• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 June 18, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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:…

Last Sunday after Epiphany Year B February 14, 2021

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

In our opening reading today, we meet the great prophet Elijah and his disciple, Elisha. Elijah is about to be carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire. His student and successor, Elisha, cannot bear to think of Elijah leaving. He is also a faithful disciple, so he keeps following Elijah. He does not want to leave his teacher. He will follow Elijah to the end.

To make the parting a bit more gentle, Elijah asks Elisha what he can do for him before he goes to be with God. Elisha’s response is full of wisdom and honesty. He asks for a double share of Elijah’s spirit.  And then, Elijah is borne up to heaven.

Scholars tell us that, by the time his Second Letter to the Corinthians was written, there were some tensions between Paul and the community in Corinth. Paul had planned to visit them and that had not happened, and other issues had arisen. In this passage, Paul is calling us to concentrate on why we are here and what our mission is.

He calls us to focus on “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” He reminds us that “…it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone is our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

In our gospel for today, Jesus has been telling his disciples about the cross, and he has been calling them to take up their own cross. He takes his closest followers, Peter, James, and John, and they go up on the mountain. This morning, we have the privilege of walking with Jesus, Peter, James, and John.

Here we are, climbing higher and higher with our Lord and his three most trusted companions. Just a few days ago, he fed five thousand people. Now, we are following him upward, upward,  into more and more silence. As we move upward, the noise and stress of the world slip away.

As we follow Jesus and Peter and James and John, we think of how Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. We think of how many times Jesus goes to the mountains to pray, and we know that we are going to a special place, a hallowed place.

Shortly after we reach the summit, something happens that we will never forget. Jesus is transfigured. His skin and clothes become a dazzling white, so bright that we have to shade our eyes. And then two great prophets appear, Moses on one side of Jesus and Elijah on the other side, and they are talking with Jesus as if they are old friends, communicating with the greatest love and respect.

Peter is so overcome that he says a few things about booths and trying to preserve this moment forever. We cannot speak. We are in awe and silent in the face of what we are witnessing.

Then a cloud overshadows Jesus and Moses and Elijah. There is a voice, unlike any voice we have ever heard. It is a voice resonating with the power of love and grace. “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.” That is the same voice we heard at his Baptism in the Jordan River, the voice of God, telling us who Jesus truly is, the Beloved Son of God.

We are blinded by the dazzling light, and our hearts almost stop when we hear that voice telling us that Jesus is not only our teacher and our friend and our leader, but the Son of God. And then that voice commands: “listen to him.” And we answer with a silent promise to listen to him always. To seek and do his will.

And then we remember that our Lord has been saying he is going to have to die on a cross, He is our king and yet he is going to suffer. But right now, as we stand in the remaining glow of that shimmering, powerful light and listen to the receding echoes of that unforgettable voice, we are realizing that our beloved leader is the Son of God. We are in the presence of the Son of God.

And then, Moses and Elijah are gone. Only Jesus remains.

On the way down, we don’t talk very much. We are thinking about what has just happened, absorbing the meaning of it. He is going to suffer on the worst instrument of torture ever invented. But he tells us not to tell anyone about all of this until after he has risen from the dead.  He is telling us that he is going to rise from the dead!     

Coming back to Vermont, Virginia, and Florida in 2021, this is the end of the Epiphany season of light and mission. This Wednesday will be Ash Wednesday and we will begin our Lenten journey. In our gospel today, we are given the vision of our Lord transfigured so that we can remember that he is the Son of God; he is God walking the face of the earth. He suffered on the cross to show us the Way of Love and he calls us to live the Way of Love.

In some small way, we will be following him this Lent by fasting, praying, and giving alms. Some of us will be following Lent Madness. Some may be attending the Social Justice Bible Challenge with Bishop Shannon on Wednesday evenings from 7-8 PM.

We will be walking the Way of the Cross during this season of penitence and that way will lead to the cross on Good Friday. As we walk that path of self-examination, self-discipline, and transformation, we will have this vision from the Last Sunday of Epiphany to lead us and guide us. We will recall that dazzling image of our Lord atop that mountain standing with two great prophets and we will hear the voice of God reminding us about whom we are following and calling us to listen to him.

May we listen to him, carefully and with open hearts. May we follow him faithfully. And, as we pray in our collect, “May we be changed into his likeness from glory to glory.” Amen.

