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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 18, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 4B April 25, 2021

Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, Peter and John have healed a man who has been lame from birth. A crowd has gathered, and the authorities have become alarmed at the size of the crowd and at Peter’s insistence that the man’s healing happened in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

Peter is not afraid. He is so filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit that he feels compelled to share the good news that Jesus has healed this man.

Our psalm for today is one of the most beloved psalms in the Bible. When we meditate on this psalm, it fills us with assurance of the presence of our Lord, and it reminds us that Jesus is leading us every step of the way. He leads us to good pastures so that we can be nourished by his presence, and he leads us to the still waters where we can be quiet and know that our Lord is right beside us.

Our reading from the First Letter of John continues the exploration of the theme of God’s love. One of the gems of this passage is, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” 

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus has just healed a blind man on the sabbath, and the Pharisees are outraged. They have interrogated the man and his parents. Now they are questioning Jesus. In both our reading from Acts and our gospel for today, the authorities are upset about the power of Jesus to heal people.

Jesus says that he is the good shepherd. This year, as we are moving through this pandemic, I want to be sure that we understand the biblical shepherd. We often think of flocks of sheep being rather unruly, and border collies herding these sheep.

The biblical shepherd did not work that way. The biblical shepherd went ahead of the sheep to let them know that the path was safe. Because the sheep knew and trusted the shepherd, they followed as a group. In the village was a sheepfold. This was an impressive structure with very high walls. In that high wall was a very sturdy door. Someone guarded that door at night to keep the sheep safe. When each shepherd came to the door the next morning, the gatekeeper would let the shepherd in.

Each shepherd had a different voice and a different call. When the shepherd called, only his own sheep would follow. The sheep and the shepherd got to know each other very well. The shepherd knew the gifts and flaws of every sheep. He knew their idiosyncrasies, their little foibles and characteristics. He knew everything about them. And he loved those sheep. The sheep knew their shepherd would take care of them. So they followed him. 

Back in those times, there were still lions and bears in Palestine, and those lions and bears could attack the flock. Shepherds had to fight off those wild animals. Being a shepherd demanded great skill and courage.

When he had gathered his flock, the shepherd would lead them out into the pastures and hills beyond the village. When the next shepherd arrived, he would call his flock in the same way, each shepherd with a different voice and call. 

In the face of authorities challenging their mission of healing, both Peter and our Lord preach powerful and eloquent sermons. It is very sad to think that authorities, even religious authorities, would try to stop people from healing because the law says you can’t do that on the sabbath. Both Peter and Jesus make it clear that human rules cannot stop God’s healing power.

Jesus gives his life for his sheep. And he is calling everyone to join his flock. The hired hands are in it for themselves. The good shepherd is here to lead and protect his sheep. He willingly lays down his life for his sheep. Good leaders should not be in it for themselves, They should really care. There is a contrast between the authorities and Peter and Jesus.

But there is something even more important. Every one of us, and all of us together, those on Zoom and those who are not, everybody is a part of Jesus’ beloved flock. And here we are, over a year into this Covid Era. 

Every day of all those weeks. Jesus has called us each by name and we have recognized his loving and courageous voice. We know he would give his life for us. He already has. And here he is, calling to us, Here he is, in our midst, even though we haven’t been able to celebrate Holy Eucharist together and do so many of the other things that we hold as precious gifts and signs of our faith. Yet, we are here, and he is here with us.

We can hear his voice. “I know my sheep and my own know me,” he says. And we know he has given his life for us. And we know that he is risen and right here with us. We are not alone. He is leading us and guiding us. We stay together; we move together; we work together; he loves us and we love him and each other.

This coming Sunday. May 2, we have the opportunity return to hybrid worship. If the weather permits, some of us will be outdoors at Grace. The rest of us will be on Zoom. When we are allowed to be inside our beloved building, we will continue our hybrid worship. Some of us will be at Grace, Some will be at home on Zoom. We will stay together.

