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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 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 December 18, 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:…
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First Sunday after Christmas December 27, 2020

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your  incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus  Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” This is our powerful collect for today, the First Sunday after Christmas.

And then, our reading from John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” We can picture in our minds the creation of the world. Christ ,the eternal Word, was there with God, and as God brought forth God’s vision of the creation, Christ, the Word, called the creation into being. Christ, the Word, the Logos, the plan for creation, the model for human life.

And then, in the next phrases of this amazing and inspiring gospel, the light is coming into the world. John the Baptist is testifying to the light. And then the true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world. Jesus, the light of the world, brings light and hope to everyone in the world. We can envision a world of darkness lighting up with the light and love of Christ, We can understand that the light of Christ, the love and hope of Christ, can turn our lives from darkness and despair to light and hope. We can almost picture the whole dark world illuminated by the light of Christ, the dawn of a new day a new year, a new life for everyone.

But then,  our gospel says, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him,” That led ultimately to the Cross. And yet, even out of that, he brought new life.  But to all who were open to him and welcomed him into their lives, “he gave power to become children of God.” When we open our lives to his love, he brings us as close to God as children are to their own loving parents.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.” God loves us so much that God came among us as one of us, born as a little baby, just as we were born.

He did not come as a conquering warrior, though he could have. He did not come among us as an earthly king, though he could have done that too. He came into human life just as we do,  He was born in a little place called Bethlehem, in a cave used as a stable. He was born before Mary and Joseph were married, so some tongues wagged, and some folks considered him to be an illegitimate child. And then, King Herod, who  had heard from the wise men about the new king, killed all the baby boys to stamp out that  threat. Joseph, a very protective and courageous foster father, and Mary, as protective and courageous as her husband, had to take Jesus into Egypt. This meant that they were refugees, migrants. seeking asylum. Jesus knows what it is to be human and he also knows what it is to be persecuted, marginalized, and demeaned. 

When things became safer, the holy family moved back to Nazareth, where Joseph was a carpenter. Jesus grew up learning the carpenter’s trade and studied the scriptures and eventually began his earthly ministry by being baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River.

After that, he spent somewhere between one and three years, depending on whose account we read, going from place to place telling people how much God loves us and how much God wants us to love each other. In a patriarchal culture, he had high respect for women; in a culture that saw children and women as chattel, possessions, he instructed his disciples to let the children come to him so that he could hold them in his arms. He made it crystal clear that God’s love knows no barriers. This was a threat to people who wanted to preserve their power, and he ended up dying on that horrible instrument of torture called the cross. 

And then, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found that it was empty. He was not there. She saw a man and thought he was the gardener, but he called her name, and she knew that it was Jesus. He had risen. She ran to tell the others. And then people began seeing him. He appeared to two of them on the road to Emmaus, but they didn’t even recognize him until they invited him in for supper and he interpreted the scriptures in a way that set their hearts on fire. Peter and the disciples were out fishing and, when they came ashore there he was, cooking fish and bread over a fire. He appeared to the disciples in the locked upper room and said, “Peace be with you.” And he called us to build his peace, his shalom, over the whole earth. And that’s what we are trying to do, with his grace. 

He is alive, He is in our midst, and he is calling us to walk the Way of Love. Let us follow him, our Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.

Advent 3B December 13, 2020

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8,19-28

In our opening reading this morning, God’s people have returned home from exile in Babylon. As Herbert O’Driscoll points out, this is the passage that our Lord reads in the synagogue in Nazareth as he begins his ministry.

What a powerful message this is for us as we deal with this pandemic. God is calling us “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.”

God will be leading the people as they rebuild the temple and the city, but God is also calling for a reordering of the society. Walter Brueggemann says that the workers who will be rebuilding the ruins “are the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the captives, the prisoners, those who mourn.” Brueggemann says that these people “have been defeated, marginalized, and rendered powerless, either by the economic pressures within the community or by the economic policies of foreign powers.” He says that these workers “are the ones who have ended up in bondage… because they have debts they cannot pay. The pressures of economic paralysis have led to hopelessness, powerlessness, and finally despair.” Brueggemann continues, “For all time to come these will be the blessed of God.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, pp. 22-23.)

