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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion March 26, 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 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:…

Pentecost 9 Proper 12B July 25, 2021

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

David was a great king who brought together all the tribes of Israel and united the northern and southern kingdoms. He was a valiant warrior. His people knew him and and loved him. And David was a person of deep faith. Even as a young boy, he attributed his victory over Goliath as the work of God on behalf of God’s people. And God loved him, called him to be king, called him to be the shepherd of God’s people.  The Messiah would later come from the house of David.

In our opening reading for today, we have the account of David’s fall into the depths of depravity. He is not leading the troops into battle. He looks out from the roof of the king’s house in Jerusalem, sees a beautiful woman, inquires about her, and finds out that she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his most trusted officers. This should make David stop and think, but it does not. 

David commits the sin of adultery, finds out that Bathsheba is pregnant, calls Uriah in from the  battle, asks about the progress of the war, and tries to get Uriah to go home and spend the night with his wife so that it will appear that the baby is Uriah’s child. 

Uriah must have wondered about the behavior of his beloved commander. It was unusual to call officers home from the front. As a loyal officer, Uriah is not going to go home and see his wife while the army is at war. He sleeps with the servants at the entrance of the king’s house. Even when David gets Uriah drunk, the faithful officer shows his loyalty to his king, does his duty as an officer, and stays at the king’s house. Now David sinks even lower. Knowing that the faithful officer Uriah would never open an official communication, David gives him a letter to deliver to his general, Joab. The letter orders Joab to put Uriah in the front lines and then fall back and leave him to be killed by the enemy. Uriah is carrying his death sentence.

As David said in his lament at the death of Saul and Jonathan, “How the mighty have fallen.” Uriah’s loyalty and integrity are such a contrast to David’s shocking behavior.

In our gospel for today, we have John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand. It is near the time of the Passover. Jesus asks Philip where they will buy food for the crowd, knowing what he is going to do. But Andrew, who has apparently been getting acquainted with the people, has already found a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish.

Jesus tells the discipes to make the people sit down. When we are in a big crowd and we sit down on the grass and we are in the presence of Jesus, suddenly there is a sense of order, a sense of quiet, a sense of purpose. As Julian said centuries later, “All will be well.” Jesus takes the loaves, blesses them, breaks them and distributes them. It is a eucharistic action. They gather up the leftovers and there are twelve baskets. The people begin to realize who Jesus is.

Evening comes, and the disciples get into a boat to cross the sea of Galilee. Now it is dark, the wind comes up, the waves grow higher, and there Jesus is, coming to them on the water. They are terrified. And he says those crucial words. “It is I; do not be afraid.”

What are these readings saying to us? First, David was a great leader in many ways. Yet he went far astray. We are all sinners. We all misuse God’s gift of free will at various times in our lives. The Bible does not mince words concerning this truth. Thanks be to God that we can reach out and grasp the hand of our risen Lord. Thanks be to God that we can follow our Good Shepherd.

And then the feeding of five thousand people. Andrew has found a boy with five barley loaves and two fish. We are called to look around us, find out what gifts God is giving us, and use those gifts. Jesus takes, gives thanks, breaks and shares those loaves and fishes. Five thousand people are fed. We have the gifts we need to be Christ’s risen body and share his love with others. Thanks be to God  and our faithful volunteers for our food shelf, which is feeding so many people.

Once David misuses his power and begins his downward slide, many of his decisions are governed by fear. Our Lord says, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Again, we can reach out and touch our risen Lord and be calm and regain our faith and get back on track.

Our epistle gives us some wonderful food for meditation. Paul’s disciple prays that we “may be strengthened in [our] inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith, as [we] are being rooted and grounded in love,” And then this faithful disciple prays “that [we] may know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Perhaps that is what happened to that crowd of five thousand people, sitting on the grass by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which is really a fresh water lake, so we can imagine being near Fairfield Pond or maybe Lake Champlain, being seated near the water and eating this meal which Jesus has prepared for us. Or we can think of ourselves, here at Grace Church. We will soon share this Eucharist, this thanksgiving feast at which Jesus is the host.  We will soon share this meal which fills us with the fullness of God. May we always remember that Jesus told us his kingdom is within us. He is with us always, around us and within us. 

Verse six of hymn 370, St. Patrick’s breastplate says, “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me. Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

And our epistle ends with this benediction: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” 

Pentecost 3A RCL June 21, 2020

Genesis 21:8-21
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

Last Sunday, our first reading ended with the birth of Isaac. At last, Abraham and Sarah have a son. This Sunday, we celebrate the weaning of Isaac. Scholars tell us that in those times, about sixteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, babies were weaned when they were three years old. There is a great feast going on to celebrate this occasion, and Sarah sees the son of Hagar, her slave, playing with Isaac. Hagar’s son is older than Isaac. 

