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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 10 Proper 15C August 18, 2019

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-2. 8-18
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

In our opening reading from the prophet Isaiah, God is lovingly building a vineyard. The vineyard is on a fertile hill. God carefully digs it out, removes the stones, plants it with choice vines, builds a watchtower, and hews out a wine vat. All is ready. God expects the vineyard to produce excellent grapes, but it produces sour grapes. The vineyard is a metaphor for the people of God, in this case, the people of Isaiah’s time two thousand seven hundred years ago.

Unfortunately, the vineyard yields sour grapes. The rich and powerful are buying up more and more land, creating huge farms managed by absentee landowners and literally robbing the peasants of their land and livelihood. But the poor cannot get justice. The rich have only to bribe the judges. Corruption is everywhere and the vulnerable suffer. War with the Assyrian Empire will soon follow. God’s word is not being followed.  The vineyard will be destroyed.

In our reading from Hebrews, we begin with God leading the people out of slavery in Egypt and go down through the list of all the people of faith who lived the kind of lives that inspire us. We can all think of our favorite saints, heroes and heroines of the faith who shine as beacons for us to follow as we move through the challenges of life.

Indeed, we are “surrounded by a great  cloud of witnesses.” as we run this race. Because of their holy example, we can hang in there. We can “cast off every weight and sin that clings so closely and look to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter our faith.”  We can see him out there ahead of us, leading us, encouraging us, and, thanks to his grace, we can follow him faithfully and complete the race.

What a wonderful thing—we are not alone. It is a blessing that we have the loving power of this “cloud of witnesses” in our minds and hearts as we meditate on the incredibly difficult and challenging gospel for today. We so love our Lord, who is the Prince of Peace. Why does he say such things as he is saying today?

We have to remember that he is heading toward Jerusalem and he knows exactly what he will be facing there. God is a God of love, mercy and justice, and the leaders of our Lord’s time, both religious and secular, were not loving God with all their mind and heart and soul and strength or their neighbors as themselves. The ministry of Jesus turned the world upside down and threatened their power, so they killed him.

Our Lord is telling us that, before his shalom is fully here, there will be strife and division. For me, the most profound and immediate example of this is our own Civil War. With hindsight, we know that slavery is wrong. We know that one human being cannot and should not presume to own another human being. This is treating a fellow human being as an object to be bought, like a horse or a cow. If we think of our Baptismal Covenant, this is not respecting the dignity of every human being.

Yet back in the 1850’s and 1860’s. you could go into churches and hear sermons on both sides of this question. Respected people took stands on both sides of this issue. The Holy Spirit was “guiding us into all truth,” but oh, what a terrible struggle. This is the best example I can think of of Jesus bringing, not peace, but a sword. We are still working on this issue. And there are many other examples we could cite.

There was a time when women could not vote in this country and we realized that they should be granted this right. There was a time when there were signs in the windows of stores and business that read, “No Irish need apply.” There was a time when we put Japanese people who were American citizens in internment camps.There was a time when we failed to think of making buildings and other places accessible to all people. We humans have an innate tendency to lord it over each other, to exclude each other for certain reasons, whether it be race, gender, class, educational level, and on and on it goes. 

As Archbishop Tutu and Bishop Curry remind us, “God has a big family,” but how difficult it has been for us over the centuries to accept that fact.

Jesus calls us to choose his vision of the world, his shalom, his kingdom, his reign. The values of that kingdom are very far from the values we see in much of the world today, so, yes, we have to make choices. When I’m talking with people, and I’m sure this is true for you as well, many folks will say something like, “Thanksgiving dinner is hard for my family. Some us think one way, and the others think exactly the opposite.” I think that’s what our Lord meant by this gospel passage. 

What are we called to do in this situation? What I would suggest is that we focus on the gospels, that we read responsibly, paying attention to the context, and that we try to absorb as much of the life and ministry and spirit of Jesus as we possibly can, that we pray for his guidance, and ask for grace to follow him.

God does indeed have a big family, and Jesus is calling us to help him build his shalom, and the Spirit is guiding us into all the truth, but it is a difficult birth process. May we remember that he is the Prince of Peace calling us to help build his shalom. May we look for him, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” who is out in front leading us, and may we run the race with him and for him surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses. Amen.

Pentecost 16 Proper 20A RCL September 24, 2017

Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

In our opening reading today, we are journeying with the Israelites, who have escaped their slavery in Egypt, but they are now wishing they had died there, because they are missing the abundance of food which they enjoyed. Of course, they are forgetting that they were enslaved.  All they can do is complain that they do not have enough food. Any journey from slavery to freedom is a demanding one. God gives them quails and manna from heaven.

In his letter to his beloved congregation in Philippi, Paul says that he would actually be glad to die and to go and be with Christ, but he will stay here in order to help the community of faith to grow and progress and have joy in their faith. Paul calls the Philippians and us to “Live [our lives] on a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

In our gospel for today, our Lord gives us a parable that tells us how to live lives worthy of him.

Back in the time of Jesus, there was no Vermont Department of Labor, no employment office where you could go to find work. If you were looking for work, you would go to the village marketplace and employers would come and hire people.

Early one morning, a landowner goes to the village marketplace and hires some workers for the usual daily wage. They go to his vineyard and get to work. He goes out to the marketplace about nine o’clock and finds other people standing idle, and he tells them to go to work in the vineyard ad he will pay them what is right. They go to work. Apparently, this landowner wants to give everyone some useful work to do.

