• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • 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:…

Advent 3C December 12, 2021

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Canticle 9, p. 86
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Our opening reading today is from the prophet Zephaniah, whose ministry took place during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BCE.) Josiah was a great king who called the people to renew their commitment to following the law.

The people have returned from their captivity in Babylon. Zephaniah tells them that God has turned away all their enemies.  Herbert O’Driscoll points out that God is addressing the people as God’s children, “Rejoice, O daughter Zion.” God is speaking to us as our divine parent who loves us. God is calling us to rejoice. Our loving God is calling us not to fear and not to grow weak, because God is in the midst of us. God will “renew [us] in his love.” God will deal with all of our oppressors. God will save the lame and  the outcast. God will bring us home. God will bring in God’s shalom of peace, justice, and mercy.

Canticle 9 adds momentum to this theme of joy. “Surely, it is God who saves me: I will trust in him and not be afraid.” When we realize that God is in our midst and that God will lead us in the right direction, we can let go of fear, hold on to faith, and be a people of joy. This is a wonderful song about the power of faith.

Our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is full of joy and hope. Paul is writing from prison. He founded this congregation and he has kept in close touch with them. Unlike the Corinthians who have power struggles and divide into factions at the drop of a hat, the Philippians are steeped in the love of Christ. They are one as Jesus and the Father are one. They have a spirit of gentleness. Paul begins by calling them and us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Paul writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If we ask God for guidance and try to follow that guidance with God’s grace, peace flows into us, faith grows, and fear diminishes. As Paul says, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

In our gospel, John the Baptist is calling the people and us to repentance. We can’t say that we are part of the right church or race or groups so we don’t have to change. All of us  have to look within and, as someone once said, we have to make room for Jesus in the inns of our hearts.

John calls us to share our clothing with those who have none. Tax collectors would often add a hefty charge into people’s taxes to they could make more money. John tells them they have to stop cheating people. Soldiers would sometimes use their power to abuse people. John tells them they have to treat people with respect.

The people begin to wonder whether John is the Messiah. And here John shows one of his most admirable qualities, He knows who is is. He has no desire to gain power. He tells them that one is coming who is much greater that he is. And he says that the Messiah will be sharing the news of his kingdom, his shalom. That kingdom, that shalom, will involve a major reordering of priorities based on God’s call to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

John the Baptist is a wonderful holy example for us. He knows that he is here to prepare the way of the Lord. John is the cousin of Jesus. I think they knew each other very well.  At the time when Jesus came to John to baptized in the River Jordan, John had hundreds, perhaps thousands of followers. He was like a rock star, He could have done anything he wanted to do. He could have misused his power. And yet he adhered to his vocation to be the forerunner, the one who paved the way for the messiah. It takes great strength of character and deep faith not to yield to the human wish for power and attention. It takes strength not to become a cult leader. John has that strength.

This third Sunday in Advent is a time for great joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say. Rejoice.” It is also a time for thanksgiving. God is in our midst.

At this point in Advent, our minds turn to Christmas, to the coming of our Lord as a little baby in a little out of the way place like Sheldon, like Vermont.

John calls us to prepare the way for Jesus, to prepare room for him in our hearts and in our lives. To make just a little more room for him, just a little more room for that peace which surpasses all understanding, just a little more room for that joy which comes from the peace of faith.

Lord Jesus, help us to make room for you in the inns of our hearts. In your holy Name. Amen.

Pentecost 23 Proper 28 November 17, 2019

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our opening reading is from the person we call the Third Isaiah. Biblical scholar James D. Newsome places the time of this passage around 475 B.C. (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year C, p. 596.) It is fifty years since the exiles have come back home to Jerusalem from Babylon. They have built the new temple, but it pales in comparison to the original temple built by King Solomon. 

There is still a great deal of rubble in the city. The city walls have yet to be rebuilt. Not all the people have come home to help in this daunting project of rebuilding. Many have remained in the relative safety of the city of Babylon.  The people of God are becoming discouraged

We all know what can happen when a group of people are tackling a huge task. Scholars tell us that, rather than remaining faithful to God’s call to love God and each other, some of the people turned to worshipping other Gods. There were squabbles, and factions developed.

