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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion March 26, 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:…
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Pentecost 25 Proper 28B November 14, 2021

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Song of Hannah)
Hebrews 10:11-14, (15-18), 19-25
Mark 13:1-8

Our first reading for today is from the First Book of Samuel. We meet Elkanah. He has two wives. Back in those days, a man would often have more than one wife. He is very generous to his wives, to Peninnah and all her sons and daughters, and especially to his wife Hannah. He loves her very much.

But Hannah has a very deep grief in her life. She has not been able to have any children. Back in those times, about three thousand years ago, women were most valued and respected if they had many children. Women who were not able to have children were usually not as highly loved and respected. It is to Elkanah’s credit that he loves Hannah and treats her with great respect.

Peninnah has many children, both sons and daughters, and she constantly reminds Hannah of this fact. She makes Hannah’s life miserable. She has done this for years.

Have you ever had a problem that made you feel like a failure, that made you cry with grief and frustration? Have you ever gone from year to year with a great sadness as Hannah did? Most of us have had experiences such as this, times of great sadness about things that were beyond our control.

Hannah and Elkanah go to the temple at Shiloh to worship God, and Hannah does a very wise thing. She goes to the altar and kneels down and pours her heart out to God. She weeps and she prays the words that express her feelings, but she does this silently. She asks God to give her a son.

The priest Eli is sitting by the doorpost. He sees this woman who is so upset and thinks she is drunk. Eli scolds her, but she tells him the truth. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled,” she says, and, as she speaks to Eli, he realizes that this is a good and honest and upright woman of deep faith who is asking for God’s help. Seeing the depth of  Hannah’s faith, Eli assures her that her prayers will be answered. She has a son and names him Samuel, and Samuel becomes a great prophet and servant of God.

Hannah’s song celebrating her son’s birth strongly resembles Mary’s song, the Magnificat. In her song, Hannah rejoices in God’s compassion for the poor, the hungry, and the weak. And we can rejoice in God’s compassion for her.

In our reading from Hebrews, we are called to “hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering.” Because of the life and ministry of Jesus, we have genuine hope. We are called to inspire each other to love and good deeds, and to encourage each other.

In our gospel, one of the disciples comments on how huge the temple in Jerusalem is. This is true. Scholars tell us that the temple was very large,  even in comparison with buildings in the great city of Rome. But then Jesus says that all these huge stones will be thrown down. He talks about wars and earthquakes and all kinds of upheaval. Herbert O’Driscoll says that Jesus is talking about the kinds of conflicts and tensions that go on in our world at various times, including ours.

In our time, we are being called to take care of our beautiful planet, to work on racial healing so that we will sincerely love all our brothers and sisters as ourselves, and we are called to deal with many other issues so that we can help to bring in the shalom of God.

In the Church, we are also facing challenging issues. A financial expert has told us that in the Episcopal Church in Vermont, we face a financial crisis.

Last year, Bishop Shannon reminded us of a story about Jesus and his disciples. They have just fed five thousand people. Jesus tells the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He dismisses the crowd of people they have just fed and goes up to the mountain to pray. Very often, Jesus would go apart and spend time with God in prayer. Meanwhile the disciples are crossing the sea, and a storm comes up. The wind is howling, the waves are getting higher and higher and the disciples are really scared. Jesus comes walking toward them on the water. At first they think he is a ghost, and they are even more scared. But Jesus said to them, “Take heart. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter says, “If it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus says “Come.” Peter jumps out of the boat and starts to walk toward Jesus on the water. But when he notices the strong wind, he gets very scared and begins to sink. He cries out, “Lord! Save me!. Jesus stretches out his hand, catches Peter, and they both reach the boat and get in. Once they are in the boat, the wind stops blowing. That’s when they realize Jesus is the Son of God.

Bishop Shannon told us that trying to deal with the pandemic and all these issues is like trying to walk on water the way Peter did. We are facing the unknown. We don’t have clear answers. When we feel ourselves start to sink, we need to remember at least two things: one, we are walking toward Jesus; two, Jesus has his hand stretched out to save us.

We are going to be working together to find out where God is leading us and then to follow in faith. The financial expert described the situation as though we are going to reach the edge of a cliff. That’s scary. But, instead of letting the fear overcome us, we can remember our faith. A wise person once said, “Faith is fear that has said its prayers.” We have faith in Jesus, and he is reaching out to us to help us and guide us and save us.

