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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 18, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 25, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Easter 3C May 1, 2022

Acts 9:1-6, 7-20
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

During the Easter season, all of our readings come from the New Testament, the Greek scriptures. Chronologically our gospel comes first. The disciples have gone to Galilee. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, the sons of Zebedee are at the Sea of Galilee, together with some others.

Peter decides to go fishing and the others go with him. They fish all night and catch nothing. At dawn, Jesus is on the bank. They do not recognize him. Jesus advises them to cast their net to the right of the boat. They follow his guidance, and the net is full to the breaking point, but it holds.

John tells Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter throws on some clothes and swims to shore. The others follow with the huge catch. When they arrive, there is a charcoal fire with fish on it, and bread. They have breakfast, a kind of eucharistic meal.

When they have finished, Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John. do you love me more than these?” And Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” Three times Jesus asks Peter this question, and Jesus tells him, “Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep.”  The number three signifies completeness. Peter betrayed Jesus three times. Jesus asks the question three times, “Do you love me?” And Peter answers three times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

Complete betrayal by Peter. Complete forgiveness by our Lord. And Jesus commissions Peter to take care of the flock that God has given them.  Jesus predicts Peter’s martyrdom. And then he says, “Follow me.” And Peter does just that.

This is such a powerful and moving scene. Jesus forgives Peter for his betrayal and makes him the leader of the apostles.

A little over thirty years later, the events in our reading from the Book of Acts take place. Saul has witnessed the killing of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He asks the high priest for authority to go to Damascus and find followers of Jesus so that he can arrest them, tie them up, and bring them to Jerusalem to put them in jail.

On the road to Damascus, he has an encounter that changes his life. A light from heaven flashes around him. He falls to the ground and hears a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Saul asks, “Who are you Lord?” And the answer comes, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Go into the city and you will be told what to do.” The men who are with Saul are speechless. They heard the voice but they didn’t see anything. Saul gets up from the ground. His eyes are open, but he cannot see. So they lead him by the hand into Damascus. 

For three days Saul cannot see, and he eats and drinks nothing. There is a follower of Jesus in Damascus named Ananias. He has a vision in which our Lord calls him to go and find Saul in a certain place. But Ananias argues with Jesus, “Lord, you can’t call this man to serve you. He has done very bad things to your saints in Jerusalem.”And our Lord says to Ananias, “Yes I know, but this is the person I have chosen to take the good news to the Gentiles.” 

Ananias goes to the house where Saul is, lays his hands on him and says, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes. He gets up, is baptized, eats some food, begins to regain his strength, stays with them for a while, and begins to proclaim the good news.

Jesus takes a man who betrayed him three times and makes him the leader of the apostles. Jesus takes a man who watched with glee while Stephen was stoned to death and makes him the apostle to the Gentiles. 

Peter made a mistake. Three big mistakes. Yet, after Jesus was crucified, he was there with the others. He went into the tomb and found it empty. He stayed with the others and they went back to Galilee. There, he expressed his love for Jesus and Jesus forgave him.

Saul was out to arrest followers of Jesus and put them in prison. He witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen. He saw Jesus and his followers as a threat to his faith. And then he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. In spite of all that had happened, Jesus knew that Saul was the one to spread the good news to people who were totally unlike Saul, who was a Pharisee, an expert on the law. Saul became a new person, Paul. He realized that, for him, the law was bondage, and Christ had set him free to live life in a new and deeper and more joyful way. Christ transformed Saul, and Saul got a new name: Paul. Paul would later write, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20.)

Easter is a season of newness of life. It’s a season when we realize that God can turn death into life. God can free us from any kind of bondage. God can make old things new. God takes a persecutor of the church and makes him into a gifted theologian and evangelist. Jesus takes someone who has betrayed him in a time of terror, and, knowing that Peter truly loves him and can be a great leader, forgives Peter and places his trust in Peter.