We cannot help but notice the striking parallels between these workers 25 centuries ago and our  workers, who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Their unemployment benefits are running out. Protections against foreclosure and eviction are also expiring, and millions of people could become homeless. In the midst of this suffering, God is calling us to take care of each other and to build a just society.

This passage has deep meaning for all of us, We are all feeling brokenhearted. We are all feeling like prisoners. God will give us “the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” It is no accident that Jesus read this passage when he went to the synagogue in Nazareth.This text is calling us to help our Lord build his shalom.

Our reading today from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is full of gems for our spiritual lives. “Rejoice always,” Paul advises us. How can he say that when we’re in the middle of a pandemic? Here we must keep in mind that Paul’s life was not easy. He was in prison several times. He endured shipwrecks, beatings, personal attacks, and all kinds of opposition and adversity. Yet in the midst of everything, Paul was able to rejoice, and he encourages us to do the same. Underneath everything, upholding everything, is the joy of knowing Jesus our Savior.

“Pray without ceasing.”Over the centuries, people have tried to do this. We have the Jesus prayer that is sometimes said as we breathe. Breathe in—“Lord Jesus, Son of God.” Breathe out, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or, breathe in, “Jesus,” breathe out, “Mercy.” We breathe in the healing and forgiving presence of our Lord and we exhale our sins while remembering his mercy. So that eventually with every breath we are thinking of our Lord and his love.

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” We could say, “Saint Paul, you are really asking a lot of us right now. Thousands of people are sick and dying; there are long lines at food shelves all over the country. Things are very bad. This is terrible.” And that is true. And—we can always find things to be thankful for. We can thank God for helping our doctors and nurses and truck drivers and grocery store workers and teachers and school staff and all the essential and medical workers who are valiantly doing their jobs. We can thank the researchers and others who are working on discovering vaccines, and we can give special thanks that the process of distributing a vaccine has begun and that, in Great Britain and other places, people have already received a vaccine. We can thank everyone who practices the safety guidelines our medical experts are giving us. I thank each and every one of you for your faith and your service to others during  this time. And for your strength of spirit and your sense of humor and your spiritual balance. Yes, we can “rejoice always,” “pray without ceasing,” and “give thanks in all circumstances.”

In today’s gospel, once again, we meet John the Baptist. He quotes Isaiah, saying he is “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’” John the Baptist “was not the light but that he came to testify to the light.” Although huge crowds came out to see him and followed him, he knew that he was not the Savior.

John the Evangelist says that John the Baptist “came to testify to the light.” If we think about Isaiah’s time, a time of great economic injustice and suffering when God was calling the people to rebuild the temple and their lives and their society; or if we think about the time of John the Baptist when the people of God were oppressed by the Roman Empire, those were very difficult times. And this time of Covid is also a time filled with suffering. People are dying alone without their families. Doctors and nurses are becoming more and more exhausted.

And yet. The light is coming into the world. The darkness has not overcome that light. At the Easter Vigil, we carry the paschal candle into the dark church and we process down the aisle to the altar, chanting “The light of Christ,” and the people answer, “Thanks be to God.” New life is coming into the world. The shalom of God is growing, like the shoot that sprouts from the stump of Jesse. Thanks be to God for that light. That hope. That love which sustains all of us. Let us kindle that hope and cherish it. Let us continue to walk the Way of Love. Amen.

Christmas 1 December 30, 2018

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147 or 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

Our First reading, from Isaiah, dates to one of the most joyful times in the history of God’s people. After almost fifty years of exile, the people are returning home to rebuild the temple and rebuild their homes and their lives.

This passage is full of images of growth and life. Isaiah writes, “As the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. The word “righteousness” means right relationship with God. This is a beautiful and powerful statement that, just as the earth brings forth good fruit, God is going to give the people grace to have right relationships with God and with each other. This is God’s will for us as well.