This gospel is about the crucifixion. And it is about Easter. Jesus gives his life for the sheep, for us, and for everyone. Out of the pain and struggle and brokenness of the cross, our Lord brings life. Love is the most powerful force in the world. Reaching out to others, helping them, healing them, giving of ourselves, that is the Way of Love. Let us continue to help and serve others in Jesus’ name, Let us continue to walk the Way of Love. Amen.

Easter 3B April 18, 2021

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

This morning, we are going to look at our readings in chronological order so that we can trace the story and the meaning of our Lord’s resurrection. In terms of the events, the gospel reading is the earliest in time.

Today’s gospel follows the powerful story of the road to Emmaus.  It is later on the Day of Resurrection. That morning, at dawn, Mary Magdalene, Joanna,  Mary, the Mother of James, and some other women had gone to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away. They had gone into the tomb and found it empty. Two angels had told them that Jesus had risen. They had told the others about this, but their good news was dismissed as “idle talk.” Peter had listened carefully, had visited the tomb. and had seen that it was empty.

On the same day, Cleopas and another of Jesus’ followers were walking to Emmaus. The text tells us it was a distance of seven miles. They are talking with each other about how Jesus died on the cross and what a horror it was and how very sad they are.

Suddenly a stranger is walking with them. He asks then what they are talking about, and they tell him about what happened to Jesus. They even tell the stranger about what the women had seen and heard at the empty tomb. But they have no idea who the stranger is. It is only when they extend hospitality to the man walking with them and share a meal with him that he becomes known to them in the breaking of bread. 

He disappears, and they return to Jerusalem, marveling about how he had opened the scriptures to them. 

They join the others, bursting with their good news. But the word is already going around that the risen Lord has appeared to Peter.

Suddenly, quietly, Jesus is standing in the midst of them.saying, “Peace be with you!” They can’t believe he is real, so he invites them to touch him. They are still wondering when he asks, Have you something to eat?”

Ghosts do not eat. They realize he has risen. And then, just as he did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he goes over the scriptures to prove to them that he is the Messiah, that he suffered as the scriptures said he would and that he is risen.

Then he gives them a commission. They are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name.

Chronologically, our reading from the Book of Acts is the next event in historical time. In the part of the chapter preceding our reading for today. Peter and John were walking into the temple around three o’clock in the afternoon, the time of prayer, when they saw a man who had been lame from birth. Every day people would carry him to a place by the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask folks to donate money  so that he could support himself.

The man saw Peter and John walking into the temple and asked for help, Peter said that he did not have any money, but he healed the man in the name of Jesus. The man jumped up and began to walk and leap and praise God. This drew a big crowd. Our reading for today is Peter’s sermon to that crowd. Peter asks the people why they are staring as if he and John have healed this man, and he tells the people that God has glorified Jesus, the crucified Jesus. Jesus has risen from the dead, and the name of Jesus has made this formerly lame man strong. Then he tells the people that he knows they acted in ignorance. He calls upon them to repent and turn to God. All of this is happening shortly after Pentecost. The apostles are preaching and teaching about the healing and reconciling power of the risen Christ.

The epistle, from the First Letter of John, is the last writing in chronological order. Scholars tell us that it was probably written around 70 years after the death and resurrection of Christ by a disciple of John who was part of a community founded by John. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.” Our passage today is about the central theme of the good news—love.  

Our readings today offer a reflection of our own spiritual journeys. We question; sometimes we doubt; Jesus walks with us and teaches us; suddenly we realize that he is alive and here to lead us and guide us along the way.

In these three readings, we follow the journey of his original community of disciples. They were understandably horrified by the crucifixion. Many of them lost hope. He walked through walls of fear and oppression to be with them. They realized he had risen, and they spread that good news all around the Mediterranean Basin in a very short time, given that they had no modern modes of transportation or communication.

Every Sunday in this Easter season we will be reflecting on the fact that Jesus has risen and is here with us. How do we sense the presence of our risen Lord? How do we sense the power of his healing Spirit? How do we feel him leading us as a good shepherd leads the flock or guides a lost sheep back to the fold?

