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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:…

Pentecost 19 Proper 24

Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8

In our first reading today, the prophet Jeremiah has been imprisoned  by the king for saying that the Babylonians would conquer his people. The Exile is now happening. The leaders and many of the people have been taken to Babylon. It is a time of despair and hopelessness, one of the most tragic times in the history of God’s people.

The word of God comes to the prophet Jeremiah. God is going to bring the people back and they will build and plant. Everyone will have the opportunity to be responsible for his or her own life. God will make a new covenant with the people, even more amazing than the covenant in which God led them out of their slavery in Egypt.

God is going to put God’s law of love and mercy and justice into the very hearts of God’s people. Each person will know God. Each person will be profoundly aware of God’s love and forgiveness. In this text, God says this will be a “new covenant.” As Christians, we are reminded of the life and ministry of Jesus, God walking the face of the earth, Jesus, the One who embodies and expresses the love, healing, forgiveness, mercy, and justice of God in a human life. Jesus is calling us to be a people of hope.

In our reading from the Second Letter to Timothy, Paul begins by reminding Timothy of the people who have taught him the faith—his grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, and, of course, Paul, his mentor and teacher. Each of us can be grateful for the people who have formed us in our faith—parents, Sunday School teachers, Godparents, people we have met along the way who have taught us, strengthened our faith, and helped us through challenging times. 

Then we read, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction,  and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, some people began to teach that every word of scripture was dictated by God to a divine secretary, who wrote the Bible word for word, and that the Bible should be interpreted literally.

Through careful scholarship, we know that the Bible was written by many persons over many centuries. We also know that the Bible contains many passages which contradict each other. So, when we say that the Bible was “inspired by God,” we mean that the people who wrote this library of books contained within the Bible were indeed inspired by God to record the events in the history of the people of God, and that the Bible conveys deep truths to us, but it is not meant to be a factual, historical or scientific document. What is important is the depth of spiritual insight conveyed in the Bible. Just to know that God spoke to Jeremiah in a terrible time and reassured Jeremiah and the people that they would return and rebuild gives us hope all these centuries later.

Like Paul, Timothy is called to share the good news of Christ’s love and to be faithful in that ministry.

In our gospel, Jesus is telling the disciples and us a parable about “the need to pray always and not to lose heart.” This parable has two unforgettable characters— a judge who “neither fears God nor has respect for people,” and a very persistent widow. In Jesus’ time, widows and orphans were extremely vulnerable. They had no one to give them financial support or protection. The judge is in a position of great power. The widow is powerless. 

The widow is looking for justice. The judge is not doing his job. Judges were supposed to be people who carried out God’s justice on behalf of the people, but this particular judge is a poor example of his profession.  The woman is unstoppable. She hounds the judge until he at last grants her justice. 

The point of the parable is that God is nothing like this judge. God loves us and wants to hear our prayers and wants to help us. God is on the side of justice; justice is an essential part of God’s kingdom. If this persistent woman can get justice from this judge who is completely devoid of human sympathy and unwilling to do his job, we should be just as energetic and disciplined in our prayers to God as this courageous and faithful widow was in her quest for justice. The parable closes with our Lord asking, “And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

As we look around our world, we see a huge gap between how things are operating here on earth and how God and Jesus and the Spirit would have things done. Isaiah and the prophets and our Lord himself have given us a clear picture of the kingdom, the shalom of God. Looking around, it would be easy to give up hope. It would be easy to stop praying.

But then we think of Jeremiah in prison, his country conquered by a powerful foreign empire. proclaiming God’s promise that the people will return and rebuild. We read a message from Paul, also in prison, telling us that the good news is not chained, encouraging Timothy and each of us to share the good news, to love and feed and clothe and welcome people. And Luke, writing fifty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, writing to a  community of faith that was undergoing persecution, calling them and us to be as persistent in prayer as that feisty, faithful widow was because God is a God of Love and of justice. God is listening to each and every prayer. And God will give us the grace to build God’s shalom.  Amen.

Pentecost 17  Proper 22C October 6, 2019

Lamentations 1:1-6
Lamentations 3:19-26
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

In our opening reading from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the worst has happened. Jerusalem has been conquered. Most of her people have been deported to Babylon.  The holy city is portrayed as a mother whose children have been taken away. This was one of the most devastating events in the history of God’s people.

