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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:…

Easter Day April 17, 2022

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

We were there in the crowd, and they shouted “Crucify him!” It was terrifying. We stood at the foot of the cross with his mother and prayed for him. We could hardly bear it. I don’t know how Mary did it. She has such courage! And he died, a horrible death.

We heard that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council, objected to what the council was doing. The council didn’t listen to him. But after Jesus died, Joseph went to Pilate and asked permission to take his body and bury him in his own tomb. Another member of the Council, Nicodemus, had gone to meet Jesus at night. He brought spices and helped Joseph to bury Jesus. They could have been killed for that. They were both faithful followers of Jesus, but we never knew.

The sun is just rising now, and we are going to the tomb to make sure his body is properly taken care of. We’re so exhausted and so devastated we can hardly walk. When we get there, the stone is rolled away. We walk in, and there is no body. We’re trying to figure out what has happened when two men in dazzling clothes are suddenly standing beside us. I think they are angels. We bow to the ground. The angels ask us why we are looking for the living among the dead.  Then they tell us Jesus has risen. And we remember that Jesus has told us about this. He said he was going to be crucified but he would rise again. Our hearts are racing. Maybe he is really alive! We run back to Peter and the others. They don’t seem to be taking it very seriously. Then Peter runs to the tomb and sees that it is empty. 

That evening, we hear that two others see him on the road to Emmaus. They don’t even recognize him until they invite him in for supper. Later, he appears to Peter and the others and gives him a breakfast of fish on the shore of the lake. He appears to more and more people. And we realize that he is alive! He has risen just as he said he would. And he has touched so many lives.

That is why we are here, over two thousand years later. Because of Jesus. He has transformed our lives. Here we are. Able to celebrate our first Easter together in person in two years. He has led us through the pandemic, and, while that’s not over, we have at least learned some things about how to cope with it. It has been two years of death and exile. Whether we have been worshipping on Zoom or in person, He has been right in the midst of us, guiding us.

And then Russia invaded Ukraine for no reason and more innocent people are suffering. President Zelenskyy and his people have shown profound courage and resistance, and most of the world is rallying in support. But there is still much death and suffering. It would be easy to lose hope.

But we will not lose hope. Because of the life and ministry of Jesus, we are a people of hope. Brokenness, shadow, hatred, cruelty, and even death have all been defeated. Love, hope, faith, unity, wholeness, life, and peace will prevail. Christ has won the victory.

Love is stronger that any power on earth. stronger that the forces of brokenness and death. May we continue to follow our Lord in the Way of Love. May we continue to help him to build his shalom of peace and harmony. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! 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!

Easter Day  April 12, 2020

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1=2. 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
Matthew 28:11-10

It is dawn. We are going to the tomb together. We have to make sure to get his body to a safe place. It is always better to do these hard things together. 

Suddenly there is a great earthquake. An angel of the Lord catapults from heaven and rolls away that huge stone. We were wondering how we would ever move it. The angel pulsates with light and power. We are terrified.

The first thing he does is to tell us not to be afraid. And then he tells us that Jesus has risen and is going ahead of us to Galilee. We start to run back to tell the others. Never have I felt such fear and yet such deep joy.

Suddenly, right in front of us there he is! Of all things, he says, “Greetings!” as if we had met him on a Sunday stroll in the park. We hug him and tell him how much we love him.

And then he says the same thing the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Then he tells us to go and tell the others to go to Galilee and we will see him

As we run to tell the others, we’re babbling away, “He’s alive! He was dead. We saw it. But now he is truly alive! We’re going to see him again in Galilee!” We keep saying it over and over until we get to the others. Then we tell them. And then we head to Galilee.

Vermont is a lot like Galilee. Out of the way. Small. Of little account. Away from the centers of power. Sensible. Independent. A place where good ideas can flourish. A place where people take care of each other as our food shelf volunteers are doing so faithfully.

Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee. Galilee was a relatively safe place for Jesus. And that is where he gathered his faithful followers after he had risen. He had a fish fry with them on the beach. He appeared to them here and there until they realized he had conquered death and every kind of brokenness, and that he was alive. He is alive. He called them and he calls us to be his living body here on earth. He calls us to share his love with everyone—his love, his hope, his forgiveness, his healing.

