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

Advent 1 Year B November 29. 2020

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

In our opening reading from Isaiah, we are with Isaiah and God’s people at a crucial moment in their history. They are returning from exile in Babylon. They have been in exile for some fifty years, studying the scriptures, praying, keeping the community together and hoping for the day when they would be able to return. They have thought it would be a time of great joy.

When they arrive, they find that the temple has been destroyed. The city walls have been torn down. Foreign people are living as squatters in the ruins of the temple. For decades, they had hoped and prayed that they would be able to return. That was the hope that kept them together. But now that they are in Jerusalem and, seeing that their beloved temple and city are little more than a huge pile of rubble, they are realizing the enormity of the task that lies before them.

In the face of the enormity of the task, Isaiah and the people are overwhelmed. They are at the point of despair. How will they begin the mammoth task of rebuilding? Where will they begin? Isaiah calls out to God, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence…” 

Isaiah is recalling the time centuries before when God came down from heaven at Mount Sinai to give the people the law and lead them out of slavery.  God was with them every step of the way. It seems to Isaiah that God has withdrawn from the people, and so they have sinned. Isaiah confesses on behalf of all the people and then he tells God, “You are our Father and we are your people.” 

All these centuries later, we are not being called to rebuild Jerusalem, but we are facing a very difficult task. We are facing a time that is usually full of joy—Thanksgiving and Christmas—a time when we love to be with our families. This year, we cannot do that. Our own governor’s staff has predicted that if we aren’t careful, we could have 3,800 people come down with Covid and 40 to 50 people in the hospital, These figures are staggering, far higher than we have experienced at any time during this wilderness journey, this exile from our church building, this long fast from the Eucharist.

In his press briefing this past Tuesday, Governor Scott said that he knows he can’t make us do the things that will defeat the virus—have Thanksgiving dinner only with the people who live under our roof, don’t travel, and continue to do the things we have been doing—six foot spaces, masks on faces, avoid crowded places—but he is asking us to do these things. Our Presiding Bishop is calling us to walk the Way of Love—doing all of these things out of love for each other so everyone can be safe. And our governor says often that he knows this is hard. We all have Pandemic Fatigue. We’re tired of this and we just want to go back to normal. Experts tell us that we’re experiencing quite a bit of depression and anxiety these days.

We might pray, “O, loving God, please come down here and help us. This virus is getting ahead of us.” Rather similar to Isaiah’s prayer.

But then we stop and think. God has come to be with us. That was the first Advent. A little baby was born in Bethlehem, a little, out of the way place like Sheldon or Montgomery or Fletcher or Fairfield or Franklin. Why did God come among us? Because God loves us more than we could possibly understand or imagine.

Jesus lived a human life, grew up helping his foster father in his carpenter shop, and then he called twelve people together and went all around healing, forgiving, and teaching people about God’s kingdom of love and peace, God’s shalom. And he invited everyone to be a part of his family—a very big family—and to help him build his shalom.

We have all answered his call to follow him and help him build his kingdom, his shalom. Right now, people are really hurting with this pandemic, and we are feeding them at our food shelf. And we are trying to do all we can to help our brothers and sisters because he has told us that if we help them, we are helping him. The more peace and love and compassion we can share, the closer his kingdom comes. So he doesn’t have to tear down the heavens and come down. He is already here in our midst. What our governor and all good leaders are calling us to do, our risen and present Lord is leading and guiding us to do.

He has told us he will come again to complete his kingdom, to bring in fully his shalom of peace, compassion, and justice. We do not know exactly when that is going to happen. And in many parts of the gospel he tells us not to try to figure that out. Only God knows when that will happen.

In today’s gospel, He says, “Keep awake.” This does not mean that we have to stay up all night. He wants us to be healthy, especially in these stressful times, so we need to get at least seven hours of sleep a night. But he wants us to be ready to receive his kingdom. He wants us to be prepared for his kingdom. When he comes, he wants us to be ready to meet him, welcome him with great joy, and help him complete his work of creation.

And he wants us to live like kingdom people, to feed the hungry and give clothing to those who need it and love people and help people as if they were Christ himself. We are in that in-between time between his first coming as a baby and his second coming as our King, and he wants us to be about the work of building his shalom now.

