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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:…

Epiphany 5A February 9, 2020

Isaiah 58:1-9a, (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9
1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

Our first reading, from the prophet known as Third Isaiah, dates back to the time when God’s people were finally able to return home to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Exile. At this stage, the temple has not  yet been rebuilt. 

Services are taking place, however, and God has called the prophet Isaiah to point out some major problems in the way the people are conducting their worship and leading their lives. The people are worshiping and fasting, but their lives do not reflect the attitudes that God expects us to have when we worship, pray, and fast.

 God calls Isaiah to tell the people that they fast, but then they pursue their own interests and oppress their workers. They go through the outward motions of worship, but their worship is not reflected in their lives. 

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes of this passage, “There is no doubt that the ‘bonds of injustice’ alludes to the systemic practice of dehumanization.” The appropriate answer to this dehumanization is, in Brueggemann’s words, “the concrete response of caring people.” Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching year A, p. 129.

God then describes the fast that God expects of God’s people: “To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them…” Scholars tell us that, when Isaiah speaks of the yoke, this refers to the burdens that poverty places on people.

Then Isaiah describes what happens when our worship and our lives are congruent and in harmony with God’s vision of shalom. “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”

The people have been complaining that they fast but God does not seem to hear them. This passage tells us that, if our worship is truly centered on God and if we are trying to do God’s will, “[we] shall call and God shall answer. [We] shall cry for help, and God will say, ‘Here I am.’” Closeness to God has to do with the sincerity of our worship. Prayer and worship are not empty rituals. They transform us.

Our gospel for today immediately follows the beatitudes. We missed reading those last Sunday because we were celebrating the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Blessed are those who know they need God’s help and ask for God’s help and guidance. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God. Blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.” One scholar says that in the Beatitudes, Jesus is blessing all the things we don’t want to be. God’s reign is very different from human kingdoms.

Our Lord is saying the same thing Isaiah is teaching us today. When our worship and our lives are congruent with God’s vision of shalom, then our light shines. Then the light of Christ shines forth from us. Then, he tells us, we are the salt of the earth. We are the light of the world.

Salt is tangy. It preserves things, It adds flavor. Light helps us to see. When we are following Jesus, when we are loving God and loving others, the light of Christ shines in everything we do.

In our passage from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is dealing with the same kind of situation that Isaiah is facing in our first reading. There are some folks in the congregation who think they have a secret wisdom. They are called Gnostics, from the Greek word  gnosis, which means knowing. 

There is nothing wrong with knowing things and learning things. Learning is essential. But these people, tragically, are using their so-called secret knowledge to lord it over others in the congregation. They are also criticizing Paul, who, although he is an expert in rhetoric, the art of public speaking, does not use his knowledge of rhetoric in preaching and teaching. He preaches and teaches from his heart. We could say that Paul’s teaching, preaching, and worship are the opposite of what is going on in Jerusalem in our first reading. The worship and fasting in the temple is all an elaborate show. It is not coming from the heart.

Paul says,”My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature, we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age.”

Paul is saying that when we pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ, we grow into maturity in Christ. We grow into the wisdom given by God. And that wisdom helps us to, in Paul’s words,“understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.” To put it another way, true wisdom comes from God and leads us to an appreciation of all the gifts given us by God. It does not lead us to lord it over our brothers and sisters.

May we show forth the light and love of our Lord in our lives. May we follow Jesus with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and  may we love our neighbors as ourselves. Amen.

Ash Wednesday    February 14, 2018

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Here we are, on Ash Wednesday in the year 2018. Today, we will receive ashes on our foreheads which will remind us that we are frail human beings, and we need God’s help. We are dust, and to dust we shall return.These ashes are made from the palms with which we welcomed our Lord at the beginning of Holy Week.

We are here because we are about to begin another Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, a time to deepen our relationship with God, a time to confess our sins, ask for God’s healing and grace, and get back on track so that we can follow Jesus as faithfully as possible.

Our reading from Isaiah comes from the time when the exiles had returned to Jerusalem. They were trying to rebuild the temple, their homes, and their lives, and they were becoming more and more discouraged.  They were beginning to argue with each other instead of working together. Their worship was reflecting this situation. They were going through the motions but not opening their lives to God. They were forgetting that love of God means that we also love our neighbor, and they were even oppressing their workers.

