• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 9, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 16, 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:…

Lent 1 Year C RCL February 14, 2016

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2.9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

We are now in the season of Lent. The Alleluias are gone from our service. The green altar hangings have been changed to purple. Purple is the color of penitence, and it is also the color which denotes royalty, and we use it to honor Christ our King. We sing the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, and we follow disciplines of fasting and self-examination in order to become stronger in our faith.

Every Lent we are reminded that our journey is one with the journey of God’s people centuries ago. Joseph’s brothers were angry with him, so they sold him to a slave trader who sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph was faithful and worked hard and became the right hand man to the pharaoh. He was in charge of everything. Eventually, because of a famine, his family came to live in Egypt.

Many years passed, and a new pharaoh came into power. He made slaves of the people of God, and they toiled to make bricks for all of the king’s many construction projects. A new leader was called by God to lead the people out of slavery. That man was Moses.

In our first reading, the people are about to go into their new land. God is calling them to remember their journey from slavery into freedom, and to offer the first fruits of their harvests in thanks to God.

Our loving God has brought each of us and all of us “through many dangers, toils, and snares,” and we offer our thanks to God for leading and guiding us.

Our epistle today is reminding us that God is near us and that we are all one in God. “There is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In our gospel, Jesus has just been baptized. He goes out into the wilderness to struggle, to battle, to go through a process of discernment.

The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. In some ways, that would be a very good thing. In those days, as in our own time, there were many people who did not have enough food. Jesus could have fed the world. That is a good thing.

So many times, we do not have a clear choice between good and evil. Often we face choices between two things that could both be seen as good. Later on, Jesus would feed thousands of people at one sitting. But his real ministry is a spiritual one. He answers, “One does not live by bread alone.” He has come to feed us spiritually. He has come to call us into a journey of spiritual transformation. He also calls us to feed the hungry and to take care of our brothers and sisters.

Then our Lord is shown all the kingdoms of the world.  If he will worship the devil, he will receive all those kingdoms and that power. First of all, this is a very strange proposition on the part of Satan. Christ, the eternal Word,  called the world into being, and he has all power. It is the height of presumption for Satan to offer worldly power to our Lord. He does not want worldly power. He is here to bring in the kingdom of God. He and we are called to worship God alone. As we all know, the values of God’s kingdom are not the values of this world.

Then the devil takes our Lord up to the pinnacle of the great temple in Jerusalem. “Go ahead. Jump off the top. The scriptures say that God’s angels will come and save you.” This is a way for Jesus to say, “Look who I am. God saved me.” It is a publicity stunt. Even in those days, word would have spread fast. Wow! Somebody jumped off the pinnacle of the temple and thousands of angels came and swooped him up.” Jesus would have had instant fame.

But that is not the point.That is not Jesus’ goal. Jesus went to great pains to work quietly. One person at a time, he touched people and made them whole.

We are all on the journey with our Lord. During Lent, we will face our own opportunities to clarify our ministries and to make choices that will help us to stay on track and grow even closer to God.

The Ten Commandments are a time-honored template for our spiritual lives. The cardinal virtues— justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude— can be very helpful as a guide, together with the theological virtues— faith, hope, and love. The fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are also excellent qualities for meditation.

During Lent, we sometimes give up some things as a spiritual discipline. Sometimes we take on additional spiritual practices. such as increased quiet times for prayer. or reading that nourishes our spirits.

Because the word “Lent” comes from the root word for “spring,” I tend to think of Lent as a time of greenness and growth, even though it is still winter. Whatever will help our spiritual growth is the thing to do in Lent.

Ascetic is the branch of theology that deals with spiritual discipline. The Greek root is askesis, and it comes from a root that means “to work, or to exercise.” Lent is a time when we practice askesis. We do our spiritual exercises. We strengthen our spiritual muscles. We become stronger in our faith, and we grow closer to our Lord. Although it is a serious season, it is not a dreary one. Undergirding all of our spiritual work in Lent is the deep joy of growing closer to our Lord.

Day by day, dear Lord three things we pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.

Pentecost 26 Proper 28C RCL November 17, 2013

Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

Our first reading is from the prophet known as the Third Isaiah. The people are returning from their exile in Babylon. Scholars tell us that the process of trying to rebuild the temple is proving to be difficult. Some people are falling into the worship of false gods. There is conflict and corruption. In other words, things are falling apart at the seams.

In powerful terms, Isaiah describes God’s vision of a restored Jerusalem and a world made whole. There will be no more weeping. Babies will not die. People will live to a ripe old age. People will build houses and plant vineyards and enjoy the fruits of the harvest. They will live long lives and they will be blessed by the Lord. The lesson ends with a beautiful echo from the vision of shalom in Isaiah 11. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” The foundation of this new creation is trust in God.

In our epistle, false teachers have convinced some people that the end is coming. Some folks are apparently quitting their jobs and putting a burden on those who are continuing to work. Paul is encouraging everyone to keep working in order to support the whole community so that the church can continue to do its ministry.

In recent years, scholars have realized that idleness is not the correct translation for the key problem here. Beverly Gaventa of Princeton Theological Seminary points out that the Greek word ataktos, which is translated as idleness, means insubordination or irresponsible behavior. Other scholars say that the word translated as “idleness” should be translated as “rebellion.” The point is that the problem in the community is that people are not focusing on the good of the church. They are causing disruption. They are not working as part of a team and taking responsibility for the health and strength of the Body of Christ.

