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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:…

Easter 2C April 24, 2022

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

It is the evening of the first Easter. The disciples are gathered in the house where they have been meeting. The doors are locked for fear of the authorities who killed Jesus. The disciples have every reason to be afraid. The authorities see Jesus as a threat because crowds of people have been following him, and who knows what those crowds of people might do to undermine the power of those in charge? So the authorities attempted to annihilate that threat.

There is one thing on the minds of the disciples. They watched Jesus die, some standing right at the foot of the cross and others in the crowd. A few of them have seen him risen—Mary Magdalene and the other women. Peter and some others have seen the empty tomb.

Could it be possible? Could he have risen? Could he have conquered death itself? Will the authorities come and find us and kill us? For many good reasons, the doors are locked.

Through the walls of fear, he comes to them, he comes to us. “Peace be with you,” he says. “Shalom be with  you, that peace that passes all understanding. That peace that calms our fears.  He shows them his hands and his side. It really is Jesus. He really is alive! “Peace be with you,” he says. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

He breathes on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says. Spirit is the Latin word for breath. To receive the Holy Spirit is to receive the breath of life itself. He gives them the power to forgive sins, to mend suffering hearts and lives. He gives them the ministry of reconciliation. He gives them the power to bring people together and to bring all of us into loving relationship with each other and with God.

One of them, Thomas, who is often called Doubting Thomas, was not there for this momentous encounter. They  tell him “We have seen the Lord.” And Thomas tells them he is going to have to see the marks of the nails in Jesus hands and even put his fingers in those marks and put his hand in Jesus’ side, or he will not believe. I wouldn’t say Thomas is a doubter as much as he is a scientific kind of person. He needs to see the facts, the evidence.

He is definitely a person of courage and deep faith, because when Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem, where he knew he would be killed, Thomas was the first to offer to go with him. But he felt he would really need proof before he could believe Jesus had risen.

Even when we’re not actually praying, Jesus hears our needs, knows what we need. And in his infinite love and kindness, he answers our needs. A week later, he comes to them again through the closed doors, moving through all the obstacles and reservations and questions and fears. “Peace be with you,” he says. Then he invites Thomas to touch the wounds, the scars of his battle with death and brokenness. But Thomas does not need to touch those wounds. He can see that it is Jesus. He bursts out in a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

And Jesus asks, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We were not in that room all those centuries ago. We may not have seen him then. But we have seen him in our own ways all these centuries later. We have seen him in the eyes of a friend comforting us in a time of grief. We have seen him as we gaze in wonder at a newborn baby. 

We have felt his calming and healing presence in times of profound fear. We have felt his presence when we are gathered to celebrate Holy Eucharist. We have felt his strong arm guiding us over challenging terrain in our spiritual journeys. And we have felt him carrying us when the going got too tough for us.

He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He` has given us his love. In our reading from the Book of Acts, which occurs some time after the resurrection, Peter and the apostles tell the authorities, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

They have been given the gift of sharing the good news about new life in Christ, and they are compelled to share that good news. 

We have seen him, too, and we have felt his presence. He is in our midst right now.

May we continue to share the good news. May we continue to share his love with everyone we meet. May we continue to walk the Way of Love. Amen.

Pentecost 14 Proper 18A September 6, 2020

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

In our opening reading, in the first month of the new year, under the leadership of the two men God has called to be leaders, God frees God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. God calls the people to eat a special meal of roast lamb, unleavened bread,  and bitter herbs to remind them of their time of suffering under slavery. This is the Passover meal, which will be celebrated for centuries to come.

As they eat this first Passover, the people are ready for the journey, They are going to travel light. Like every great story of our ancestors in the Bible, this is our story.

As we know, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his apostles before he was crucified. He blessed the bread and wine and told them that the bread was his body and the wine was his blood shed for all of us. Although we have not been able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist together for five months, we gather as the risen Body of Christ every Sunday. Though we share Morning Prayer and not Eucharist, we know that our Lord is present with us and that he feeds us with his presence and with his love.

When we celebrate Holy Eucharist, the celebrant elevates the host, and breaks the bread, and we sing “Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia! “ The broken bread symbolizes the brokenness of our Lord’s Body and also the brokenness in us and in our world. As Christians, we believe that in his suffering on the cross Jesus took into himself all that brokenness and made it whole, and, as Barbara Brown Taylor says, “Gave it back to us as life.” As God freed God’s people from slavery in Egypt, Jesus, through the power of his love, frees us from slavery to sin. Our Lord can take our brokenness and make it whole.

