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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 2023 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 April 9, 2023 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 April 16, 2023 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:…

Pentecost 12 Proper 15B August 15, 2021

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
Psalm 111
Ephesians 5:15-20
John 6:51-58

In our opening reading today, David dies. Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, becomes king. We all remember his prayer to God, in which he admits he does not have a great deal of knowledge. At this time in his life, Solomon is only about twenty years old. But Solomon asks God for the gift of wisdom. Directly after this passage, two women come to the new king, both insisting that they are the mother of the same baby. Through wisdom, Solomon determines which woman is the real mother of the baby. 

Scholars tell us that during the reign of Solomon, there was a great blossoming of wisdom literature which has lasted into our own time and has inspired many of us. Solomon also built the temple in Jerusalem, constructed a magnificent palace, and built temples to the gods of his many wives and concubines. He was able to do these things because he imposed forced labor and brutal taxation on his people. Upon Solomon’s death, the Northern Kingdom seceded and the monarchy was divided.  Unfortunately, there was a gap between his stated ideals and his actual behavior.

Our epistle for today also emphasizes wisdom. We are called to be wise and to use each moment to the fullest by seeking and doing the will of God. We shouldn’t get drunk, but should be filled with the Spirit, singing and worshipping together. We should give thanks to God at all times and for all things.

In order to follow this guidance, we will need to spend much time in prayer, asking for God’s will and then asking for the grace to do God’s will. This is what the great moral theologian  Kenneth Kirk calls “the habit of referring all questions to God.” We are in a constant dialogue with God, seeking the divine will and then doing what God is calling us to do.

If we are filled the with Spirit, we are gathering together, singing psalms and spiritual songs, praying together as we are doing right now. And we are thanking God at all times and for all things. The attitude of gratitude does not always come easily. What if something is not going the way we want it to go? What if something terrible is happening? What if a friend or loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer? When good things happen, thanking God is a wonderful spiritual practice. It makes the good thing reverberate and expand in our hearts. When something awful is happening, we can thank God for God’s grace and healing and we can pray for our loved one and  ask God to help us be there for our friend or loved one. Even in the worst of times, we can thank God for being with us, for giving us the gift of faith and the energy to ask God for help.

After our long Covid fast, I am thanking God today for the opportunity to be with this loving community and to read the scriptures and sing hymns and spiritual songs with you, to pray for ourselves and others, and to be in the presence of our Lord as a community of faith. What a  gift! Thank you, Lord.

In our gospel, Jesus is saying that the bread that he gives for the world is his flesh. This reminds us that in the early church, followers of Jesus were accused of being cannibals. We are not literally eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord. We are doing these things sacramentally. Then our Lord says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we will have no life in us. Those who do share in Holy Eucharist will abide in him, will rest in him will live in him, will be alive in him, will be part of him.

Abiding means a very close relationship. We become one with him and he becomes one with us. We are alive in each other. We are so closely connected that we are one. 

And, because we are so close to our Lord, because we are one with him and alive in him, we are now leading a new life, life in a different dimension. This is what we call eternal life. But it does not mean that we have to die in order to enter eternal life. This newness of life, this life in a new and deeper dimension is here right now. We are living that new life now,. We are in eternal life, fullness of life, right now.

In this new life. this life in a different dimension, Jesus is very close to us. He is in our midst. We can reach out and touch him. We can sense his presence. We can ask his help. We can see and follow him.

We are one with Jesus, with God, with the Spirit, and with each other.

We can ask God’s guidance and receive that guidance, together with the grace to carry it out. We can grow in God’s wisdom and do the things God would have us do. This is what it means to be filled with the Spirit. The energy and love of God are within us. Our relationship with God is so close that we can grow in compassion and do God’s will almost instinctively, because we are constantly asking for and receiving God’s guidance.

The Holy Eucharist is the way our Lord gave us to call him into our midst. “Do this in remembrance of me” literally means “Do this for the anamnesis, the “not forgetting” of me. In a very short time, our Lord will be feeding us with the essence of himself with his energy, his love, his grace, so that we can go out into the world and be his hands and feet, his body, ministering to a world that needs his love and healing.