Among the people facing this enormous challenge of rebuilding was the person we call the Third Isaiah. We know very little about him except for his powerful prophetic writings. We can imagine him as a person of deep faith watching the people of God dissolve into arguing and splitting into opposing groups. Newsome writes, “In this despairing situation, however, certain individuals began to raise their heads and to sing the old songs of joy and hope, but in a new key.….Yes… Jerusalem had been restored—somewhat at least. But God’s eye was on another Jerusalem also—a Jerusalem not of bricks and mortar, but of the human heart.” Newsome, p. 597.)

This faithful prophet brings God’s word to God’s people trying to rebuild Jerusalem centuries ago and to us today. God is about to create “New heavens and a new earth.” Infants will live long lives. People will build houses and will not have to leave them to escape an invader. People will plant gardens and vineyards and enjoy the harvest.

God tells us that before we call, God will answer. This is a foretaste of the promise that the Holy Spirit prays for us when we cannot find the words. And then we hear an echo of Isaiah’s vision of the kingdom of God in Chapter 11. “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together. ….They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

In our epistle for today, The Thessalonians are being led to believe that Jesus is coming very soon or has come already to complete his work of creation. Some people are quitting their jobs. In all the free time they have, they are meddling in other people’s lives. 

When these folks quit their jobs, this means that they are not able to carry out their contributions to the community of faith. Back in those days, followers of Jesus shared their wealth so that they could help out those who needed food or clothing or shelter. In listening to the false teachers who are telling them that our Lord’s second coming is going to happen soon or already has happened, these people are not carrying out their ministries in the community of faith and are weakening the community. Each of us is called to carry out our ministries so that the community of faith can remain strong. 

Paul writes these wise words, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” When our Lord comes again to judge the earth, it will be clear that he is here. Until then, we need to be active in our ministries and be prepared to meet him when he comes.

In our gospel for today, our Lord is preparing his followers for persecution. Many will come in his name and say that they are Jesus who has returned to lead us. The scriptures talk about times of turmoil that will precede his coming again, and this makes it easy for  misguided people to stir up fear by pointing to signs of the end times.

As we look around our world, we see many signs of turmoil. As we look around our nation, we see a great deal of tension and division.

God gives us a vision of new heavens and a new earth, a vision of unity, peace, harmony, and healing. God calls us to work together.

In reference to our reading from Isaiah, the great preacher and scholar Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “There is not a single imperative in the work of Isaiah that we do not need today. To be pointed toward the future. To be given a shining vision of what may be possible. To be called to build enthusiastically and confidently, trusting that there is a purpose in the events of human history. Finally to be given a vision of reconciliation between the endless warring forces of our culture. These are what we long for, These are what we will seek till the end of time.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us Year C Vol 3, p. 166.)


Advent 3C RCL December 16, 2018

Zephaniah 3:14-20
Canticle 9, p. 86
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

This is the third Sunday in Advent, called Rejoice Sunday from the Latin Gaudete, meaning “rejoice” because of the call to rejoice in our epistle for today. We light the third candle on the Advent wreath, the rose colored candle, which symbolizes joy.

Our opening reading is from the prophet Zephaniah. Zephaniah’s ministry took place in Judah during the time of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.) The first two books of Zephaniah’s book are full of doom and gloom. This was a dark time when Judah was under oppression by the Assyrians.

Scholars tell us that our reading for today, the last part of Zephaniah’s book, was added by other writers long after Zephaniah’s ministry, probably during the time of the Exile, or during the period when the exiles were returning home.