Our reading from Galatians traces our spiritual history. For a long time, humans beings were imprisoned under the law. We had the ten commandments to guide us, but we were not able to follow them, and we felt separated from God. Because we could not follow the law, we felt we were drifting farther and farther from God.

Now God has sent his beloved Son, Jesus. Jesus has let us know how much God loves us, and we can now relate to God in the most intimate way. We can call God “Abba,” which is a very familiar and endearing term. This means that we can now call God Dad or Daddy or Mom or Mama. We have been adopted as God’s own beloved children.

Our reading from John’s gospel brings all of this together. John’s gospel begins with the powerful statement, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word is Jesus, the logos, the plan, the pattern for life, the blueprint for human existence. The Word brought forth the whole creation.

And then, the powerful Word who has created the universe comes among us, is born just the same way we were born. Some of his own people do not recognize who he is, but those who do realize who he is, those who open their hearts and lives to him, receive grace upon grace. We are among those blessed and fortunate people.

Later on in John’s Gospel Jesus tells us, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30.) This means that God loves us so much that God Godself has come among us as a baby. God loves us so much that God adopts us as God’s own children in the closest possible relationship.

John writes, “The Word became flesh and lived among us….From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” God has come to be with us. God is enfleshed; God is incarnate. What an extraordinary gift!

One other theme that runs through our readings today is light. John writes, “What has come into being in [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of all people The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” At the darkest time of year, God has come among us. God’s light and love and hope have come to be with us. This is another profound and wonderful gift.

The First Letter of John tells us, “God is love.” God has come to be with us to share God’s love, grace, and truth. In his Christmas message, Bishop Tom says that we can also be a gift to others. We are the gift because we can share God’s love with others. Amen.

Christmas 1 December 27, 2015

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147: (1-12) 13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

God, the eternal Word who called the universe into being, who created everything, including “this fragile earth, out island home,” has come to be with us, to live as one of us.

He did not come as a mighty ruler seated on a throne, but as a little baby born in an out of the way place to parents who were not rich or powerful. He came into this world just as each of us did, as a baby.

We call this the Incarnation, the enfleshment, of our Lord. Since he has come among us as Emmanuel, God with us, we can be sure that he knows all the joys and all the challenges of our lives. And because of the life and ministry of Jesus, we can approach God in the most intimate way. We can call God Abba, Dad, or Mom.

Because we love to sing here at Grace, and because we have our beloved brother, Erik, here with us at the organ, I am going to ask you to sing two hymns.

The first one expresses the depth of this mystery of faith, the Incarnation. The second expresses our response to God’s immeasurable love.

“O most mighty, O most holy.”  Song sheet.

“In the bleak midwinter,” Hymn 112.

“O come, let us adore him.”  Amen.

Christmas 1 Year B RCL December 28, 2014

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

The scene of our first reading is around the year 539 B. C. God’s people have been in exile in Babylon (Iraq) for almost sixty years, in those days, three generations. King Cyrus of Persia (Iran) has conquered the Babylonian Empire and is allowing the exiles to return home.

Just imagine the scene in Babylon. The news spreads, “We’re going home! Were going home!” This is wonderful news. The people pack up and make the long journey. But when they get there, the temple is in ruins. Many buildings are in ruins. The land has been ravaged.

They want to rebuild. But they become deeply discouraged. Herbert O’Driscoll suggests that, if we want to try to imaging their plight, we should look at pictures of the destruction of war—the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, for example. Whole cities in ruins. This is how it was. The people were overwhelmed. They were paralyzed, They had no idea how and where to begin.

Into this situation, God calls the prophet Isaiah to give the people hope, to share with them God’s vision of restoration and renewal. Jerusalem is going to rise up out of the rubble and become a city of light and life. Isaiah is the one who inspires the people to get to work and tackle this huge job. Thank God for our cheerleaders who can inspire us to carry out God’s vision.