In this passage, God is calling them and us to worship with sincerity and faith and to trust in God’s response to true worship. As we do our work of self-examination this Lent and as we discover the ways in which we need to grow, God will help us with God’s grace. God does answer prayers. In this passage, God is also calling us to remember  that we engage in prayer and fasting and self-examination not only to grow in our love for God, but also to enable us to reach out in love to others.

In our passage from Isaiah, God calls us to “loose the bonds of injustice, …to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke, to share our bread with the hungry,” to give shelter to the homeless and clothing to those who have none. As we accept God’s love and extend that love to others, we are all transformed in the process. As Isaiah says, “[our] light shall rise in the darkness.”

Jesus talks about this in the gospel. Our spiritual discipline is between us and God. It is not a matter for outward show. As we pray, and as we try to increase our giving to others, and as we ask God’s help in dealing with the sins and flaws that keep getting in our way, God’s light and love will fill us more and more.

Lent comes from the middle English word “lente” meaning “springtime.” Lent is a time of growth. Yes, we fast. We simplify our lives. We give up something as a form of self-denial. We give alms in order to help those who need our help. We increase our prayer time if we can in order to spend more time with God and seek God’s direction. All of this helps us grow stronger in the faith so that we can share God’s love and healing more and more.

In our epistle for today, Paul calls us to “be reconciled to God.” Perhaps the most wonderful part of Lent or any time of penitence and self-examination is that such a season gives us the opportunity to grow even closer to God. As we simplify our schedules and our diet, and as we add more prayer time or whatever we feel God is asking us to do, the spiritual light in our lives grows just as surely as the light is increasing with the approach of spring. We are walking the way of the cross, and that way always leads to lightness and newness of life.

As a part of our spiritual life, the Church offers the sacrament of Reconciliation in which we can make our confession to a priest and receive God’s absolution. Lent is also a good time to seek spiritual guidance. If you would like to explore these, please let me know.

May our loving God be with us all as we make our Lenten journey. Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a time of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins. It is a time for honest self-examination, a time to ask our Lord’s help in allowing him to transform us into the persons he calls us to be. The Greek word for this is metanoia.  We have seen him transfigured on the holy mountain, and we are deeply committed to growing into his likeness. The ashes that will soon form the sign of the cross on our foreheads have been made from the palms that we waved on Palm Sunday to welcome our King. We will go with him to the cross and we will move with him into newness of life.

In our first reading, Isaiah reminds us that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. We will be a people of justice; we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that this is the time to be reconciled to God, that is to grow as close to God as we possibly can.

In our gospel, our Lord calls us not to make an outward show of our spiritual practice, but to do an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and to follow spiritual practices that will build up treasures in heaven, that is, practices that will bring us closer to God. Our Lord also reminds us that deep and true spirituality is the source of great joy.

How do we do an honest assessment of or spiritual condition? One way is the summary of the law, “Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself.” Our reading from Isaiah also speaks to this.

Another guideline would be the Ten Commandments. We will be reading these each Sunday during Lent.

Another set of guidelines for self-examination and transformation are the Seven Root Sins, also called the Seven Deadly Sins, counter- balanced by the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues. These insights have come from many sources, but I especially thank David Brown, beloved mentor and former rector at Christ Church, Montpelier, now retired in Connecticut, for his wisdom and guidance.

So here we go with the Seven Root Sins, or as David used to say, “Sins I have known and loved,” and don’t we all!

First comes pride, doing it our way instead of God’s way.

Wrath, (Ira), not normal healthy anger, but holding onto a grudge, nursing it until it becomes a voracious cancer that infects everything we think and say and do.

Envy—the inability to rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others.

Greed—wanting more than we have.

Gluttony—taking more than we need.

Lust—Using other people, exploiting others for our own needs.

Sloth (acedie)—Giving in to that “I don’t care” attitude. Despair. Giving up hope.

On the positive side, we have the Cardinal Virtues.

Prudence—Kenneth Kirk defines prudence as, “The habit of referring all questions to God.” Constant communication with God. Lord, what is your will in this situation? What would you call me to do or not do?

Justice—treating everyone equally. “Respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Temperance—Balance. Like steel that has been tempered in fire and ice. Flexibility. Again, a sense of humor.

