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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 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 October 9, 2022 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 October 16, 2022 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:…

Christ the King  November 21, 2021

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday. We rejoice in the fact that Christ is our King. Our Lord comes from the lineage of David. In our reading from the Second Book of Samuel, we find a description of the good earthly king: “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”

Good earthly leaders are people of justice, integrity, and morality.

In our gospel, Jesus tells us that his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom, his shalom, is the kind of world God wants us to live in, to paraphrase retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the shalom of God is a world in which every person is loved and respected, everyone has food, shelter, clothing, health care, and good work to do. Our Lord says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” He is our Good Shepherd, and we are listening to his voice calling us to help him build his shalom of peace, love, and harmony for everyone.

This is also the week of Thanksgiving. We take time to gather with our families as much as we can in this age of Covid.  We have a wonderful meal with all the dishes our family loves best and we take the time to thank God for all of God’s gifts to us.

Everything we have is a gift from God. From time to time, it’s a good idea to make a Gratitude List—just take a few moments and write down all the gifts God has given us. I can walk, I can talk, I can see, I can hear. I have a roof over my head and clothes to wear. Some of us are retired. All of us have had good work to do. Most of us are doing ministries of service to others. God gives us the energy to do all these things.

In and through all these gifts from God is the greatest gift of all—God’s  unquenchable, unstoppable, eternal, unconditional love for us. God knows us, our weaknesses and our strengths—everything about us— and God loves us with a love that is so big and so deep and so wide that we will never be able to grasp how huge it is.

In gratitude for God’s many gifts to us and for God’s unfailing love and blessings flowing out to us all the time, we return a worthy portion of all of this to God. For those who wish to make a pledge, please do that before the end of the year. Our pledge is our thank you to God for all of God’s blessings. Some of us prefer to give back to God without pledging. That is fine, too.

Our pledge includes the gifts of time, talent, and treasure, which God gives us constantly.  God gives us every moment of our lives. The gift of time. God gives us different talents. And God gives us the ability to earn money, treasure. All of you give generous gifts of time and talent in all kinds of church and community activities. Gifts to charitable organizations such as Episcopal Relief and Development, the Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity are also a part of returning a worthy portion of God’s gifts back to God. In harmony with the theme of Thanksgiving, we are making gifts to UTO, the United Thank Offering, doing the month of November.

One year ago, when we were celebrating Christ the King Sunday, we were not able to be in our church building. We had no vaccine. Governor Scott was announcing that our positivity rate was up to two per cent. As I write this, Vermont’s overall positivity rate is 4.3 per cent. Essex County’s positivity rate is 13.9%; Franklin. 6.99%; Orleans, 6.93%; Chittenden, 2.9%. Our positivity rates are higher. We are in a surge. Governor Scott said this week that 70% of the new cases involve unvaccinated people.

This leads us to a clear reason for gratitude. We have vaccines that work. We have boosters. We are now vaccinating children ages 5 to 11. So, if we are vaccinated, if we  wear our masks, keep social distancing, and pay attention to ventilation, we can be here together, in our building with our friends on Zoom. This year, unlike last year, we are celebrating Holy Eucharist on Christ the King Sunday, and some of us are here in our beloved building. What a blessing!

I am so happy to be here with you all. We have so much to be thankful for.

Hymn 645 is a beautiful hymn which begins, “The King of love my shepherd is.” It is a poem based on the 23rd Psalm. Christ is our King, and he is the King of Love. He is in our midst this very moment, and this includes our brothers and sisters online. He is leading us through this pandemic, through everything, to the green pastures and the still waters. Thanks be to God for God’s unending, amazing gifts.

Amen.

Christ the King Year A November 22, 2020

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Our opening reading today takes us back to the time of the Babylonian Exile. Twenty-six hundred years ago (597 B.C.E.) the powerful Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem and sent God’s people into exile in Babylon. Eleven years later, (586 B.C.E), the Babylonians returned, destroyed the temple, and leveled many of the surrounding buildings.

Ezekiel, a priest, had been in Babylon with the people for about eleven years. The destruction of the temple was one of the most tragic points in the history of God’s people. It was heartbreaking.