When hope seems gone, do we ever feel a loving presence reassuring us that there is hope, that hope is real, that good things can be achieved no matter how many challenges lie ahead? When we are sad and grieving, almost paralyzed by a huge loss, do we ever feel him there, standing beside us, letting us know we are not alone?

In this time of pandemic, Lord, thank you for holding us together, reminding us that “This, too, shall pass,” that we are not alone, that you are in our midst, leading and guiding us. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.

Easter 2B April 11, 2021

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John:1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Our gospel for today is always the gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season lasts for fifty days. During Lent, we could not say “Alleluia!” because Lent is a solemn time of penitence. Now, our worship is full of alleluias.

Every Sunday on this day, we read this wonderful gospel. It is the evening of the day of resurrection. Just this morning, the women or Mary Magdalene alone, depending on which gospel we are reading, made their way to the place where Jesus was buried and found the tomb empty. If we are reading John’s account of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene actually meets Jesus. In Mark’s account, which we read this year, an angel tells the women that Jesus is risen.

That evening, the followers of Jesus are gathered. The doors are locked for fear of the authorities. It was only three days ago that these people witnessed the death of Jesus and they know that soldiers could come and arrest them at any time. They are still afraid, and with good reason.

There is something I never quite noticed before; it is a sign of great courage that they are all gathered together. Yes, Peter denied Jesus three times, and, yes, not all of them had the courage to stand at the foot of the cross, but most of them have come to be with the other followers of our Lord. That took courage.

There they are, gripped by fear. Suddenly, quietly, Jesus is there. No walls or locks, no tyrants who are willing to kill in order to keep control,  no amount of fear can keep him away from them. And what is his first word? “Peace be with you.” Shalom be with you.

Into the center of their their fear, into the heart of their fear, our Lord places his shalom, his peace, his vision of a kingdom of wholeness, harmony, peace, and love, in which everyone will have enough to eat, clothes to wear, good work to do, his shalom in which all people will be cared for, his shalom in which the creation and everything in it will be made whole.

Only Mary Magdalene had actually seen him. The other women had heard that he had risen, But now they are seeing him, now they are feeling his presence, the peace and love radiating out from him and filling their hearts with relief and hope.

Then he breathes on them just as God breathed the Spirit into Adam, and he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, If you retain the sins of any they are retained.” He is giving them and us the ministry of reconciliation. He is calling us to bring God’s peace and healing to the world.

When Thomas arrives, they tell them they have seen the Lord. But he cannot believe it. He tells them he is going to have to put his hands in Jesus’ wounds in order to believe. 

Jesus always tries to help us strengthen our faith, and he demonstrates that trait in his treatment of Thomas. A week later, they are gathered again, and Jesus appears. He invites Thomas to touch his wounds. But Thomas does not ned to do that. He bursts into a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

And then our Lord says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” And that blessing from Jesus is for us and for millions of others who were not in the house with his followers on that first Easter evening and the visit a week later.

During the Easter season, all of our readings come from the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures, because they were written in Greek. This reminds us that we are an Easter people, a people of faith, hope, and love.

In our first reading, from the Book of Acts, time has passed. Peter and John have healed a man who has been lame from birth. When asked how they could do this, they say that it is through the power of Jesus of Nazareth. Many people have witnessed this healing and have heard Peter speak. The authorities are afraid that Peter and John will draw a large following, so they arrest them. Our passage for today comes just after Peter and John are freed.

The text tells us that the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem “were of one heart and one mind.” That is an excellent definition of Christian community. The text says, “great grace was upon them all.” Scholars tell us that most of the early followers of our Lord were not wealthy. They were ordinary people. And yet, they walked the Way of Love. They took care of each other. In these two readings, we see how the presence of the living Christ moves his followers from locking the doors in fear to being a vibrant community walking the Way of Love.

