• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • 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.

Easter 2B April 11, 2021

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John:1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

Our gospel for today is always the gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season lasts for fifty days. During Lent, we could not say “Alleluia!” because Lent is a solemn time of penitence. Now, our worship is full of alleluias.

Every Sunday on this day, we read this wonderful gospel. It is the evening of the day of resurrection. Just this morning, the women or Mary Magdalene alone, depending on which gospel we are reading, made their way to the place where Jesus was buried and found the tomb empty. If we are reading John’s account of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalene actually meets Jesus. In Mark’s account, which we read this year, an angel tells the women that Jesus is risen.

That evening, the followers of Jesus are gathered. The doors are locked for fear of the authorities. It was only three days ago that these people witnessed the death of Jesus and they know that soldiers could come and arrest them at any time. They are still afraid, and with good reason.

There is something I never quite noticed before; it is a sign of great courage that they are all gathered together. Yes, Peter denied Jesus three times, and, yes, not all of them had the courage to stand at the foot of the cross, but most of them have come to be with the other followers of our Lord. That took courage.

There they are, gripped by fear. Suddenly, quietly, Jesus is there. No walls or locks, no tyrants who are willing to kill in order to keep control,  no amount of fear can keep him away from them. And what is his first word? “Peace be with you.” Shalom be with you.

Into the center of their their fear, into the heart of their fear, our Lord places his shalom, his peace, his vision of a kingdom of wholeness, harmony, peace, and love, in which everyone will have enough to eat, clothes to wear, good work to do, his shalom in which all people will be cared for, his shalom in which the creation and everything in it will be made whole.

Only Mary Magdalene had actually seen him. The other women had heard that he had risen, But now they are seeing him, now they are feeling his presence, the peace and love radiating out from him and filling their hearts with relief and hope.

Then he breathes on them just as God breathed the Spirit into Adam, and he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, If you retain the sins of any they are retained.” He is giving them and us the ministry of reconciliation. He is calling us to bring God’s peace and healing to the world.

When Thomas arrives, they tell them they have seen the Lord. But he cannot believe it. He tells them he is going to have to put his hands in Jesus’ wounds in order to believe. 

Jesus always tries to help us strengthen our faith, and he demonstrates that trait in his treatment of Thomas. A week later, they are gathered again, and Jesus appears. He invites Thomas to touch his wounds. But Thomas does not ned to do that. He bursts into a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

And then our Lord says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” And that blessing from Jesus is for us and for millions of others who were not in the house with his followers on that first Easter evening and the visit a week later.

During the Easter season, all of our readings come from the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures, because they were written in Greek. This reminds us that we are an Easter people, a people of faith, hope, and love.

In our first reading, from the Book of Acts, time has passed. Peter and John have healed a man who has been lame from birth. When asked how they could do this, they say that it is through the power of Jesus of Nazareth. Many people have witnessed this healing and have heard Peter speak. The authorities are afraid that Peter and John will draw a large following, so they arrest them. Our passage for today comes just after Peter and John are freed.

The text tells us that the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem “were of one heart and one mind.” That is an excellent definition of Christian community. The text says, “great grace was upon them all.” Scholars tell us that most of the early followers of our Lord were not wealthy. They were ordinary people. And yet, they walked the Way of Love. They took care of each other. In these two readings, we see how the presence of the living Christ moves his followers from locking the doors in fear to being a vibrant community walking the Way of Love.

During this pandemic, we have seen a great deal of fear. There are also people who think Covid 19 is not real. For those of us who follow the science, it is clear that this virus is very real and highly adaptive. Now, we are trying to get everyone vaccinated while we continue to follow the health measures so that we can limit the incidence of mutations. The experts are advising us to continue to be careful. Let’s keep running the race until we get to the finish line.

My impression of our Grace community is that we have not been governed by fear, but we have paid attention to the science and  common sense, which I think is a good thing. However, even though we have not been paralyzed by fear, we can be galvanized and energized by the presence of our living Lord. We can be so thankful for his presence. 