Pentecost 4 Proper 9C RCL July 7, 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6: (1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Our opening reading introduces us to Naaman, a military commander, a man of great courage who has earned military victories for his king. Naaman has everything he could want, success, fame, and fortune, but there is one problem. He has leprosy.

Here we must stop and realize that this does not mean that he has the terrible Hansen’s disease, the affliction we know as leprosy. In biblical times, any disease of the skin was called leprosy. Still, though it wasn’t fatal, this malady was a source of great distress to Naaman.

As it happens, the army of Naaman has taken captive a young woman from the land of Israel. This perceptive young woman has become the maid to Naaman’s wife, and she tells her mistress that the great general should go to see the prophet in Samaria. The young woman assures Naaman’s wife that this prophet, who is none other than Elisha, can cure Naaman’s illness.

Naaman gets a letter of introduction from the king, packs up a great deal of money, and a wardrobe full of clothes, and goes to the king of Israel. The king is confused by the letter, since he is not able to heal people, and he thinks Naaman is trying to start a war with him.

Elisha, the prophet, hears that the king of Israel has torn his clothes in distress and sends him a message indicating that he can offer help. Naaman shows up at Elisha’s house with all his horses and chariots, but he is deeply offended because Elisha does not come out and meet him. Instead, Elisha sends a message telling Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan seven times and he will be healed.

But poor Naaman has been slighted, and he works himself up into a rage. Once again, the little people, the servants, bring wisdom and compassion into the situation. If the prophet had told the hero to do something very difficult, they reason, something that demanded a great deal of courage, Naaman would have done it in an instant. So why not just try this simple thing? Naaman washes in the Jordan and is healed. In two instances, it is the simple, everyday ordinary people, the servants, who offer wisdom to the great commander.

So often, it is ordinary good folks who are the heroes. I think of our remembrance this year of the 75th anniversary of D Day and of our gratitude to the people Tom Brokaw has called  The Greatest Generation. They saved us from the horror of Nazism.

In our gospel, Jesus sends out seventy disciples to teach and heal and preach the good news. They go out into a hostile world, like lambs among wolves. They travel light. They go to the first house where they are welcomed and eat what is offered them. They share God’s shalom with the people. They spread the Kingdom of God. 

This is the model for how we share the shalom of Christ. We go out two by two, We minister in community. We support each other.

In our reading from Galatians, Paul tells us how to restore someone who has gone astray.  He tells us to be gentle and to bear each other’s burdens. We do this all the time when we share problems and ask each other to pray for us. This means that we never have to deal with any burden alone. We help each other to carry burdens. There is great power and love in this one truth.

Then Paul goes on to say that what goes around comes around. If we spread love and joy and healing, those things will come back to us. When a community is centered in the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, those gifts grow in the community and they are there to share with others outside the community.

Paul also addresses a problem that is plaguing the community. Some people are still saying that, in order to be a Christian, people have to be circumcised. Paul is reminding them and us that becoming one with Christ is a spiritual matter, not a physical matter. If people want to join the new faith, they do not have to follow the dietary laws, nor do they have to be circumcised. We are called to follow the law of love.  Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor is everyone, because everyone is a child of God.

What are our readings telling us today? First, the story of Naaman reminds us of the importance of everyday people. I think most of us feel that we are ordinary folks. We aren’t kings or queens or generals. God loves ordinary folks like us every bit as much as God loves people like Queen Elizabeth, Colin Powell, or Pope Francis. In the story of Naaman, the little people save the day.

Secondly, we do ministry together. Community is everything. We go out two by two or in a group. That way we can support each other in ministry.

Thirdly, how important is the quality of gentleness, gentleness with each other when we stumble or when someone makes an error. And what a great gift it is to bear each others’ burdens. By sharing and praying and helping each other, we can lead and guide each other through things that would swamp us individually.

There are many other things to glean from these readings, but a fourth one is that, as Paul says, our Lord has brought in a “new creation,” and the key to that creation is love. No one is beyond God’s love. God has created a big family, a family in which we respect the dignity of every person. These readings remind us that any person can be a source of healing and wisdom.  Amen. 

