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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 5B February 7, 2021

Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-12, 21c
1 Corinthians 9:16-23 
Mark 1:29-39

Scholars tell us that our first reading today dates back to 540 years before the birth of Christ. King Cyrus of Persia has just conquered Babylon, where God’s people have been in exile for several decades. It hasn’t been easy for them. They miss their homeland. They are devastated at the loss of their temple, the center of their worship. But they have persevered. They have continued to pray and study the Scriptures. They have kept their community together.

Thus sounds a bit like us, doesn’t it? We miss our beloved church building. We yearn to be back together. We are tired of fasting from the Holy Eucharist. Yet we are staying together, as much as we can on Zoom. We study the Scriptures together and reflect on how they apply to our lives even though they were written so long ago.

In this particular passage, God’s people are feeling as though God has abandoned them. Why would God let an enemy like the Babylonians conquer them, drag them to a foreign land with alien gods and leave them to fend for themselves?

This passage is God’s answer to these people who are suffering. First, God puts things in perspective. God portrays Godself as the Holy One who sits enthroned on high, looks down at the earth, and sees us humans as the size of  grasshoppers. But even though we look like insects from God’s holy vantage point, God cares deeply about us. God asks the people, “Have you not seen? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow faint or weary….He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” 

Have we perhaps wondered whether God is abandoning us? Have we thought that God is just leaving us alone to cope with this pandemic?

Even though it deals with events that occurred twenty-five hundred years ago, this passage is saying to us, “No, God does not abandon God’s people.” As Christians, we know that Jesus is right in the midst of us, leading and guiding us as we cope with this situation.

In our epistle, Paul is giving us a wonderful example. He is saying that, when he ministers to people, he becomes one of them, just as Jesus became one of us. Paul is reminding us that when we minister to folks, we need to walk in their shoes; we need to understand where they are coming from, how they think, what problems they are facing, and how we can help them. That is exactly what our Lord did when he was here with us during his earthly life.

In our gospel, Jesus leaves the synagogue in Capernaum, where he has just healed a man, and goes to the home of Peter and Andrew. Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. and of course, they tell Jesus about this. Immediately Jesus goes to help her.

He takes her by the hand. Imagine how it would feel to have Jesus take you by the hand. His healing power is flowing into you. You are filled with love and hope. You feel all of his healing energy focused on you. All that is broken within you is being made whole.

The fever leaves her. And she immediately gets back to her ministry among them. She serves the meal.

And then the word gets out, People from all over bring sick folks to be healed. The text says, “The whole city was gathered around the door.” We can imagine that Jesus continued healing people into the night and then finally lay down to get some rest.

But while it is still dark, he gets up and goes to a deserted place to pray. This is something Jesus always did. He took time away to pray. This is how he stayed close to God, just as we need to do. If we are going to be able to light our lamps, we have to put in the oil. Prayer is the source of our closeness with our Lord. Prayer is how we allow God to nurture our gifts, renew us, and give us guidance.

When they finally find him out in the deserted place, he tells them that they have to go to the neighboring towns so that he can share the good news and heal people. He has spent time with God, and his energy is renewed. He will journey with them throughout Galilee.

What are these readings saying to us today? Many centuries ago, when God’s people were in exile and feeling abandoned, God spoke to God’s people through the prophet Isaiah.  God let them know that God was with them. God had not abandoned them. God was helping them to keep the faith, stay together as a community, and prepare for their life together after the exile. Indeed, they did return to Jerusalem.

As Christians, we have an even stronger message from God about how much God loves us and how close God is to us right now. In Jesus, God came among us to show us how to live. We see Jesus in our gospel today, pouring out his energy to heal people and to show us how to live the Way of Love.

The risen Christ is with us now. He is in our midst, helping us to cope with Zoom and perhaps even be grateful for it; giving us the resilience to hang in there and take care of ourselves and others; giving us the patience to wait for our chance to be immunized; keeping us together; leading and guiding us as our Good Shepherd. May we always remember that. He is with us. Always. He will never abandon us.