During this pandemic, we have seen a great deal of fear. There are also people who think Covid 19 is not real. For those of us who follow the science, it is clear that this virus is very real and highly adaptive. Now, we are trying to get everyone vaccinated while we continue to follow the health measures so that we can limit the incidence of mutations. The experts are advising us to continue to be careful. Let’s keep running the race until we get to the finish line.

My impression of our Grace community is that we have not been governed by fear, but we have paid attention to the science and  common sense, which I think is a good thing. However, even though we have not been paralyzed by fear, we can be galvanized and energized by the presence of our living Lord. We can be so thankful for his presence. 

Risen Lord, thank you so much for being with us every step of the way, for leading us through this challenging time. Help us to hang in there for the long haul. Help us to share your love with everyone we meet, a word of comfort here, a box of food there. Help us to be rooted and grounded in you, your living presence. And help us to continue to walk the Way of Love and to be your Beloved Community. In your holy Name. Amen.

Easter Day April 4, 2021

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

It is very early. The sun has just begun to rise. We have no idea how we’re going to move that stone. We saw him die. It was horrible. That death is constantly and overwhelmingly in our thoughts.

When we arrive there, the stone is gone! An angel is sitting inside the tomb. He knows everything that has happened. He tells us that Jesus is risen. He is not in the tomb. We look in, and the tomb is empty except for the angel. 

The angel tells us to go and tell Peter and the others that Jesus is going ahead of us to Galilee. We look at the angel and at each other. We remember that Jesus had said something about rising from the dead. We run from the tomb, amazed and terrified at the same time. How can this be happening? We have seen so much death lately that it is difficult to believe in life. We tell Peter and the others that Jesus is alive. We head for Galilee. Then we hear stories.

Two people are walking to Emmaus and there he is, opening the scriptures to them. They don’t even realize who he is until he breaks bread with them. 

Peter and the others are fishing and there he is on the beach, cooking bread and fish. Making breakfast for them. More and people are seeing him and talking with him. He is alive! The word spreads. There is hope.

We here in 2021 have had a year filled with death and fear. So many people have died of Covid 19. So many people have lost their jobs. So many millions of people are hurting. Every day we watch the news and hear about these tragic deaths. Death is very real to us as it was to the followers of Jesus centuries ago. Maybe we can even imagine how they felt when they got to the tomb and found it empty. The text tells us that “terror and amazement had seized them.” The power of death was so real to them that they wondered whether he could have risen.

Paul tells us that he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and that encounter transformed him. Our lives have been transformed, too.

In the midst of all the death and darkness of this pandemic, the central truth of our faith rises like a new dawn. He is risen. He is alive. He is here with us right now, bringing hope, healing, faith, and his loving and energizing presence. His presence transforms us and changes everything. Beyond all the death and suffering, there is profound and unwavering hope. There is new life.

Thanks to him. we have known this all along, He has been with us, leading us and guiding us.  We have felt his presence in many ways: a word of encouragement, some wise direction, a healing touch. He has been with us, calling us each by name, leading us to the still water where we can sit down, take a break, and drink deeply of the living water which refreshes and renews us.   He has led us to the green pastures where we can nourish ourselves with his presence. 

We may not like Zoom very much, but, thanks to our tech ministers, Beth and jan, at least we have been able to worship virtually, stay in touch on some level, pray for each other, and support each other. Somehow, in ways that we will never be able to understand, he has been with us there, too, helping us over the times of discouragement, letting us know he is with us, encouraging us to keep the faith, run the race, and hang in there. He has also reminded us that we are not alone, We have him and that great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who have gone before us, are here now, and will be coming after us. God has a big family, and we are all encouraging each other.

Christ is alive! He is alive in us and we in him! Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Good Friday April 2, 3021

Toward the end of the Good Friday gospel which we have just read, after hours and hours of suffering, Jesus sees his mother, Mary, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and John, the Beloved Disciple standing at the foot of the cross.