In today’s gospel, our Lord gives us a pathway toward reconciliation in the community of faith. Scholars remind us that context is crucial. Preceding this gospel passage, the disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest, and our lord calls a child to come into their midst to remind them and us of the importance of innocence, humility, and openness. Then he speaks of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes off to find the one lost sheep and bring it to safety.  For Jesus, no one is beyond the pale. He will search for us and rescue us when we are lost. Following this passage, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who hurts us, and Jesus says to forgive ninety-nine times. Jesus calls us to be humble, open, hopeful, loving, inclusive, and forgiving.

Our passage reads, “If another member of the church sins against you,…” but the original Greek reads more like, “If a brother or sister sins against  you…” This lets us know that Jesus is thinking of us as brothers and sisters, people who care deeply about each other and who treat each other with respect and love. This means that this approach of conflict resolution is not designed for situations of abuse or domestic violence. In those situations, the first thing is to get the victim to a safe place.

In our gospel scenario, the person who has been hurt goes and talks with the person who has hurt him or her. The hope is that the other person will listen carefully, acknowledge and apologize for the wrong, and change his or her behavior. If that does not work, the injured person gets one or two other members of the congregation to go with him or her and try again to get accountability and amendment of behavior from the person who has caused harm to another. If that does not work, the matter is brought to the whole congregation.

In the early Church, if there was any conflict in the congregation, the people involved had to reconcile that issue before the Peace was exchanged. In those days, the Bishop always presided, so the people stood before the bishop, worked out the matter, and then everyone passed the Peace.

Scholars tell us that the portion that talks about ejecting the person who does not listen and looking upon that person  as “a Gentile or a tax collector” is not something Jesus would say. This is the work of a later editor. We know that Jesus chose a tax collector, Matthew, as one of his apostles, and that he associated with Gentiles. Jesus did not look down on anyone. He did not exclude anyone.

Then he says, “Where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them.” And, indeed, he is with us now whether we are gathering on Zoom or in person. 

In our epistle for today, Paul, the Pharisee, the expert on the law, gives us the summary of the law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And then he says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” Jesus has said that he came to fulfill the law. Our readings today are telling us that God’s love can lead us into freedom. In this time of profound polarization, I ask us all to focus on the love God has for us and for all people and the power of God’s love to bring our country together in a spirit of reconciliation so that we can center our attention on the important work God is calling us to do together.

Grace Church has a long history of love and a wise history and spiritual practice of holding opposites in loving tension, and finding the path to reconciliation. This is a wonderful God-given gift in these times of division. The ability to look at each other and at others beyond our community as beloved children of God is what is going to carry us through these times of polarization into a time of reconciliation. 

As patience frays and tempers flare in this pandemic, I once again thank God for Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and Dr. Kelso, who are exemplifying God’s love by calling us to follow the science and take care of each other. I ask your prayers for them, for all leaders, and for our children, educational leaders, and school personnel as they begin a new term. 

May our our wise and loving God lead our nation out of slavery to divisiveness and destruction into the freedom of reconciliation, respect for the dignity of every human being, and sincere work on common goals which will help all of us. May God give us the grace to see each other as brothers and sisters, neighbors we have in God, that we all may love and serve and help each other. Amen.

May we pray together the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

Maundy Thursday—April 9, 2020

Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin Mandatum novum, meaning “new commandment.” Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should  love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

He said the blessings over the bread and wine, “Blessed are you, O God, for you create the fruit of the vine and the fruit of the earth.” blessings they had heard many times before, and then he told them that, when they ate this meal, the bread would be his body and the wine would be his blood, that this meal would  be a special way to call him into their—our—midst.

Most shocking of all, he washed their feet. Peter simply could not stand this. “Lord, you can’t disgrace yourself like this!” But Jesus told him and us that, if we do not let him wash our feet we will have no share in him. We will not be a part of him. We will not be one with him. If we do not let him help us and serve us, we will be putting distance between him and us.

Who ever heard of a king that washes people’s feet? Who ever heard of a king who says, I am among you as one who serves?” No wonder that people in the first century looked at the followers of Jesus and said they were turning the world upside down!

When Peter finally understood, he asked Jesus to wash not only his feet but also his hands and his head. He wanted to be one with Jesus, He wanted to follow Jesus as closely as possible.

Jesus gave us Holy Eucharist as a way to call him into the midst of us, and, except for the first Sunday this Lent, we have been fasting from Holy Communion. After this sermon, we will sing Jesu, Jesu and let him wash our feet in a virtual sense. This can all be quite frustrating.

Yet, maybe, just maybe, we can know, even now, that he is among us and he is serving us and helping us. He is strengthening us. He is feeding us, nourishing us with his presence and his love.