God answered Hannah’s prayer and Samuel was born. We are going to be making a journey into uncertainty. We could be overcome by terror. It will feel like a storm on the water with winds howling and waves growing higher. But Jesus is here, We are walking toward Jesus. His hand is stretched out to us. And he is saying, ”Take heart, It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Amen.

Epiphany 2B January 17, 2021

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

Our opening reading this morning comes from the First Book of Samuel. Samuel is a faithful young man who has been serving God and learning from the priest Eli. The text gives us a very important sense of what was going on in those times. “The word of the Lord was rare in those days, and visions were not widespread.”

Eli is getting older. His eyesight has failed, and he cannot see. Eli is resting in his room, and Samuel is lying down in the temple of the Lord. Walter Brueggemann writes, “Eli is portrayed as a feeble old man, emblem of a failed priestly order that has exhausted its its authority and its credibility. Samuel is situated in this narrative as an apprentice to Eli. But he learns quickly and is shown to be more discerning and more responsive to God than is the family of Eli. Samuel is indeed the wave of God’s future.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 106.)

God calls to Samuel three times. Each time, Samuel runs to Eli for instruction and guidance. On the third occasion, Eli realizes that it is God calling this gifted young man, and he instructs Samuel on how to respond. Eli’s sons have done terrible things things that no priest should even consider, things which no person who is supposedly following God should do. They are corrupt and unfit to serve.

God calls Samuel a fourth time, and Samuel responds. What God says puts Samuel in an excruciatingly painful position. God is going to remove Eli’s family from their priestly duties and Samuel is going to replace them. Samuel has always shared everything with Eli. Now, what is he going to do? He loves and respects Eli, and Eli has been his teacher and guide.

The dreaded thing happens. Eli calls to Samuel. Herbert O’Driscoll describes this with unforgettable insight and power: Again, in Eli’s encounter with Samuel in the morning, we see the quality of this great human being. We know from elsewhere in scripture, as well as in this passage, that Eli has fallen on sad times. He has allowed himself to become obese. His sons have shamed and discredited him, and his name, and his high office. He must feel a terrible sense of personal failure. The last thing Samuel wants to do is to report to Eli the terrible things he now knows. But Eli insists, and at last when he hears what the Lord has said to Samuel, we again see the old man’s  greatness. There is not a hint of resentment, not a whisper of self-pity or self-justification.

O’Driscoll concludes, “I see a human being who even in his decline shows what once made him great, an elderly person who is open to the action of God in the present moment, who is totally devoid of jealousy and rancor, and who courageously accepts the consequences without flinching, Such an example must have helped to form the future greatness of Samuel.”  (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year B Vol. 1, pp. 69-70.)

God is going to replace corrupt leaders, Eli’s sons, with the gifted and faithful leadership of Samuel. With deep faith and grace, Eli accepts the healing action of God which replaces brokenness with wholeness and makes it possible for God’s work to continue.

Our psalm for today beautifully and powerfully reminds us that God is our Creator and that God knows us intimately. God has a loving, healing, and creative purpose for us and for the world. God is at work building God’s shalom of peace harmony, and wholeness.

In today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth, we are reminded that everything we do has an effect. The early Church was grappling with the Jewish dietary laws. People were coming into the new faith community from all kinds of backgrounds. Many of the Jewish converts felt it was necessary to continue to follow the dietary laws and wanted everyone else to do so. On the other end of the spectrum, some people had been worshippers of Zeus or Apollo and they felt they could eat anything. Paul constantly emphasized that, if we are following Christ, everything we do should be in accordance with our Lord’s teachings. If folks ate food that was sacrificed to idols, that might make their weaker brothers and sisters do something that would hurt their conscience, something they would later regret. Paul also emphasized that sexual activity is not to be taken lightly, that it is an act of deep intimacy that is best done only in the context of marriage, or a deep spiritual commitment if marriage is not possible.

In our gospel for today, Jesus calls Philip to follow him. Philip has read the scriptures and he knows very well that the Messiah is supposed to come from Bethlehem, so he asks that snarky question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And Philip says those wonderful words, “Come and see.” What an invitation! 