None of us is perfect. We have all made mistakes. The stories of Peter and Paul make very clear that God can see beyond our errors and flaws. God sees our gifts and our strengths. Jesus calls us each by name. The Spirit gives us the strength and power to answer Yes to that call to love and serve God and to love and serve others in God’s Name. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen. 

Good Friday April 2, 3021

Toward the end of the Good Friday gospel which we have just read, after hours and hours of suffering, Jesus sees his mother, Mary, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and John, the Beloved Disciple standing at the foot of the cross.

Although he has gone through this horrible agony, Jesus does one more thing that expresses his love so profoundly.   He says to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And to John.”Here is your mother.” He creates a new family. He takes care of his mother. He takes care of his beloved friend. From that hour, John takes Mary, the mother of our Lord, into his home.

In his great love, our Lord has made us into a family, a family bonded together by his love and his presence. We have been in a long fast—over a year. We have not been able to be together; we have not been able to share Holy Eucharist; we have not been able to share the Peace, or hug each other, or talk face to face.

When this all began, I thought maybe it would be a few weeks or maybe months. But it has been much longer. During that time, more of our members have been called to volunteer at our food shelf. This ministry is a clear and powerful expression of God’s love for everyone. As Archbishop Tutu says, “God has a big family.”

Although we have been in this long, lonely, tragic fast and have lost so many brothers and sisters to Covid 19, I believe we have grown more deeply aware of this family God is creating and of the love God has for all of God’s children, our brothers and sisters. I think we have realized on deeper levels the power of God’s love.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “By entering into the experience of the cross, God took the man-made wreckage of the world inside himself and labored with it—a long labor, almost three days—and he did not let go of it until he could transform it and return it to us as life. This is the power of a suffering God, not to prevent pain but to redeem it, by going through it with us.” (Taylor, God in Pain: Sermons on Suffering, p. 118.)

God has made us a part of God’s big family, and God has been pouring out God’s love and grace and healing so that we can move through this exile, this fast, this desert experience of loneliness and lostness, this wandering, this grief, this frustration and anger, and grow stronger for it, as individuals and as a family rooted and grounded in Christ, a family linked together by the love of Christ. A family nurtured and guided by our Good Shepherd, who hears us when we call and knows each of us by name.

He has taken all the brokenness, all the sin, all that hurts and destroys and, as Taylor says, “returned it to us as life.” He has done all of this because he loves us with a love that is so deep and wide that we will never be able to understand it, but we can accept that love, and we can share it with others as we have been doing.

Just before he died, he created that new family, We are a part of that. We are a family in Him, and we are a part of his big family. May we accept his boundless love and may we continue to share his love with our brothers and sisters. Amen.

Good Friday  4/10/2020

Good Friday  4/10/2020

Here we are, standing at the foot of the cross with Mary and John and some of the others. It is finished. We are standing here in the midst of a pandemic, what in earlier times would have been called a plague, a plague that is covering the earth with disease and death.

And he has died. He was our great hope, and he has died. Before he gave up his spirit, he turned to John and Mary. To John he said, “This is your mother,” and to Mary he said, “This is your son.”

He formed a new family. And, in our Collect for today we pray, “Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

It is over. He has died a horrible death, the death reserved for the lowest of the low, hardened criminals. He was hardly one of those. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, courageous but hitherto secret disciples, take his body away to give it a loving and reverent burial.

It is over. All hope is gone. Or is it? In her book God in Pain, Barbara Brown Taylor writes concerning the cross, “He took the man-made wreckage of the world inside himself and labored with it—a long labor, almost three days—and he did not let go of it until he could transform it and return it to us as life.”

On Holy Saturday we remember that he descended into hell, descended to the dead, so that every part of the creation, every creature would have the promise, the possibility, of new life in him.