We have often reflected on how the history of God’s people as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures reflects on and parallels our own history. As we read about this low point in their life together, we here in Vermont are losing our battle with Covid-19. Once again I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine, who had to stand before us this week and let us know that the positivity rate is up to two percent, hospitalizations are rising, and we need to reverse this trend. The reason these numbers are rising is that folks are getting together socially, eating, drinking, and enjoying each others’ company without wearing masks or social distancing. Our governor said that he hasn’t seen his mother in a year. As a good leader, he understands how we all feel. As he encouraged us to wear masks and do all the other things that we know stop the virus from spreading, Governor Scott acknowledged that he cannot make people follow the guidance from our medical experts.

He spoke with courage and sincerity to those who refuse to follow the guidance, and I quote him. Don’t call it patriotic. Don’t pretend it’s about freedom. Because real patriots serve and sacrifice for all, whether they agree with them or not. Patriots also stand up and fight when our nation’s health and security is threatened. And right now, our country and way of life is being attacked by this virus, not by the  protections we put in place.” (Gov. Phil Scott, Press Briefing, Tuesday, November 17, 2020.)

This Corona Virus is killing as many people as an invading army. We heard this week that we have exceeded the number of deaths we suffered in World War II. In may ways, we can identify with our spiritual ancestors in Babylon. The Babylonian Exile is an excellent metaphor for this pandemic. In this dark moment, in this time of utter discouragement, God puts God’s words in the mouth of Ezekiel. God is going to be a good shepherd to God’s people. God is going to feed them and take care of them. God is going to  bring God’s people back together and bring them home. And God has a special word for leaders who have been abusive to the people. God will stop them from misusing their power. God directly addresses those who “pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted all the weak animals with [their] horns.” God will feed them with justice. God will set things right. God will bring the people a wise and compassionate leader like King David. As Christians, we immediately think of our King, Jesus. In these dark days of increasing positivity rates, we have  compassionate leaders in Governor Scott and his team. May we all follow their directions.

In our gospel for today, we have the blueprint for why we all gathered together and built a new building for the food shelf and why our wonderful volunteers gather six days a week to minister to our neighbors who are suffering from this pandemic. People have lost their jobs. Unemployment benefits have run out.  Extensions have expired, and there is no help forthcoming. People who have never been to the food shelf find that they have to come for help.

Our Lord tells us that when we give food to those who are hungry, we are feeding him. When we give water to the thirsty, or welcome to the stranger, or clothing to those who need it, we give those things to Jesus. When we take care of those who are sick or visit those who are in prison, we are doing that to him. We are the hands of Christ reaching out in love to help others. And every person we meet is an alter Christus, an other Christ. There is a spark of the divine in every person. Our Lord is telling us to see every person we meet as Himself, as Christ.

Christ is our King, but a very different kind of king. He eats with the lowest of the low. He loves the people nobody loves. In his kingdom, everybody is infinitely precious. Everybody is loved. This is God’s shalom.

Our retired Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori writes: 

That word “shalom” is usually translated as “peace,’ but it’s a far richer and deeper understanding of peace than we usually recognize. …It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences.

Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts  with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.  (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and A Prayer, p. 33.)

Today we celebrate Christ the King and we also celebrate Thanksgiving. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” He prays for them and us that  “eyes of our hearts may be enlightened.” What a great metaphor, Paul is praying that the light of Christ’s love may come into our hearts and lives and lift our hearts and spirits so that our hearts and lives may become full of light and love, and that we may be filled with hope. I think that lifting of our hearts is like the hope that came to God’s people 2,500 years ago as they faced the destruction of their beloved temple, the center of their worship. They believed that God dwelled in the temple, and they came to realize that God was in their midst. God gave them the hope and determination to return and rebuild.

We have so much to be thankful for, The attitude of gratitude is a very powerful thing. It is a power for good. In these dark days of Covid, our own exile from Holy Eucharist, our Exile from our beloved church building, our Good Shepherd is here in our midst. We thank you for your presence, O Lord, and we thank you for leading us and guiding us. We will celebrate Thanksgiving, with your help. We will help and feed our neighbors. We will, with your grace, help you build your shalom.