Although he has gone through this horrible agony, Jesus does one more thing that expresses his love so profoundly.   He says to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And to John.”Here is your mother.” He creates a new family. He takes care of his mother. He takes care of his beloved friend. From that hour, John takes Mary, the mother of our Lord, into his home.

In his great love, our Lord has made us into a family, a family bonded together by his love and his presence. We have been in a long fast—over a year. We have not been able to be together; we have not been able to share Holy Eucharist; we have not been able to share the Peace, or hug each other, or talk face to face.

When this all began, I thought maybe it would be a few weeks or maybe months. But it has been much longer. During that time, more of our members have been called to volunteer at our food shelf. This ministry is a clear and powerful expression of God’s love for everyone. As Archbishop Tutu says, “God has a big family.”

Although we have been in this long, lonely, tragic fast and have lost so many brothers and sisters to Covid 19, I believe we have grown more deeply aware of this family God is creating and of the love God has for all of God’s children, our brothers and sisters. I think we have realized on deeper levels the power of God’s love.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “By entering into the experience of the cross, God took the man-made wreckage of the world inside himself and labored with it—a long labor, almost three days—and he did not let go of it until he could transform it and return it to us as life. This is the power of a suffering God, not to prevent pain but to redeem it, by going through it with us.” (Taylor, God in Pain: Sermons on Suffering, p. 118.)

God has made us a part of God’s big family, and God has been pouring out God’s love and grace and healing so that we can move through this exile, this fast, this desert experience of loneliness and lostness, this wandering, this grief, this frustration and anger, and grow stronger for it, as individuals and as a family rooted and grounded in Christ, a family linked together by the love of Christ. A family nurtured and guided by our Good Shepherd, who hears us when we call and knows each of us by name.

He has taken all the brokenness, all the sin, all that hurts and destroys and, as Taylor says, “returned it to us as life.” He has done all of this because he loves us with a love that is so deep and wide that we will never be able to understand it, but we can accept that love, and we can share it with others as we have been doing.

Just before he died, he created that new family, We are a part of that. We are a family in Him, and we are a part of his big family. May we accept his boundless love and may we continue to share his love with our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Maundy Thursday April 1, 2021

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin Mandatum Novum, “new commandment.” Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Jesus and his disciples have gathered for the Passover meal. He says the usual blessings over the bread and wine, blessings they have heard their whole lives, but then he tells them that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood and that this meal will be a special way to call him into our midst. And so Christians have done for centuries.

Most shocking of all, he washes their feet. He has said that he is among them as one who serves, but when he kneels down and washes their feet, it is shocking. Peter tell Jesus that he, their King, cannot do such a thing. But Jesus says he must wash our feet or we will have no share in him. We will not be a part of him. We will not be one with him. And Peter says that our Lord should wash not only his feet but his hands and his head. 

The last time we were physically together for Holy Eucharist was on March 8, 2020, the Second Sunday in Lent. We have been fasting from Holy Eucharist for over a year. We cannot wash each other’s feet for the second Maundy Thursday in a row. These are our Lenten sacrifices this year, and this fast has been extremely difficult. We are feeling frustrated, sad, angry, many intense feelings.

Because we are not in our beloved building, there is another thing we cannot do. We cannot participate in the ritual of stripping the altar, taking everything away and leaving the altar completely unadorned and vulnerable. We put a wooden cross on the altar to remind ourselves of why we are doing this. We are doing this because tomorrow is Good Friday. Our Lord was stripped and vulnerable. He died on that cross.

Why is this silent ritual so powerful? There are many reasons, but perhaps one of them is that we want to strip ourselves of all that is not important, all that is irrelevant. We want to be clean. We want to be one with our Lord. We want to be part of him and part of the transformation that we call his shalom, his kingdom on earth.

We want to prepare ourselves to focus on the cross and its meaning.

The core of that meaning is what he has just told us. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love  one another.” Let us focus on his love. Let us immerse ourselves in his love. Let us continue to walk the Way of the Cross and the Way of Love with our Lord. In His holy Name. Amen.