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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:…

Pentecost 23 Proper 28A RCL November 16, 2014

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

In our reading from the Book of Judges, God’s people have fallen into the hands of King Jabin. We hear the good news that God is going to give strength to Barak and Deborah to win the victory over King Jabin and live in freedom. In our epistle, Paul once again sounds the theme that we are called to be awake.

This morning, I would like to focus on the parable we hear in the gospel, the familiar parable of the talents. The master gives one person five talents, another two talents, and another one talent. Scholars tell us that a talent is worth fifteen years’ wages. If we recall the work of Thomas Troeger, who actually calculated the value of one talent, basing his figures on a wage of fifteen dollars an hour after taxes, one talent is worth $468,000’ two talents are worth $936,000. and five talents are worth $2,340,000. This master is generous.

I would offer the thought that each of us is the servant who has received five talents. God has given us so much. God has given us the gift of life itself, the gift of loving families, good work to do, comfortable homes, food, medical care, clothes to wear so that we can stay warm in winter. We are rich in blessings. We have so much.

Now, we can say, Well, I worked hard for what I have. And this is true. But who gave us the energy and the intelligence and the drive and the perseverance to work hard? These, too, are gifts from God. The point is that everything good in our lives comes from God.

I always like to suggest here that we make a gratitude list or update our list. I can breathe. I can walk. I can talk, I can see. I can hear. I can think. I can listen. Many people here have the gift of being healers. Some folks here are gifted painters and carpenters. Some folks here are gifted athletes, musicians, gardeners, teachers, creators of accessible spaces. All of you here have the gift of being with other people and helping them to feel heard and giving them hope. All of these are gifts from God. And you honor those gifts from God, Quietly, without fanfare, you use those gifts to God’s glory.

Perhaps the greatest gift that God has given us is God’s unconditional, unfailing love. In our opening reading today, God’s people have fallen away from God, and God is still going to raise up Deborah and Barak to set them free. God can count the hairs on our heads, God knows us inside and out, God knows our strengths and our weaknesses, God knows us, wears and all, and still God loves us mightily. God loves us with a love that will never go away, never die.

This is made so clear to us in the life and ministry of Jesus, God walking the face of the earth. God is not a God who stands far off. God loves us so much that God comes to be with us, to teach us how to live. This is the greatest gift of all.

Let us just pause for a moment and remember: God loves me. If I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have died for me on the cross. God loves me more than I can ever imagine. May God give me the grace to accept that unfailing love.

In response to all of God’s gifts, which are beyond our imagining, we are called to return to God a worthy portion—the Bible says one tenth— of what God has given us. A worthy portion of the time, talent, and treasure that God has given us.

This is what our pledge represents. Our thankful response to God, and our returning to God a worthy portion of what God has given us. This is between each of us and God.

Our pledge includes our service to others in the community, our caring for neighbors and friends and family. I know that all of you are constantly reaching our to others and offering help. Our pledge also includes charitable contributions to organizations such as the Red Cross, Episcopal Relief and Development, the United Thank Offering, the United Way, and many other fine charities.

Time, talent, and treasure. How do we spend the time God gives us? How do we use the talents God has given us? How to we spend the treasure God gives us? Someone once said that we can tell our priorities by looking through our checkbook. That is probably true. We can also get an idea of our priorities by looking at how we use the time and talents God gives us.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving and Advent, please think about these two key things: 1) God loves us more than we can fathom; and 2) everything we have is a gift from God.

After we spend some time meditating on these things—they are mysteries which we will never be able fully to understand, but it is still good to try to plumb the depth of the love behind these truths—then we make our pledge in gratitude.

The Attitude of Gratitude—one of the most powerful things in this world. That is the basis of our pledge and that is the ground of our offering of our God-given time and talents in service of our brothers and sisters.

God has given us so much. May we always be grateful. May God’s Name be praised! Amen.

Pentecost 22 Proper 27A RCL November 9, 2014

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Psalm 78:1-7
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Matthew 25:1-13

In our opening reading for today, God’s people have reached a moment of transition. They are going to settle down in the land of Canaan and they are going to stop being nomads. Joshua also calls them to an important choice. They must renew their covenant with God. They must choose to be loyal to God.