St.Teresa of Avila was a very practical mystic who lived from 1515- 1582. She wrote these wonderful words describing how we are parts of the living Body of Christ.

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body here on earth but yours.  

Keep up the good work! Amen.

Lent 1A March 1, 2020

Genesis 2:15-17
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

Our first reading today is the story of Adam and Eve. God put them in a beautiful garden. Their job was to be good stewards of the garden, “to till it and keep it.” They could eat the fruit of any tree in the garden except one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God gives us the whole creation and calls us to be stewards of that creation. But then there is that snake. When we are told that there is one thing we cannot do, there is something that makes us want to do that very thing.

We are all familiar with the Ten Commandments and we will be reciting them every Sunday in Advent, but I want to refresh our memories about some other guidelines that I find very helpful, and Christopher Martin mentions some of these in his book “The Restoration Project,” which some of us are reading this Lent.

 On the positive side, we have the cardinal virtues—Prudence, which the great moral theologian Kenneth Kirk defines as “the habit of referring all questions to God”;  justice, treating all persons fairly, honoring the dignity of every person; temperance—balance, flexibility, humor. The quality that comes from going through fire and ice and coming out the other side stronger for the experience. Fortitude—the ability to hang in there for the long haul. Prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude. The cardinal virtues. 

Then we have the theological virtues—faith, complete trust in God; hope, the ability to look at a situation in all of its complexity and brokenness and sin and to see the possibility of wholeness through the grace of God. And love. One of my beloved mentors, David Brown, defines love as “taking God and other persons seriously,”

On the other side the ledger, we have the famous seven root sins sometimes called the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride—not referring all questions to God, but rather the attitude of,”I’m going to do this my own way.” Leaving no room for God. Wrath, ira, not healthy anger which tells us that something is wrong in a situation but nursing hurts until they fester inside us and get in the way of compassion. Envy, the inability to rejoice in the good fortune or the blessings of others. Greed—wanting more than we need.  Gluttony—taking more than we need. Lust—using other people as objects. Sloth—acedie—giving in to despair, losing hope. This is not the same as clinical depression which is a serious illness, not a sin.

Adam and Eve miss the boat on the first of the virtues—prudence—the habit of referring all questions to God. They totally forget about God, and the snake leads them down the garden path, so to speak. The snake could be a representative of the forces of brokenness in the world or, if we want to be more psychological about it, the snake could represent our ability to be extremely creative in our rationalizations when we want to lead ourselves down the garden path. All of us humans have the tendency to want to do things our way—pride —and to throw prudence out the window and neglect to ask God’s guidance. This is one way to define sin—doing it our way and leaving God out of the picture.

God loves us unconditionally. Nothing can get in the way of that love. And God wants us to return that love. But God does an extraordinary thing. Rather than making us puppets who will always do God’s will,  God gives us free will, the capacity to choose our own course of action.

In our gospel for today, our Lord gives us an example of how to deal with temptation and how to practice prudence—the habit of referring all questions to God. Jesus is constantly seeking God’s guidance in clarifying his vocation. He is hungry. Of course, he is entirely capable of making a loaf of bread and satisfying his very real physical hunger, Or he can start the world’s biggest bakery and soup kitchen and feed everybody. After all, God calls us to feed the hungry. But that isn’t what our Lord is called to do. He is here to help us with our spiritual hunger. He has come to help us to learn how to listen to every word that comes from the mouth of God—that is, to practice prudence—referring all questions to God. Asking God, what are you calling me to do and be in this moment?

Then the devil takes him to the pinnacle of the temple and asks him to jump off and have the angels come and rescue him. That would prove that he was the Son of God, all right. But Jesus is not called to create a public relations spectacle to prove who he is.

And then, the most ironic and prideful test. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers to give them to Jesus! Jesus is the eternal Word who called the world into being. How presumptuous to offer him the centers of earthly human power! At this point, Jesus commands Satan to leave him and makes the central point: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”

Our first reading is about sin. Our gospel about the temptation of our Lord in the wilderness is about grace. Everything Jesus does in this gospel is rooted in his choice to seek and do God’s will. Grace is the God-given gift to seek and do the divine will. The attitude and actions of our Lord in this gospel are an example of grace lived out in his life. We can follow his example because of God’s gift of grace to all of us. We can follow his example because he is here with us to give us his grace. He is alive. He is leading us. He is showing us the way that God would have us go.