Here, in these darkest days of the pandemic, give us the grace to get back on track. Our own governor has had to remind us that not wearing a mask is not patriotic. Send your love among us, O Lord, that we may love you and love each other, that we may take care of each other, as you our Good Shepherd, take care of your flock. Amen.

Christ the King Proper 29C RCL November 20, 2016

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 4, Page 50 BCP
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday. The season of Pentecost is ending,  and next Sunday Advent begins. This is also the beginning of Thanksgiving week when we take time to be with friends and family to thank God for all the blessings God bestows upon us.

In our opening reading from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear about Jesus, the righteous Branch. He is the Good Shepherd who leads us to the green pastures and guides us to the still waters.

Our reading from the Letter to the Colossians reminds us that God has rescued us from darkness and made us children of the light. We are reminded the Christ is the head of the Church. He is the Vine; we are the branches. We are part of him; and he is part of us. We are alive in him and he is alive in us. He has come to reconcile the world to himself.  We are one in him.

In our gospel, we go to be with Jesus as he is crucified. Jesus asks God to forgive the crowd because they do not know what they are doing. But the people continue to mock him. There are two criminals, one on each side of our Lord. One joins in the mocking, but the other one sees who Jesus truly is. He asks to be a part of the kingdom of Jesus and Jesus says those words we will never forget:  “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

Jesus is a very different kind of king. We have a beautiful hymn which says, “The King of love my shepherd is.” Love is the basis of his kingdom. He loves each of us even though he knows that we are far from perfect. He knows each of us so well. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He has seen us at our worst and he has seen us at our best. And he loves us through all of it. He is our King, and we are citizens of his kingdom of peace and harmony.  We are members of his Body called to share his love with everyone.

Our loving God gives us every gift we need to live our lives and to carry out our ministries. God gives us gifts of listening, music, art, sewing, sweeping the floor, writing checks, doing woodworking and carpentry, rescuing dogs, helping addicted people recover, caring for our elderly folks and our children, community organizing, advocating for young people, and the list goes on and on.

God also gives us the gifts of faith hope, and love which are the core of our lives and our life together.

And for all of this, all of these amazing gifts, we are grateful. We are here today because we know that God loves us, and we love God. We want to share that love with each other and with others in our communities.

Later this week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, that special time when families gather to share love and delicious food and just be together, which is such a great gift.

This Sunday and next, we will be doing our United Thank Offering in-gathering. We put a coin into our little blue UTO box every time we feel thankful. It doesn’t take much time for those coins to accumulate. Each year at this time, we bring in our offering to send to UTO so that they can give grants to help people all over America and indeed all over the world. Thanks are such a powerful thing. We have so much to be thankful for.

This is also the time when we prayerfully think about our pledge to Grace Church. Our pledge is our expression of thanks to God for all that God gives to us.

God has called us to be stewards of God’s creation, to take care of the earth and to return to God a worthy portion of all the gifts God gives. God gives us time, talents, and treasure. When we devote the time to coming to worship God, that is a worthy portion of our God-given time. When we give time to a friend or neighbor who needs a listening ear and some wise guidance, that is ministry on behalf of God which uses our God-given talents of listening and caring. When we come and clean the church or mow the lawn or shovel snow or paint railings or window trim, those are offerings of time and talent.

Our offering of treasure includes not only our offering to the Church but also our support of organizations which help people, such as the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society or any one of the many groups which do such good work. Please prayerfully consider your offering and then take one of the cards on the table at the back, fill it out, and put it into the offering plate. We would like to have these before our Vestry meeting on December 18.

There is so much to be grateful for. Thanks be to God for coming among us to show us the way to new life. Thanks to each and every one of you for all that you bring to this community and for the ministries of caring and compassion which you do out in the world.

Let us pray together the Collect for Thanksgiving Day, page 246.

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Christ the King Sunday—November 24, 2013

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 16, p. 92
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the day when the season after Pentecost comes to an end. This is also the end of the Christian year. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the Church’s New Year.

Today is also the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a time when families and friends gather to give thanks for all the many blessings God showers upon us.

