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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 2023 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 April 9, 2023 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 April 16, 2023 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 7B RCL May 17, 2015

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

Our first reading is from the Book of Acts, which is the history of what happened in the early Church just after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. Jesus has just ascended into heaven. We have a beautiful window dedicated to that scene just above our altar. Jesus has told the apostles that he has to go to be with the Father, but that he will send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

Between the Ascension of our Lord and the Feast of Pentecost, the apostles gathered in one place and prayed, as Jesus had directed them to do. In our reading for today, Peter calls the apostles to deal with an extremely painful reality, the reality of Judas’ betrayal of our Lord. It is time to seek God’s guidance in choosing someone to complete the number of the Twelve. The apostles must choose someone who has been with Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry, when he was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Someone who has been with Jesus and with the apostles, day in and day out, through all the challenges and joys of their ministry together. Someone who has watched in horror as Jesus was crucified and then cried in joyous surprise to see him risen. Someone who has stood with the group and watched him ascend to the Father. Two men are chosen—Joseph, called Barsabbas, known as Justus, and Matthias. They pray; they cast lots, and Matthias is chosen. Tradition tells us that Matthias served faithfully, just as he had followed Jesus during his ministry, but, like so many followers of our Lord, he went about his whole ministry quietly, without fanfare.

Jesus told his apostles and us that he is the Vine, and we are the branches, and he told us that the whole point of his ministry and our ministry is to share God’s love.

Yet today we deal with something terrible that happened just before Jesus endured his mock trial and was crucified. One of the people Jesus had called to be among his closest followers betrayed him. There is evidence in the scriptures that Judas regretted this act almost as soon as he did it. The Book of Acts tells us that he literally spilled his guts in a field he had bought with the thirty pieces of silver, and Matthew’s gospel tells us that he hanged himself.

Just imagine how it must have felt to be one of the twelve closest followers of Jesus and to know that a member of that group had betrayed our Lord. Sadness, anger, and many other feelings must have surged through the group.

Yet, by the grace of God, they held together. And here they are in our reading today choosing Matthias to join them.

Our gospel for today is from Jesus’ prayer for his followers. He has taught us about God, and he asks God to protect us as we live in a world that is full of violence and competitiveness and darkness and brokenness, a world that is so far from the shalom that our Lord has called us to build. And yet, quietly, steadily, the Spirit is at work, and that shalom grows.

We can see God’s protection at work as the apostles gather in prayer to call Matthias to join them. And we can be aware of God’s protection for them as they waited and prayed for our Lord to send the Holy Spirit. Our Lord also asks God to give us the gift of joy.

In our epistle for today from the First Letter of John,we read, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” Because we are part of the Body of Christ, we have the gift of life that is deeper and more meaningful because we are part of our Lord and he lives in us. We know what the purpose of life is. We know that he is with us. He is the Vine and we are the branches. Our life is not about just our human needs and wants. It is about allowing him to live in us. It is about our being a part of him. That is what we mean when we say that he is alive in us and we are alive in him. Much more alive than if we were just going about life on our own human terms.

Jesus has ascended to heaven. We are gathered in prayer. We are waiting with joy for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, which is this coming Sunday. God has brought this community through many challenges. A few decades ago, the church building was condemned, and a faithful group worked to restore the building to a stable condition.  Very soon, at the Mark Sustic concert, Grace Church will be full to capacity, bursting with joyful music, and standing up to the challenge of stomping and dancing feet.

God still guides and protects the Church, and the gift of joy is still very real. Each and every one of you is much like Matthias—faithful  servants who go about your ministries quietly but with great love and care.

Fortunately, we do not have among us one who has betrayed the Lord, But we do have a beloved member who cannot be with us because of her ministry in the world, and that is our sister in Christ, jan. We also have Nick, who cannot be with us because of a demanding work schedule and family obligations. Please keep them especially in your prayers and, if you get a chance, please send  an email or two to let them know you are thinking of them.

Let us take time this week to think about the coming of the Holy Spirit among us, and let us prepare with joy to receive the gifts of the Spirit.

