Franklin County in 2018. In 2019, the food shelf received a grant from the United Way of Northwest Vermont to help with the construction of the new building and expansion of services, including community meals.

Grace church applied for and received a grant from the Diocese of Vermont to purchase kitchen equipment and other materials for the food shelf. Grace Church’s rector, Janet Brown, and clerk, jan hilborn, sit on the advisory board of the Food Shelf and volunteer during food shelf hours of operation.

 

Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Christ  January 12, 2020

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Our opening reading is a glorious poem from the prophet we call the Second Isaiah. The people who have been in exile in Babylon are coming home. The new society of peace, compassion, and justice is described.  The passage also described God’s servant. We as Christians think of Jesus as that servant. But scholars tell us that this description of the servant can also apply to God’s people. 

The servant and the servant society are here to bring peace. The servant is gentle. He does not break a bruised reed. The servant brings forth justice. With God’s grace, the servant nation is a light to the world. The servant nation opens the eyes of the blind and frees the prisoners.

Our gospel today is the baptism of our Lord as described by Matthew. This year, I have been thinking of Jesus and John the Baptist in this amazing encounter. We know that their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were relatives, and thus Jesus and John were also relatives, Back in the old days we used to think of them as cousins, but the truth is we are not sure of their exact relationship.

Soon after she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would become the mother of Jesus, Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, who had become pregnant even though she was way past childbearing age. At that time, the baby John the Baptist, who was in Elizabeth’s womb, jumped with joy at the presence of Jesus.

Now they meet again. John has been with the Essenes studying, and he is now called to offer people a baptism of repentance.  Jesus comes from Galilee to John at the river Jordan. Imagine how they felt. They had both studied the scriptures. They were aware that John the Baptist was the forerunner described by the prophets, and that Jesus was the Messiah. 

Imagine your relative who is the Messiah coming to you for baptism, This is why John tells Jesus that Jesus should be baptizing him.  But they accept what they need to do to fulfill the scriptures. John baptizes his relative. The Spirit of God descends like a dove and alights on Jesus. God speaks, “This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased.” This is the beginning of Jesus’ formal ministry. I wonder how John the Baptist felt at this moment. He has just baptized the Savior.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, we see the result of Jesus’ baptism and ministry. A centurion named Cornelius is described as “a devout man who feared God.” He is a faithful Gentile soldier, a commander of 100 men, who is generous and kind to all and who supports his local synagogue even though he is not Jewish. An angel of God has told Cornelius to send to Joppa, find a man named Peter, and ask Peter to come to his home. While the messengers from Cornelius are on their way to find Peter, Peter is having a vision.

Peter has been a faithful Jew all his life, He has kept the dietary laws and has been faithful in observing every part of the law. He goes up to the roof to pray and God gives him a vision of all kinds of food. Then God says, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter replies that he cannot  do that because he has never eaten anything that is unclean according to the law. God tells him that now everything has been made clean. There are no more barriers. Every barrier has been removed. Just then the messengers from Cornelius arrive, and Peter goes with them to Cornelius’ house.

When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls down before him and worships him. Peter tells him to get up, saying, “I am only a mortal.” Peter finds out that all of Cornelius’ family and friends have gathered at his house to listen to what Peter has to say, and he realizes why his vision of the foods is so important. He shares this with Cornelius and the people gathered, and he  tells them that, as a faithful Jew, he was not supposed to associate with Gentiles, but he has learned in the vision sent by God that nothing is profane or unclean. Peter says,” I truly understand that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears[God] and does what is right is acceptable to [God].” Then Peter describes the ministry and message of Jesus. It is the ministry of the servant described by Isaiah.

While Peter is sharing this message with the people at Cornelius’ home, the Holy Spirit falls on all the people, and Peter and his team realize that they should baptize these people. 

The message is that Jesus is the Savior of all people. This is the first baptism of Gentiles in the Book of Acts. This is the sign that the new faith is for everyone. God loves everyone.

The Epiphany season is the season of light, love and mission. With the baptism of the first Gentiles to join the new faith at the home of Cornelius, the new faith began to spread around the whole world. We are called to help to share this good news. God is a God of love. God has a big family. God is a lover, not a lawyer.

Each of us in our daily life shares the good news of God’s love. Some of us do that in words. Some of us share the good news through our actions. We don’t say a whole lot. We just show God’s love to others. Some of  us do both.

As members of the body of Christ, reaching out to share his love, healing, and  forgiveness with others, we are part of the servant nation spreading the love of God in the world. May we be the eyes of Christ, looking at others with compassion. May we be the hands of Christ, reaching our to others to meet their needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. We are his living body here on earth, sharing his love with all the people we meet. Amen,

Christmas 2   January 5, 2020

Jeremiah 31:7-14
Psalm 84:1-8
Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a
Matthew 2:1-12

Our opening reading from the prophet Jeremiah describes the exiles coming home from the north.  Everyone is returning home—not only those who are healthy and strong, but also the blind, the lame, those who are pregnant, even those who are giving birth. God is calling the people home, and there is great rejoicing. The text tells us that the life of the people will become “Like a watered garden,” a life of safety and peace and growth and plenty.

Psalm 84 was sung by pilgrims going into the temple in Jerusalem. It is a song about our desire for union with God. 

Our reading from the Letter to the Ephesians tells us that God loved us before the world was formed. Before time, God loved us and called us to be God’s children. We will spend our entire lives trying to grasp the depth of God’s love for us.

Our gospel for today is the story of the wise men coming to “pay homage” to Jesus. The text does not say that there were three wise men. Tradition has developed that part of the story. There are many theories about the star that guided these men on their journey. Some say that it was a conjunction of planets; others say it was Halley’s comet. Scholars think these men were astrologers and priests from Persia, people who observed the stars very carefully. Translating them into more modern terms, I see them as deeply spiritual scientists, astronomers or astrophysicists. They were people who were respected and taken very seriously. And they saw something in the sky that they knew had great meaning. They saw that star and they had to follow that star no matter what. Their sole purpose was to “pay homage” to this new king.

When they finally reached Judea, they followed protocol and went to King Herod and asked where the child was, and we know that this news of a new king terrified Herod, who so insincerely asked the wise men to let him know where the child was so that he, too, could go and “pay him homage.” What he really wanted to do was to kill the infant who was a threat to his power.

Biblical scholar Thomas Troeger tells us that the Greek word translated “pay homage” is proskyneo.  Troeger writes, “Because ‘journey’ is a primal metaphor for the life of faith, [we] might explore how the [journey of the wise men] begins with their need to give themselves utterly and completely to the only one who is worthy of worship. This implication is clear in the Greek, since proskyneo was commonly used  to describe the custom of prostrating oneself at the feet of a king. The physical posture dramatically expresses the idea of giving not just gifts, but our entire selves to Christ.”

Troeger points out that, when Herod says that he, too would like to pay homage to the new king, the irony of his statement is striking. Troeger writes, “The irony is that Herod unknowingly states what in truth he needs to do. The despot who rules by violence and fear needs to prostrate himself before the power of compassion and justice, needs to give himself entirely to the grace that is incarnate in the child whom the magi are seeking.”

Troeger reminds us that, when they finally reach the house, not a stable or a cave because their journey has taken at least a year, the wise men go into the house, see Mary and Jesus, and “pay homage.”

He concludes, “Only after this act of worship, only after giving themselves completely to Christ, do they present their material gifts.”

May we also give ourselves completely to Christ.  Amen.