Like God’s people coming home from the exile, we are facing a major challenge. We are called to do what is necessary to beat this virus, and we are called to build, not a temple, but the shalom of God.

Lord Jesus, thank you for being in our midst. Thank you for calling us to help you build your kingdom. Give us the grace to follow you, to walk the Way of Love, and to be ready to follow where you lead us. In your holy Name. Amen.

Advent 1B RCL December 3, 2017

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

Advent is here. This is the New Year’s season of the Church. We change from Lectionary A to B. For Morning and Evening Prayer, we change from Lectionary 1 to 2. From the green of the Pentecost season and the white for Christ the King this past Sunday, we move to purple, symbolizing penitence and also the royalty of Christ our King.

Advent is that paradoxical time of penitence, preparation, and joy. We look back to the first coming of our Lord as a baby, and at the same time we look forward to his coming again to complete the work of creation and bring in his kingdom of peace, harmony, and wholeness.

His kingdom has begun but it is not yet complete. As we look around our world, we can see clear evidence of that sad fact. Walter Brueggemann writes, “Contrary to the manner in which it is often celebrated in the churches, Advent begins not on a note of joy, but of despair. Humankind has reached the end of its rope. All our schemes for self-improvement, for extricating ourselves from the traps we have set for ourselves, have come to nothing. We have now realized at the deepest level of our being that we cannot save ourselves and that, apart from the intervention of God, we are totally and irretrievably lost.” (Texts for Preaching Year A, p. 1.)

Our opening reading from Isaiah sounds that note of despair. How often do we wish that God would come down from the heavens and help us set things right, clean up the messes we make. Scholars tell us that this passage was probably written when Isaiah and the other exiles returned from Babylon. They had prayed for the coming of this day. Yet, when they arrived home and found the temple completely destroyed and so much work to do, they began to lose hope.

At this low point, Isaiah wishes that God would tear open the heavens and come down to earth. Isaiah praises God for all the ways in which God has guided and helped the people. Then he confesses that he and all God’s people have sinned. They felt God was hiding from them when the Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem, and they drifted farther and farther away from God. In fact, some of the people felt that the military conquest by Babylon was a punishment for their lack of faith.

It is important to note that many of the people kept the faith during the Exile. They studied the scriptures; they increased their sense of worship and community. Isaiah is one of those people, and he is addressing God as a member of that community of the faithful.

Following the confession, Isaiah prays to God as the father of the people. He says that we humans are the clay and God is the potter. He asks God to have mercy on the people. Following this process of acknowledging God’s care for the people, then confessing his and their sinfulness, Isaiah is able to realize that God still cares and that God is a God of mercy.

Most of us have had low points like this in life. There just seem to be too many challenges. We feel as though God is far away. But we know that we really need God’s help. As we look around our world and see all the brokenness, the wholeness of God’s shalom seems impossibly far away. This makes us doubly aware that we need to turn to God.

As someone once said, when we fall far away from God, we need to ask, who moved? Not God. God has been right here all the time. Back in the time of Isaiah, the people realized that God was faithful, God had never left them. They began the mammoth task of rebuilding, but they also focused on rebuilding their sense of community and deepening their faith.

In our epistle for today, Paul thanks God for the life of the congregation in Corinth. God has given them many gifts, and they will be exercising those gifts as they wait for Christ to come again.

In our gospel, Jesus is describing the day of judgment as it is pictured by some of the prophets. But his main message is, “Stay awake. Be ready.”

Walter Brueggemann’s comments strike a wonderful Advent note. As we proceed with self-examination, we come to a screeching halt and realize that indeed, as he puts it, “all our schemes for self improvement… have come to nothing.” Without the intervention of God, all is lost.

Isaiah wanted God to “open the heavens and come down.” As Christians we know that God has done exactly that. God has come to be with us. After his baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus began building his Kingdom. We see it in every event in his ministry. He showed us how to do it. Love God and love people.

During Advent, we are called especially to make room for Jesus in our hearts and lives. This is a season for giving generously to organizations such as UTO and ERD, and other groups which help people in so many ways. It is also a time to take stock of our spiritual lives, to make or update wills, to set things in order.

But, most of all, it is a season to make even more room for Jesus. For each of us that may look different. For some of us, it means taking more quiet time. For others of us, it might mean more time with family and friends. For many of us, it is a both-and.

