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    • 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 25, 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:…

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.

Easter Day  April 12, 2020

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1=2. 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
Matthew 28:11-10

It is dawn. We are going to the tomb together. We have to make sure to get his body to a safe place. It is always better to do these hard things together. 

Suddenly there is a great earthquake. An angel of the Lord catapults from heaven and rolls away that huge stone. We were wondering how we would ever move it. The angel pulsates with light and power. We are terrified.

The first thing he does is to tell us not to be afraid. And then he tells us that Jesus has risen and is going ahead of us to Galilee. We start to run back to tell the others. Never have I felt such fear and yet such deep joy.

Suddenly, right in front of us there he is! Of all things, he says, “Greetings!” as if we had met him on a Sunday stroll in the park. We hug him and tell him how much we love him.

And then he says the same thing the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Then he tells us to go and tell the others to go to Galilee and we will see him

As we run to tell the others, we’re babbling away, “He’s alive! He was dead. We saw it. But now he is truly alive! We’re going to see him again in Galilee!” We keep saying it over and over until we get to the others. Then we tell them. And then we head to Galilee.

Vermont is a lot like Galilee. Out of the way. Small. Of little account. Away from the centers of power. Sensible. Independent. A place where good ideas can flourish. A place where people take care of each other as our food shelf volunteers are doing so faithfully.

Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee. Galilee was a relatively safe place for Jesus. And that is where he gathered his faithful followers after he had risen. He had a fish fry with them on the beach. He appeared to them here and there until they realized he had conquered death and every kind of brokenness, and that he was alive. He is alive. He called them and he calls us to be his living body here on earth. He calls us to share his love with everyone—his love, his hope, his forgiveness, his healing.

We’re still doing our social distancing and all the other things that our wise leaders and scientists are telling us to do. It’s the only way we can beat this pandemic. When people ask me how I feel in the midst of this, the only word that comes to me is that it is weird. I would love to be with you all and hug each and every one of you. I imagine each of you is feeling the same way.

That can’t happen today. It may take a long while before that can happen. We need to trust the science. Once again, I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine.

In spite of the pandemic, and social distancing, we are together. Beth and jan have taught us to Zoom, which has been a great help. Even without Zoom or Face Time, we are bound together by his love and his life. We are alive in him. He is alive in us. Nothing can get in the way of his love. Nothing can get in the way of the new life which he gives us every day. 

There are at least two major messages from our gospel today. The first one is, “Do not be afraid.” Both the angel and our Lord remind us of this crucial message. Faith is the other side of fear. Faith is fear that has said its prayers. Our Lord is calling us not to be afraid and to have faith. And the other message is the power of Easter, Nothing can or will ever change the meaning of Easter.  Our Lord has conquered death itself. We are following him We are an Easter people.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia. Amen.

Lent 5A March 29, 2020

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45

Our first reading is from Ezekiel, a priest who became a prophet to the people of God who were exiled in Babylon. This was a time when God’s people felt increasingly helpless and hopeless.

In the midst of this near-despair, Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of dry bones, bones which have no life left within them. God asks Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Ezekiel knows that only God can answer that question because only God has the power to bring these bones to life. So Ezekiel answers, “O Lord God, you know.”

Muscles grow on the bones; skin covers the muscles; and, finally, God breathes the breath of life into the bones, and the living people stand on their feet. They are a great multitude, and God is going to bring them home. God tells the people, “You shall live, and I shall place you on your own soil.”

We have never had to leave our homes and go to a foreign land and live in exile for fifty  years, but we can at least begin to absorb how these people must have felt when they heard the word of the Lord. They realized that God was very much with them and that, in the midst of this dire situation, there was actually hope.

Though we have never been in exile in Babylon, we are gong through a kind of exile from our normal lives. We are spending as much time as we can in our homes. In a sense, our world is shutting down. Many businesses are closed. Some are working with partial staffing and working from home. Grocery stores have special times for senior citizens to shop. Truckers continue to drive so that we may have groceries and other necessities. I saw a wonderful tribute to them on the Today show.

Our medical workers, our beloved doctors nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, EMTs and other professionals are working day and night, in many cases without adequate equipment. We hope and pray that they may have that equipment as soon as possible. People who cannot go to work will need their unemployment insurance and other help. Businesses which have had to close will need help to stay afloat. We pray that our leaders will work together to take care of those who are in need. Thank God they passed a relief bill which is much needed by workers who have been told to stay home, businesses which have had to close, and hospitals and medical workers, to name a few. May we all do whatever is necessary to take care of each other.

This vision of Ezekiel, this promise from God to a people in exile, speaks to us almost as much as it spoke to God’s people two thousand five hundred years ago. God can bring life out of death. God can and does bring hope out of despair.

Our gospel for today makes this message even stronger. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, is ill. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus does not rush to Bethany. He waits two days.

When he finally says to his disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again,” they remind him that the authorities are trying to kill him. Thomas finally says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” This is a signal to us that the following events are a foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection.

When Martha hears that Jesus is coming, she goes to meet him and scolds him for not coming sooner. Jesus tells her, “Your brother will rise again.” Mary also goes out to meet Jesus and says the same thing Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus sees her weeping, he cries, too. He is human. One of his closest friends has died.

They go to the tomb. Jesus tells them to take away the stone. Martha tells Jesus that Lazarus has been dead four days. There is a stench. This death is real. They take away the stone. Jesus cries with a  loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man comes out of the tomb. Like the bones in the valley, he is walking. But he is still trapped in pieces of the cloths they had wrapped him in. And Jesus commands, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

At these words of Jesus, the dead body of Lazarus comes to life, and then he is set free. Resurrection is not only coming from death into life, but it is being set free to live that new life. We have been set free.

Because of the cross and resurrection of our Lord, we are in eternal life now. We are in that new life now. We have come out of the cave of our imprisonment to sin, and we are in that new and deeper dimension of life in Christ. We are set free from the power of sin and death.

As we reflect on our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we can say that, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and because we have received the Holy Spirit in baptism, we have set our minds on the Spirit. We are living in the Spirit. Christ is in us, and we are alive in him.

In a sense, we are in exile. In a sense, we are in a cave of isolation. We are doing this because scientists and medical experts tell us that this is what we need to do to flatten the curve of a deadly pandemic.

Our situation may make it easier for us to identify with God’s people in exile in Babylon and with Lazarus, dead in a cave of a tomb.

God is calling us to be a people of hope, a people of faith. God has given us the will to stay together through the medium of Zoom and  email and telephone and FaceBook and the power of God’s love. Please continue to listen to the science. Listen to the experts. Once again, I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine.

Above all, we need to remember that God is with us. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is leading and guiding us. The Holy Spirit is giving us the very breath of life. May we be a people of fortitude, hanging in there. May we walk as children of the light. Amen.