Years ago, when Sarah had been unable to have a child, she told Abraham to have sex with her maid, Hagar, so that he would have an heir. Such things were done in those times. Having an heir meant having a future. 

Now, Sarah is seeing Hagar’s son as a threat to her son Isaac. He is older and he might try to present himself as Abraham’s heir in place of Isaac. So Sarah tells Abraham that he must order Hagar to take her son and leave. They are in a desert environment, and this is going to place Hagar and her son in great peril. Abraham is very upset over this. God tells Abraham to do what Sarah is asking and God also tells Abraham that It is through Isaac that Abraham’s descendants will be named, but that God will make a nation of the son of Hagar.

Abraham gets up early in the morning, gives Hagar a skin full of water and some bread, and sends her on her way with her son. Hagar goes into the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. She puts her son in the shade under a bush to try to protect him from the sun. Then she goes as far away as she can and still see him. She does not want to see him die.

Having done all she can, Hagar begins to weep.  The text says that “God heard the voice of the boy.” Apparently, he was crying, too. Thus we learn the boy’s name, “God hears” is the translation of the name Ishmael.  The angel of God calls to Hagar from heaven and tells her that God will make a nation of Ishmael. God calls her to take her son’s hand.  Then she sees a well. She goes and fills the skin with water and gives Ishmael a drink.

The text says, “God was with the boy and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. His mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.” Ishmael is a Bedouin, the ancestor of the Arab people. Christians and Jews trace their ancestry to Abraham through Isaac. Muslims trace that lineage through Ishmael.

On the human level, this is a story of jealousy and fear on the part of Sarah, emotions that drive her to treat Hagar and Ishmael very badly. On the divine level, this is an eloquent statement that God can love and protect more than one person or group at the same time.   

Biblical scholar Thomas Troeger writes, “The failure of people whom we have most honored and admired, people like Abraham and Sarah, cannot defeat the compassion of God who intervenes to rescue and uphold us.” (Troeger, New Proclamation A Series 1999, p. 121.)

Our epistle today reminds us that we have been crucified with Christ. Our old self has died. As Paul writes, “Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again.” We have been crucified with Christ, and now we are in newness of life with him. We are being transformed into his likeness.

In our gospel for today, Jesus talks about many things. He talks about confusing evil with good. He says that everything will come out into the light. He tells us that God cares even about a sparrow, that God knows each of us intimately, even to the number of hairs on our heads, and God loves us very much. He tells us not to be afraid. And then he, our Lord, the Prince of Peace, says something that shocks us. “I have come not to bring peace, but a sword.” And he says that even family members will be set against each other.

Our baptismal vows call us to honor the dignity of every human being. This is a very difficult thing for us humans to do. In our own country, people held slaves until the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Indeed, people continued to keep slaves until the first Juneteenth, June 19, 1865, two and a half years after the Emancipation. We have come to realize that one human being cannot own another. It is wrong. 

And yet, we have had such difficulty thinking of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters as fully human, just as we had a problem thinking women were fully human. We thought that getting a college education would be too difficult for them, that their minds were not up to that challenge, We thought that women should not vote, that they were not quite up to that task. 

When we were hiring workers, we hung out signs saying “No Irish need apply.” The tendency to put down other people, deny them their human rights, the tendency to be blind to the fact that God loves each of us and all of us, is, in my opinion, what our Lord is talking about when he says that he brings a sword of division. He is calling us to work our way through this issue so that we can help him bring in his peace, his shalom.

When he said, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you,” he knew he was challenging us. But I think he also thought and hoped that, with his guidance and grace, we would be up to the challenge. 

Our lesson from the Hebrew scriptures, written by the Elohist writer almost two thousand eight hundred years ago, addresses this issue. God loves Hagar with the same infinite love with which God loves Sarah. God loves Ishmael with the same infinite love with which God loves Isaac. As Bishop Tutu says, “God has a big family.” Within that big family, may we all be one as Jesus and God are one.  Amen.

Epiphany 2A January 19, 2020

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

This sermon will be shorter in order to allow time for our annual meeting.

In our first reading, the prophet known as the Second Isaiah is proclaiming God’s good news to God’s people. God is going to bring the exiles home. God’s servant is not only Isaiah but the entire nation of God’s people. All of God’s people are going to become a light to the whole world, and the message of God’s love is going to be extended to all people. Passages such as this are the basis for Archbishop Tutu’s statement that “God has a big family.” God’s family includes everyone.

In our gospel, John the Baptist is telling everyone that Jesus is the Savior. Two of John’s disciples follow Jesus, and he asks them what they are looking for. They answer “Rabbi,” addressing him as a teacher, and he responds, “Come and see.” One of them is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. These two men stay with Jesus and learn from him that day. By the end of the day, Andrew goes to his brother, Simon Peter, and says, “We have found the Messiah.” Andrew takes Simon Peter to Jesus, who takes one look at this man, sees deeply into his spirit, and says, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas,” meaning Peter.  Like Paul who came after him, Simon’s transformation is so profound that he receives a new name. He will be the leader of the apostles.

