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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:…

Epiphany 3A January 26, 2020

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Our first reading, this powerful and moving passage from Isaiah, is also our first reading on Christmas Day. Scholars tell us that this text dates back to around 725 B.C.E. The Assyrian Empire has defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, has been living in deep fear and anguish. They have been terrified that the Assyrians will defeat them, too.

A new king has been born, and God is telling the people that they are moving from the darkness of that fear into the light. God has freed them from the oppressor. There will be a new kingdom of justice and compassion. As Christians, we immediately think of the reign of our King, Jesus, who comes among us to break every yoke/

Our psalm describes what life is like in the light, the presence of God. Yes, life has many challenges, but we do not live in fear. We sense the presence and protection of God. Both our reading from Isaiah and our psalm for today are filled with the  joy of being in the presence of God.

Last week, our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians focused on the gifts which God has given them—and us— so that they and we, can follow Christ and be a loving community. In today’s passage, Paul is beginning to address some of the major problems that are affecting the community in Corinth.

There are some people in the Corinthian community who feel that their gifts are superior to the gifts of other people. For example, some of the people feel that the gift of speaking in tongues is the highest gift of all, and, if you don’t have that gift, you are inferior. In Chapter 13 of this letter, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that the greatest gift is love.

 In today’s text, Paul is pointing out that the members of the community have divided up into factions. Some are following a man named Apollos, a charismatic teacher who had come through town and attracted followers in the congregation. Others are following Paul, others Peter, and so on. The question is, who are we supposed to be following? The answer is, not Paul, nor Peter, not Apollos, but Jesus. 

Herbert O’Driscoll talks about “the indignant claim to being right or superior or more genuine than others….a putting down of someone else, an excluding of them from some real or imagined charmed circle of orthodoxy or shared spiritual experience. The message—rarely put into words—is, ‘I am of Christ, and you are not!’” (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year A Vol. 1, p. 81.)

We can tell from reading this passage that Paul is deeply troubled by these divisions. Christ was crucified for us, not Paul. We were baptized in the name of Christ, and he is the head of the Church. One of the great strengths of Grace Church is that you keep these truths constantly in mind. You remember that you are following Christ, and that he calls you to be a community of love.

In our gospel for today, Jesus learns that John the Baptist has been put in prison. This is ominous news. Jesus had gone South to be baptized by John the Baptist. This brought him closer to Jerusalem, where Herod Antipas ruled. Now he moves north to Galilee, where there is more distance from the center of Herod’s ruthless and unjust tyranny.

And what does our Lord do? He can see that Herod is asserting his deadly control, ready to extinguish any flickering flame of justice or compassion. He could have allowed fear to deflect him from his mission. He could have run away. He could have tried to hide. 

But he does not run away or hide. He knows that it is time for him to form a community. He knows that he is not going to spread the good news of the light and love of God alone. He knows what Isaiah has written. He knows that it is time for the light to shine. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he sees Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, casting their nets, and he says those words we will never forget: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, they leave their nets and follow him. A little further along, he sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee, on the boat with their father, and he calls them. They leave the boat and their father, and follow him.

And then, very simply, Matthew tells us that Jesus went all around Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. We can imagine that, as he and Peter and Andrew and James and John went from place to place, others joined them.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We have seen that light. Our darkness has been enlightened by the light and love of our Lord. We are following him. With his grace, we are sharing his love.

In our Collect for today, we pray that God will give us the grace to answer “the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation…”

This past Tuesday, the clients of the food shelf gathered in the new building. There, Nancy and Debbie welcomed the people and signed them up to receive food. Some folks shared their needs and illnesses and challenges. We prayed with them. And then we prayed together for all the folks who come for help. Meanwhile, our volunteers were at work in the church undercroft packing and distributing the food. It was a very cold day, but they  cheerfully helped the clients carry their food to their vehicles.

Our volunteers did a lot of hard work in that extremely cold weather, but there was no complaining. Our clients had to wait for a long period of time but there was no complaining. There was a lot of laughter, and love, and light. In this and many other ways, we are receiving the grace to answer the call of our Lord and to share the good news of his salvation. Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts. Amen. 

Christmas Eve   December 24, 2019

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)

This year, I have been thinking of the word Emmanuel—God with us.

What does that mean? In what way or ways is God with us?

In one of the gospels appointed for Christmas, which is also the gospel we read on the First Sunday after Christmas, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

The Word is the One who called the whole creation into being, the One who has the power to create galaxies, the One who created the universe.

And today, we read of how the eternal Word, God, came to be with us. God didn’t skip any of the steps in being human. God was a little embryo inside his mother, Mary, just as we were inside our mothers.  Because his conception date was before his parents’ wedding date, and people could count, and perhaps some tongues could wag, he was born under a shadow of illegitimacy.

From the first, his family faced challenges. It was a long and extremely uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem for a pregnant woman. And after his birth, Herod decided to kill all the baby boys under the age of two, and the family became refugees, fleeing to Egypt for safety. The Eternal Word, coming to be with us, did not have a life of privilege.