Even in the midst of this strange and unwelcome and tragic fast, in which so many people are dying, in which so many are putting their  lives on the line to save others, will we let him wash us? Will we let him cleanse us of anything that might get in the way of his love for us? Will we let his love and healing wash over us and fill us so that we can serve others in his name? 

Will we become stronger members of his living Body, which is here on earth to share his love with everyone?

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” Amen.

Pentecost 13 Proper 15B RCL August 19, 2018

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

In our first two readings this morning, the term “wisdom” is mentioned. In our gospel, we focus on Jesus as the bread that came down from heaven, and this leads us to reflect on the meaning of the Holy Eucharist.

In our first reading, Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, becomes the King of Israel. In his encounter with God in a dream, Solomon asks God for the gift of wisdom, and God grants that request. Scholars tell us that there was a great flowering of wisdom literature during the reign of Solomon, and the wisdom tradition has continued since that time, about three thousand years.

In our passage from the Letter to the Ephesians, we are called to live as wise people, not foolish ones. This involves understanding and doing the will of God. We are called to keep our minds clear. Singing psalms and spiritual songs, including Taize chants, is one very effective part of the wisdom tradition. This kind of singing helps us to center our lives in God, in Christ, and in the Spirit. Giving thanks for everything at all times is a powerful part of our prayer lives.

Our gospel for today leads us into a deeper awareness of our life in Christ. We are one with him. He has given his life for us so that we may have new life. He gives himself to us, his life and energy, every time we gather for Eucharist.

We gather, we pray, we read the word of God. We hear the readings interpreted in a sermon; we say the Nicene Creed together as our statement of faith. We pray for the Universal Church, the world, our nation and all in authority, our local community, those who suffer, and those who have died. We give thanks for God’s many blessings. We confess our sins and receive God’s absolution.

At the Offertory, we we offer our time, talents, and treasure to God, We ask God to take our lives and transform them and use them in God’s service to build God’s shalom.

And then we move into the Eucharistic prayer. We remember what happened when Jesus shared that last supper with his closest followers and gave us the commandment to love one another as he loves us. And we recall that he told us to gather and share this special thanksgiving meal of bread and wine—His Body and Blood—to call him into our midst. And so, here our Lord is, the host at this Thanksgiving feast, feeding us with his very self.

We say the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer he taught us, the prayer that has been said over two thousand years.  And then we come to the part of the service called the Fraction, the breaking of the bread. As the body of our beloved Lord was broken on the cross, he took all the brokenness of the world and made it whole. He takes all the brokenness in our lives and makes it whole even now. We receive the body and blood of our Lord knowing that he is risen and present among us. He is in us and we are in him.

Now, let us pick up the thread of wisdom and try to integrate that into our reflection on these readings and on our life in Christ.

In her book Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault writes, “What [Jesus]…has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. His most beautiful symbol for this is in the teaching in John 15 where he says, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches.” Bourgeault, Wisdom Jesus, p. 31.)

Bourgeault says that Wisdom calls us to“[see] with the eye of the heart.” She continues, “We almost always think of the heart as the center of our personal emotional life. But this is not the way the wisdom tradition sees it. In wisdom, the heart is primarily an organ of spiritual perception, a highly spiritual instrument for keeping us aligned…with the realm of meaning, value, and conscience. The heart picks up reality in a much deeper and more integral way than our poor, Cartesian minds even begin to imagine.” (pp. 35-36.)

Bourgeault goes on to say that seeing with the eye of the heart operates …from harmony, as when we hear a G and automatically think of a B and a D, “that make it into a chord, that join it to a whole.” (p. 36.) She says that metanoia, the process of transformation to which Jesus is calling us, “literally means to ‘go beyond the mind’ or ‘into the larger mind.’ It means to move into that nondual knowingness of the heart which can see and live from the perspective of wholeness.” She says, “This is the central message of Jesus. This is what his Kingdom of Heaven is all about.” I would add that this is what Jesus meant when he said that we are all one as he and God are one.

We Christians are beginning to return to the wisdom way of knowing and living. The Rock Point Intentional Community celebrates a Celtic Eucharist each month and another Wisdom School will gather this fall.  I think that Grace Church is very much a wisdom community, having an awareness of the oneness of God and the creation and the oneness of God and all God’s people. I think that awareness is at the root of Grace’s deep love for God and all people, a love that people can feel when they come into this building or when they spend time with this community. Today, once again, we meet the risen Christ and take another step toward looking at the world through his eyes and his heart.  Amen.