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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 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 February 12, 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 February 19, 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:…

The First Sunday after Epiphany January 10, 2021

Genesis  1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Today is the First Sunday after Epiphany, This is the day we celebrate the baptism of our Lord.

Our opening reading sets the stage for this Sunday, and our opening hymn has echoed this passage. God is creating the world. The earth is a “formless void,” and God is making something out of this void and transforming the void into a creation of beauty and variety and order.

God says that there will be light, and this is very important because we are entering the season of Epiphany, the season of light and mission. God’s light is coming into the world. As we read the story of the Creation in Genesis, after each work of creation there is a refrain: “And God saw that it was good.” The creation is good. At the end of this brief passage, God has brought the creation into being, and it is the end of the first day.

Our second reading is from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This  book is like a good news action film. The apostles go from place to place spreading the Good News about Jesus.

In this passage, Paul goes from Corinth to Ephesus. And, amazingly, he finds some disciples there. He asks them whether they received the Holy Spirit when they were baptized, and they say that did not. They have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

These disciples had been taught by Apollos, a Jewish man from Alexandria in Egypt who was a disciple of John the Baptist. Apollos had studied the scriptures and was an eloquent speaker, but he believed and taught a baptism of repentance as John the Baptist had.

Paul does not criticize the teachings of Apollos to these disciples. He simply tells them about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and they ask for that baptism. About twelve people receive the Holy Spirit that day.

Paul meets these disciples where they are, asks questions about where they are on their journey, and then opens up to them a deeper understanding of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. This is how he welcomed thousands of people into this new faith.

In our gospel for today, we have the privilege of being present at the baptism of our Lord. John the Baptist, or Baptizer, was a cousin of Jesus. When Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the baby John the Baptist leaped inside Elizabeth as he recognized the presence of his Savior, who was also his cousin. From the very beginning, John knew who Jesus was.

If we stop and meditate for just a moment, Mary and Joseph were not a king and queen or a prince and princess. They were ordinary people, but they were extraordinary in the depth of their wisdom and their spiritual understanding. The baby Jesus, our Savior, was born into the midst of a wise, courageous, deeply spiritual extended family.

Joseph was from King David’s royal line but he had no worldly power.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were past childbearing age. Zechariah was a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. They were the couple God chose to raise the one who was to prepare the way for the Messiah. Even when John was in the womb, he knew that Jesus was the Savior. And as he prepared the way, he made it very clear that he was not the Savior.

But John also knew that he was the forerunner, the messenger sent to call the people to repentance, and he carried out his ministry so well that people flocked to him from near and far. He had thousands of followers who hung on his every word.

In our gospel for today, John baptizes his cousin Jesus, and, when Jesus comes up out of the water, God says, “You are my Son, the Beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

This is the beginning of our Lord’s formal ministry. As we meditate on this passage, we can wonder what John was feeling in those moments and what Jesus was feeling. Perhaps the main thing they were feeling was the overwhelming presence and love of God.

Herbert O’Driscoll reminds us that, when God speaks of Jesus as God’s Beloved, God is also speaking to us. God’s entire work of creation is filled with love, and we will never be able fully to grasp the depth of the love God has for each and every one of us and all of us together. God has made us part of God’s Beloved Community, and for that, we are grateful beyond words.

Today, we will be renewing our baptismal vows. We renew our promise to  “Continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers;” we promise to resist evil and, when we fall, repent and return to God;” we promise to proclaim  “the good news of God in Christ;” We promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons;” and we promise to “strive for peace and  justice among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”

This past week, on the feast of the Epiphany, an act of insurrection was committed against our capitol. This was not a peaceful demonstration.  Crimes were committed, and the proper authorities are working to hold people accountable.

We are called to walk the Way of Love, and we are called to help God  build God’s shalom on earth. We are called to be part of God’s Beloved Community. Part of living the Way of Love is calling all of us to be responsible for our behavior. Violence is not acceptable. Breaking the law is not acceptable. All of us as citizens are called to treat each other with respect and to obey the law. As our Presiding Bishop has said, we are called to choose community over chaos.  People need to be called to account for their actions. All people need to be able to feel safe. There is much work to do. For the next few weeks, I am asking that we pray the Prayer for the Human Family on page 315 of the prayer book. Today, we will renew our vows to follow Jesus in the Way of Love. Amen.

1 Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord   January 7, 2018

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

Today is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the day we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. All of our readings tell about new beginnings.

In our first reading, from the Book of Genesis, God begins with a “formless void.” God makes a wind come up over the waters, and then God says, “Let there be light,” and the light comes into the world. Epiphany is the season of light and the season of mission.

In our reading from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, which gives us the account of events in the early Church, Paul arrives in Ephesus. He finds that Apollos had been there before him. Apollos was a Jewish man from Alexandria who had been deeply impressed with the teachings of John the Baptist and had traveled around the Mediterranean Sea with a group of other followers of John spreading the word about John the Baptist just as Paul had traveled with his helpers spreading the Good News about Jesus.

When Paul talks to the people in Ephesus, he learns the they had been baptized by Apollos into John’s baptism, that is, a baptism of repentance. They knew they had to change their ways and turn to God. But they had not received the baptism of Christ and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

As he learned these facts, Paul did not criticize Apollos. He simply shared the information that there was another, deeper baptism. Once they heard about this, the people wanted to receive that baptism. When he laid his hands on them, they received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is another new beginning. The congregation in Ephesus, composed of twelve people, has taken a giant step in faith, They have become members of the Body of Christ. They have now been equipped to carry out their ministry as ambassadors for Christ.