Pentecost 3 Proper 8C RCL June 30, 2019

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

In our opening reading today, we have the account of the great prophet Elijah passing the mantle of leadership on to his student, Elisha. This is a poignant story because Elijah is such a wise and faithful prophet, and Elisha loves him dearly. Elisha also values his mentor as someone who has taught him almost everything he knows.

Elijah tells his young student several times that he is going to walk to this or that place, and then he will leave. Elisha always insists on walking with his mentor. He is a faithful disciple who has always gone where Elijah has gone; he does not want to let go; and he wisely and humbly thinks that he will not be able to be half the prophet that Elijah is.

Finally, Elijah asks Elisha a question that rings through the centuries, “Tell me what I may do for you before I am taken from you.” This great mentor wants to do everything he can to strengthen the ministry of his successor. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. My interpretation of this is that Elisha is not greedy, but that he rightly feels that he has such big shoes to fill, he might have half a chance to do it if he receives a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. As we all know, It is virtually impossible for a great teacher or prophet to pass on his or her wisdom and gifts to a student or successor, and Elijah says exactly that.

But he tells Elisha to pay close attention to everything that happens, If Elisha actually sees Elijah when he is being taken away, he will receive the gifts he needs. In other words, the great  and beloved prophet Elijah is advising his student Elisha to pay close attention. What excellent advice for all of us, guidance that all the great religions of the world give to us. Live in the moment; cherish this moment. Because if we live in mindfulness, God is able to speak to us. God is able to give us the insight and wisdom and gifts we need to carry out our ministries.

Elisha pays very close attention. He looks on in awe and cries out in grief and worship as his beloved mentor is taken to heaven. Then he tears his clothing in grief. And then, he takes the mantle of Elijah and splits the waters of the Jordan and goes over to the other side. His ministry has begun. 

In our gospel for today, Our Lord is telling us that following him is not easy. He is not telling us that we have to abandon or hate our families. He calls us to love our families. He calls us to love everyone. But he is reminding us that following him means that we need to set our priorities in a way that will enable us to listen to his voice

In our reading from Galatians, Paul writes these ringing words, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Does this mean that we can do anything we want to? No. As we have said on other occasions, freedom is not license. Paul is walking a careful balance between freedom and license. Freedom is less an individual matter and more a community matter. Freedom does not mean unlimited autonomy for me or for you. Christ has set us free so that we can live in community, so that we can love and support each other in the life in Christ.

And then St. Paul writes about the fruits of the Spirit, qualities that mark all Christians and all truly Christian communities. Let us take a moment to meditate on these wonderful gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Love. David Brown, former rector of Christ Church, Montpelier, says, “Love is taking God and other people seriously.” Love is more about what we do than what we feel. Treating others with compassion and respect is not a touchy-feely thing. It takes prayer and discipline to be people of compassion.

Joy is something that goes beyond mere happiness or contentment. It is rooted in God’s love. There is true joy in knowing and realizing God’s love and responding to that love and sharing that love as we do in Christian community.

Peace, God’s shalom of health and wholeness, lives deeply and strongly within every person who is living in the Spirit. Within such a person is a deep serenity, an unruffled deep well of peace.

Another fruit of the Spirit is patience. We take life one day at a time, one moment at a time. We are here in this moment. We do not have to rush about frantically. We can wait upon God. Yes, we have to do our part, but we have the patience born of peace.

Kindness. We follow the Golden Rule. We treat others as we would like to be treated. We treat everyone as a child of God. We respect the dignity of every human being.

Generosity is also a fruit of the Spirit. When we are following God to the best of our ability, we feel deeply blessed and loved by God. We grow more and more grateful for God’s blessings and love. Out of that gratitude flows generosity in sharing the gifts which God has given to us.

Faithfulness. We know that God is present in every moment. We know that God wants the best for us. We are living a new life in Christ. We are following Jesus with complete faith in his leading.

Gentleness. We who have died with Christ, we who have shared in the suffering of Christ, we who have experienced the compassion of Christ, are gentle with others.

And, finally, self-control, the ninth fruit of the Spirit which St. Paul mentions in this letter. We are rooted and grounded in God. We remain in balance. With God’s grace, we try to do and say only that which God calls us to do and say.

The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness gentleness, and self-control. These are the fruits that grow in a Christian community. They are not something we can grow or develop on our own. They are gifts of the Spirit which come to us as we center our lives more and more in God.