If you have something red to wear for Pentecost, please feel free to do that.  Please also think of all the translations of the word “Peace” that you know, and we will use them during the exchange of the Peace.

Let us thank God for God’s protection, and let us reflect on the joy we have in being members of the Body of Christ and members of this community of faith.  Amen.

Easter 6B RCL    May 10, 2015

Acts 10:44-48
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1-6
John 15:9-17

Our first reading today is so short that we may miss its significance. It comes after a whirlwind of events powered by the Holy Spirit. Cornelius, a Centurion in the Roman army, lives in Caesaria, gives money to the people and prays constantly, but he is a Gentile. An angel comes to Cornelius and tells him to send for Peter, who is in Joppa. So he sends some men to Joppa.

Peter is praying and has his vision of a sheet with all kinds of foods on it. God tells Peter to “Get up and eat,” and Peter, who has followed the dietary laws faithfully all his life, realizes that no foods are unclean.

Peter is trying to figure out the meaning of all this when Cornelius’ men arrive looking for him. The Spirit tells Peter to go with these strangers, so, the next morning, Peter and other followers of Jesus travel to Caesaria. When they arrive at the home of Cornelius, they find that he has gathered a group of people to hear what Peter has to say. Peter preaches his wonderful sermon which begins, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality…” Then Peter goes on to preach about the ministry of Jesus. Peter has realized that the family of God includes everyone.

Our reading today comes as Peter is still speaking about God’s big family. The Holy Spirit fills the people listening and they speak in tongues. With the gifts of the Spirit pouring out on these people, Peter realizes that they should be baptized. And so it happens. The Spirit is moving, touching and transforming peoples’ lives. Everyone is welcome in this new faith.

And what is at the center of our faith? Love. Last Sunday, we read that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We could say that the love of God and Jesus and the Spirit is the energy in the vine. God loved us first. We are called to love God and to share God’s love with everyone we meet. When we do that, we become people of joy. And our Lord makes us his friends.  Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last….” In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control. Those are the fruits of close loving communities such as Grace Church, and those are the fruits that we bear as we go out into the world to bring the love, forgiveness, and healing of Christ to people who need it so much.

Last Sunday, Bishop Tom made his visitation to Grace Church. He offered us some of the real fruit of the vine, delicious grapes, and we reflected together on what it means that Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. We are connected with him and with each other so closely that our lives are interdependent and intertwined. His energy, his love, flows into us and nourishes us to do our ministries in the world.

Some of you shared deeply and honestly in a profoundly powerful way about your journeys with Christ and your ministries in his name. What you shared was authentic and moving. God has called us together from far and wide, and yes, we have responded. We have chosen to be here, to be together in Christ and in the Spirit,

The reflections which you shared spoke of a depth of community that only God could create. And I know that our Bishop was listening. And I was listening, too. You are such quiet people that I know it took a lot to do that sharing. You don’t blow your own horn. Perhaps to our detriment, we don’t call the newspaper every time we do something.

But the truth is that every day, you go out into the world and live your faith, and that is the fruit that lasts because that is what is building the shalom of God.

We have been given a great gift—three years of work together with annual reviews, and it wasn’t limited to three years, so who knows?

We have a time frame that is a bit longer than just a year, and I am very happy about that. Bishop Tom has been generous with us, and I believe that is because of the depth of your faith and your ministries out in the world. God is the center of our lives, and we and God have built a community of faith that supports each of us to strengthen our faith and minister in the name of Christ.

Thanks be to God for each of you and for this community! Well done, good and faithful servants, or, as Jesus has said in today’s gospel, “Well done, good and faithful friends!   Amen.

Easter 4B RCL April 26, 2015

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

Jesus says to us this morning, “ I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” The biblical shepherd goes out in front of the flock. He walks the path ahead of us. There is nothing we can go through which he has not endured. He knows where the good water and the verdant pastures are. He is ready to lay down his own life to protect us.