The landowner goes out at noon and again at three o’clock and again at five o’clock and hires more people.

At the end of the day, the landowner tells his manager to pay the laborers, but he does it in a very strange way. He tells the manager to begin with the last and go to the first. This sounds a lot like Jesus is the landowner because he kept saying that the last shall be first and the first last. So we can be pretty sure that this is how Jesus would run things.

The manager calls the people who were hired last and he gives them the entire usual daily wage for a full day’s work. That is more than fair. That is extremely generous. Finally, the people who started early in the day receive their pay. Lo and behold, it is the usual daily wage.

They are so upset they can hardly contain themselves. “You paid those late guys the same as you paid us. We worked all day. What is the matter with you? You should have paid us more.”

The landowner quietly but firmly replies, “When I hired you, I said I would pay you the usual daily wage. That is exactly what I did. I chose to give to these last folks the same as I gave to you. After all. they were standing there all day waiting for a job. They were willing to work. Why are you so angry because I am generous?”

With God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. God is fair, God is just, and God is generous.

Lately, I have been thinking of my own family. My mother’s side of the family came over from Germany before the American Revolution. They fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. My father’s side of the family were Roman Catholics who came over from Northern Ireland in the latter part of the nineteenth century. My grandfather, who was  eight years old, came over in a ship with his grandmother. They landed at Ellis Island in New York City and they worked hard and became civil servants in the City of New York and later in Vermont.

When my grandfather was growing up, I am sure that he saw signs that said, “No Irish need apply.” Later on, the Italians came over and they were the low people on the totem pole, and then others and others. Now we have the dreamers and we have our neighbors from Mexico who keep our dairy farms going

For God, no one is the low person on the totem pole. The last are the first and the first are the last.

This year, our clergy conference is on “Racial Reconciliation.” Right now, I am reading a wrenching book by Michael Eric Dyson. The title is “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.” Michael’s own son, a physician, has been stopped by the police for no reason. Michael, who has written nineteen books, is a professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and holds numerous honors, has had to deal with racism directed at him his whole life.

In preparation for this clergy conference, we are required to take the RACE Implicit Bias Test.

Today’s gospel addresses many issues. It addresses race. It also addresses the issue of our migrant workers here in Vermont. Kim Erno will be speaking on that at our potluck agape feast at noon today. This gospel speaks to all the issues that we use to separate ourselves, all the issues we use to give some people privilege and power and other people less privilege and power. God is calling us today to think about these things, to pray about these things, to do honest and thorough self-examination and to follow our baptismal vows to “respect the dignity of every human being.” “Dignity” is also the theme of our diocesan convention this year.

May we “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.” May we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Amen.

Let us say together The Baptismal Covenant, page 304.

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ January 8, 2017

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

Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. Our first reading is the inspiring description of God’s servant and of the ministry to which God calls all of us. God’s servant is gentle, He does not break a bruised reed, He does not put out a candle that is flickering. He is here to bring forth justice.

God tells us that God has taken us by the hand and guided and protected us. God has called us to be a light to the nations. God has called us to open the eyes of the blind, to free prisoners from their dungeons. God tells us that the former things have passed and that God is creating something new.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, we hear from Peter. He has realized that the new faith in Christ is for all people. Peter gives a summary of the ministry of our Lord and tells his listeners that we have been called to spread the Good News to everyone.

In our gospel for today, we have the privilege of being present at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Up to this point, Jesus has led a quiet life. We think that he spent time studying the scriptures and that he was familiar with the passage from Isaiah which describes God’s servant. He probably worked with Joseph in the carpenter shop. He may have studied with the Essenes, a religious community of that time. We can assume that he knew how to work hard, that he was part of a large extended family and he lived a normal, quiet everyday life.

But now he goes south from Galilee to where his cousin John is baptizing people in the Jordan River. John feels that Jesus should be baptizing him, but Jesus insists that John baptize him.

This is baptism by immersion, a kind of drowning, That is what baptism means in Greek— a drowning to our old self. Jesus falls back into the water and is submerged. Then he comes up out of the water and he hears the voice of God telling Jesus who he is.

Jesus was fully human. Like all of us, he had wondered who he was, what his gifts were, what he was called to do, what his ministry would be. As we watch his ministry unfold, we can see that he knew the scriptures about Gods suffering servant, the one who is so gentle and compassionate, the one who can see deep into each of us, the one who can reach the hurt places within us and offer healing and forgiveness, the one who can cure us of our blindness and free us from things that imprison us.

But when he emerged from the water and heard the voice of his heavenly father, he knew on a deeper level what he was called to do. From then on, he gave all his time and energy to the people who thronged around him, hungry for love and healing and forgiveness.

The prophet Isaiah gives us God’s description of the suffering. compassionate servant. That is a description of the ministry of our Lord, but it is also a description of the ministry to which each of us is called, and to which all of us are called together.

We are called to free people from blindness and to help them see the love and healing that comes from our Lord. We are called to help to free people from things which imprison them, things such as addiction, poverty, and abuse. We are called to help to bring justice to the earth.

As we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, we remember that we are members of his risen Body called to do his ministry here on earth.

So this morning, let us renew our own baptismal vows by sharing in the Baptismal Covenant, page 304.