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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.

Epiphany 3A January 26, 2020

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Our first reading, this powerful and moving passage from Isaiah, is also our first reading on Christmas Day. Scholars tell us that this text dates back to around 725 B.C.E. The Assyrian Empire has defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, has been living in deep fear and anguish. They have been terrified that the Assyrians will defeat them, too.

A new king has been born, and God is telling the people that they are moving from the darkness of that fear into the light. God has freed them from the oppressor. There will be a new kingdom of justice and compassion. As Christians, we immediately think of the reign of our King, Jesus, who comes among us to break every yoke/

Our psalm describes what life is like in the light, the presence of God. Yes, life has many challenges, but we do not live in fear. We sense the presence and protection of God. Both our reading from Isaiah and our psalm for today are filled with the  joy of being in the presence of God.

Last week, our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians focused on the gifts which God has given them—and us— so that they and we, can follow Christ and be a loving community. In today’s passage, Paul is beginning to address some of the major problems that are affecting the community in Corinth.

There are some people in the Corinthian community who feel that their gifts are superior to the gifts of other people. For example, some of the people feel that the gift of speaking in tongues is the highest gift of all, and, if you don’t have that gift, you are inferior. In Chapter 13 of this letter, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that the greatest gift is love.

 In today’s text, Paul is pointing out that the members of the community have divided up into factions. Some are following a man named Apollos, a charismatic teacher who had come through town and attracted followers in the congregation. Others are following Paul, others Peter, and so on. The question is, who are we supposed to be following? The answer is, not Paul, nor Peter, not Apollos, but Jesus. 

Herbert O’Driscoll talks about “the indignant claim to being right or superior or more genuine than others….a putting down of someone else, an excluding of them from some real or imagined charmed circle of orthodoxy or shared spiritual experience. The message—rarely put into words—is, ‘I am of Christ, and you are not!’” (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year A Vol. 1, p. 81.)

We can tell from reading this passage that Paul is deeply troubled by these divisions. Christ was crucified for us, not Paul. We were baptized in the name of Christ, and he is the head of the Church. One of the great strengths of Grace Church is that you keep these truths constantly in mind. You remember that you are following Christ, and that he calls you to be a community of love.

In our gospel for today, Jesus learns that John the Baptist has been put in prison. This is ominous news. Jesus had gone South to be baptized by John the Baptist. This brought him closer to Jerusalem, where Herod Antipas ruled. Now he moves north to Galilee, where there is more distance from the center of Herod’s ruthless and unjust tyranny.

And what does our Lord do? He can see that Herod is asserting his deadly control, ready to extinguish any flickering flame of justice or compassion. He could have allowed fear to deflect him from his mission. He could have run away. He could have tried to hide. 

But he does not run away or hide. He knows that it is time for him to form a community. He knows that he is not going to spread the good news of the light and love of God alone. He knows what Isaiah has written. He knows that it is time for the light to shine. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he sees Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, casting their nets, and he says those words we will never forget: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, they leave their nets and follow him. A little further along, he sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee, on the boat with their father, and he calls them. They leave the boat and their father, and follow him.

And then, very simply, Matthew tells us that Jesus went all around Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. We can imagine that, as he and Peter and Andrew and James and John went from place to place, others joined them.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We have seen that light. Our darkness has been enlightened by the light and love of our Lord. We are following him. With his grace, we are sharing his love.

In our Collect for today, we pray that God will give us the grace to answer “the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation…”

This past Tuesday, the clients of the food shelf gathered in the new building. There, Nancy and Debbie welcomed the people and signed them up to receive food. Some folks shared their needs and illnesses and challenges. We prayed with them. And then we prayed together for all the folks who come for help. Meanwhile, our volunteers were at work in the church undercroft packing and distributing the food. It was a very cold day, but they  cheerfully helped the clients carry their food to their vehicles.

Our volunteers did a lot of hard work in that extremely cold weather, but there was no complaining. Our clients had to wait for a long period of time but there was no complaining. There was a lot of laughter, and love, and light. In this and many other ways, we are receiving the grace to answer the call of our Lord and to share the good news of his salvation. Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts. 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.