We know the voice of our Good Shepherd. In biblical times and even now, the shepherd takes the sheep up into the mountains to graze during the day and brings them home at night to a safe place in the village. It may be a cave. It may actually have a wall around it. All the shepherds in the area put their flocks into the fold, and, in the morning, each shepherd comes and calls his sheep, and his flock knows his voice and comes out and follows him. The relationship between shepherd and sheep is an intimate one.

It was not easy to be a shepherd in Jesus’ time. It was a dangerous job, and it was a profession that was on the margins of society. Paradoxically, there was the idea of the shepherd-king, the leader who cared for and protected the people, especially those who were most vulnerable. King David, who was called from tending the flocks, was the most revered example of the shepherd-king.

The twenty-third psalm is one of the most beloved of psalms. and it elaborates on the theme of the good shepherd.  I would like to take a little time to meditate together on this beautiful psalm. I am going to use the traditional version, which is on page 476 of the Prayer Book.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Jesus has already told us that he knows each of us by name. He knows everything about us, good and bad, and he loves us with a love that nothing can stop.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. On the journey of life, our Good Shepherd takes care of us. We have everything we need. He takes us to green pastures where we can graze to our hearts’ content. He leads us to water in quiet, protected places where we can drink in peace. He leads us to the stillness and serenity that make us able to know how fully we are in his presence. The still waters—how rare stillness is in this busy world.

He restoreth my soul; he feeds and strengthens, not only our bodies, but our spirits. He gives us everything we need. He reinvigorates and revitalizes us. He fills us with his love and energy.

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. He leads us, not on just any path, not just on a good path, but on the right path so that we can grow into the persons he calls us to be and  glorify his Name.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Because our Good Shepherd is with us in every moment, we do not have to fear anything, even death. Sometimes our journey takes us into some scary places. We can always trust that our Lord will bring us through.

How can we have this level of trust?  The psalm gives us the answer: For thou art with me. He is with us on the journey. He is with us to guide us. When we feel scared or confused, or lost, this is a line we can say to ourselves. For thou art with me. He is with us in everything. We are never alone. We may feel alone, but he never leaves us. He is always there.

Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. If jackals or wolves come after us with teeth bared, our Good Shepherd uses the rod and staff to beat them off and protect us. The  rod and staff are also used to keep us from straying off into the thorns and thickets and getting into trouble, Our Good Shepherd uses these tools to comfort us. Comfort is from the roots con-with and fortis-strength. So, comfort actually means strength. Our Good Shepherd strengthens us in times of darkness and danger.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Here, the journey takes us into a situation of a battle. The enemies are gathered all around. Maybe our little flock is surrounded by wolves. Maybe these are human enemies. Maybe it is a spiritual battle and we are being assailed by the forces of darkness.

Whatever the enemies are, our Good Shepherd is creating a safe place, setting a festive table with the best food, and blessing us with the best of hospitality.  Thou anointest my head with oil. In biblical times, a good host would anoint the guests with oil. Scholars tell us that this scene of the table is almost on the level of a royal feast.

There is some threat, and our Good Shepherd is making us safe and hosting a feast into the bargain. The wolves can circle, but they cannot get in.

Biblical scholar J. R. P. Sclater writes, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies becomes a table spread in the midst of the pilgrimage, even when foes are massing to the attack. The verse has been declared to have been a favorite text in London at Communion services during World War II, when the bombing was at its peak, even in one instance when a part of the church was hit, while the service continued.” (Interpreter’s Bible, Ps. 23, p. 128)

My cup runneth over. Our Good Shepherd showers us with abundance. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. With our Good Shepherd leading and guiding us, we will journey with courage to His glory and we will get home to the safety of the fold.

May we continue to follow him.  May we follow him always.  Amen.

Second Sunday of Easter April 12, 2015

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

Today’s gospel takes us back to the beginnings of our faith. It is the evening of the resurrection day. Mary Magdalene has run back and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”  But they have not yet seen him.

The doors are locked because they have watched Jesus die and they are afraid of what the authorities might do. Suddenly, Jesus is with them. “Peace be with you.” he says. He shows them his wounds so that they will know that is it really Jesus. They are beside themselves with joy.