Psalm 137 expresses the deep sorrow of God’s people during this tragic time: “By the waters of  Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered you, O Zion.”

During the Exile, some people were assimilated into the surrounding population, but some of God’s people kept the faith, re-examined the scriptures, remained faithful in prayer, built a strong spiritual community, and looked forward to the time when they could return home and rebuild. The other passage from Lamentations which we are using as our psalm today describes their hope and faith. Out of that time of exile they emerged stronger and more resilient than ever. “The Lord is my portion,”says my soul,“therefore I will hope in him.”

Our gospel for today is challenging. Why are the disciples asking our Lord to increase their faith? Between last Sunday’s gospel and our text for today, there is a short passage which has been left out of our readings. In that passage, Jesus is telling us that we have to be careful that we do not cause our brothers and sisters to stumble. He says it would be better if a millstone were tied around our necks and we were thrown into the sea than if we caused someone to falter in their faith. In that same brief passage, Jesus tells us that we have to confront a brother or sister if he or she sins, and that we must forgive our brother or sister if he or she sins. He says that if a member of our faith community sins seven times a day and asks us forgiveness seven times, we have to forgive that person seven times a day.

Now we can see why the disciples are asking our Lord to increase their faith. He is calling us not to put stumbling blocks in each others’ way, to confront those who sin, and to forgive those who sin. We might summarize this by saying that, in a healthy Christian community, we support each other, we confront folks when they sin, and we forgive others when they sin. This is a demanding set of expectations.

No wonder the disciples asked for more faith. But then our Lord says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we could uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. In Matthew, he says we could take a mountain and throw it into the sea. As daunting as his call is to support each other and confront each other and forgive each other, he is telling us that our faith is sufficient to meet this demand.

Then he tells this parable. He begins by asking which one of us would look at our servant who has just come in from plowing or tending the sheep and ask that servant to come in and sit at the table and be served dinner. But then our Lord points out that we would not invite the servant to supper. Rather, we would ask the servant to prepare and serve the supper. But then suddenly there is another one of those reversals and we are the servants. We are only doing what God has asked us to do—support each other, guide and confront each other, and forgive each other. We are the servants of God.

This is a very tall order. We can understand why the disciples asked our Lord for more faith. Yet Jesus is telling us we have all the gifts we need and all the faith we need to be a healthy Christian community.

At this point, we can turn to our passage from the First Letter to Timothy and get some good, solid help. Scholars tell us that Timothy had survived some kind of adversity. We do not know exactly what the challenge was, but scholars tell us that Paul or one of his disciples was writing to encourage his young disciple and protegé. If this was written by Paul, it was toward the end of his ministry and he was in prison. Paul was someone who had faced all kinds of challenges—shipwrecks, beatings, ridicule, prison, on and on. If there was anyone who had been through adversity, it was Paul.

In this letter, Paul reminds Timothy of his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, who nurtured him in the faith. How much we depend on our ancestors in the faith, that great cloud of witnesses who cheer us on.

And then Paul writes something that will stand the test of all time and every challenge: “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” The King James translation reads, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

God has given us a spirit of power, not to put obstacles in peoples’ way, but to welcome others and share God’s love with them. God has given us a spirit of love to encourage each other and to confront each other if we see each other going astray. God has given us a spirit of discipline, a sound mind to discern what thoughts and actions are in harmony with God’s will and what thoughts and actions are contrary to what God is calling us to do and be. In short, God has given us everything we need to be God’s loving community.  Amen.

Pentecost 20 Proper 22C RCL October 2, 2016

Lamentations 1:1-6
Psalm 137
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

In our first reading today, from the Book of Lamentations, the worst has happened. The Babylonian Empire has conquered Jerusalem. The temple and the city lie in ruins and most of the people have been deported to Babylon.

There were some people who actually remained in Jerusalem and in Judah. Every day they had to look at the rubble and wonder whether the temple would ever be rebuilt.

Others were living among alien people and alien gods who were nothing like their God. Psalm 137, our Psalm for today, captures their immense sadness. “By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept.” Their captives are asking them to sing songs from their native land. But they cannot sing. Their grief is so great. Then their grief turns to anger and revenge, which is natural and understandable, but something God calls us to avoid.