Fortitude. The grace and ability to hang in there with faith and patience on the side of God’s shalom.

And the Theological Virtues—

Faith—Total trust in God.

Hope—The ability to look at a situation in all if its brokenness and see the potential and the path for growth and healing.

Love—Accepting God’s unconditional love for everyone, including ourselves, and extending that love to others.

Always remember that Lent comes from the root word meaning “spring,” a time of growth and renewal.

In addition to all of these resources, many of us are using “Living Life Marked as Christ’s Own.”

May this Lent be full of joy and growth and healing for all of us.

Special prayers for jan’s surgery tomorrow.


Epiphany 5A RCL February 5, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-9a. (9b-12)
Psalm 112:1-9 (10)
1 Corinthians 2:1-12. (13-16)
Matthew 5:13-20

This sermon will be short because we have Annual Meeting today.

In our opening reading, from the prophet Isaiah, the people of God are saying that they fast and humble themselves, but God does not seem to acknowledge what they are doing. God tells them that they are performing religious observances, but their actions in their daily lives do not reflect a sincere faith. The people fast, but they are oppressing their workers and they are fighting with each other. God tells the people that the real spiritual observance is to create a just society, free people from any and all kinds of bondage, share food with the hungry and clothes with the naked. When we live our faith, God is with us. When we do not live our faith, we separate ourselves from God.

In today’s gospel, Jesus has just given the Beatitudes. Now he is telling us that we are the light of the world. He says that he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. This means that we are called to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is how we spread the light of Christ. The whole purpose of life in Christ is to share his love.

May we be faithful followers of our Lord. May we share his light and love. Amen.

Ash Wednesday Year B RCL February 18, 2015

Isaiah 58: 1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6”10
Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines penitence as “Sorrow for our sins or faults.” Webster’s says that to repent is “To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” Our opening reading from Isaiah calls us to penitence and to repentance. Scholars tell us that this reading goes back to the time when the exiles had returned from Babylon and were trying to rebuild the temple and the city. It was such a huge task that they were becoming discouraged, and they were falling away from God.

They were going through the motions of worship but they were not asking God’s help to change their behavior and attitudes. They were observing the fasts, but they were oppressing their workers. They were fighting with each other instead of working together, and they were wondering why God appeared not to be listening to their prayers.

In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses this same issue. As we fast and pray and give alms, we are doing these things, not for outward show, but to grow closer to God. In our epistle, Paul adds a further dimension to this when he calls us to “be reconciled to God.” This is a lifelong process.

Lent is a season of penitence and repentance. We confess to God that we have sinned, and we ask for God’s grace to change our lives, to grow closer to God. We kneel at the altar and receive ashes on our foreheads marking the sign of the cross. These ashes come from the palms strewn in the path of our Lord on Palm Sunday as we welcomed our hero. They have been burned. and now they remind us that “[we] are dust and to dust [we] shall return.”

Lent is a time of increased devotion to prayer, fasting, and giving. We take more time to be with God, to seek God’s will for our lives and just to spend time with God and Jesus and the Spirit and to bask in their presence. We fast. We give up something or things that give us pleasure. This self-discipline helps us to experience the profound self-giving of our Lord on the cross. And we try to increase our giving to others. We fast, not only as a discipline, but in order to share our food with others.

Although Lent is a penitential season and it involves serious work on our part with God’s help and grace, Lent is a time of growth. And there is joy in Lent, because, as we walk the way of the cross, we are moving into new life.The word “Lent” comes from the Middle English word “lente,” meaning “springtime.” As we all know, springtime is a season of growth.

As we move through this season, walking the way of the cross with our Lord, yes, it is hard work, and we will need his help as we keep our discipline, but it is important to remember that we are doing this in order to grow closer to God and to love God and our neighbor more. Every part of our Lenten discipline, every thing we give up or take on can teach us about our own frailty and limitations and our profound need for God’s grace. Our discipline will also teach us about God’s love for us, God’s unfailing willingness to give us grace and healing so that we can grow into the likeness of Christ.

One of our readings for Morning Prayer today is from the Letter to the Hebrews. It begins, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who, for the sake of the joy that was before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of God.”

May we follow him. May we run the race. May we become more like our Lord. Amen.