Our epistle today says so much. If all we had was the law, the Ten Commandments, we would feel like prisoners. There are things we are supposed to do, and when we do not do them, we feel awful. There are things we are not supposed to do, and when we fail and do those things. when we break God’s commandments, we are imprisoned in or own sense of our weakness and sinfulness.

Into this situation of hopelessness, God sends God’s son and God adopts us as God’s own children. This is mind boggling. Remember when we read the Book of Exodus and Moses is going up the mountain to meet God? Only Moses can get that close to God. The belief then was that you could not see God and live. Now that Jesus has come among us, we are able to call God “Abba.” This is a very intimate term, like Dad or Mom. Because of Jesus we are that close to God our divine parent. We are not caught in the prison of sin and hopelessness. We are surrounded by love and grace. We can get free of sin. We can grow and change. There is help. We are children of God. We are children of light.

Our gospel today is the prologue to the gospel of John. We have the story of Jesus’ birth under such humble circumstances, shepherds and kings coming to worship him, the whole creation rejoicing, the whole world filled with music and light and love.

St. John was trying to explain the meaning of the birth of Jesus. He was putting the story we know so well into philosophical terms that would be understood by both Jews and Greeks.

Jesus is the Word, the logos, the plan, the pattern for life. Jesus is the one who has called the whole creation into being. Remember Robert Farrar Capon’s wonderful description of creation in The Third Peacock? God thinks up the creation and Jesus, the Word, together with the Spirit, makes it all happen. The Word, the One who called the world into being, has now come among us. God has come among us.

God walking the face of the earth was not accepted by everyone. But there were some people who did see who Jesus really was—Mary and Martha and Lazarus. who gave him hospitality and support, his earthly father, Joseph, who protected Jesus and Mary so carefully, his Mother, Mary, the apostles, Mary Magdalene. There were people he healed like the man born blind, people he met, who could see deeply into spiritual reality, people like the woman at the well, who ran into the village to tell folks about him. The little people. The powerful people were too busy protecting their turf to be able to recognize him. But the little people could see immediately who he was. The light was coming into the world, full of grace and truth. Those with humility, openness of spirit, could see that. We know that.

We are children of God. Jesus is our brother. God is as close as our breath. In Jesus, God became incarnate, embodied, enfleshed.

I know we all love to sing. Here is a hymn which express the meaning of our gospel today.

O Most mighty! O most holy!—Song Sheet

Amen.

Advent 3B RCL 12/14/14

Isaiah 61:1-4. 8-11
Canticle 3
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Our opening reading this morning is from the prophet Isaiah. He is proclaiming a message of hope to the people exiled in Babylon. They are going to go home. They will rebuild the temple. This reading also describes Gods kingdom. The oppressed will hear good news. The wounds of the brokenhearted will be mended. There will be peace.

 Herbert ODriscoll reminds us that it was this lesson that Jesus read when he visited the synagogue in Nazareth. This reading describes Jesusministry of healing and forgiveness. It also describes the shalom that we are building with him. We, too, are called to share good news and to help those who are hurting.

 Our Canticle this morning, the beautiful and beloved Magnificat, the Song of Mary, is another description of the Kingdom, the shalom of God. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.The shalom of Christ holds up the values of simplicity, compassion, meekness, mercy, humility, healing, and peace to a world which needs these things so badly but in its headlong rush to power has little time to recognize the treasure of this other kingdom right in our midst.

 Our epistle this morning is short, but it says so much. Like us, the early Christians were waiting for our Lord to come and set things right. Waiting is not just a passive thing. It is active and expectant.

 Paul tells us some things we can do so that, like the maidens waiting for the bridegroom to come, we can keep oil in our lamps and we can be ready for his arrival. Paul writes, Rejoice always.No matter what is going on in our lives or around us, we are called to be people of joy because we are one with Christ. We have all met people whose faith is so deep that they can reach to those springs of joy.