This epistle refers to matters within the Christian community. It is not intended to speak to issues in the larger society. The epistle is saying that we as Christians are called to take our responsibilities as members of our faith community. Paul ends with that wonderful encouragement, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” An older translation says, “Do not grow weary in well-doing.” And what are we called to do? Jesus tells that we are called to give a glass of water to one who is thirsty, feed one who is hungry, clothe folks who have no clothing, give shelter to those who have none, and, in doing those things to our brothers and sisters, we are doing them to him. That is why we need to keep the Church strong, so that we can minister to others in his name.

In our gospel, Jesus is continuing to teach in the temple. The disciples admire the beauty of the great temple in Jerusalem. Jesus says that it will all be thrown down, Indeed, the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 A. D. Luke’s gospel was written after that time, so the members of Luke’s community were aware that the temple had been destroyed. The disciples ask Jesus when this will happen, and what the signs will be.

Jesus tells us that many people will come and will use his name and will claim to be from him. There will be wars and all kinds of terrible things. And, of course, we know that many of his followers in the first century were persecuted and killed, and that is happening today. But he said that no matter what comes, no matter what tests and trials, he would give us the grace to get through them. When people were put on trial, he would give them the very words to say.

Jesus does not give us a definite time when he will return. In fact, he tells us not to try to figure it out, just to be ready. Here in the United Sates, we are probably not going to have to go to trial because we are accused of being Christians. Christians are being persecuted in other places on earth, but, as yet, not here.

Jesus speaks in this reading of a time of testing for all his followers. Biblical scholar Fred Craddock has some important comments on this. He writes, “The end is not yet. During the time of testimony, disciples will experience suffering. They are not exempt. There is nothing here of the arrogance one sometimes sees and hears in modern apocalypticists, an arrogance born of a doctrine of a rapture in which believers are removed from the scenes of persecution and suffering. There are no scenes here of cars crashing into one another on the highways because their drivers have been blissfully raptured. The word of Jesus in our lesson is still forceful. ‘This will give you an opportunity to testify…By your endurance you will gain your souls.’” (Craddock, Preaching through the Christian Year, Year C, p. 474.

What are these readings saying to us? How are we to give our testimony as followers of Jesus and builders of his shalom, his kingdom of peace and harmony and healing and care for all persons? At our Diocesan Convention, Tom Brackett talked about the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 as excellent marks of Christian community—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Paul talks about these qualities as he guides the Galatians in building a loving community of faith where people focus on the Body of Christ and work as a team to carry out Christ’s ministry. Tom also talked about communities where people love each other and trust each other and share deeply and support each other, welcoming others who want to become a part of these communities of caring.

As I said last week, I offered the observation that we have this kind of community here at Grace. This is a precious gift that God has given us. Even though our world sees Christianity as irrelevant, people are looking for genuine communities of faith where people can love and trust each other. We have that gift to offer, and that is our response to our lessons today.

May we continue, with God’s grace, to love and trust each other and to reach out to others with Christ’s compassion and healing. Amen.

Pentecost 6 Proper 8C RCL June 30, 2013

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

In our first reading, the great prophet Elijah is about to die. Elisha is called to be his successor. Herbert O’Driscoll notes that our reading this morning shows how Elisha grows into maturity so that he can take up the mantle and ministry of Elijah.

We all have had wise mentors and guides who have helped and advised us. We all have to grow into maturity and carry out our ministries. The Church itself constantly has to accept challenges and grow to meet the needs of new times and new situations, always staying true to the gospel.

In our gospel, Jesus is setting his face toward Jerusalem. He has to go. He may not want to go, but he has to. Bishop Butterfield once said that to be called means that we are compelled by God to follow a certain course of action.

Jesus sends messengers ahead to let people know he is coming. He is in Samaria.  The people do not make Jesus welcome. Scholars tell us that this might be because the Samaritans are offended that Jesus is going to Jerusalem because the Samaritans worship on Mount Gerizim in Samaria rather than at the temple in Jerusalem. Fred Craddock writes that this event “testifies to the racial tension between Samaritans and Jews.”  The disciples further illustrate this tension by offering to rain fire down on the Samaritans.  Please make a mental note of this scene. We will come back to this in a couple of weeks.

In the rest of the reading,  Jesus has encounters with three people. The first person says, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus points out to this person that following him does not offer security. Jesus is homeless at this point in his ministry. Jesus calls the second person to follow him, but the person says he has to go home to bury his father. The third says he needs to say goodbye to his family. In his responses to these people, Jesus is not telling us that we should fail to pay our respects to family members who die, nor is he telling us that we should abandon our families. He is making it clear that, in following him, we have to set our priorities very carefully. Following Jesus requires the highest level of loyalty.

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.

Here, in Galatians 5:22, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit. Where the Spirit is, these fruits abide. Paul writes, “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control.” These are the qualities that we see in a healthy community whose members are living in the freedom which our Lord has given us, a freedom rooted in the love and grace of God.

Love. One of my mentors, 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.

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 careful not to hurt 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 do not need to fly off the handle. 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. Beverly Gaventa writes of these gifts of the Spirit, “They reflect…a mind-set that is informed by the Spirit of God and the real freedom that comes in Jesus Christ.” Gaventa adds, “Paul holds that these gifts of the Spirit come about, not as the accomplishments of human knowledge or wisdom, but as gifts of the Spirit….”(Texts for Preaching, Year C, p. 408.)

I thank God that the fruits of the Spirit are so evident here at Grace Church. They are precious gifts from God which make our life together rich and full of love and joy and faith and peace. Thanks be to God for these wonderful gifts and thanks to you for nurturing and sharing them.