In our gospel, Mark tells us about John the Baptist, who so eloquently and powerfully called the people to repent and to turn toward God. Thousands of people flocked out into the wilderness to hear him preach and to receive his baptism. He made it clear that he was not the Messiah but that his job was to prepare the way for the Savior. He also made it clear that he baptized with water, but the Savior would baptize with the Spirit. So, when the congregation in Ephesus heard about this from Paul, they could relate it to the teaching they had received from John the Baptist.

To fulfill the word of the prophets, and to begin his formal ministry, Jesus came from Nazareth to be baptized by John in the Jordan River. At that time Jesus was completely unknown and John was a spiritual rock star attracting huge crowds. Yet John, with true humility, knows exactly what is happening. He has done his work. He has called the people to repentance, and they have responded in droves. Now his  work is done. He must decrease, and Jesus must increase.

John immerses Jesus, and, when Jesus comes up out of the waters, he sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove. He also hears the voice of God saying, “You are my Son, the beloved, and with you I am well pleased.” Now the Savior is beginning his ministry. The true light has come into the world. This is the greatest new beginning the world has ever seen.

The true light has come into the world. We are following him. We are patterning our lives after his life. How can we help his light to shine even more brightly? How can we help him to build his kingdom, his shalom, this Epiphany? How can we bear the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control? How can we help Him to make the world a better place? As we discover the answers to these questions, we can be sure that he will be with us every step of the way and that he will give us his grace and love to light our path.  Amen.

Epiphany 1—The Baptism of our Lord Year B RCL 01/11/15

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

This morning, we celebrate the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. We begin with the creation of the world. Specifically, our reading calls us to reflect on God’ s creation of light. At every point in the work of creation, God sees that the creation is good, God sees that the light is good,  and God divides the light from the dark and calls the light Day and the dark Night. Always, God sees that the creation is good.

Epiphany is the season of light and mission. The light has come into the world and is spreading over all the earth. As I write this, the temperature is well below zero. For several days, the wind chill has been at record levels. Now, as the light of Christ is coming into the world, we have passed the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the days, thanks be to God, are growing longer.

Jesus has come to be with us. A new creation is beginning. Paul says that in Christ each of us is a new creation.

In our epistle for today, Paul goes to Ephesus. A teacher named Apollos had been in Ephesus before Paul arrived there. Apollos was a disciple of John, and he baptized people into the baptism of John the Baptist.That is, he baptized them into a baptism of repentance.  Apollos did not teach that in baptism we become children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. He did not teach that in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. He did not teach about Jesus.

Paul does not say anything to the people about the limitations of Apollos’ teaching. He simply and lovingly meets them where they are. He baptizes them in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and, when he lays his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and bestows gifts upon them. When we are baptized, we receive all the gifts which we need to carry out our ministries. We become children of God.  We become members of the living Body of Christ, here to share his love and healing with the world.

In our gospel, John is baptizing people in the River Jordan. His baptism is a baptism of repentance. He is calling people to turn their lives over to God, to confess their sins right there on the river bank, to admit their past failings and their need for God, and begin a new life. Although he is out in the country, far from the power centers of the city, hundreds of people are flocking to him to hear his message and ask God to transform their lives.

John has a clear understanding of who he is and who Jesus is. We remember that, right after the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to the Son of God, Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth was pregnant with John, who would later be called the Baptist. When Mary met Elizabeth, the baby John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. Even at that point, he recognized Jesus, when both John and Jesus were still in their mothers’ wombs.

From the beginning, John recognized who Jesus was. John said he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. He said that he must decrease and Jesus must increase. John is such an inspiring example of humility. He knew exactly who he was and who he was not. He had no desire to build his own empire. He was not competing with Jesus. He knew that he was called to prepare the way of the Lord, as Isaiah had written many centuries before. And that is what he did.

Jesus wades into the Jordan and allows himself to be baptized by John, But John is saying, “You should be baptizing me.” Jesus, the eternal Word who called the creation into being, walks into the River Jordan so that his cousin John can immerse him, baptize him. As Jesus rises up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and God says, “You are my son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.”

Herbert O’Driscoll wisely reminds us that God is saying those words to us. “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter.”

The light is coming into the world, The love is coming into the world. The joy is coming into the world and into our lives. Darkness and brokenness and hatred flee before this light and love and joy.

In baptism, we know who we really are, We are children of God. Jesus has come to be with us, and we know we are not alone. The creator of the universe has come to be our brother. We have seen God walking the face of the earth, and we can follow him.

In a moment, we will renew our own baptismal vows.  We will renew our promise to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.” We will renew our promise  to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” We will renew our promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.” And we will renew our promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Our baptism is really our ordination to our ministries in the Body of Christ. We are really promising to be the Body of Christ, to spread his compassion and healing wherever we go.

This is a very tall order. We will not always do it perfectly. We will stumble. We will need to ask for help to get back on track. We will not always be as compassionate as we want to be. But, every step of the way, our Lord will be right beside us. In fact, he will often be out in front of us, guiding us, yes, protecting us, encouraging us, untangling us from the briars of despair, leading us to good pasture and to still waters. Always, always, there will be his light, which no darkness can overcome. Always, always, there will be his love, which is stronger than hate, stronger than death, stronger than fear. Always, always, he will be with is. And gradually, steadily, we will be transformed, and his shalom will cover the whole wide earth.  Amen.