Risen Lord, thank you so much for being with us every step of the way, for leading us through this challenging time. Help us to hang in there for the long haul. Help us to share your love with everyone we meet, a word of comfort here, a box of food there. Help us to be rooted and grounded in you, your living presence. And help us to continue to walk the Way of Love and to be your Beloved Community. In your holy Name. Amen.

The Day of Pentecost May 31, 2020

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

Last week, we read that Jesus ascended to heaven and the disciples returned to the upper room in Jerusalem to pray and wait expectantly for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Jewish tradition, Pentecost, or the feast of Weeks, came fifty days after the first day of Passover. James D. Newsome tells us that the Jewish feast of  Pentecost marked the end of the celebration of the spring harvest. This is why there were devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world—to celebrate the feast of Pentecost or Weeks.

But this feast was also the beginning of another season, which lasted until the feast of booths or tabernacles. On that feast, the people offered the first fruits of the fields to God. 

Newsome writes, “Pentecost/Weeks is thus a pregnant moment in the life of the people of God and in the relationship between the people and God. Or to put the matter more graphically, but also more accurately, Pentecost is the moment when gestation ceases and birthing occurs. Thus, it is both an end and a beginning, the leaving behind of that which is past, the launching forth into that which is only now beginning to be. Pentecost therefore is not a time of completion. It is moving forward into new dimensions of being, whose basic forms are clear but whose fulfillment has yet to be realized.”  (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year A, p. 329.

The disciples are gathered. Jesus has told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. A rushing wind sweeps in, the desert wind, the ruach, symbolizing the power of the Spirit. Flames of fire dance over the heads of the disciples, and they speak in all the languages of the known world. They are filled with the gifts of the Spirit.

We say that the feast of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The Spirit comes upon the disciples to shower gifts upon them and set their hearts on fire, and from that point, the new faith spreads over the known world.

In our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we read his stirring description of the Church as the Body of Christ, with each member given different gifts, all of the gifts empowered by the same Spirit. All the members of the body are one, as Jesus and the  Father and the Spirit are one. We have all been baptized in the Spirit—everyone, no matter what our nationality or previous religion or gender or status in life, or race, or any of the other things we use to divide ourselves. All these distinctions are  gone—we are all one in Christ. Each person is precious in the sight of God. All members are equal as the Body builds itself up in love.

Newsome’s comment that Pentecost is a moment of birthing, a leaving behind of what is past, and a launching forth into something new which is just beginning, rings forth with the truth of the Holy Spirit.

“Peace be with you,” our Lord says in that first evening of the first Easter day. Shalom is the word he uses. He walks through walls of fear to say that word.

Here are some glimpses of shalom. Isaiah 11:6-8a “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, ad the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

Walter Brueggemann: “That persistent vision of joy, well being, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible, and a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness…It bears tremendous freight, the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to division, hostility, fear, … and misery. Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation.  (Brueggemann,  Living Toward a Vision, p. 16.)

Retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori: “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.” (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and a Prayer, p. 33.)

This past Friday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other faith leaders called us to a service of lament and mourning for the more than 100,000. Americans who have died of Covid 19. We will also be mourning the death of George Floyd, who was killed this past Monday by a police officer in Minneapolis.  On May 24, Dr. Matthew W. Hughey, a member of the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, had an article in the Hartford Courant entitled “There’s another pandemic besides the corona virus that we must fight: racism.”  Ever since white people brought African people to America in 1619 to sell them as slaves, we have unsuccessfully grappled with what Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community calls “America’s Original Sin.” The full title of his 2017 book is “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.” 

There is much to mourn and lament, so many lives lost to both pandemics. Dr. Martin Luther King has said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

If James Newsome is right about Pentecost being a time for birth,—and I think he is right—maybe, just maybe, with God’s grace, we can all come together and begin to listen to each other and learn from each other and find that bridge, or those many bridges, that Wallis is talking about. I pray that we can. I pray that we can live in peace as brothers and sisters. Because that is the vision our loving and healing God is calling us to fulfill. May we lean on the everlasting arms of God. May we trust in the power of God. May we bring all of God’s gifts of love and wisdom to heal both these pandemics.

