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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:…

Lent 1A March 1, 2020

Genesis 2:15-17
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

Our first reading today is the story of Adam and Eve. God put them in a beautiful garden. Their job was to be good stewards of the garden, “to till it and keep it.” They could eat the fruit of any tree in the garden except one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God gives us the whole creation and calls us to be stewards of that creation. But then there is that snake. When we are told that there is one thing we cannot do, there is something that makes us want to do that very thing.

We are all familiar with the Ten Commandments and we will be reciting them every Sunday in Advent, but I want to refresh our memories about some other guidelines that I find very helpful, and Christopher Martin mentions some of these in his book “The Restoration Project,” which some of us are reading this Lent.

 On the positive side, we have the cardinal virtues—Prudence, which the great moral theologian Kenneth Kirk defines as “the habit of referring all questions to God”;  justice, treating all persons fairly, honoring the dignity of every person; temperance—balance, flexibility, humor. The quality that comes from going through fire and ice and coming out the other side stronger for the experience. Fortitude—the ability to hang in there for the long haul. Prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude. The cardinal virtues. 

Then we have the theological virtues—faith, complete trust in God; hope, the ability to look at a situation in all of its complexity and brokenness and sin and to see the possibility of wholeness through the grace of God. And love. One of my beloved mentors, David Brown, defines love as “taking God and other persons seriously,”

On the other side the ledger, we have the famous seven root sins sometimes called the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride—not referring all questions to God, but rather the attitude of,”I’m going to do this my own way.” Leaving no room for God. Wrath, ira, not healthy anger which tells us that something is wrong in a situation but nursing hurts until they fester inside us and get in the way of compassion. Envy, the inability to rejoice in the good fortune or the blessings of others. Greed—wanting more than we need.  Gluttony—taking more than we need. Lust—using other people as objects. Sloth—acedie—giving in to despair, losing hope. This is not the same as clinical depression which is a serious illness, not a sin.

Adam and Eve miss the boat on the first of the virtues—prudence—the habit of referring all questions to God. They totally forget about God, and the snake leads them down the garden path, so to speak. The snake could be a representative of the forces of brokenness in the world or, if we want to be more psychological about it, the snake could represent our ability to be extremely creative in our rationalizations when we want to lead ourselves down the garden path. All of us humans have the tendency to want to do things our way—pride —and to throw prudence out the window and neglect to ask God’s guidance. This is one way to define sin—doing it our way and leaving God out of the picture.

God loves us unconditionally. Nothing can get in the way of that love. And God wants us to return that love. But God does an extraordinary thing. Rather than making us puppets who will always do God’s will,  God gives us free will, the capacity to choose our own course of action.

In our gospel for today, our Lord gives us an example of how to deal with temptation and how to practice prudence—the habit of referring all questions to God. Jesus is constantly seeking God’s guidance in clarifying his vocation. He is hungry. Of course, he is entirely capable of making a loaf of bread and satisfying his very real physical hunger, Or he can start the world’s biggest bakery and soup kitchen and feed everybody. After all, God calls us to feed the hungry. But that isn’t what our Lord is called to do. He is here to help us with our spiritual hunger. He has come to help us to learn how to listen to every word that comes from the mouth of God—that is, to practice prudence—referring all questions to God. Asking God, what are you calling me to do and be in this moment?

Then the devil takes him to the pinnacle of the temple and asks him to jump off and have the angels come and rescue him. That would prove that he was the Son of God, all right. But Jesus is not called to create a public relations spectacle to prove who he is.

And then, the most ironic and prideful test. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers to give them to Jesus! Jesus is the eternal Word who called the world into being. How presumptuous to offer him the centers of earthly human power! At this point, Jesus commands Satan to leave him and makes the central point: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”

Our first reading is about sin. Our gospel about the temptation of our Lord in the wilderness is about grace. Everything Jesus does in this gospel is rooted in his choice to seek and do God’s will. Grace is the God-given gift to seek and do the divine will. The attitude and actions of our Lord in this gospel are an example of grace lived out in his life. We can follow his example because of God’s gift of grace to all of us. We can follow his example because he is here with us to give us his grace. He is alive. He is leading us. He is showing us the way that God would have us go.

Walter Brueggemann writes of  our first reading, “Lent is a time to sort out the voice of of life and the counter voices of death. The serpent has no real gift to give and no real acts to perform.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching Year A, p. 185.)

May we listen carefully for the voice of life, the voice of  Jesus. He is our Good Shepherd, who knows us and calls each of us by name. May we listen for his voice, May we listen to the voice of life. May we follow him. Amen.

Pentecost 18 Proper 22A RCL October 8, 2017

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

In our opening reading, the people of God have journeyed to the point where Moses receives the Ten Commandments. Herbert O’Driscoll remarks that some of us remember the time when almost everyone learned and recited these commandments. They were familiar to us. O’Driscoll also reminds us that there is great wisdom behind these guidelines for living. God knows us humans, and these commandments are a basic set of rules for our behavior.

We are called to worship God. We are called to avoid the worship of idols. These days, the idols are not Baal or Astarte. They might be Mercedes and Dow Jones. Use the Name of God with care. Keep the Sabbath. If we work an unusual schedule, the Sabbath may not be a Sunday, but the important thing is to take that Sabbath time to worship God, to thank God for all God’s blessings, and to refresh our body and spirit. Honor your father and your mother. Do not murder. Be faithful to your spouse or partner. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

God in God’s wisdom and love has given us these rules to live by.

In his inspiring letter to the congregation in Philippi, Paul, who usually comes across as one of the folks, a tentmaker who earns his own living, now lets us know that he has all the earmarks of high privilege. He is a Roman citizen, which gives him many advantages. He is a Jew. Like our Lord and every Jewish boy, he was circumcised on the eighth day of his life. More than that, he is a Pharisee, an expert in the law.  He also admits that he was a persecutor of the Church.

