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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 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 — November 26, 2017

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-14
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Our first reading today is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest who served among the people of God exiled in Babylon from about 593 to 563 B.C. The powerful Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and sent many of the leaders and others into exile. Then, in 586 B.C., the Babylonian armies came back and totally destroyed the temple and many of the surrounding buildings. Scholars tell us that this is the point when Ezekiel wrote this passage. Not only are the people in exile, but now the temple, the center of their worship, has been turned to rubble.

At this darkest hour, God calls Ezekiel to speak God’s word to the people. And God is telling the people that God will gather them up. God will gather all of God’s people from wherever they have had to flee, and God will bring them home. God will feed the people with good pasture, and God will be their shepherd.

God will bring back the ones who have strayed. God will bind up the wounds of those who are injured, and will strengthen the weak. But the fat and strong, that is, the leaders who have hurt the people and have prospered at the expense of the people, will face a time of reckoning. God speaks directly to these leaders, who in essence have bullied the people. God says, “Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scatted them far and wide, I will save my flock….”

God says that God will set over them one shepherd, God’s servant David. We know that David had ruled several hundred years before this time in history, so, as Christians, we take this as a reference to the kingship of Christ, who was from the family of David.

In this prophetic writing, from twenty-five hundred years ago, God is calling all leaders to care for their people, not to hurt them.

In our gospel for today, as we celebrate Christ the King, Jesus speaks about the  values and actions of those who are following him and bringing in his kingdom. He tells us that, if we feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty or welcome the stranger or clothe folks who have nothing to wear, or take care of those who are sick or visit those who are in prison, we are doing those things to him.

Our king identifies, not with the rich and powerful, but with those who need help, those who are weak, those who have no power, those who are at the margins of society. When he tells his followers that they have done all these things to him, they are astonished. They had no idea. They were just trying to help a fellow human being.

Jesus is so different from our usual ideas of a king. He is not powerful in the world’s meaning of the word. He has no army. He has no palace. He was born in a stable to a carpenter and his wife. Shortly after his birth, his father had to take the family to Egypt to save Jesus’ life, so they became refugees, aliens in a strange land because King Herod was killing baby boys. Our king has suffered, and he has a special place in his heart for those who suffer.

Our king grew up in a carpenter’s home, worked in the shop with his earthly father, studied at the synagogue with the other kids, and eventually he went to the river Jordan and was baptized by his cousin John.

Wherever he went, he lived the values of his kingdom. When he went into the synagogue and reads the scroll of Isaiah, it said that he was coming to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to comfort all who mourn, and to bring God’s peace and harmony. That is what he did during his entire ministry, and that is what he calls us to do.

Today we make our United Thank Offering and we also begin to pray about our pledges. Today and every day, God calls us to help those who need God’s love and caring. The season of Pentecost is coming to a close, and this coming Sunday we move into Advent.

May we take time to reflect on the depth of God’s love for us and for all people. May we help and serve others in Christ’s Name. Amen.

Proper 29 A RCL—Christ the King—November 23, 2014

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Today is Christ the King Sunday. The season after Pentecost comes to a close. Next Sunday we will begin Advent. This is also the Sunday before Thanksgiving, a time when we think of all the many gifts God has given us. We gather with family and friends to give thanks. After our service, we will go to Frank and Priscillas to share our harvest dinner.

Our opening reading this morning comes from the time of the Exile in Babylon. At the point of our reading for today, the Babylonian Empire has conquered Jerusalem, the people have been deported to Babylon, and they have been living in exile for about ten years. Ezekiel has just learned that the Babylonians have destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and more refugees will be coming to Babylon.

 The people are devastated. They have been praying and keeping the faith and studying the scriptures, but now, they feel that they have lost everything. In todays lesson, God is speaking to the people. through the prophet and priest Ezekiel. God is going to search for the sheep and rescue them, and gather them, and bring them into their own land and feed them with good pasture. God is going to search for the lost and strayed and is going to bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. God is going to gather the people and lead them home to Jerusalem.

God is going to destroy the fat and the strong,that is, the rich and powerful leaders who had gained even more power and wealth at the expense of the ordinary people. Those who abused the weak are now going to face the consequences of their actions. God is going to protect the flock. This passage from Ezekiel reminds us that God has always had special concern for the weak and those at the margins.

The people have always thought that God dwelled in the temple in Jerusalem. Now that the temple has been destroyed, they wonder where God is. We are not living in literal exile, but we are living in a time when darkness and chaos and violence are all too apparent. We may ask ourselves, Where is God in all of this?This reading from 2,500 years ago reminds us that God is right in the midst of us, leading us through the darkness to the light. This is a message of profound hope.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that our Lord has risen from the dead and is with us now; he has conquered the forces of darkness and he is the head of his living Body, the Church. Christs kingdom is growing even now, growing inexorably in the face of the darkness and brokenness that we see in the world around us. And his kingdom, his shalom of peace and harmony, will be realized when he comes again.

In our gospel, Jesus describes kingdom people. They feed the hungry; they give water to the thirsty; they welcome the stranger; they clothe the naked; they care for the sick; and they visit those who are in prison. They take care of other people, especially those who are vulnerable. And Jesus tells them, Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me.

In a profound sense, whether we are kingdom people or not comes down to how we treat folks who are weak, folks who have no power, no money, no say in how things get done. We know this, not only from this gospel story, but also from the life and ministry of our Lord. He was constantly criticized because he associated with the wrong peopletax collectors, prostitutes, people who were considered beyond the pale. He valued women and children, who had no status in his society. He touched lepers and healed them. His love for every one of his children is our example.

As we think about this gospel, we look forward to Advent, when we prepare for Jesuscoming again and we also look back to his first coming. When he came among us, he was not born in a castle. He was born to a carpenter and his wife in a little out of the way place. They were not rich or powerful. They were what Jesus in todays gospel calls, the least of these, my family.Very early in his life, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph had to become refugees and flee to Egypt to get away from King Herod, who was killing baby boys.

This is how the king of creation came to be among us. Jesus knows what it is like to live on the margins of society, to be beyond the pale, to be despised. He is asking us to think about how that feels to folks and to treat our brothers and sisters with respect.

We have been given so much. He is simply calling us to share his many gifts with others. For the next two Sundays, we will be doing our U T O ingathering, and next month, we will be making our offering to Episcopal Relief and Development. We will also be making our pledges to Grace Church in thanksgiving to God.

Christ is our King, but he is a very different kind of King. He is the King of Compassion. He has a special place in his heart for those who are most vulnerable.

Next Sunday, we will begin the season of Advent, and we will once again plumb the mystery of our God, who created the galaxies and the planets in their courses,yet came among us just the way we came into the world, as a tiny baby.

This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for: loving families, our faith community here at Grace, the abundance of our lives, both spiritual and material, and the presence of our loving God among us, leading us and guiding us and showering us with gifts to be shared. Amen.