We’re still doing our social distancing and all the other things that our wise leaders and scientists are telling us to do. It’s the only way we can beat this pandemic. When people ask me how I feel in the midst of this, the only word that comes to me is that it is weird. I would love to be with you all and hug each and every one of you. I imagine each of you is feeling the same way.

That can’t happen today. It may take a long while before that can happen. We need to trust the science. Once again, I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine.

In spite of the pandemic, and social distancing, we are together. Beth and jan have taught us to Zoom, which has been a great help. Even without Zoom or Face Time, we are bound together by his love and his life. We are alive in him. He is alive in us. Nothing can get in the way of his love. Nothing can get in the way of the new life which he gives us every day. 

There are at least two major messages from our gospel today. The first one is, “Do not be afraid.” Both the angel and our Lord remind us of this crucial message. Faith is the other side of fear. Faith is fear that has said its prayers. Our Lord is calling us not to be afraid and to have faith. And the other message is the power of Easter, Nothing can or will ever change the meaning of Easter.  Our Lord has conquered death itself. We are following him We are an Easter people.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia. Amen.

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,

Easter Day March 27, 2016

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

When the women walked to the tomb early on that first Easter morning, they had just witnessed one of the most horrifying events one could imagine. They had spent three years with Jesus, and, as they watched him and listened to him, they realized that he was different from anyone they had ever met.

They followed him, and the group of followers became larger and larger. He brought healing and hope to everyone he met. He would touch people and they would rise up from their mats where they had lain crippled for years, or he would make a poultice from mud and spit and put it on their eyes and they would see after a lifetime of blindness. He fed thousands at one time.

But what he really wanted to do was to give them and us another way to live, a way based entirely on love and service. He made this clear when he washed their feet at that last Passover and when he said that in this simple meal of bread and wine he would be with us forever.

As they walked to that tomb, their feet dragging with fatigue and  dashed hopes, those women may have thought that his vision for the world, his vision for our lives and our life together, had died.

Have you ever really believed in something or given your all to something or someone, and then realized it was over? Maybe that someone was not who they professed to be. Maybe the vision had some fatal flaws which had not been apparent at the outset. Most of us have had experiences like this. Someone or something we felt passionately about—a person or a dream or a project or a vision comes to an and, falls apart, dies.

And we feel as though it’s all over for us.

What’s the use of trying to go on, we wonder. There’s nothing to live for. These women walking to the tomb were suffering deep grief because they had lost a person whom they loved deeply, a person who had changed their lives and given them hope and a purpose in life. Jesus had died, and they may well have felt that all their hopes had died with him.

When they got to that tomb and found the stone rolled away, and went in, and found no body, they began to wonder. And then, when the two angels reminded them of what Jesus had said and told them that he had risen—they couldn’t get back to the others fast enough to tell them this good news.

Most of us have had experiences of profound loss and disappointment, something that has made our world fall apart, something that has made us lose hope. That is how those women felt, That is how all of Jesus’ close followers felt.

Most of us have also had our own experiences of Good Friday. Our Lord has wrestled with the forces of death and has lost the battle. We go back to the upper room and pray and wonder, what next?

But we have to go and prepare the body for burial. The Sabbath is over and we just have to give him a decent burial. And when we get there, the landscape of our lives is completely transformed.

He told us there was a different way to go  about things. He told us there was a different way to live. And he has just proved that that way leads to new life. It leads to his kingdom his shalom of peace, harmony, and wholeness.

Most of us have had our Good Fridays and most of us have had our Easter mornings. We go to the tomb to prepare the body and it is not there. He is risen.

Yes, the world is full of violence. There has been a terrorist attack in Brussels. Refugees are streaming out of Syria and Afghanistan trying to save their children from the ravages of war. There is violence in our own country as well. Here, and all over the world, people are hungry. They need shelter; they need clothing; they need medical care; they need hope.

We can look around us and think there is no hope. that we can do nothing. But that is not what our Lord is doing. He is risen. He is calling us to follow the commandment he gave us at the Last Supper—to love and serve others as he loves and serves us.

On this Easter morning, March 27, 2016, we are deeply aware that there is much brokenness and violence in this world. At the same time, we must remember that he is risen and he is in our midst. He has a vision, and he is calling us to help him bring in his shalom.