Thanks be to God for giving us these gifts, and thanks to you for nurturing these gifts of the Spirit. They are part of what makes Grace Church a wonderful community of faith. Amen.

Pentecost 6 Proper 8C RCL June 26, 2016

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

In our opening reading today, the faithful and courageous prophet Elijah is coming to the end of his life. He has trained Elisha to take over and continue his prophetic  ministry. We look on as Elijah tries to  leave and Elisha, deep in grief, tries to hold on to his beloved mentor.

Finally, Elijah asks his young student what he can do for him. Elijah asks for a double share of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah points out that this is a difficult thing to ask, but if Elisha sees Elijah as he is being taken away, the gift will be granted. Herbert O’Driscoll says that Elijah is asking Elisha to face what is happening and to grow into maturity so that he can take over the mantle of Elijah.

That is exactly what the young Elisha does. He watches carefully, his heart breaking as his mentor is carried into heaven. And then he gets down to business and carries on this important ministry. In a sense, he grows up in a few short, intense moments.

In our epistle, Paul is trying to help the Galatians realize that freedom in Christ does not mean license. In other words, this freedom does not mean that we can do anything we please. Paul reminds them and us that we are called to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Everything we do must involve loving God and loving others.

We are on a journey from the level of human will and selfishness to the level of spirit, where we grow closer and closer to God and follow Jesus more and more faithfully. On the level of spirit, we become more and more open to God’s grace, and our lives are guided by God.

Paul then draws a contrast. He lists what he calls “the works of the flesh.” Biblical scholar Beverly Gaventa says,”In this lection,…flesh refers to a way of thinking or behaving that is confined to the human sphere, that operates without the guidance of the Spirit of God.” (Texts for Preaching Year C , p. 407.)

Then he lists the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If our lives and our life together in community are governed by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, things are going to go much better than if we are operating solely on the human level.

In our gospel, Jesus is setting his face toward Jerusalem. He knows the price he is going to pay. He does not want to go, but he knows he must walk this journey. He does something he has not done before. He sends messengers ahead. We do not know why he does this. But it is a good thing that he does, because there is one Samaritan village that does not want to receive him because he is going to Jerusalem.

Jesus is going to Jerusalem to challenge the status quo on behalf of people like the Samaritans, who are viewed as somehow inferior because of their different religious beliefs and practices, but that fact is lost on the people of this village. James and John want to punish the village, but Jesus says No.  His is the way of compassion. On the cross, he will ask God to forgive deeds worse than that one.

As they travel along, a man offers to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus talks about his own homelessness. Following Jesus is not easy. It demands sacrifices.

Jesus calls a man to follow him, but the man wants to bury his father who has just died. Jesus tells him to let the dead bury the dead. Another man wants to follow Jesus, but he has to go and say good bye to his family. Jesus says that once we put the hand to the plow, we shouldn’t turn back. In these encounters, our Lord is letting us know that following him is not easy. Jesus puts a high value on family, but he is also saying that disciples have to order their priorities.

As I thought about these readings, Elijah passing on the mantle of leadership to Elisha; the Galatians growing up into maturity in Christ and showing the fruits of the Spirit; and our Lord’s comments on the challenges of discipleship, I began to reflect on all the people who have gone before us here at Grace Church.

The Rev. Dr. Albert Hopson Bailey is the longest-serving rector of Grace Church. He was here from May 1865 until February 14, 1891, twenty-six years. His last service here was on February 8, 1891.  Two days later, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and, as Bishop Bissell sadly reported to Convention, he was unconscious most of the time until his death six days later on February 14, 1891.

Frederica Northrop Sargent writes, that he served “in simplicity and Godly sincerity.” She notes that he “compiled the church records and brought them up to date. His foresight in that work is of great, great historical value to the parish.” Dr. Bailey was also the first historiographer of the Diocese of Vermont.

From all the accounts I have read concerning the life and work of Albert Hopson Bailey, he exemplified the fruits of the Spirit.  He was a faithful pastor, and he was especially gifted in explaining the more difficult passages of the Scriptures. Bishop Bissell described him as “one of our most devoted fellow laborers, a most trusted advisor and most loving friend.” For me, Albert Hopson Bailey is one of the heroes of Grace Church.