God did respond to Isaiah, and the rebuilding happened. How blessed and fortunate we are that God has come to be with us. We can walk with the risen Christ. How blessed that we can go and visit him in the manger. How blessed that we can be with him here and every day because he is among us. God has come to be with us, and God’s kingdom is growing even now. And God invites us every day and every moment to help to build that kingdom, that shalom. And he calls us to be ready to meet him again when he comes to complete the creation. Amen.

Advent 1B November 30, 2014

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

 This Sunday, we begin the season of Advent. This is the New Year of the church. We change from lectionary A to lectionary B. We change from the green vestments of the season after Pentecost to purple to denote the coming of our King and also a time of penitential preparation. We begin lighting the candles on the Advent wreath and opening the doors on our Advent calendars to count the days. Advent means coming,and we are looking forward to the coming of our Lord to complete the creation. We are also looking back to his first coming among us as a baby, 

When Jesus was here with us on earth, he began to build his kingdom. But that kingdom is not complete. The world is not a place of peace harmony, and wholeness. As our Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jeffers Schori writes, 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.(A Wing and a Prayer, p. 33.) 

The prophet Isaiah was one of the people who described Gods vision of shalom. Our reading from the Book of Isaiah dates back to the time of the Exile in Babylon, the time after the temple in Jerusalem was reduced to a pile of rubble, the time before the temple was finally rebuilt. Herbert ODriscoll imagines that the prophet has returned from Babylon and is gazing on the rubble that was once the great temple, the center of worship.

Isaiah asks God to tear open the heavens and come downto be with the people. He looks back to the time when God was close to the people and led them out of slavery into freedom. But the people have not called upon God. They have gone about their own ways. Isaiah confesses the sins of the people and asks God to grant mercy. He gives us that powerful image: God is the potter and we are the clay. We need to ask Gods help often so that we can grow into the persons God calls us to be.

For Isaiah and the rest of Gods people, life had been reduced to a pile of rubble. They felt that they had strayed far away from God, and they believed that this had something to do with the fact that they had been conquered by the Babylonian Empire. I think we all understand those points in life when we have tried our best and worked hard and everything falls apart. Everything is in ruins. Thats where Isaiah and the people were. Especially at times like this, we realize that we cant do it alone. We need Gods help.

In our epistle this morning, Paul is writing to the congregation in Corinth. He starts out with his typical greeting. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.

This is a positive thing. But there is an undercurrent. We know that the congregation in Corinth has been blessed with many gifts, but they also have been arguing about which gifts are the greatest. Paul is going to address this in the letter. Also, some of the older members of the community have been telling the newer members that they arent quite as good because they are still new at the faith. I would say that they are bullying the newer members. Paul is building the foundation for telling them us that we need to thank God for all the gifts we receive and we need to value all gifts and all people equally. That is the direction in which we need to be moving in order to prepare for Jesuscoming again.

In our Gospel, Jesus is once again telling us not to spend any time trying to predict when he will come again. He tells us to put our energy into being ready to welcome him with joy when he comes to bring in his kingdom. 

Well, how do we get ready? First, we can take time to be as close to God as possible. Time for prayer. Time for quiet. Time to examine our lives, to take stock. We make wills or update wills. We straighten out our finances and get our lives in shape to be ready when he appears.

As we look ahead to the coming of our Lord, we recall his first advent, when he came among among us as one of us, as a little baby.

In his anguish, Isaiah was asking God to tear the heavens and come and help us, but that was five hundred years before the birth of our Lord. God has already come to be with us, and this sheer, loving fact gives us a way to think about preparing for him this Advent. Through prayer, through taking time to think about how much God must love us, that God would come to be with us, we make room in our hearts and lives for Jesus to be born anew in us. As so many of the mystics have said, we must allow and invite Jesus to be born in our lives over and over again. We must make room in the inns of our hearts so that Jesus can come into our lives and share his love and healing and transform us so that we can transform the world.

God did not tear the heavens to come to be with us. God came to be with us as one of us. If we look back on the life and ministry of Jesus and we model our lives after that life, we will grow more and more like him, and his shalom will be even closer to its completion.

Dear Lord, thank you for your love. Thank you for coming to be one of us. Help us to make room for you in our lives. Help us to become more and more like you, so that, together, we may build you shalom.

Amen.