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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:…

Easter 4C   May 10, 2022

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always Good Shepherd Sunday, and it is one of my favorite Sundays of the year. The Collect is powerfully simple: “O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

If we ask folks what their favorite psalm is, many say Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd…he makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.” The shepherd takes care of the sheep, The shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Back in Jesus’ day, there were still lions and bears in Palestine, and shepherds had to fight them off.

Psalm 23 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Back in Biblical times and still now, the shepherds would bring their flocks into the village where there was a sheepfold, a safe, enclosed area with a gate. Only a trusted person could open the gate. Each shepherd would bring his sheep in for the night and put them within that protected area. In the morning, each shepherd would call his sheep. The sheep knew their shepherd’s voice. Only the sheep belonging to that flock would follow the shepherd. That’s how close the relationship is. We know when it is the voice of Jesus.

Another thing about the Biblical shepherd is that he goes out ahead of the flock. The gifted preacher and teacher Barbara Brown Taylor learned from a friend who grew up on a sheep farm, who told her that sheep are very different from cattle. As we all know from watching westerns, you can herd cattle from behind. But, concerning sheep, Taylor writes, “Stand behind them making loud noises and all they will do is run around behind you because they prefer to be led…They will not go anywhere that someone else does not go first—namely, their shepherd—who goes ahead of them to show them that everything is all right.” (Taylor,The Preaching Life, p. 140-141.)

Taylor continues, “Sheep tend to grow fond of their shepherds, my friend went on to say. It never ceased to amaze him, growing up, that he could walk through a  sleeping flock, while a stranger could not step foot in the fold without causing pandemonium. Sheep seem to consider their shepherds part of their family, and the relationship that exists between the two is quite exclusive….A good shepherd learns to distinguish a bleat of pain from one of pleasure, while the sheep learn that a click of the tongue means food while a two-note song means that it is time to go home.” (Ibid., p. 141.)

Jesus is our good shepherd. We are his flock. He is with us always. We have nothing to fear. He will not lose one of us. We follow him. If he goes ahead of us, we know that all is well. Our good shepherd goes ahead of us through everything, even death itself. He has been through the worst of the worst. if we are following him, no matter what happens, he has walked that way before us. It may not be easy, It may be extremely challenging, but he has gone ahead of us, and it will be okay.

As we listen for his voice, as we ask him for guidance, we can hear his call. We can sense his leading. He knows us. He knows everything there is to know about us. And he loves us. And we love him. He is out in front leading us. We are not alone.

Right now our good shepherd is walking through the sheepfold. He is here. We can feel secure in his presence. He is taking care of us.  He knows and loves us. We know and love him.

All through our journey with Covid and all its variants, our Good Shepherd has been with us, encouraging us, guiding us to the green pastures and the still waters. It’s not over, and it will be an endemic, but we’ve made it thus far. Our Good Shepherd is out ahead of us. He goes before us. Everything we may face is something he has already overcome.

In our gospel for today, it is the feast of the Dedication, a feast we know as Hanukkah. The religious authorities gather around Jesus. They are trying to get him to say that he is the Messiah so that they can arrest and kill him. But he will not do that, because they will not be able to hear his voice.  

At the end of this passage, Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.” When we look at the life of our Lord, when we read about his ministry in the gospels, this is God walking the face of the earth. This is how God, who created the universe, would live a human life. By reading and studying the gospels, we can grow closer and closer to God and Jesus and the Spirit. We can have a real living blueprint for living our lives. This is what John means when he says in his gospel that Jesus is the Word, the logos, the plan for how to live a human life. He is our example of how to live, and he is not just someone who lived centuries ago and can inspire us from a distance. He is with us now.

Decades ago, when Adolph Hitler had conquered all of Europe and had reached the English Channel, the 23rd psalm became a rallying anthem for the British people. Night after night, the Nazi bombers would level building after building. Among many treasures lost was Coventry Cathedral.

Now, another tyrant is doing a similar thing. President Putin is trying to take over Ukraine, leveling buildings and killing innocent people,  even children. Most of the countries of the world are working together to try to bring peace and save lives. Once again, we look to our Good Shepherd for strength and guidance. May we follow where he leads. Amen.

Christmas 1 Year B RCL December 28, 2014

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

The scene of our first reading is around the year 539 B. C. God’s people have been in exile in Babylon (Iraq) for almost sixty years, in those days, three generations. King Cyrus of Persia (Iran) has conquered the Babylonian Empire and is allowing the exiles to return home.

Just imagine the scene in Babylon. The news spreads, “We’re going home! Were going home!” This is wonderful news. The people pack up and make the long journey. But when they get there, the temple is in ruins. Many buildings are in ruins. The land has been ravaged.

They want to rebuild. But they become deeply discouraged. Herbert O’Driscoll suggests that, if we want to try to imaging their plight, we should look at pictures of the destruction of war—the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, for example. Whole cities in ruins. This is how it was. The people were overwhelmed. They were paralyzed, They had no idea how and where to begin.

Into this situation, God calls the prophet Isaiah to give the people hope, to share with them God’s vision of restoration and renewal. Jerusalem is going to rise up out of the rubble and become a city of light and life. Isaiah is the one who inspires the people to get to work and tackle this huge job. Thank God for our cheerleaders who can inspire us to carry out God’s vision.

Our epistle today says so much. If all we had was the law, the Ten Commandments, we would feel like prisoners. There are things we are supposed to do, and when we do not do them, we feel awful. There are things we are not supposed to do, and when we fail and do those things. when we break God’s commandments, we are imprisoned in or own sense of our weakness and sinfulness.

Into this situation of hopelessness, God sends God’s son and God adopts us as God’s own children. This is mind boggling. Remember when we read the Book of Exodus and Moses is going up the mountain to meet God? Only Moses can get that close to God. The belief then was that you could not see God and live. Now that Jesus has come among us, we are able to call God “Abba.” This is a very intimate term, like Dad or Mom. Because of Jesus we are that close to God our divine parent. We are not caught in the prison of sin and hopelessness. We are surrounded by love and grace. We can get free of sin. We can grow and change. There is help. We are children of God. We are children of light.

Our gospel today is the prologue to the gospel of John. We have the story of Jesus’ birth under such humble circumstances, shepherds and kings coming to worship him, the whole creation rejoicing, the whole world filled with music and light and love.

St. John was trying to explain the meaning of the birth of Jesus. He was putting the story we know so well into philosophical terms that would be understood by both Jews and Greeks.

Jesus is the Word, the logos, the plan, the pattern for life. Jesus is the one who has called the whole creation into being. Remember Robert Farrar Capon’s wonderful description of creation in The Third Peacock? God thinks up the creation and Jesus, the Word, together with the Spirit, makes it all happen. The Word, the One who called the world into being, has now come among us. God has come among us.

God walking the face of the earth was not accepted by everyone. But there were some people who did see who Jesus really was—Mary and Martha and Lazarus. who gave him hospitality and support, his earthly father, Joseph, who protected Jesus and Mary so carefully, his Mother, Mary, the apostles, Mary Magdalene. There were people he healed like the man born blind, people he met, who could see deeply into spiritual reality, people like the woman at the well, who ran into the village to tell folks about him. The little people. The powerful people were too busy protecting their turf to be able to recognize him. But the little people could see immediately who he was. The light was coming into the world, full of grace and truth. Those with humility, openness of spirit, could see that. We know that.

We are children of God. Jesus is our brother. God is as close as our breath. In Jesus, God became incarnate, embodied, enfleshed.

I know we all love to sing. Here is a hymn which express the meaning of our gospel today.

O Most mighty! O most holy!—Song Sheet

Amen.