Walter Brueggemann writes of  our first reading, “Lent is a time to sort out the voice of of life and the counter voices of death. The serpent has no real gift to give and no real acts to perform.” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching Year A, p. 185.)

May we listen carefully for the voice of life, the voice of  Jesus. He is our Good Shepherd, who knows us and calls each of us by name. May we listen for his voice, May we listen to the voice of life. May we follow him. Amen.

Advent 4B RCL December 24, 2017

Isaiah 11:1-1
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 16:25-17
Luke 1:26-38

Today, because we are thinking about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, we are also going to think about giving birth to Jesus.

Meister Eckhart wrote, “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?”

Francis of Assisi wrote,
“We are the mother of Christ when we carry him in our heart and body by love and a pure and sincere conscience. And we give birth to him through our holy works which ought to shine on others by our example.”

Mechtild of Magdeburg wrote, “Mary, you birthed to earth your son. You birthed the son of God from heaven by breathing the Spirit of God.”

And, once again, Meister Eckhart: “We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Here we are beholding a paradoxical, mysterious truth that takes us right into the heart of God—beyond the prison of logic, beyond our tendency to go to our frontal cortex and limit God’s truth.

We are all called to give birth to God. We have a wonderful example, a courageous, wise young woman named Mary. The angel Gabriel told her she was going to give birth to the Son of God. He also told her that her cousin Elizabeth was going to have a baby in her old age. And Mary had the wisdom and the presence of mind to go and visit Elizabeth. She went to offer and receive support on this life-changing, world-changing journey they were now making, a journey that would change millions of lives including ours.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And the Word was full of grace and truth, and the Word, the logos who called the creation into being, dwelt among us. Jesus was God walking the face of the earth. He taught, he healed, he loved everyone, and I mean everyone, even lepers, even tax collectors. And, of course, he is calling us to do the same thing. He is calling us to follow him and to be like him. He is calling us to give birth to him in our lives and to grow into the likeness of him.

As we take that deep breath, and our lungs expand, and our hearts fill with the awareness of his presence, our lives open to embrace the vision of his shalom of wholeness and harmony. The creation is made whole. Lions and lambs and calves and wolves and everyone and everything else live in peace. Everyone and everything is one. Everything and everyone is nurtured.

Matthew Fox asks, “What would it mean to live in a nurturing world?”My answer would be, the shalom of God would be here, which brings us back to Advent.

Here we are, between the beginning and the completion of the Kingdom, the realm. the shalom of Christ. God is building that shalom, quietly and inexorably. And God is calling us to help.

As we look around, we can see the gap between the vision and the realization of the plan. Between the current situation and the ultimate hope. There seems to be a long way to go.

That’s where the giving birth comes in. We take a deep breath. We fill our lungs with God’s holy and whole-making oxygen. We fill ourselves with God’s presence. We recall that Jesus tells us, “My kingdom is within you.” We breathe out that peace into the world, We breathe out that harmony, that healing, that wholeness.

As Kenneth Kirk would say, We try, with God’s grace, to “cope from the presence of God” in everything that we do. In every action, we try to give birth to God. In every word, thought, everything we say or do or think, we give birth to God. It’s a work in process. We are not perfect, but we were created good, and the creation was created good. Jesus is right in the midst of us and even within us, and we’re following him. He is walking with us, and we are walking with him.

The shalom of God is full of peace and nurture. (Isaiah 11:6-9) The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

As we take that deep breath, every breath, and give birth to Christ, to God, and to the Spirit, we are giving birth to God’s realm of peace and wholeness. We are giving birth to God’s shalom. We live that wholeness and that harmony.

Matthew Fox asks, “What would it mean to live in a nurturing world?”

What would it be like to have “this fragile earth, our island home” wrapped in peace? What would it be like to have no war, no conflict of any kind, with all of us seeing the God in each other and with all of our energies devoted to things that are creative? Things such as nurturing our planet, raising and sharing food and all the other things that bring life? And none of the things that bring death.