May we now pray the Prayer for the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Easter 2A April 19, 2020

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

This is the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season goes from Easter Sunday until the Day of Pentecost. We often call this period the Great Fifty Days of Easter, to remind ourselves that this is a long season full of joy and culminating in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

During the Easter season, all  of our readings are from the Greek Scriptures, the New Testament. This is another way to remind ourselves that we are an Easter people. And we say Alleluia! often during this season.

Our first reading today is Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost. Peter proclaims the Good News of Jesus to the crowd which has just witnessed the flames dancing over the heads of the apostles as they share the love of Jesus in all the known languages of the world. Our  second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, is a song of praise to God, “who has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter writes, “Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

And then we have our gospel. Every year, on the Second Sunday of Easter, we read this wonderful lesson from the gospel of John. The disciples have not yet left for Galilee. They are in the room where they had been staying. Only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” have actually seen Jesus. Peter and John have gone to the empty tomb, but they have not seen the risen Lord.

It is the evening of that first Easter. They have locked the doors for fear of the authorities. We can understand why they have done this, They are terrified. They remember the rigged trial, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the taunts, the mob yelling for him to be crucified, and the horror of the crucifixion itself. Only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” have actually seen the risen Jesus. The disciples know what the Roman Empire can do, They know what the religious authorities can do. They have heard that Jesus is risen, but only two of them have actually seen him. There is every reason to fear.

Suddenly, silently, he is in their midst. He walks through the walls and locks that fear has put in place. “Peace be with you,” he says. He brings them his shalom, the peace of his kingdom. He shows them his wounds. Jesus lovingly moves through all the barriers we humans create. Now he appears in this room filled with terrified disciples and fills the space with his peace, his love, his healing, his forgiveness. And he gives his followers the ministry of reconciliation. Peace, shalom, he says, and calls us to build his kingdom of love and harmony. He fills their hearts and minds with his presence, Now they realize what has happened. He is alive!

Thomas is not there that first time. The disciples tell him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas needs to see the risen Lord for himself. As Herbert O’Driscoll points out, Thomas has given his heart and life to Jesus, and now all he knows is that Jesus is dead. 

A week later, Jesus comes a second time to convince Thomas of the truth. Thomas does not even have to touch our Lord’s wounds. He bursts out in a hymn of praise, “My Lord and my God!”

Now, over two thousand years later, we are gathered, not in a room or a church building, but in our own homes and on Zoom. Last Sunday, Andy rang the bell at Grace Church, and Deb Peloubet let us know that indeed the bell had rung to proclaim our Easter joy. Now, we have gathered again. As the old song says, “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.”

During this pandemic, we are no strangers to fear. Fear is all around us. Death and disease are all around us. In a profound way, this pandemic is almost more scary than the Roman Empire. It has moved across the earth in only a few months, infected 2.25 million people and killed 158,000 people.

It would not take much for us to be filled with fear in the way that Jesus’ followers were as they locked themselves in that room. We can understand Thomas. He wanted the facts. So do we. We want to follow the science. We want to be sure to develop adequate testing both for the presence of this powerful virus and for the antibodies which it leaves once a person recovers. And we want to find treatments. And we want to discover a vaccine that will protect people against this New Corona Virus, Covid 19. We are very much like Thomas.

We know we cannot give way to fear. We also know that we cannot take this virus lightly. We have seen too many people congregate on the beaches during Spring Break and carry the virus all over the country. We have seen what happens in states that wait too long to “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” So, we respect this virus. 

And we grieve. We grieve over the deaths of courageous and dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health workers who have given their lives to save others. And we grieve over the deaths of elderly folks in nursing homes and senior housing facilities where the virus has spread so quickly and taken so many lives. We grieve for all who have lost their lives in this pandemic.

We remember the angel who told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid.” And we remember that Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid.” And we look at the risen Jesus through the eyes of Thomas, who would not believe it from others but had to see for himself, and we say, “My Lord and my God!” 

And we remember the words of Peter, the leader of the apostles, the man Jesus named as the rock on whom he would build his Church, the faithful follower of Christ who wrote a letter to inspire the followers of our Lord in the midst of persecution: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

And finally, we remember the words of our Lord, “Peace be with you.”