In the middle of the psalm is a prayer for the community to remember Jerusalem and remember their faith. And that is the prayer that prevailed. They used this tragic and terrible period of time to study the scriptures, to increase their commitment to prayer and worship, and to seek God’s guidance.  Jerusalem was leveled in 587 B.C.E. In 539 they returned home to rebuild. Fifty years of exile and spiritual journeying toward deeper faith.

We all have times of exile on our own lives, times when we are in grief, when we feel as though all is lost. We may even feel angry. At such times we need to turn to God for guidance, and we need to remember that God is a God of hope.

In our second reading, Timothy has apparently faced some kind of a major challenge in his ministry. We do not know what that challenge was. Paul reminds him of his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, who nurtured him in the faith. Now, as we celebrate the bicentennial of Grace Church, we are blessed to be gifted with our own parents and grandparents in the faith. The Rev. Albert Hopson Bailey, who served here for 26 years and served our diocese, Kate Whittemore, who led the Women’s Auxiliary and started a junior auxiliary to teach young people about our faith and to support them in doing mission, and then the elder generation whom some of us have known—Hoddie, Charlotte, Laura, Arthur, Gertrude, Harriet, Geraldine, Gwen, and Ruth, to name a few.  We are building on their faith, and that legacy of faith and service supports us in our ministries.

Also in this letter, Paul writes, “…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but of power and of love and of self-discipline.” The King James version says, “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a a sound mind.”

Timothy had been through some difficult things. When we encounter obstacles and challenges, one thing we can do is to become fearful. Many in our nation are becoming very fearful right now. As a very wise person has said, “Faith is fear that has said its prayers.” As Christians, we are called to have faith. And we are called to remember that we have been given a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. We are not called to surrender to fear. We are called  to stay centered in God’s power and love. We are called to have self-discipline and to keep in the center of our hearts and minds that God is the God of faith, love, and hope. Like the exiles returning, we can build and we can rebuild God’s shalom in our world and in our communities.

In today’s gospel, the disciples are making a request: “Increase our faith!”

They are on the way to Jerusalem, and they are probably getting the idea that this journey with Jesus is not going to be easy. I think Jesus is trying to tell them that they have enough faith to do what they are called to do.

Basically he is saying that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can do things we think would be impossible, with his help and with his grace and guidance. And then that mustard seed of faith is going to grow and grow.

After all, the exiles returned and rebuilt the temple, the city, and their community life. Timothy had some moments of apprehension but remained a faithful minister of Christ. The disciples had some less than noble moments—Peter denied Jesus three times, Judas betrayed him, many of them ran to the hills after the crucifixion— but they they came back and there was Pentecost, and they spread the faith all over the world, and our Grace Church saints passed down the faith to us and here we are with our mustard seeds of faith carrying on our ministries here and around the world, part of a faith community which is trying to bring the love and healing of Christ to everyone who needs his presence.

Our readings today are calling us to be people of faith, hope, and love. In our world today, some people are spreading messages of fear, hopelessness, and hate.  As Christian people, we cannot accept such a worldview.

In many of our cities, there is violence. We have not yet fully healed our corporate sin of racism.  We have made progress in healing racism, and, yes,  we have more work to do, but we cannot stop now. We have all kinds of violence, not just shootings and angry mobs of people looting but also the quiet, largely unnoticed epidemic of domestic violence and sexual abuse. And we have an epidemic of addiction.

All of these issues have been going on for a very long time. We just didn’t pay attention to them. We are making progress, and now we have to really get down to work and make more progress. As our dear sister Priscilla would say, “We need to see the glass half full.”

In the eighteen-sixties we began to realize that slavery was wrong. A century later, in the nineteen-sixties, we began to pass things like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act to welcome our African American brothers and sisters to full citizenship. We are well on the way. We are not yet fully there. This is not the time to give up.

Domestic violence has been around since the birth of time, but no one dared to talk about it. Now we are doing something about it. Other forms of violence have also been around for centuries. We have been working on these crucial issues. Our diocesan convention will be a hopeful, faithful, look at that work.

All of these issues are related to the building of God’s shalom of peace and harmony, where everyone has a safe home to live in, food, clothing, medical care, and good work to do. God’s shalom is about peace in our hearts, peace in our communities, and peace in the world.

Let us be a people of faith, hope, and love. We have come a long way. Let us not falter. I believe that our Lord is telling us that what we see as mustard seeds of faith can help him to bring in his shalom. Lord, help us to be a people of faith, hope, and love. Help us to work for your shalom. In your holy Name. Amen.