In our epistle, Paul is writing to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. He begins his letter by emphasizing the many gifts God has given the people in that community. This is true of every community of people following Jesus.

Peter and Paul both realized what Isaiah had said several centuries before them—that God loves all people and that the good news of Jesus is for all people all around the world.

Our collect for today tells us that Jesus is the light of the world. And then our collect carries forward the concept presented by Isaiah, that  we, God’s people, illumined by God’s word and sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory. In other words, we are praying that we, you and I, lighted up and inspired by the scriptures we are reading today and the sacrament of Christ’s presence which we will be sharing, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s risen presence, and that we may spread his light and love everywhere we go.

This is a wonderful prayer. As we share the light and love of Christ, we often do that more by attitudes and actions than by words. As we follow our Lord, we find that he is transforming us just as he transformed Peter and Paul and Mary Magdalene and Teresa of Avila and so many others.

In his address to the 79th General Convention on July 4, 2018, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry described what happened when people got to know Jesus. Bishop Curry says, “They found themselves loving the way Jesus loved, giving the way Jesus gives, forgiving the way Jesus forgives, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly just like Jesus.” As Bishop Curry says, “If it’s about love, it’s about God. If it isn’t about love, it isn’t about God.”

Lord Jesus, give us your grace that we may continue to share your light and love.  Amen.

Pentecost 10 Proper 12B RCL July 29, 2018

2 Samuel 11:1-15
Psalm 14
Ephesians 3:14-21
John 6:1-21

In our opening reading, we are given the opportunity to witness a low point in the journey of King David. The first clue is that David has sent out Joab, his chief military officer, to lead the troops into battle while David relaxes at him. He is not doing his job.

The next step on this downward path is that David uses his power as king to command Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of his most faithful soldiers, to come to his home, where he seduces her.

The next step on this downward moral spiral occurs when Bathsheba finds out that she is pregnant and David tries to get Uriah to go down to his house so that all will think the baby is his, but Uriah refuses to go and enjoy the comforts of home when Joab and all the other soldiers are on duty.

Finally, David sinks to the lowest point when he instructs Joab to put Uriah into the front lines and then withdraw in order to allow Uriah to be killed by the enemy.

Uriah’s loyalty, integrity, and sense of duty stand in stark contrast to the behavior of the king. At every step, David is using his power to get whatever he wants with no concern for the dignity of others. He is also using his power to protect himself and his position as king.

In today’s gospel, we move from Mark’s gospel to the gospel of John.

Once again, throngs of people are following Jesus and the disciples because they see how Jesus is healing the sick.

These people are also going to need to be fed, and Jesus asks Philip where they can buy food, Philip points out that they do not have nearly enough money to do that. Andrew has found a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, not nearly enough to feed this huge crowd. But Jesus is never willing to let anyone go hungry. He invites this crowd of five thousand to sit down on the grass. Jesus takes the food, gives thanks, and the disciples distribute the food among the people. When they gather the leftovers, they fill twelve baskets. There is great abundance. There is enough to feed everyone who is hungry.

The people begin to say that Jesus is the great prophet who is to come into the world. They are beginning to sense who he is. They want to seize him and make him king. He goes to the mountain again, He does not want worldly power. He goes to be apart with God.

The disciples decide to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. A strong wind comes up and the waves get bigger. They are rowing with all their might but not making much progress. When they see Jesus walking on the water, they become terrified. In Mark’s account, they think Jesus is a ghost. He speaks to them: “It is I; do not be afraid.” They recognize him and want to take him into the boat, and immediately, they reach their destination.

Jesus did not want earthly power. He constantly tells us that his power is from another realm. No matter how big the crowds are, he always feeds them, physically and spiritually. He goes apart to be with God. Then, when he is ready to rejoin his disciples, he simply walks on the water, even in a high wind. He tells us not to be afraid. When we are in the grip of fear, it is almost impossible for us to get on the beam, to get on track and hear God’s voice calling us.

David committed adultery. Then, because of his fear that this infringement of the law would be discovered, he had a good and loyal soldier murdered.