But one day, after witnessing the stoning of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, a deacon full of faith and love, and while rushing to help persecute more Christians, Paul met the risen Lord on the Road to Damascus. He was blinded by the light of Christ. He had to be led by the hand. But then he began to see. And he gave his entire life to Christ. And now he wants to know and love Christ as deeply as possible. He knows how difficult it is to follow the law. He is the one who said that he does the things he does not want to do and he does not do the things he knows he should do, and he asks God to free him from the body of that death. We can know the law, and on our own, we can follow the law to a point, but, for many of us, we get stuck. We need faith and grace to pull us through. And Paul has found that faith and grace in Christ and he is never going to let that go. To him, all his honors are as a pile of trash. All he wants to do is to follow Christ, to grow more and more like him in his love and compassion.

And he knows that he is not there yet, he says, “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ has made me his own. Forgetting what lies behind and straining to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”

All we can say is may we do the same thing—press on toward the goal.

Our gospel for today is very powerful. Jesus is teaching in the temple in Jerusalem. He has read the scriptures. He has probably absorbed word for word the writings of the great prophet Isaiah, who described the people of God in various places as a vine or a vineyard. We all know the story. The workers in the vineyard kill the owner’s son.

Jesus is here addressing the religious leaders of his time, who are about to do just that—kill Jesus. The chief priests and the scribes realize that Jesus is speaking about them, but they are afraid to do anything because they know that, at the very least, he is a prophet. They will keep plotting, and our Lord will die a criminal’s death.

When leaders, whether religious or secular, get rid of people or try to diminish people because those people are telling God’s truth, those leaders are misusing their power. In Jesus’ time and in our own time, we need to be aware of those who are practicing imperium, tyranny and control, and those who are practicing auctoritas, true authority, leadership that encourages and empowers people

As Herbert O’Driscoll points out, one of the best things we can do with these readings is to reflect on the Ten Commandments, reflect on the Cardinal Virtues—prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, and the Theological Virtues—faith, hope, and love, and renew our commitment to using them as the framework for our lives.

And we can also follow the example of St. Paul. He has such a profound commitment to Jesus. He devoted his life to killing Christians. Now he wants to help people follow Jesus. He wants to build communities of faith and love. He knows he is a work in progress, but he is following Jesus with all his energy.

This week, as we look out on our world, we see people in Mexico trying to recover from earthquakes, people in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin islands. and so many of the Caribbean Islands, suffering from the effects of hurricanes.

And we look upon our brothers and sisters killed and hurt in Las Vegas. Our hearts go out to them and to their friends and families. Our Bishops have issued s statement on gun violence. Each of us and all of us are called to pray for all those who have died and for those who are suffering and grieving and to take action as our conscience leads us.

May the God of mercy lead us and guide us into the way of peace.

Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a time of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins. It is a time for honest self-examination, a time to ask our Lord’s help in allowing him to transform us into the persons he calls us to be. The Greek word for this is metanoia.  We have seen him transfigured on the holy mountain, and we are deeply committed to growing into his likeness. The ashes that will soon form the sign of the cross on our foreheads have been made from the palms that we waved on Palm Sunday to welcome our King. We will go with him to the cross and we will move with him into newness of life.

In our first reading, Isaiah reminds us that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. We will be a people of justice; we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that this is the time to be reconciled to God, that is to grow as close to God as we possibly can.

In our gospel, our Lord calls us not to make an outward show of our spiritual practice, but to do an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and to follow spiritual practices that will build up treasures in heaven, that is, practices that will bring us closer to God. Our Lord also reminds us that deep and true spirituality is the source of great joy.

How do we do an honest assessment of or spiritual condition? One way is the summary of the law, “Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself.” Our reading from Isaiah also speaks to this.

Another guideline would be the Ten Commandments. We will be reading these each Sunday during Lent.

Another set of guidelines for self-examination and transformation are the Seven Root Sins, also called the Seven Deadly Sins, counter- balanced by the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues. These insights have come from many sources, but I especially thank David Brown, beloved mentor and former rector at Christ Church, Montpelier, now retired in Connecticut, for his wisdom and guidance.

So here we go with the Seven Root Sins, or as David used to say, “Sins I have known and loved,” and don’t we all!

First comes pride, doing it our way instead of God’s way.

Wrath, (Ira), not normal healthy anger, but holding onto a grudge, nursing it until it becomes a voracious cancer that infects everything we think and say and do.

Envy—the inability to rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others.

Greed—wanting more than we have.

Gluttony—taking more than we need.

Lust—Using other people, exploiting others for our own needs.

Sloth (acedie)—Giving in to that “I don’t care” attitude. Despair. Giving up hope.

On the positive side, we have the Cardinal Virtues.

Prudence—Kenneth Kirk defines prudence as, “The habit of referring all questions to God.” Constant communication with God. Lord, what is your will in this situation? What would you call me to do or not do?

Justice—treating everyone equally. “Respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Temperance—Balance. Like steel that has been tempered in fire and ice. Flexibility. Again, a sense of humor.

Fortitude. The grace and ability to hang in there with faith and patience on the side of God’s shalom.

And the Theological Virtues—

Faith—Total trust in God.

Hope—The ability to look at a situation in all if its brokenness and see the potential and the path for growth and healing.

Love—Accepting God’s unconditional love for everyone, including ourselves, and extending that love to others.

Always remember that Lent comes from the root word meaning “spring,” a time of growth and renewal.

In addition to all of these resources, many of us are using “Living Life Marked as Christ’s Own.”

May this Lent be full of joy and growth and healing for all of us.

Special prayers for jan’s surgery tomorrow.

Amen.