Back in those days, when you moved into a new land, you encountered gods different from your own. There were the gods from beyond the river, that is, the Euphrates, and there were also the local gods of the land of Canaan, most notably fertility gods. Joshua calls the people to renew their vows to God. He leads by example, He tells the people that he and his family will worship Yahweh. The people follow his example.

In our secular age, we are surrounded by other gods—or we might say, idols. Many folks worship power and wealth. Some people strive for their fifteen minutes of fame. We are called to worship God.

In our epistle for today, the situation is that folks in the early church thought that Jesus would return quickly. But now it’s about twenty years after the death and resurrection of our Lord, and someone in the congregation has died. People are wondering what will happen to this person. Paul is telling them that because our Lord has been raised from the dead, we will be raised. Now it has been two thousand years since our Lord was here on earth. We can still be a people of hope because we know that death has no dominion over us. We are in eternal life now and we will be with our Lord and all the saints and angels in heaven.

Our gospel is dealing with a wedding banquet, but scholars tell us that Matthew’s congregation was also dealing with the question of Christ’s coming again. When will he come? Why has he not come already? Matthew was writing about 90 AD, some sixty years after our Lord’s death. Everyone hearing this parable knew how weddings went. If you are a bridesmaid, the first thing you do is to make sure that you have plenty of oil in reserve. It’s going to get dark and you will want to have your lamp lighted, and you will want to be sure that you have enough oil so that, at the crucial moment when the bridegroom arrives, you will be able to welcome him with you lamp burning.

The wise bridesmaids may seem to be selfish when they refuse to share their oil, but everyone knew what the priorities were when it all began, and they are focussing on the important thing: when the bridegroom arrives, I want to have my lamp lighted, with plenty of oil to spare. The foolish bridesmaids have to go off to buy oil and the bridegroom arrives when they are gone. They miss the feast.

This parable is almost a foreshadowing of Advent themes. It has been two thousand years, but our Lord will come and he will bring in his shalom. Our job is to be ready. We don’t want to miss the feast.

How do we go about being ready? Charles Cousar writes,”Watching means seizing the day, loving God and neighbors in each moment….” Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 561.) Jesus calls us to be ready for his return. He cautions us not to speculate on when he will come, not to engage in theories or hypotheses, not to search the scriptures for signs. Rather, we are to accept God’s love, be ready in each moment of our lives, be people of hope looking forward to the time when he will come to us and establish his kingdom of peace, love, harmony, and wholeness. We are called to be ready for the moment when he will restore the creation to be as he created it to be.

Now we are in a time of transition, We are moving from ordinary tine, the season after Pentecost, into Advent time, beginning to prepare for his coming again.

It is not easy to live in a secular society. We can understand the situation of God’s people settling in Canaan. At times we might be tempted to put our trust in some of those other gods. Maybe the accumulation of lots of things or just the right clothes can make us happy. Maybe retail therapy is the way to a life of joy. That’s what the advertisers are telling us. Maybe clawing our way up the ladder of worldly success isn’t that bad after all. As the saying goes, it’s a dog eat dog world. Did you ever see that TV program called “Monk”?

The theme song has a lot of truth in it. “It’s a jungle out there.”

But the whole point is that, if we love God with everything we have and if we love our neighbors, and if all of us do that, the world will be a peaceable kingdom, not a jungle. That is God’s vision for the creation. Everyone getting along. In fact, everyone helping each other. Everyone having enough—enough food, clothing, shelter, good work to do, love. and caring and peace and healing.

That is the kingdom, the shalom that we are called to be ready to welcome. That’s the feast we are called to attend. That is the vision we are called to bring to fruition. That is why we love God and believe in God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. That is why we are people of hope, because we know that God loves us and all people and that God calls us to life in a different and richer dimension, eternal life, fullness of life. And that is why was are going to be sure to have more than enough oil so that we can keep our lamps lighted into the dusk and into the darkness, and, when he comes, we will be ready to welcome him and the whole creation will be filled with light.

May we love God in every moment, May we love our neighbors in every moment. May we be ready to welcome our Lord. Amen.