Then Jesus sees Nathanael, and calls him “an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” With Nathanael, what you see is what you get. He is honest, forthright, says it like it is. Nathanael asks Jesus how he got to know him, and Jesus says he saw Nathanael under the fig tree before Philip even called him. With Nathanael, as with so many people he met, Jesus clearly sees who a person truly is. He knows who we really are— no deceptions, just the truth. Nathanael acknowledges Jesus as the king of his life. And Jesus says something that makes us think of Jacob wrestling with the angel who is God and discovering his true identity. Jesus says,  “You will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Someone has said that as we follow Jesus, we have one foot on earth and one foot in heaven. Jesus creates a thin place, where heaven and earth are very close. He connects us with all that is heavenly, all that is divine, because he is God walking the face of the earth.

We are living in a time of great stress. The stakes are high. We have decided to follow Jesus, as the old hymn says. This means that we are called to live by high ethical standards. We tell the truth, we see others as made in the image of God and we respect their dignity; we try to love others as God loves us, to treat others as we would like to be treated. 

Eli’s sons would normally have succeeded him. Because the sons of Eli were not following the law and were not morally capable of carrying out their duties, God called Samuel, a young man of impeccable moral character, deep faith, and courage to do God’s will in challenging and even dangerous circumstances. In this situation, three thousand years ago, God provided a just, ethical, and courageous leader for God’s people.

We are trying to follow Jesus and live the Way of Love. May our leaders on all levels, local, state, and national, follow the example of Samuel, and lead with ethical integrity, compassion, and justice for all. May we all continue to seek and do God’s will. Amen.

Pentecost 26  Proper 28B November 18, 2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-8  Hannah’s Song
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18)19-25
Mark 13:1-8

One theme for today’s readings might be beginnings and endings. God creates new beginnings.

In our first reading, we meet Hannah, one of the  great heroines of the faith. She lived in an age when women were judged on their ability to produce large numbers of children, and she felt terrible about the fact that she couldn’t even give birth to one child. Her husband, Elkanah, loved her very much and tried to console her about this.

When they went to the temple to worship, Hannah asked God for help with this problem. Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk, and she had to reassure him that wasn’t the case. Eli realized that he had been mistaken, gave Hannah a blessing, and asked God to grant Hannah’s request. She promised that, if God gave her a son, she would offer that son in God’s service. She and Elkanah went home, made love, and nine months later, one of God’s great priests and prophets, Samuel, was born. Hannah’s Song, which we read today as our psalm, is a wonderful song of praise and thanksgiving which bears many similarities to the Song of Mary, the Magnificat.

In our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer tells us that the animal sacrifices offered in the temple “can never take away sins.” By his offering of himself, our Lord brings us very close to God and to God’s love. In that love, we are called to gather together, strengthen each other’s faith, and encourage one another on the journey. 

In our gospel, Jesus and his followers are coming out of the temple in Jerusalem.  One of the disciples is commenting on how large and impressive the temple is, and indeed it was huge. Jesus tells them the temple will be destroyed, and indeed it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  

Later on, Jesus and the disciples are sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask him privately when this destruction will take place and what the signs will be that this is going to happen.  

Jesus answers, “Beware that no one leads you astray.”  He tells them and us that people will actually come and pretend to be Jesus, or say that they come in his name. He tells us that when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, when we see or hear of conflict, we should not be alarmed. We should stay grounded in him and in our faith.  And he says that all of this is part of the birth pangs of his kingdom, his shalom.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “I think that our Lord is not so much describing any one particular time in history, as offering his people in any age an approach, an attitude, for living through great upheaval and change. Ours is such a time. Our lord is saying that we must see in the turmoil the possibility that God is bringing new realities to birth.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us Year B, Vol, 3, p. 157.)

The kingdom of God is growing even now. We can see many signs of upheaval in our world, and our Lord is reminding us that, as his shalom grows, there will be turmoil, but we should always go out into the world, look for the places where God is at work, and do all we can to support that work. Wherever the fruits of the Spirit are present-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, wherever God’s love and compassion are being shared, God’s shalom is growing.

Hannah’s song is full of praise and thanksgiving to God, and this is a season of thanksgiving and praise for us as well.

This is the month when we make our outreach contributions to groups who are sharing God’s caring and compassion. These include Martha’s Kitchen, Samaritan House, Abenaki CIrcle of Courage, Sheldon Methodist Church Food Shelf, Rock Point School, Oglala Lakota College, and Brookhaven Treatment Center.

During this month of thanksgiving, we also give our contributions to the United Thank Offering, and we will be doing this for the next two Sundays. The  Church Women’s Auxiliary evolved into the United Thank Offering, and thus we continue all kinds of ministries both in the United States and all over the world. As you know, the Women’s Auxiliary of Grace Church had a very strong ministry.