So, if we were to read the entire book, we would have two chapters of suffering and hopelessness and disaster, and then we would read this passage, which is full of deep joy and proclaims that God is in our midst. The passage tells us that God gives victory, that God deals with oppressors, saves the lame and the outcast, changes our shame into praise, and brings us home. It is fascinating to me that a scholar from the time of the Exile added this section to Zephaniah’s book, as if to say, “Don’t give up.  We speak to you from one of the darkest times in our history as God’s people. And we tell you that, with God, there is always hope.” As we know, the exiles returned home, rebuilt the temple, the city of Jerusalem, and their lives. Without this passage, Zephaniah’s book would be dark indeed.

Our canticle from Isaiah repeats this theme of hope and joy. “Surely it is God who saves me; I will trust in God and not be afraid.”

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is writing from prison. And what does he say? “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say. Rejoice!” He is in prison and he is saying this to them and to us. What quality is he emphasizing? Gentleness. “Let your gentleness be known to everyone,” Paul writes. What an idea. Imagine a headline: “The Church in Philippi is known for its gentleness.” Or “Grace Church is marked by a spirit of gentleness.” Which is true, by the way.  What a great headline.

Then Paul says the thing which made our liturgical scholars choose this reading for the third Sunday in Advent: “The Lord is near.” This can have several meanings. One is that Jesus is as near as our breath. The risen Lord is with us now, among us, leading us.  

Another meaning is that our Lord is near in the sense that he will come to complete the creation. He is building his shalom and we are a part of that process. A third meaning is that, when he came to be with us, he came as one of us. He is like us, He understands us. He is fully human as well as fully divine. He knows what it is to be human, with all our struggles, and he is with us in our dilemmas and challenges.

The Paul says something that may make us burst out in laughter: “Do not worry about anything,” he says. And he is writing from prison! We spend a lot of time worrying. And Paul is asking us to take that time and pray, with thanksgiving. To let our needs be known to God with thanksgiving. We all know that a spirit of thanksgiving, the attitude of gratitude, can cause a big shift in our outlook. If we do all this, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” Thanking God, trusting God to give us what we need, does bring that peace which is beyond our understanding.

And then, in our gospel, we meet John the Baptist. Crowds are coming out from the city into the wilderness to meet him. He is calling them to grow closer to God, and they ask, “What shall we do?” And he answers, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none.” God calls us to share some of what we have with those who have less than we do.

Tax collectors came, and he said, “Collect no more than what is prescribed,” Tax collectors would add a bonus for themselves. That was wrong. Soldiers came to John and he told them not to extort money from people. They were misusing their power to get money from  people. They should be satisfied with their wages. Through John, God is calling the people to live lives of compassion and justice. And that is what God is calling us to do today.

What are these readings saying to us? Our first reading, from Zephaniah, is calling us to be a people of hope, even in times of darkness and challenge. Our reading from Paul is a resounding call to rejoice, to give thanks, to turn our worries into prayers, and to abide in the peace of God. Our gospel calls us to repent, to turn fully toward God, to get back on track, make a course correction, get rooted and grounded in God, and be people of generosity, justice, and compassion.

John says, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance,” and once again, we think of Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22): love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control.

Once again, in this season of Advent, we are in a time of self-examination and discernment. We are letting go of things that are not life-giving. We are turning toward the light and love of Christ. We are getting things in order, updating our wills, doing advanced directives, getting rid of clutter whether it be spiritual or physical, lightening our load so that we can be ready when he appears. We are choosing to grow closer and closer to God, Jesus, and the Spirit.

“The Lord is near.” We are on our way to Bethlehem. We are on our way to meet him. Let us make room for him in the inn of our hearts. Amen.

Pentecost 26 Proper 28C RCL November 13, 2016

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our first reading this morning comes from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah. He is writing some time after King Cyrus of Persia has permitted the people of God to return to Jerusalem. They have been in exile in Babylon for about fifty years, two generations. They got married, had families and worked and survived and prayed together and studied the scriptures. God promised them that they would return and rebuild. That hope kept them alive.

Once they arrived home, they found that the temple was a pile of rubble. The Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem. So they set about building houses for their families and planting gardens to raise food and doing what was necessary to preserve life.