A peace so deep and so strong that it goes to the roots of our souls and draws up his living water to sustain us and to make the world new. For the peace which he is giving us is his shalom, his kingdom, his reign of love and wholeness and harmony over the whole wide earth. His kingdom will come. And we are helping him to build that kingdom. Amen.

Easter 2C RCL April 7, 2013

 Acts 5:27-32

Psalm 150

Revelation 1:4-8

John 20:19-31

In our first reading, Peter and the other apostles are at work in Jerusalem spreading the Good News. They have been ordered by the authorities to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, but, of course, they have continued because, as Peter says, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

Herbert O’Driscoll points out that this encounter shows us a law of human affairs. He says, “ Any new force acting in a society or an institution will meet resistance from forces already entrenched.” The High Priest is trying to contain this threat.

The Book of Revelation was written thirty or forty years after our first scene from the Book of Acts. Already there are seven churches in Asia. The new faith is growing and spreading over a larger and larger geographical area. John writes that our Lord, who loves us has “made us a kingdom, priests  serving his God and Father.” We are called to offer ourselves to God in every way that we can so that God can use us in the work of spreading the Good News.

Now we move to the gospel for this day. It is the Day of Resurrection. It is that first Sunday. Jesus has just risen from the dead. The Church has not yet begun to spread.  Jesus’ followers are gathered in the house in Jerusalem where they had stayed whenever they were in the city. It is the evening of that first day of new life.  Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb and has seen the risen Lord, but the reality has not yet sunk in. John tells us that the doors were locked for fear. They are afraid. Terrible things have happened. Some of them have seen Jesus die on the cross. They are afraid of the authorities with good reason.Jesus moves right through the doors, the walls of fear. What does he say? “Peace be with you,” Shalom be with you, Shalom, the wholeness and harmony, the peace which passes all understanding, Shalom, the restoration of all the whole creation be with you.  Then he shows them his hands and his side, He shows the wounds so that they will know it is he. And they are so happy to see him and to recognize him.  He has come through it all. And he says again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And he breathes the Holy Spirit into them. When Jesus was here among us he told us that the Holy Spirit is within us.

And he gives them and us the ministry of reconciliation. Traditionally, this is the beginning of the ministry through which priests confer absolution when people make private confessions. Now, as we understand baptismal ministry and the ministry of all believers, we know that all of us as Christians are called to listen to the confessions of our brothers and sisters who share the things they have done which have hurt themselves and others and for which they seek God’s forgiveness. All of us hear confessions all the time and all of us can assure others of God’s mercy and forgiveness. There are some times when people are in great pain and remorse over their sins and should seek the sacrament of Reconciliation of a Penitent, or private confession to a priest. Oftentimes, folks can receive the assurance of God’s forgiveness from a lay person.

Thomas was not with them when the risen Christ appeared. They tell him that they have seen the Lord. But he has to see for himself. He cannot believe at a second or third hand level. Just imagine Jesus’ love. Two weeks later, they are there in the house and he comes back again. Our Lord does whatever it takes to help us to have faith. “Put your finger here and see my hands,” he tells Thomas. Thomas falls on his knees in pure adoration. “My Lord and my God!” he whispers in awe.

And then Jesus says something which is a blessing to you and to me. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have  come to believe.”

We weren’t there in that room with the apostles. We were not there on the Road to Emmaus or on the beach when Jesus welcomed them to a breakfast of fish and bread. We weren’t there on the Road to Damascus when Paul was blinded by the light. Yet we have seen the risen Christ. We have felt his presence. We have experienced his forgiveness and healing. And we believe in him. And we are blessed every day by his presence and power in our lives.

The Easter season lasts for fifty days, until the Feast of Pentecost. During this time, we will continue to hear about the work of the early Church in spreading the Good News and we will be with the disciples as our Risen Lord appears to them and to us.

If any of you speak a foreign language, please let me know so that we can use those languages in our Pentecost celebration. During the Great Fifty Days of Easter, our readings are all from the New Testament or Greek Scriptures. We are especially celebrating the presence of our Risen Lord and our mission to spread the Good news of his victory over death and brokenness.

May we share in his victory and in his ministry of healing and reconciliation.