What would it mean to live in a nurturing world? Each of us has a vision of that. Each of us has been given gifts to help God to bring that vision to fruition. As St. Francis says, “Each of us gives birth to him through our holy works.”

Right now, we are taking a deep breath in this most holy place, this thin place where God is so present. Here in Sheldon, where there are more farms per square mile than anywhere else in Vermont, we are close to the earth. We are close to God’s humus, God’s good nurturing earth. This is a good place to practice humility. Humility is not groveling or denying the gifts God has given us, Humility is openness, like the openness of a field that has been prepared for planting. Humility comes from humus, God’s good soil, earthiness. So, we are open, we are humble, we are ready for planting, for the planting of the Word, the planting of the new life, the planting of Christ’s shalom.

Here in Grace Church, where people of faith have prayed for years upon years, where we have met God over and over in new ways each time we visit. Here in Grace Church, here in Vermont, here on planet earth, in the presence of our loving God, we will grow more and more open to the new life God is planting in us. Our humility will grow. We will be more and more open to God’s gifts to us and God’s call to us.

And we will give birth. We will grow closer and closer to God and to each other. And God will continue to build community. And God will continue to build God’s shalom. And we will be transformed. “And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.”  Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a time of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins. It is a time for honest self-examination, a time to ask our Lord’s help in allowing him to transform us into the persons he calls us to be. The Greek word for this is metanoia.  We have seen him transfigured on the holy mountain, and we are deeply committed to growing into his likeness. The ashes that will soon form the sign of the cross on our foreheads have been made from the palms that we waved on Palm Sunday to welcome our King. We will go with him to the cross and we will move with him into newness of life.

In our first reading, Isaiah reminds us that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. We will be a people of justice; we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that this is the time to be reconciled to God, that is to grow as close to God as we possibly can.

In our gospel, our Lord calls us not to make an outward show of our spiritual practice, but to do an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and to follow spiritual practices that will build up treasures in heaven, that is, practices that will bring us closer to God. Our Lord also reminds us that deep and true spirituality is the source of great joy.

How do we do an honest assessment of or spiritual condition? One way is the summary of the law, “Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself.” Our reading from Isaiah also speaks to this.

Another guideline would be the Ten Commandments. We will be reading these each Sunday during Lent.

Another set of guidelines for self-examination and transformation are the Seven Root Sins, also called the Seven Deadly Sins, counter- balanced by the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues. These insights have come from many sources, but I especially thank David Brown, beloved mentor and former rector at Christ Church, Montpelier, now retired in Connecticut, for his wisdom and guidance.

So here we go with the Seven Root Sins, or as David used to say, “Sins I have known and loved,” and don’t we all!

First comes pride, doing it our way instead of God’s way.

Wrath, (Ira), not normal healthy anger, but holding onto a grudge, nursing it until it becomes a voracious cancer that infects everything we think and say and do.

Envy—the inability to rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others.

Greed—wanting more than we have.

Gluttony—taking more than we need.

Lust—Using other people, exploiting others for our own needs.

Sloth (acedie)—Giving in to that “I don’t care” attitude. Despair. Giving up hope.

On the positive side, we have the Cardinal Virtues.

Prudence—Kenneth Kirk defines prudence as, “The habit of referring all questions to God.” Constant communication with God. Lord, what is your will in this situation? What would you call me to do or not do?

Justice—treating everyone equally. “Respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Temperance—Balance. Like steel that has been tempered in fire and ice. Flexibility. Again, a sense of humor.

Fortitude. The grace and ability to hang in there with faith and patience on the side of God’s shalom.

And the Theological Virtues—

Faith—Total trust in God.

Hope—The ability to look at a situation in all if its brokenness and see the potential and the path for growth and healing.

Love—Accepting God’s unconditional love for everyone, including ourselves, and extending that love to others.

Always remember that Lent comes from the root word meaning “spring,” a time of growth and renewal.

In addition to all of these resources, many of us are using “Living Life Marked as Christ’s Own.”

May this Lent be full of joy and growth and healing for all of us.

Special prayers for jan’s surgery tomorrow.