Then they began to rebuild the temple. That took them about fifty years, according to biblical scholar James Newsome. And when they finally completed the temple, it was not as splendid and beautiful as Solomon’s original. And there were still piles of rubble everywhere and they had not even begun to build the city wall, which had been totally destroyed. (Newsome, Texts for Preaching NRSV Year C, pp. 696-7.)

People began to lose heart. Some leaders were greedy and corrupt. There were conflicts, even to the point of bloodshed. Some people became so discouraged that they turned to other gods. As much as they had hoped to return and rebuild, the work before them seemed too much to tackle. (Jack R. Lundbom, Feasting on the Word. Year C, Vol. 4. p.291.) The fabric of their society was tearing apart.

In this moment, the word of God comes to them. “Thus says the Lord God: For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth…..I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.” God tells them that there will be no more weeping. Babies will no longer die. People will live long and healthy lives. People will build their homes and will not be uprooted and sent into exile.

And then God voices the vision of shalom: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together….They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” God is building something even more wonderful than the temple or the city wall. God is building God’s shalom, and God’s holy people, who have been caught in conflict and division, are the builders of that kingdom of peace and harmony. As we know, they rebuilt the city and the city wall, and they rebuilt their community of faith.

In our reading from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians, the members of the congregation are advised to “keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition  that they received from us.” Scholars tell us that the word translated as “idleness,” ataktos, is a military term meaning “disorderly” or “undisciplined.” People were not doing the tasks they were called to do on behalf of the community.

Some members were actually becoming “busybodies” and doing other people’s jobs. ( Lance Pape, New Proclamation Year C, p.234.) Some people were thinking that Jesus was going to appear very soon, so they stopped going to their paid jobs and could not make their financial contributions to the community.

People were engaging in irresponsible behavior, and that was interfering with the Church’s work of building the kingdom of Christ. Paul calls the Thessalonians and us to be faithful and loving to each other and to carry out our ministries in the Body of Christ so that we can help to build the shalom of Christ. Thanks be to God that Grace has a long history of such faithfulness and mutual love.

In today’s gospel, our Lord speaks of the destruction of the temple which indeed happened at the hands of the Romans in A. D. 70. Then he speaks of the chaos which will occur before he comes again. He also speaks of persecution, which has happened to Christians for centuries and is happening even now.

A few days ago, I watched a news story on a Christian community which had been in exile and was returning to their village as troops moved toward Mosul and liberated villages along the way. Their church had suffered extensive damage but the walls were still standing. They raised a cross outside and used large chunks of rubble to make the cross stand upright. I could sense and feel their faith and courage over thousands of miles of distance. That is what our Lord is calling us to do—to have faith in him. He is building his shalom, and we are called to help him.

The message of our epistle today is that we are members of the body of Christ, and we are called to love and care for one another so that we can do our ministry together. Each of us is essential to the Body. We are called to be aware of the needs and feelings of everyone else in the Body and to respect each other. Though we are a small community of faith, we cover a broad spectrum of political approaches. We do have differences of opinion. I believe that is a strength. We also have a long history of loving and respecting each other. This is another strength.

As Christians, we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. Our country has come through a time of stress and conflict, and there is still work to be done. But we can all be one in the Spirit of God.

We share the same dreams and visions which are expressed in our reading from Isaiah. Though Americans come from different faiths, all of those faiths share the precepts of the Golden Rule—treat others as we would want to be treated.

During the past eighteen months of this campaign, there has been much focus upon the things that divide us. We need to remember that  the things which unite us far outnumber and outweigh the things that divide us. We have so much in common. We are all connected.

May we be one as Jesus and the Father are one. In His holy Name. Amen.

Pentecost 26 Proper 28C RCL November 17, 2013

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our first reading is from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah. The people are returning from their exile in Babylon. Scholars tell us that the process of trying to rebuild the temple is proving to be difficult. Some people are falling into the worship of false gods. There is conflict and corruption. In other words, things are falling apart at the seams.