After a while, the family returned to Nazareth, and we can picture Jesus learning the carpenter’s trade. His birth took place in a small town. and his life was lived in another small village. The first witnesses to this birth were the shepherds. For most of us, who live in small towns in Vermont, it is not a huge leap to picture angels calling our neighbor Vermont farmers to come to Fairfield or Montgomery or Fletcher or Franklin or Sheldon to welcome this new king who has been born in somebody’s stable.

God with us. A God who loves us that much. A God who gives us free will and, as we misuse that gift and get into more and more trouble,  comes to join us, to be one of us. That’s why we call Jesus our Good Shepherd. He loves us; he knows each of us, and he, like any biblical shepherd, goes out in front of us and leads us—leads us to the good water holes, the most nourishing pastures, leads us away from briars and poisonous plants, and risks his life protecting us from lions and bears. There actually were lions and bears in Israel in the time of Jesus.

He was just an ordinary guy, working with his Dad in the carpenter shop. By the time he was old enough to do that, his family had faced major challenges that could have killed them. Then he went out into the world to share his message of love—love God, love each other, love everyone because everyone is a child of God just as we are. And he healed and welcomed and loved and taught everyone who came to him

And for that he was killed by people who had turf they wanted to protect. Even religious leaders. And, as Barbara Brown Taylor has told us, on that cross he took all that death and brokenness and hate and worked with it for three days and gave it back to us as life and love.

He was and is truly one of us—completely human and ordinary. He and Joseph could have helped us with the construction of our new interfaith food shelf building. And because he is one of us, and because he gives us his grace, we can follow him— follow his way of love. We can love people, feed them when they are hungry, give those who are thirsty something to drink, welcome people, give clothing to those who have nothing to wear, care for people when thy are sick, go and visit those are in prison, whether there are locks and bars or not.

His is a kingdom of peace, love, healing, and wholeness. If we follow him, if we become more and more like him, we will be helping him to build his kingdom, his shalom, “and the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.”

Come let us adore him. Come, let us follow him.  Amen.

Christmas Eve 2018

Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…” “The grace of God has appeared.” On this day, in the darkest time of year, the light is coming into the world.

The Roman Empire has decided to do a census, and Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, not an easy thing for a young woman who is about to have her first child. But Mary and Joseph are people of profound faith, wisdom, endurance, and courage.

The baby is born in a cave used as a stable. There is no room at the inn. The first people to hear the good news are shepherds out in the fields protecting their flocks, not kings and emperors. The shepherds are the first to go and worship this new king.

We have heard this story many times, and yet it always brings new light and hope into our lives. Our King has come among us as one of us, as a vulnerable baby. He comes into the world just as we did. The angels proclaim this birth to ordinary people, people like us. The shepherds are living their lives, doing their work, and suddenly the sky is filled with light and the angels are telling them something that will change their lives.

At this darkest time of year, the light of Christ comes into our lives. We approach this baby once again, knowing that he is our Savior, and that he will walk the human journey with us, that he will understand our struggles, that he will know our frailties and still love us, that he will give us courage and grace.

As the hymn says, “Love came down at Christmas.” Thank you, Jesus, for your wondrous gift of yourself.  Amen.

Epiphany 3 RCL January 26, 2014

Annual Meeting

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4: 12-23

What inspiring reading we have for this Sunday of Annual Meeting.

Our opening lesson from Isaiah is one of the readings appointed for Christmas. Scholars tell us that this passage is announcing the birth of a king from David’s line and that it may refer to King Hezekiah of Judah. For us as Christians, it refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. He brings us out of darkness into light. He frees us from all that oppresses us. What a wonderful reading this is for the week in which we have celebrated Martin Luther King’s legacy.

In our epistle, Paul is addressing the serious problems of division in the congregation in Corinth. This is a community which Paul had founded and shepherded for eighteen months. Now they are dividing into factions and being mean to each other. We can tell how anguished Paul is over these behaviors.  We can hear it in his voice as he asks,  “Has Christ been divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?” Paul calls us to be one in Christ and to be loving and respectful toward each other and to all who come to be with us.

In our gospel, Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been arrested. This is not good. Now John is in the awful prison of Herod Antipas, a ruthless ruler who will stop at nothing. Jesus has been in the south near Jerusalem, dangerous territory. He moves from Nazareth to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee., the “land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali” mentioned in our first lesson.

Jesus is now going to move forward with his ministry. He is going to form a community. We can imagine him getting to know these strong, sturdy, hardworking fishermen. He calls people to repent, to turn to God and let God transform their lives. And he calls Peter and Andrew, James and John. He tells them and us, “I will make you fish for people.”

Capernaum was much like Sheldon. It was a small town where people worked hard. Jesus chose these people to form the core of his community.

Today, as we gather for our Annual Meeting, we can celebrate many gifts that we have received. Jesus is the light of our lives. We are no longer stumbling around in the darkness. He leads us and guides us. All we have to do is ask for his direction.

We are not divided into factions who follow Apollos or Paul or Cephas. We are all one in Christ. We are a community built on mutual love and respect. These are precious gifts which our Lord has given us.

This morning, Jesus is calling each of us and all of us together to follow him. He is calling us to spread the good news of his love and healing. Just as he called Peter and Andrew, just as he called James and John, so he is calling us to live as a community which shows forth his vision of transformation for the world.

May we answer his call. May we be one in him.  Amen.