I quote our Presiding Bishop retired, Katherine Jeffers Schori: “The word ‘shalom’ is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but it’s a far richer and deeper understanding of peace than we usually recognize. It’s not just a 1970s era hippie holding up two fingers to greet a friend—‘Peace, bro.’ It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences. Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.

“…Building the reign of God is a great and bold adventure, and it is the only route to being fully alive. If we don’t set out to change the world, who will?” (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and A Prayer, pp. 33 and 35.)

Christ is risen. Christ is alive. He lives in us and we in him. Let us help him build his kingdom, his shalom.   Amen.

Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Christ Year C RCL January 13, 2013

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

In our opening reading from Isaiah, God is calling God’s people home from Exile in Babylon. God is telling them and us: “I have called you by name. You are mine. Be not afraid.” When we pass through high water, or fire; when we make our way through challenges, God will always be with us. What a wonderful promise and what a strengthening message from our loving God.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, one of the first deacons, Philip, has gone to Samaria, and many people, almost the entire population, has joined the new faith and been baptized in the name of Jesus. Peter and John go to Samaria, lay their hands on the people, and they receive the Holy Spirit. Not only does God walk with us every step of the way, God sends the Holy Spirit to empower us to live lives of integrity, compassion, and service. One good and simple definition of the Holy Spirit is that the Spirit is God at work in us and in the world. The Holy Spirit is God’s loving and healing energy enabling us to live as God calls us to live.

Today, we are gathered to baptize Krista Alexa Sturgeon. This is a celebration of great joy for all of us.  The vows which we will take this morning are stated in ancient language. We are renouncing  certain things and following a certain path which has been blazed for us by Jesus.  To put those vows in more contemporary terms, we are choosing to align ourselves with the forces of creativity, compassion, and wholeness rather than the forces of destruction, hatred, and brokenness. We are promising to gather together and learn together about God’s love and care for us, for the whole creation, and for all people. We are promising to continue on our journey with God and with each other, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in every person, to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

We pray that God will give Krista  “an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.”

And we are asking God to give each of us these gifts as well. If we have inquiring and discerning hearts, this means that we are on a journey with God, and toward God. When we ask to have inquiring and discerning hearts, we are saying that that we don’t have all the answers, that we are seeking and asking God for guidance. We ask for the courage to persevere because we know the journey is not easy. There will be times when we may just want to quit trying to seek and do God’s will. We will need the help of God and others who love us and who are also on the journey with us. We ask for a spirit to know and love God. To remember that God loves us beyond our  ability to understand or imagine. When God says that Jesus is his beloved Son, God is also saying that to each of us. We’re God’s beloved sons and daughters. We ask for the grace to ask God and others for help. And, finally, we ask for the gift of joy and wonder at all of God’s works.

Joy and wonder at a dawn, or a sunset, at the ocean waves rolling in, at a flower, or a forest, the stars, the planets in their courses, the love of friends and family, the healing touch of a conversation, the gift of joy and wonder at all that God gives us.

The other day I happened to be listening to the radio and someone was interviewing the actor Jeff Bridges and a Zen master whose name I do not remember. They were talking about being open, going with the flow, and being in the moment.  The interviewer asked the Zen master what the thinking today is on enlightenment. Traditionally the path to enlightenment involves spending hours in meditation.

The Zen master said that there are probably still traditional Buddhists who feel that the only way to enlightenment is through meditation. But he said that there are many paths to enlightenment, and then he said something that struck me deeply. He said that the mark of an enlightened person is service to others. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.” I follow the Christian path, and I have dear Buddhist friends. Back in undergraduate school, I took a course in comparative religions. It was clear that all of the major religions  have the same ultimate point—treat others as you would like to be treated.

To see Christ in every person we meet. To see the revered Buddha in every person we meet. To see everyone as a child of God. To care for others, To have compassion. That is what these vows are about.

I say this because I know that we are gathered here as God’s beloved children who are Unitarian-Universalists, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Episcopalians (Fully catholic and fully reformed). Some of us are hybrids. For example, I have been deeply touched by my Quaker and Buddhist brothers and sisters.

We may carry different labels. We may be on slightly different paths, but they are all leading toward the same divine presence and love. May we all support Krista Alexa on her journey. And may we all support Nicholas as he leaves later this month for Basic Training.

May we all support this beloved young family in every way that we can.

Nicholas, please keep in touch so that we know exactly where to send all those care packages!

Amen.