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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 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 October 9, 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 October 16, 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:…

Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Ashes are a symbol of mortality. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. It is good to be reminded of our mortality and our weakness. Yet within these ashes is a paradox, because these ashes are made from the palms we waved on Palm Sunday, palms we would have placed on the road in front of our Lord to welcome him as our King. We are on a journey to grow into the likeness of Christ our King. We are on a journey to grow from brokenness to wholeness. This Ash Wednesday we will be putting the ashes on our own foreheads. We will be fasting from the sensation of having the ashes placed on our foreheads by a fellow-journeyer in Christ. Some us do not have ashes to place on our foreheads, but we can still be aware of our mortality by tracing the sign of the cross on our foreheads. All of us are here because we want to observe a holy and life-giving Lent. The word Lent, after all, comes from the Middle English word lente, meaning “spring.”

We are beginning a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and spiritual growth. Some of us are also participating in the Social Justice Bible Challenge and Lent Madness.

Our opening reading comes from the person we call the Third Isaiah. God’s people have come home from their exile in Babylon and have begun to rebuild the temple and the city wall. They have become discouraged at the huge task before them. They fast and pray, but they argue and treat each other badly. They oppress their workers. The summary of the law calls us to love God and to treat others as we would have then treat us. Their behavior does not match their profession of faith.

God calls them to an authentic fast that includes social justice. And God calls them and us to “Loose the bonds of injustice,…to let the oppressed go free”…to share our bread with the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless, to clothe the naked—in other words, to extend the love of God to our brothers and sisters of all colors and creeds.

In our epistle, Paul calls us to “be reconciled to God,” In order to do that, we need to take the words of God spoken through Isaiah very seriously. As Christians, we are called to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

In our gospel, our Lord reminds us that our spiritual growth is between us and God. We are not focusing on earthly treasure, but on the precious heavenly treasure of God’s love and grace. We are fasting, praying, and giving to deepen our love for God and others.

This year, we have been through so much with Covid and everything else. Bishop Shannon is inviting us to focus on social justice issues, and I think that is a wonderful idea. We need to heal our nation, just as Isaiah’s community needed to heal their nation twenty-five hundred years ago. God is calling us to treat each other as beloved children of our loving God.

During this liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we would normally celebrate Holy Eucharist. We will not be doing that. We have been fasting from Holy Communion for eleven months, except for one Distanced Communion. We have not been together in person inside our church building for a very long time. We have much in common with God’s people who spent several decades in exile in Babylon.

My point is that we have already been engaged in a very long fast from singing together in person, celebrating Holy Communion, talking to each other face to face, hugging each other, gathering for coffee hour and conversation in person. So, as we follow our Lenten discipline, I ask that we try to be especially aware of God’s love for us, God’s love that cannot be stopped or diminished. And then let us be aware our love for God and each other, our love for all our brothers and sisters, and let us work, fast, and pray to increase and deepen that love. Let us work and pray that we may become “repairers of the breach” and “restorers of streets to live in.” Amen.

Meditation and A Prayer of Self-Offering

We have just exchanged the Peace and sung the Offertory Hymn. As we all know, we will not be celebrating Holy Eucharist. This is a huge loss. It has been an extended exile, a wandering in the wilderness. Nothing can replace sharing Holy Eucharist. Nothing can replace greeting and hugging each other at the Peace. But rather than simply reverting to the ending for Morning Prayer to conclude the service, I wanted to acknowledge the fast we have been in and the exile we have been experiencing.

We are not able literally to stand before the altar at Grace and place bread, wine, and money on the altar, to represent our offering of our God-given time, talent and treasure to God, but, at this time of offering when we would normally move into the Eucharistic Prayer, we offer to you, our loving God, our feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, hopelessness, powerlessness, all the feelings that are welling up during this time of exile and pandemic.

Loving and forgiving and healing God, we thank you for keeping us together, for giving us strength to keep gathering virtually. Thank you for your gift of faith, for those glimmers of hope, for the gift of perseverance. Thank you for binding us together with your love.

Lord Jesus, we are not celebrating Communion, but we know that you are here with us, You told us that where two or three are gathered, you would be with us and you would hear our prayers. We cannot literally receive your Body and Blood today, but we know that you are giving us spiritual food and energy. 

We know that you are walking the Way of Love, the Way of the Cross, with us. Thank you for your presence and for your love. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit leading and guiding us. Because of you, we are here. You have called us together.

With all our heart, we thank you, and we offer our selves and our lives to your service. Lead us and guide us, that we may observe a Holy Lent, that we may love and serve you with singleness of heart, and that we may share your love with others. In your Holy Name, the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

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