Finally, at this time of year, we prayerfully make our pledges  for the following year. We make these pledges in gratitude for God’s love and care for us, for our families, and for all people.  We will never be able to grasp the depth and breadth of God’s love. It is beyond our imagining, but we can sense it. We can sense God’s loving presence every moment of our lives and God’s guidance as we take each step of our journey. We will have the pledge cards out on the table next Sunday, and I would ask that you try to make your pledge by December 9.

Thanksgiving is coming up this Thursday, and we have so much for which to be thankful—family, friends, many blessings, this beautiful place in which we live, and, most of all, our loving God who has come to be one of us, our God who is leading and guiding us, our God who is bringing new things to birth.  Amen.

Pentecost 2 Proper 4B RCL June 3, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-10, (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

Our first reading this morning gives us the privilege of looking into the temple at Shiloh. Samuel is being trained by the elderly priest Eli. The lamp of God has not yet gone out. It is the middle of the night. The text tells us that the word of the Lord was rare in those days. Visions were not widespread. Eli’s sons have committed blasphemy. Eli has not been able to stop them from doing this. Eli is almost blind. He is slipping a bit in his duties. Samuel is sleeping in the temple. Eli is sleeping in his room. As Eli’s sons have been sinking into sin, Samuel has been growing in spiritual depth.

At this moment, a voice calls, “Samuel! Samuel!” The young man immediately responds and runs to Eli, thinking Eli has called him. This happens three times. In spite of all that has happened to his sons, and in spite of his own disappointment, Eli realizes what is happening. He tells Samuel that God is calling him and instructs Samuel on what to do. When God calls again, Samuel responds.

God now tells Samuel that God is bringing in a new order. Eli’s family will no longer hold their priestly offices. Samuel lies awake until morning. How would we feel if we had to tell our long-time mentor and guide that God was going to remove him and his sons from their ministries? A prophet’s job is never easy.

Morning comes, and Eli asks Samuel about his talk with God. Samuel has the courage to tell the whole truth. Eli does not retaliate against Samuel. He does not lose his temper. He has the grace and humility to accept that this is the will of God and even prays that God will “do what seems good to him.”

God is doing a new thing.

In our gospel for today, Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field on the sabbath and his disciples pluck off heads of grain and eat them. The Pharisees immediately challenge this behavior. Under the law, the disciples are harvesting on the sabbath. Jesus counters with the example that David and his companions ate the bread of the presence in the house of God. Our Lord comments that the sabbath is made for human beings and not human beings for the Sabbath.

Then Jesus goes into the synagogue and sees a man with a withered hand. Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life, or to kill?” The Pharisees say nothing. Jesus heals the man. The Pharisees go out and immediately begin to conspire with the Herodians to kill Jesus.

In the ministry of Jesus, God’s love and healing overrule the law. For centuries, the law had been the structure that bound the people together. Now, it is becoming a burden that interferes with the loving and healing work of God.

St. Paul will later write about how his sincere efforts to follow the law made him feel as though he was in prison. Paul writes eloquently about the power of love and grace. That is what we are witnessing in these two vignettes from the gospel.

What is more important, to save life, or to kill?  Jesus is bringing in a new order. He sees a man with an injured hand in God’s house, the synagogue. He heals the man. This power, the power of God’s love and healing, is a threat to the existing structures.

In both our Old Testament reading and our Gospel for today, God is bringing light into darkness and giving birth to new things. In our epistle for today, Paul writes, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”  Paul speaks of all the challenges he has faced in carrying the good news “so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

Eli’s sons are not able to be spiritual leaders for the people, so God calls Samuel. In our gospel, old structures are getting in the way of God’s healing and saving work, so God comes among us to show us the way to newness of life. Over and over again, when the light is failing or when old structures are no longer able to nourish our spirits, God comes and brings light and life.

May we listen for God’s call. May we respond with faith and courage.      Amen.


Our first reading this morning gives us the privilege of looking in on God’s call to Samuel. Samuel is a young man who is being trained by Eli, the priest at Shiloh. The text tells us that “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.” Biblical scholar James Newsome notes that the fact that Eli’s eyesight has begun to grow dim may be more than a comment on his physical health. Newsome writes, “The implication is that the absence of visions concerning Yehweh’s will among the people does not arise out of a withholding by Yahweh of the truth,  but that the people, because of the blindness of their leader, and thus of themselves, are unresponsive to Yahweh’s overtures. Eli’s blindness is emblematic of the blindness of the people.” (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 364.)