For almost three days he wrestled with it all, the human grasping for power and then abusing that power, the very thing that had killed him; the human wish for power that drives us to conquer each other, to lord it over each other, to kill each other, to torture each other, to sort each other out by race and class so that somebody always ends up on the bottom and we always end up on top.  Every sin, every form of brokenness that kills and destroys all that is good. He takes it all into himself, and, as Taylor says so eloquently and so truthfully, he wrestles with it in the crucible of his love and healing and transforms it into life.

He is doing this while Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risk their lives asking Pilate for permission to take his cherished body and place it in Joseph’s new tomb. He is doing this while he is lying in that tomb.

As we walk through the rest of the journey to Easter, through the remainder of Good Friday and then Holy Saturday, may we be aware, not only of the horrific death which he endured, but of the power of his love, which is able to labor with every misuse of power, every brokenness which human sin can create, to labor with all of that and transform it into life.  Amen.

The Last Sunday after Epiphany 3/3/2019

Exodus 34:29-35
Psalm 99
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36, (37-43)

Today is the Last Sunday after Epiphany. We move from the Epiphany season, the season of light and mission, into Lent, a time of penitence, self-examination, and prayer, a time for askesis, spiritual fitness, a time to confess our sins, ask God’s forgiveness, and grow closer to God. Today is also called Transfiguration Sunday because of our gospel reading.

Our first reading is from the Book of Exodus. The people of God have been enslaved in Egypt, and they are now on their journey to freedom. Moses, their leader, goes up Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the law. The skin of Moses’ face is shining with the light of the presence of God. When Aaron and the people see Moses’ face, they are afraid to come near him. They are afraid of God, They believe the old saying that, if you see the face of God, you will die. So Moses covers his face with a veil when he returns from talking with God.

In our gospel, it is about eight days after the feeding of the five thousand and after the conversation in which Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is. Peter answers, “The Messiah of God.” Jesus takes his closest followers, Peter and James and John up to the mountain to pray.

And while he is praying, his entire person shows forth the the light of the presence of God. The two great prophets, Moses and Elijah, are there talking with Jesus, showing that he is in the line of the greatest prophets in history. Peter, dear Peter, says, “Master, it is good that we are here with you. Let’s make three shrines, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He wants to make sure this moment will be forever preserved in history. He wants to build a monument.

Then a cloud comes over them, the same cloud that covered Moses on Mount Sinai, the cloud that shows God is present, and God speaks, “This is my Son, my chosen. Listen to him!”

If this had taken place in the time of Moses, Peter and James and John would never have been on the mountain. They would never have been in the presence of Jesus and God. If by some strange error they had been, they would have run down the mountain screaming in horror because they were afraid of the presence of God.

But none of that happened. Yes, they had been drowsy but they had stayed awake and they had seen the whole thing—Jesus with Moses and Elijah, and then God descending to the top of the mountain and telling them to listen to His Son. Yet they did not run away howling in terror.

Paul talks about this in his letter today. He writes, “All of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord, …are being transformed into the same image from one glory to another.” In other words, we are being transformed into Christ.

Peter and James and John had decided to follow Jesus. They had prayed with him, eaten meals with him, watched him heal people, listened to his teachings, helped him to feed five thousand people. They had observed how he treated each person with great care and respect. Peter had figured out that Jesus was the Savior whom they had all been expecting, they had all been hoping for.

And yet, when they were on that mountain, and the two great prophets were there and then God was also there, Peter and James and John were in awe for certain, but they were not afraid as God’ s people had been afraid in Moses’ time, a little over a thousand years before.

Why was that? What had happened? Why were these three close followers awe-struck but not running away in terror? Because God had come to live with them, to walk with them, to talk with them, to teach them, pray with them, heal them, lead them as their good shepherd, and be with them every day of their lives.

God had come to be close to them, to be with them, and what they felt most of all, was God’s love for them, a transforming love, and that is what St. Paul is trying to express in this portion of his Second Letter to the Corinthians.

Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus has come to be with us, to lead us and guide us. Here on Transfiguration Sunday, we see our Lord as he truly is—powerful, but not in a way that paralyzes us with terror. His is the power of love.

As we prepare for Ash Wednesday and for the season of Lent, and as we do honest self-examination and confession of our sins, our Lord calls us to remember that this is part of our ongoing process of transformation. We are becoming more like him. We are placing ourselves and our lives in the hands of our loving God.

He is in our midst, calling us to follow him, not out of fear but out of love.   Amen.

Pentecost 22 Proper 24B RCL October 21 2018

Job 38: 1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104: 1-9, 25, 37c
Hebrews 5: 1-10
Mark 10: 35-45

In our opening reading last Sunday, Job was trying to find God but could not. Job had wanted to plead his case before God.

This Sunday, God speaks to Job out of a great whirlwind and asks Job questions. Where was Job when God created the earth? Can Job cause rain and lightning to come from the skies? Can Job provide food for lions? Can Job create humans and give them minds?

Like Job, we are human beings, and we know that the answer to all these questions is No. God has created the world and everything in it.  God has created the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets. The power and majesty of God shine through this passage. Like Job, we feel quite small and insignificant after reading these words. The transcendence of God is made clear in this passage from Job. God is far more powerful than we are. The majesty of God is almost frightening in this passage.

And yet, God is immanent. God is close to us. In Jesus, God has come to be among us as one of us. To think that the creator of the world cares enough to do this is mind-boggling, but it is true.

In our gospel for today, James and John, two of our Lord’s closest followers, are asking a favor from Jesus. They want to sit beside him in places of honor in his kingdom. Jesus asks them whether they will be able to drink the cup that he will have to drink—that is, his crucifixion. They have no idea what he is talking about and they say that, yes, they can drink that cup, and Jesus tells them that, yes they will suffer. We know that the new faith did undergo persecution.

But then the other ten apostles become angry that James and John have asked for this place of privilege, and Jesus tries to make clear the contrast between his kingdom and the kinds of kingdoms we humans tend to think about.

Jesus says that in the usual way of things, human rulers lord it over their subjects. Leaders are usually tyrants. But in the shalom of Jesus, this is not how it is going to be. In the shalom of Jesus, those who want to be leaders must be servants. The one who is called to be first of all must be the most loyal servant of all.

And our Lord says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Our Lord gave his life to free us from many forms of slavery.

What a profound difference this is from the question James and John were asking. They were asking for the places of honor and glory in an earthly kingdom  and Jesus was saying: the kingdom I am calling you to help build is not like that.

Our epistle also emphasizes this point. The writer of Hebrews begins by talking about the high priest in the temple in Jerusalem. This was someone who in that society had great power. Yet the writer talks about the weakness and frailty of the high priest, who must offer sacrifices for his own sins. The writer says that the high priest must be humble, not presuming to take the office but must be called by God, as Aaron was.

And then the writer talks about Jesus as our great high priest. In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that our Lord “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant….”

Jesus was creating a new community based on love and servanthood. This is such a far cry from the way the world does things that it is difficult to get our minds around it. Even James and John fell back into the usual way of thinking about leadership. Jesus had to remind all his followers that leaders often lord it over their subjects and become tyrants over them.

But then our Lord says, “It is not so among you.” He tells us that serving others and serving each other is the mark of leadership in his community, his Body. People take care of each other and work together to get the job done. There is no vying for honor or power. There is a great deal of love for God and for each other and for all others. There is a desire to help and serve others. Those are the marks of our Lord’s community.

You and God have built such a community here.  No one is vying for honors. Everyone respects the dignity of every other person. Faithfulness, love, servanthood and service are to be found in abundance. Folks work efficiently and in good humor to get the job done, whatever it might be.

Somehow I find it extraordinarily difficult to imagine any member of Grace Church asking our Lord for the place of honor. And I think that is a greet blessing. Well done, good and faithful servants.  Amen.