When we think of Elijah’s mantle being passed on to Elisha, we can think of all the generations of faithful people who, like Albert Hopson Bailey, lived their lives in Christ and passed down to us the legacy of loving and faithful life in community.

May we honor and celebrate this wonderful legacy. May we show forth the fruits of the Spirit. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Last Sunday after Epiphany Year B RCL 2/15/15

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

Today is the last Sunday after Epiphany. This coming Wednesday, we will gather for our Ash Wednesday service and will begin the season of Lent.

Epiphany is the season of light. The wise men followed the star which led them through the dark nights to the place where the new king was. They worshipped because they knew that a new order, a new creation, had come into being. They went home by another way. They were wise enough to avoid Herod, who was willing to resort to murder to destroy this new kingdom.

Epiphany is also a time when we focus on the glory of God. God has sent God’s son. God has come to be with us. And today, we go up the mountain with Peter and James and John and we see his glory as we have never seen it before. And we will never forget it.

We see some foreshadowings in our opening reading. The great prophet Elijah is getting old, He is going to leave. He does not actually die, He is carried up into heaven in a most dramatic way. He and his faithful assistant, Elisha, journey to the Jordan. Elijah keeps telling Elisha to stay behind, but Elisha is not going to leave his mentor. The waters part, recalling the crossing of the Red Sea, the journey from slavery into freedom. Finally, Elijah, knowing that he is about to leave, asks Elisha what he can do for him. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. If Elisha sees his mentor as he is carried up to heaven, the double portion will be his. Then the chariot of fire and horses of fire separate them and Elijah is carried up in a whirlwind. Elisha sees this glory. He cries out in grief and also describes the glory he is seeing. Then he tears his clothes in mourning.

Elijah is one of the great prophets of Israel, but Elisha follows faithfully and is a courageous prophet of God. This is one of the great stories about the passing of the torch from one leader to the next.

This story is a wonderful preparation for the Transfiguration of our Lord. He takes Peter and James and John and goes up the mountain. Mountains are where we meet God. Moses encounters God on Mount Sinai. Jesus becomes blazingly white and surrounded by light. Moses and Elijah are with him.

Peter tries to capture the moment, but, of course, we cannot hold on to those moments. But we have seen our Lord for who he truly is, and that vision will never leave us. That vision will carry us through Lent, to the foot of the cross. It carries us through the dark and lonely places of our lives. It gives us hope when there seems to be no reason to hope.

At the beginning of Epiphany, when Jesus was baptized, God spoke only to Jesus, saying, “You are my son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.” Now God speaks to Peter, James, and John—and us— and says, “This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him!”

We have this very short time with Jesus on the mountain, a time when we see him for who he truly is. And this is a moment we will carry with us forever. We cannot endure the intensity of those mountaintop moments for long. They are fleeting. But they change our lives. They alter our perspective. They transfigure us.

We see Jesus . We see the reality of who he is—and it does something to us. He is walking with us. He is talking with us and teaching us a new way to live. It is not an easy way to live. It is extraordinarily demanding. And it is quite different from the values of the world surrounding us.

There is a new creation breaking in on the old one. The transfiguration of our Lord lets us know that, as we follow him, we, too, are going to be transformed.

This is where our epistle comes into the picture. Some of the folks in Corinth are apparently having trouble understanding Paul’s message. Paul goes way back to the Book of Genesis, to the point when God was creating the world. God creates the light and lets the light shine out of the darkness. That light shines in our hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Those of you who have attended the Easter Vigil will remember that, in the darkness, the new fire is kindled and the deacon comes down the aisle in the darkness with the lighted paschal candle, saying or singing, “The light of Christ,” and the people respond. “Thanks be to God.” As St. John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

But before we reach Easter Even, we will walk the way of the cross in Lent. And as we walk that way, we will carry the memory of the Transfiguration. We will remember seeing our Lord radiating the glory of God. We will recall the warmth of that light entering into us and giving us power for the journey ahead.

We can’t stay on the mountaintop for long. The emotional high would give us all heart attacks. Life can be boring, and dull at times. It can be like the valley of the shadow of death. It can have times of great joy.

Through the times of boredom, dullness, trial and tribulation, and joy, we will carry those glimpses of the mountain. We will be with him. We will feel him with us, guiding us, leading us, shepherding us. And we will know who he truly is. And we will thank God for his presence and power among us. Amen.