Eli’s sons have committed blasphemy. While the sons of Eli have been sinking further and further into sinfulness, the young Samuel has been growing in spiritual depth, and God is now going to call Samuel to be a prophet. But when God calls him, Samuel thinks that it is Eli calling. This happens three times until Eli realizes that the call is from God and instructs Samuel on how to respond. Samuel receives the message from God. Eli and his sons will be removed from their duties because of the blasphemy of the sons and the failure of Eli to stop them and correct their behavior.


Eli senses that something is afoot, and he asks Samuel to tell him what God said. Imagine how it wild feel if you had this message to give to an older man whom you loved, a man who had taught you everything you know. Samuel has the courage to tell the truth to this man who has been his mentor and guide for many years, and Eli has the faith and humility to see this as the will of God.

Epiphany 2 Year B RCL January 14, 2018

1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20)
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
John 1:43-51

In our first reading today, the young man Samuel is receiving instruction from Eli, the priest at the temple in Shiloh. God calls Samuel, but Samuel does not yet know the Lord and thinks it is his teacher, Eli, calling him. Three times Samuel goes to Eli, and finally Eli realizes what is happening. He tells Samuel that it is God calling and tells Samuel how to respond.

Then a tragic story unfolds. Eli’s sons have engaged in all kinds of unethical behavior. Eli has tried to correct their behavior, but to no avail. God is going to remove Eli and his sons from functioning as the priests at Shiloh. Unfortunately, Samuel is the one God has chosen to tell Eli about this.

Morning comes. Samuel opens the doors of the temple. Eli calls to him and insists that Samuel tell him what God has said. Samuel tells the truth, and Eli accepts God’s judgment. Eli has been a faithful teacher to Samuel and has helped Samuel discern his call. But Samuel’s first task is to share this terrible news.

Our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians begins with some quotes from some of the other teachers who have spent time with the community. One has said, “All things are lawful.” Another has said that “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food.” Some of these teachers have convinced some of the people that they can do anything they want to do, that they no longer have to follow the Jewish law. Others are saying that the material world and the spiritual world are separate. Neither of these things is true. As Christians, we give all of ourselves to God.

Promiscuous behavior was prevalent in the first century Roman Empire. Paul says this is not acceptable. As Christians, we commit our whole selves to our Lord. Christ came to fulfill the law, and, for us, that means that we are called to obey not only the letter but the spirit of the law.

In our Gospel, Jesus is calling his disciples. He finds Philip and says those words which change lives, “Follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and tells him that he has found the Messiah. But Nathanael is dubious. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asks. The prophets said the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem.

Then Jesus sees Nathanael and says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Scholars tell us that this is a reference to Jacob, who was full of scheming and deceit before he underwent a transformation and became Israel. Jesus is able to look into the heart of a person. He knows that Nathanael is straightforward and tells the truth. Nathanael wonders how Jesus could get to know him so quickly. In their brief dialogue, Nathanael realizes that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

Jesus tells his followers that they will see great things. They “will see the heavens opened and angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” That is a reference to Jacob’s experience of seeing the angels ascending and descending on the ladder between earth and heaven, an experience that opened Jacob’s mind to the presence of God.

Nathanael is also known as Bartholomew. When Philip first asked him to meet Jesus, he was full of questions, perhaps even scorn. But, when he actually talked with Jesus and intuitively sensed that Jesus had the ability to look into his heart and to love him, he wanted to follow our Lord.

All of these readings are about being called by God and responding in faith. We have not held services for the past two Sundays because of the record-breaking cold weather and snowfall. During this time, one of our beloved members has had a close call. Thanks be to God, Bryan, and many skilled medical folks, she is with us.

Our readings today speak to us in many ways.  We are all called by God to love and serve others. We all try to carry out our ministries faithfully with God’s help. But events like this remind all of us that each moment is precious, each person is precious, and we are all vulnerable. We are not invincible.

Our psalm today speaks to this awareness. God has made us. God knows us. There is no place we can go where God is not, God is everywhere. At every point in our lives, God has been there, loving us and sustaining us. Sometimes, God has carried us.

We are vulnerable. yes. But God is faithful and loving to us. I would suggest that we read this psalm, 139, this week and meditate on it. The love of God is present in every word of this psalm.

God is holding you in the palm of God’s hand.  Amen.