In our epistle for today, Paul prays that we “may be strengthened in [our] inner being with power through [the] Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts through faith as [we] are being rooted and grounded in love.” He also prays that we “may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints,”—that is, with all our fellow Christians, “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of God which surpasses knowledge.” In other words, Paul is praying that we will be able to sense and understand the breadth and length and the height and depth of God’s love. That is the journey of a lifetime, to even begin to understand the infinite extent of God’s love for us. And Paul says that he wants us to understand just how much God loves us so that we “may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Clearly, if David had kept his eye and mind on God, he would not have embarked on the tragic and destructive course of action he took. In trying to cover his tracks, he sank even lower. The way of faith is so different from the way of fear. Now, as always, Jesus calls to us, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

God’s love for us is infinite. We will never be able to fully understand it. But Saint Paul wisely calls us to try to plumb that mystery. He knows that, as we allow ourselves to know and accept the depth of God’s love for us, we will be filled with God’s presence more and more.

As that happens, fear will wane, and faith will grow., Christ will dwell in our hearts, and we will be rooted and grounded in love.  Amen.

Epiphany 2A RCL January 15, 2017

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Our first reading comes from the prophet known as the Second Isaiah. Like Jeremiah, he had a sense that he was called by God from the time he was in the womb. We also were called by God to be God’s own beloved from the time we were in our mother’s womb.

God tells Isaiah that God is going to bring the people home from their exile in Babylon. This is wonderful news of great hope. But then God adds something that is almost mind-shattering: God is calling not only Isaiah but all of God’s people to be “a light to the nations, so that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This includes us as people of God. We are called to be a light to the world, sharing the gifts of faith, hope, and love with all the people we meet.

As we turn to our epistle for today, I think of Herbert O’Driscoll, who points out that, if St. Paul has to give both bad news and good news, he always begins with the good news. The church in Corinth has some dire problems. Some people think that they know more than other people and they are trying to force others to think the way they do instead of engaging in respectful dialogue. Some people think the gifts God has given them, particularly the gift of speaking in tongues, are superior gifts and people who have that gift should be able to lord it over others. Some other teachers have come in and told the people that Paul is an inferior teacher who does not know what he is talking about, and people should follow these new teachers. One of these is named Apollos.

Paul is going to have to help the people deal with these issues, which are tearing their community apart, and he will deal with them by writing a letter full of some of the most important theology in the Christian tradition, teachings that are as fresh and essential today as they were back then in the first century. But first, he centers his letter where it should be centered—in Christ and in all the gifts our Lord has given the church in Corinth. Throughout the entire letter, he will emphasize that what is important is our Lord, his presence among us and the gifts he gives us. First Corinthians is a wonderful letter full of wisdom. We will be reading selections from this letter for the next several weeks.

In our gospel, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and he describes our Lord as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. From this passage comes our solemn chant, Agnus Dei. John is absolutely sure that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. The next day, John again calls Jesus the Lamb of God, and two of John’s disciples follow Jesus. If John, their teacher whom they love and trust, is saying that this is the Savior, they want to be close to him. They want to see what he is about. They want to learn from him. I think they had hoped to follow him quietly and stay near him and learn something.

But Jesus turns around and sees them. He is so matter-of-fact. “What are you looking for?” he asks them. They answer with great respect: “Rabbi, where are you staying?” This may sound like a strange question and maybe they are a bit flustered and it’s the first thing they can think of to blurt out, but the fact is that they want to follow him. Their own teacher, John, has pointed out that this is the Savior. Why wouldn’t they want to follow him? Jesus says, “Come and see.”

Come and see. What an invitation. Just come and hang out and see what’s happening. So they go with Jesus and the disciples and stay the whole day. It gets to be about four in the afternoon, and we find out who one of these two men is. It’s Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

Now, Andrew does something that is tremendously important: he goes to his brother Simon and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” A simple, down to earth statement. Then Andrew brings Simon to Jesus. Andrew, this quiet brother, brings Simon to Jesus. And Jesus names him Cephas, which means Peter.

We all know that Jesus later chose Peter to be the leader of the apostles. But what if his brother Andrew had not realized that Jesus was the Savior? What if Andrew had not gone to tell Peter about Jesus?

Andrew is a quiet person, but he pays careful attention to everything.

Later, when Jesus is being followed by a huge crowd and it is late and the people are hungry, Jesus asks the disciples if anyone has any food. It is Andrew who has made a connection with a little boy who has five loaves and two fish. Andrew is quiet and aware, and he connects people with each other so that good things can happen.

Peter is more demonstrative—he jumps into the water when he sees Jesus coming across the lake and begins to sink; he denies Jesus three times but then accepts Jesus’ forgiveness and renews his commitment on the shores of the lake after Jesus is risen; Peter is fiery and emotional, but he is also the rock on which Jesus builds his church. Here we have the story of how his quiet brother Andrew helps Peter to connect with our Lord, the Light of the world.

And that is what we are called to do—to listen and be aware, and live our faith, and help people to connect with Jesus because they see a glimpse of his life and love in us. Thank God for the connectors in this world, people like Andrew who bring people together, who find a little boy who is willing to share his lunch so that a crowd can be fed; people like Andrew who bring people to Christ. May we follow his example.  Amen.