 Pray without ceasing,Paul tells us. Now, there is a tall order. How can we pray constantly? I think this is more of a goal than something we can achieve. The ancient Jesus Prayer, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.is an attempt to carry out this command to pray without ceasing. We breathe in, saying Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,and we breathe out, saying ,Have mercy on me, a sinner.A shorter version of the prayer is to say Jesusas we breathe in, and mercyas we breathe out. Thus, we are breathing in the presence of our Lord, and we are letting go of our sins and accepting his mercy as we breathe out. The point is that, with each breath, we are praying. The more constantly we pray, the closer we are to Jesus, and the more faith and joy we have.

Give thanks in all circumstances.Now, there is a challenge. Give thanks when we have just lost a job? Or when someone we love has received a devastating diagnosis? Or when a family member is having huge problems? Yes, give thanks in all things. Not because we like to have brokenness in our lives and the lives of those we love, but because we know that our Lord is with us, to help us get through these times.

 Do not quench the Spirit.Gods Holy Spirit is at work in us and in the world. The Holy Spirit is at work in all times and in all things, even when we cannot see it. We need to be careful to look for the presence of the Spirit and to nurture the work of the Spirit. Whenever good news is being spread and whenever the brokenhearted are being helped, the Spirit is at work. Whenever the fruits of the Spirit are presentlove, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, there the Spirit is at work.

 To summarize, rejoice, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, dont quench the Spirit, look for the presence of the spirit. These are some of the things we are called to do in order to get ready for the coming of our Lord.

In our gospel, we read about that amazing figure, John the Baptist. His ministry was to call us to repentance. As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we examine our lives and confess those sins of omission and commissionthings we ought to have done but did not do, and things we ought not to have done but did anywayand we ask Gods forgiveness and ask God to give us the grace to amend our lives. We clean out our spiritual clutter and make room for our Lord in our lives and hearts.

At this darkest time of the year, we know that the light is coming into the world.

Dear Lord, source of all love and grace, help us to make room for you in the inns of our hearts. Amen.

Christmas 1 2013

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147 or 147:13-31
Galatians 3: 23-25, 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word….” That is how our collect for this First Sunday After Christmas begins.

St. Paul tells us that, because Jesus has come among us, we are now on intimate terms with our God, We can call God Abba, meaning “Daddy” or “Mom.” God is no longer far away from us. God is no longer light years away. God is with us. Emmanuel, God with us.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  God has come among us. God has gone through the process of gestation, the adventure of being born into this world which God has made. God has undergone every human experience.

God was not born into a palace or a castle. God was not born into a place of power. As Pope Francis has said, God came into the world as a homeless person. There was no room for them at the inn. God was not born in Jerusalem, the seat of religious and secular power in the Holy Land. God was not born in Rome, the seat of the major empire of the time. God was born in a stable, to a young woman named Mary and a carpenter named Joseph, not to an earthly king and queen or emperor and empress.

John says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” At the darkest time of the year, the time when we are yearning for the days to become longer, the light comes into the world.  That light, that love, will never be overcome by darkness.

John says that the Word made the world. He was and is the eternal Word who called the creation into being, yet when he came to his own people, they did not know him and they did not accept him. But some did, and those people he made children of God. Actually, he has made all of us children of God. He has brought all of us into close relationship with God. We can be grateful because we realize that he has done this. And we can share his love with others.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” Incarnation means “enfleshment.” God becomes human, “Full of grace and truth.” God becomes one of us so that we can look at the life of God in Jesus and see how to live our lives as our Lord would want us to. And there, we see “grace upon grace.”

We can imagine Jesus in Joseph’s shop, playing with the curls of wood from the carpenter’s plane, later learning Joseph’s trade. The hymn “Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,” has one verse that says, “Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith, whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe, be there at our labors and give us, we pray, your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.”

God came to be with us in all our humanness. God knows what it is like to face every challenge, every joy. God walks with us through every moment.

Love has come to be with us, to fill us with grace upon grace.

Thanks be to God for this unspeakable gift.

Amen.