Then he breathes the Holy Spirit into them and he gives them the ministry of reconciliation. Here they are, locked in the room because of their fear which is entirely justified, and now he is sending them out into the world again to bring his healing, to build his shalom, his kingdom of peace and harmony in which everyone is safe and can have a good and useful life.

But Thomas has not been there to see this. Many people have called him “Doubting Thomas,” but I am not sure that is accurate. I have always thought of him as a practical, rather scientific person. He has to have proof. He has to see it to believe it. Not that he is necessarily a doubter.

One of my favorite scholars and preachers, Herbert O’Driscoll, has an interesting view of Thomas which I think could well be true. O’Driscoll does not see Thomas as a doubter but as the kind of person who, “when he makes a commitment  to someone or something, makes a total commitment.”

O’Driscoll continues, “Now his heart is broken by the ghastly death of  Jesus, his world is collapsed, and he is determined never to give his heart to anything again, never to trust life again, never to give his love again. But when our Lord stands in front of him, Thomas gives himself totally once more.”

There is so much truth in this. When something devastates us, it is natural to try to protect ourselves. All of the disciples are hiding behind locked doors. Yet Jesus  walks through the walls of our fear and calls us to go out into the world and knit that broken world back together again. That is what the ministry of reconciliation is all about.

Our other two lessons deal with how that is happening in the early Christian communities. In our reading from the Book of Acts, the community is of one mind and heart and soul in Christ. They share everything in common. They take care of each other.  No one goes hungry. Everyone has what he or she needs. This is a wonderful vision for all of us.

In our reading from the First Letter of John, we are hearing from someone who has been in the presence of Jesus. Think how that must have been in the early Church. The apostles traveled around to teach and preach and heal. Think what it was to meet someone who had actually sat with Jesus and shared meals with him. and learned from him. Someone who might have had his feet washed by Jesus. Someone who had touched Jesus.

John is calling us to walk in the light of Christ, which means that we are called to be loving individuals and a loving community. We can picture communities of followers of Jesus springing up all over during the first century.  From those little shoots, the Church has grown. And here we are, all these centuries later.

May we walk as children of the Light.  Amen.

All Saints’ Sunday Year A RCL November 2, 2014

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

This Sunday, we celebrate the feast of All Saints.

Our first reading is from the Book of Revelation, the vision of John on the island of Patmos. In our reading for today, a great multitude of people, from every tribe and nation, worships God. Salvation is open to all who respond to God’s love and mercy.

Special honor is given to those who have gone through the great ordeal Scholars tell us that John was referring to those who had suffered persecution by the Roman Empire, but, over the centuries, the Church has especially remembered all those who have been martyred for their faith. Today, we pray especially for those who have suffered and lost their lives at the hands of Isis.

“They will hunger and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat, for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Our psalm continues the song of praise to God, who is so good to us. Our epistle reminds us that, because of God’s love, we are children of God, as close to God as a child is to its mother or father,

And, finally, in our gospel, Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. The poor in spirit, those who admit their need for God, receive the kingdom of heaven, Those who mourn are comforted. The meek inherit the earth. Those who hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God will be filled. Those who are merciful will receive mercy. The pure in heart, those who seek God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength, will see God. Those who are persecuted for their faith are especially close to God. The beatitudes are a blueprint of the qualities of kingdom people. We are called to be meek, not power-grabbers. We are called to be merciful, not out to climb the ladder of worldly success at any cost. These values are counter to the values of our surrounding culture. But they are the values of our Lord. We are called to follow his example.

We are part of God’s big family. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, those who are here now, those who have gone before us, and those who will come after us. We are knit together in the Body of Christ, which spans all time and all the peoples of the world. We take inspiration from the lives of the saints. And, as the beloved hymn tells us, saints are just folks like you and me. They have run the race before us and they inspire us to do the best we can, with God’s help.

These readings today also serve to remind us that our loved ones who have gone before us are there in heaven with Jesus, with God, with the angels, and with the whole communion of saints in heaven, in eternal light and joy.

May we always be thankful for God’s immeasurable love and for the communion of saints of which we are a part. Amen.