In our first reading, the prophet Jeremiah is already pointing us toward Advent. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is the branch from the house of David. His leadership is the model for all leadership in the Church.

In our reading from the Letter to the Colossians, Paul tells us how Jesus has rescued us from darkness and brokenness and called us to live in his light and healing. He is the head of the Church. We are members of his living, vibrant Body, reaching out to extend his love to others. In Jesus we see God walking the face of the earth. We see the fullness, the wholeness of God.

In our gospel for today, we see very clearly that our King is different from earthly kings. Jesus was crucified because his teachings threatened all those who depended on earthly power. They had to get rid of him. Certainly we humans can use power to try to control others and lord it over them, but that power is destructive. The love and healing of Jesus is stronger than all the earthly power of the Roman Empire. Love is stronger than earthly power, stronger than hate, stronger than efforts to control people, stronger than fear. Earthly powers may have crucified Jesus, but he is alive, and we are alive in him.

And we gather to give thanks. Eucharist is the Greek word for Thanksgiving. Every time we share in the Eucharist, we are having a Thanksgiving dinner, and Jesus is our host. He is feeding us with his own loving, healing, courageous energy so that we can serve others in his name.

God has given us so much. God has given us everything that we have.  We live in a beautiful place. We have loving friends and families.  God has given us gifts, so many gifts—of music, listening to others, sewing, cooking, carpentry, athletic ability, helping to make spaces accessible to all, community organizing, praying, working with young people, rescuing dogs and horses,  teaching, coaching,  paying the bills, keeping the books, assisting elderly folks, building beautiful crèches, serving as  EMTs, nursing, caring—the list goes on and on.  This community of faith has so many gifts.

God has given us everything we need to do our ministry.

We have an abundance. Even if we are going through tough times, we have an abundance. We have what we need. And we have the gifts and the abilities to do what God is calling us to do.

Perhaps the greatest gift that God gives us is God’s amazing and unfailing love.  We are well aware that we have made mistakes in our lives. Sometimes we have felt ashamed of our behavior. God has given us the gift of free will and sometimes we have made  choices that aren’t the most creative. Sometimes we think that we’re not worth much. But that’s not what God thinks.

The greatest gift is that God loves you. God loves me. God loves you just the way you are. God knows you. God knows everything that you have done. After all, God created you. And God loves you. Nothing that you can ever do will ever make God stop loving you.

And God is with you and me right now, God is with us every step of the way on our journey in life. God will guide us. It’s a partnership, We ask God for guidance, and, with God’s grace, we can do what God calls us to do.

What is our response to God’s love and generosity and care? What is our response in the face of all this abundance of grace and gifts? Our response is to be thankful to God. We show our thanks by trying to live as God calls us to live.

Out of gratitude to God, we also return to God a worthy portion of the time, talent, and treasure that God has given us. We offer back to God some of the time and talents God gives us to help and serve others. I know that all of you do this all the time. You help neighbors. You volunteer. You work in your communities. There are many ways to do this.

We also give back to God a portion of the treasure that God has given us.  This can be done by contributing to charities and organizations that we care about, such as the Red Cross or the Nature Conservancy

And I also encourage everyone to consider making a pledge to Grace Church. This is something to pray about in the next couple of weeks, Beth will have pledge cards for us to fill out. It does not have to be a great deal of money. The amount is between you and God. The important thing is that we are returning to God a portion of what God has given us because we are thankful to God. Then we put the pledge card in the collection plate and offer that pledge to God. We are saying “Thank you” to God. Thank you, God, for your love, your grace. Thank you for leading us out of the darkness into the light. Thank you for leading us beside the still water. Thank you for restoring our souls. Thank you for giving meaning to our lives.

So we think of our pledge of time, talent, and treasure. Just being here to join in worship every Sunday is a way of thanking and praising God. It feels so wonderful when everyone is here. We need everyone. So, if money is tight, remember, your gifts of time and talent are very important. One of the most beautiful things about Grace Church is that folks are so deeply committed to being here every Sunday.

God loves each of us more than any of us can comprehend. You are the apples of God’s eye. Always remember that, You are God’s beloved child. Christ is alive and he welcomes you to his Thanksgiving feast.

Amen.