Pentecost  20 Proper 25A RCL October 26, 2014

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

Our first reading this morning gives us the privilege of being present at an extraordinary moment in history and in the life of God’s people. Moses, the leader who has brought the people out of slavery in Egypt and has led them though so many challenges, is now gazing upon the promised land, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees.

The land stretches as far as the eye can see, and it is a beautiful sight, We can imagine how Moses must feel. Perhaps he gives an inward sigh of relief. Whew! We made it. This may seem quite a miracle, given all the complaints along the way. Why did you bring us out here to die of hunger, or of thirst? It was just wonderful back there in Egypt, with all the good food. Now we are going to die. But the people did not die, Here they are on the verge of moving into their new home.

But it is a bittersweet moment because Moses is not going to cross over into the new land with them. He is going to die. After all, he is 120 years old. This is sad, and indeed the people mourn for thirty days. But the text makes it clear that Moses died at the top of his form. The scripture tells us that “his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated.”

After the period of mourning, Joshua, who is full of the Spirit because Moses has laid his hands upon him, takes over the leadership role. But the text makes it clear that Moses is the greatest leader the people of God have ever seen.

In our gospel, the Pharisees are gathering to pounce and trap Jesus. They ask him which commandment is the greatest, and he responds by quoting the rabbis, who have given us the summary of the law from Deuteronomy and Leviticus: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Then Jesus asks them what they think of the messiah. Whose son is he? And they say he is the son of David. But Jesus answers by giving a hint as to his true identity, by emphasizing that the messiah is the son of God and that he is that messiah.

In our epistle, Paul is continuing his letter to the Thessalonians. Thessalonica was a major city in  Macedonia and a key city in the Roman Empire. There was a strong Roman influence in the city, and that was in direct opposition to the new faith, so there were many stresses on the growing congregation and on new converts. There were also people who questioned Paul’s motives, and there were competing teachers. Paul is making it clear that he does not have any mixed motives. His purpose is to serve our Lord. Paul touches a deeply personal note. He tells the people how much he loves them and he compares himself to a mother caring tenderly for her own children. He writes, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but our own selves.”

If we can stop for a moment and imagine Paul’s ministry. Paul was a person of high status in his society, He was a Pharisee and he was a Roman citizen. But that did not protect him from being put into prison several times. In fact, he and Silas had been thrown into prison in  Philippi just before they came to Thessalonica. Paul and his assistants were courageous, They suffered all kinds of hardships—not only imprisonment, but beatings, shipwrecks, and constant harassment by other teachers who were trying to get control of the congregations he had started.

Unlike other leaders, Paul did not ask for contributions from the congregations he served. He was a tentmaker, and that is how he earned his living. This meant that he would spend time each day in the marketplace with other craftspeople and workers. He was right on the grassroots level, He got to know people in the towns where he nurtured churches.

And he was not distant from the people in the faith community. He made it clear that he loved them. He nurtured them. He shared his personal journey with them, and this encouraged them to share their journeys with him.

In our reading for today, Paul is offering us a wonderful gem of truth about our life together and our ministry in Christ, and that is that we are called to share, not only the good news in Christ, but also our own selves. Not just our intellectual insights. but our hearts, our feelings, our struggles, and the high and low points of our journeys in Christ.

When we do this, we create a safe space, a safe community in which anyone can share struggles and triumphs and know that he or she will be safe and will be treated with respect. Years ago, a friend of Jean’s and mine came to Grace. We had our usual coffee hour sharing and some of us were having some struggles and talked about them and got encouragement and wisdom from our brothers and sisters. This friend said—and he is a devout Episcopalian— “You guys are a support group.” Well, we are, and I think that is what Paul is talking about today.

But we are not just a support group on our own. We are a supportive, safe community rooted in faith in Christ. That’s where the power and the healing and the guidance come from. Grace is a healing place to be and to grow. We not only share the good news. We share ourselves, and we share our faith in Christ.

We know that this is not our doing. We have received a gift. We have received many gifts from our Lord—the gift to know that he is the savior, the gift to be able to accept his love for us and to share that love with others.

So, because of the presence and power of Jesus, we grow close to each other and we grow close to our Lord, and that is a great gift. May we always cherish that gift.    Amen.