In powerful terms, Isaiah describes God’s vision of a restored Jerusalem and a world made whole. There will be no more weeping. Babies will not die. People will live to a ripe old age. People will build houses and plant vineyards and enjoy the fruits of the harvest. They will live long lives and they will be blessed by the Lord. The lesson ends with a beautiful echo from the vision of shalom in Isaiah 11. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” The foundation of this new creation is trust in God.

In our epistle, false teachers have convinced some people that the end is coming. Some folks are apparently quitting their jobs and putting a burden on those who are continuing to work. Paul is encouraging everyone to keep working in order to support the whole community so that the church can continue to do its ministry.

In recent years, scholars have realized that idleness is not the correct translation for the key problem here. Beverly Gaventa of Princeton Theological Seminary points out that the Greek word ataktos, which is translated as idleness, means insubordination or irresponsible behavior. Other scholars say that the word translated as “idleness” should be translated as “rebellion.” The point is that the problem in the community is that people are not focusing on the good of the church. They are causing disruption. They are not working as part of a team and taking responsibility for the health and strength of the Body of Christ.

This epistle refers to matters within the Christian community. It is not intended to speak to issues in the larger society. The epistle is saying that we as Christians are called to take our responsibilities as members of our faith community. Paul ends with that wonderful encouragement, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” An older translation says, “Do not grow weary in well-doing.” And what are we called to do? Jesus tells that we are called to give a glass of water to one who is thirsty, feed one who is hungry, clothe folks who have no clothing, give shelter to those who have none, and, in doing those things to our brothers and sisters, we are doing them to him. That is why we need to keep the Church strong, so that we can minister to others in his name.

In our gospel, Jesus is continuing to teach in the temple. The disciples admire the beauty of the great temple in Jerusalem. Jesus says that it will all be thrown down, Indeed, the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A. D. Luke’s gospel was written after that time, so the members of Luke’s community were aware that the temple had been destroyed. The disciples ask Jesus when this will happen, and what the signs will be.

Jesus tells us that many people will come and will use his name and will claim to be from him. There will be wars and all kinds of terrible things. And, of course, we know that many of his followers in the first century were persecuted and killed, and that is happening today. But he said that no matter what comes, no matter what tests and trials, he would give us the grace to get through them. When people were put on trial, he would give them the very words to say.

Jesus does not give us a definite time when he will return. In fact, he tells us not to try to figure it out, just to be ready. Here in the United Sates, we are probably not going to have to go to trial because we are accused of being Christians. Christians are being persecuted in other places on earth, but, as yet, not here.

Jesus speaks in this reading of a time of testing for all his followers. Biblical scholar Fred Craddock has some important comments on this. He writes, “The end is not yet. During the time of testimony, disciples will experience suffering. They are not exempt. There is nothing here of the arrogance one sometimes sees and hears in modern apocalypticists, an arrogance born of a doctrine of a rapture in which believers are removed from the scenes of persecution and suffering. There are no scenes here of cars crashing into one another on the highways because their drivers have been blissfully raptured. The word of Jesus in our lesson is still forceful. ‘This will give you an opportunity to testify…By your endurance you will gain your souls.’” (Craddock, Preaching through the Christian Year, Year C, p. 474.

What are these readings saying to us? How are we to give our testimony as followers of Jesus and builders of his shalom, his kingdom of peace and harmony and healing and care for all persons? At our Diocesan Convention, Tom Brackett talked about the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 as excellent marks of Christian community—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul talks about these qualities as he guides the Galatians in building a loving community of faith where people focus on the Body of Christ and work as a team to carry out Christ’s ministry. Tom also talked about communities where people love each other and trust each other and share deeply and support each other, welcoming others who want to become a part of these communities of caring.

As I said last week, I offered the observation that we have this kind of community here at Grace. This is a precious gift that God has given us. Even though our world sees Christianity as irrelevant, people are looking for genuine communities of faith where people can love and trust each other. We have that gift to offer, and that is our response to our lessons today.

May we continue, with God’s grace, to love and trust each other and to reach out to others with Christ’s compassion and healing. Amen.