Loving God, thank you for being with us. Thank you for leading and guiding us. Give us your grace that we may follow where you lead. In your Holy Name. Amen.

Pentecost 18 Proper 23C October 13, 2019

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-11
2 Timothy 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

Our first reading today comes from the prophet Jeremiah. It is sometime between the fall of Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.  and the total destruction of the city in 587 B.C.E. The leaders of Judah and many of the people have been deported to Babylon. This was a deeply tragic time in the history of God’s people. Yet biblical scholar James D. Newsome makes a crucial point. He reminds us that the exiles did survive, and he contrasts this with the situation when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.E. Those people were taken into captivity as well, but, as Newsome writes, “they disappeared from history.” Only those who were left at home survived, and they were later called Samaritans. (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year C, pp. 546-47.)

Jeremiah writes this letter to the leaders of the exiles because false prophets had told the people that the exile would be short and they would return home soon. Jeremiah tells them them that the exile is going to last seventy years. And then he tells them that God is calling them to settle in Babylon, plant gardens, build houses, get married, have families, and prepare for the long haul.  

In 538 B.C.E., King Cyrus of Persia conquered the Babylonians and allowed the exiles to return home. Fifty-nine years had passed. Because they had nurtured their family life, studied and prayed together, and deepened their faith individually and corporately, they remained a cohesive community and were able to return home and rebuild.

Our next reading is from the Second Letter to Timothy, and I confess that I’m now subscribing to the view that this was written by Paul. He is near the end of his life. He is in prison in Rome. He is in chains. But then he bursts forth with the good news, “The word of God is not chained!” As the moments go on, though he has died with Christ in baptism, as we all have, he is dying again in the sense that he is becoming more and more one with Christ. He is becoming less Paul and more Christ. And, through everything, Paul shares his deep sense that, though we humans may be faithless, Christ is always faithful. Jesus carries us when we cannot walk.

Apparently the congregation which Timothy is serving is having some arguments, and Paul tells his mentee Timothy to warn the people that they need to stop “wrangling over words.” How many times in the Church have we gotten into that “wrangling over words.,” whether it’s passing the Peace or revising the prayer book or the hymnal or all the many other issues we have debated. The word of truth is that God’s love can lead us to find harmony in the midst of all these discussions.

In our gospel, Jesus is going toward Jerusalem, and he is now in the region between Samaria and Galilee. He is going toward a village and ten lepers approach him. Lepers are considered to be ritually unclean. They are supposed to shout out and warn people of their presence. Imagine having to do such a thing. This is designed to be sure that no one ever gets near them, They are outcasts. In those times, lepers lived together in little communities. In this way, they were able to offer support to each other.

These ten lepers do not shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” as they are supposed to. They stay at a distance, but they call out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” We can surmise that they have heard about Jesus. They have heard that he welcomes everyone, he respects everyone, from the most humble to the most powerful and everybody in between, and he has healing power like no one has ever seen.

Jesus looks at them with love and says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” He has seen that they are lepers and he is advising them to go to the priests, who will certify that they are healed and can go back home to their families and resume their lives. On the way, they are healed.

One of them looks at his arm and sees that he is healed. He praises God with a shout of joy. “Hallelujah! And he turns around, goes back to Jesus, prostrates himself at Jesus’ feet. and thanks him. This man is a Samaritan. He’s a double outcast, a leper and a hated Samaritan. And he is the only one who thanks Jesus. So often in the gospels, it is the outcast who is the holy example.

Jesus notes that there were ten and only this one has come back to give thanks. And this one is a foreigner. Not one of us. And then he tells the man, Get up and go on your way, back home, back to your friends and family. You’re finished with your exile. And he says, “Your faith has made you well.”

Our faith can help us to get well and stay well in challenging times. It can give us that spirit of a sound mind and spirit of discipline that we heard about last Sunday. Our relationship with God and Jesus and the Spirit can help us to stay on course, to follow the one who loves us beyond our ability to understand. Our faith can help us to keep our sanity and hold our ground in times of exile.

And there’s one more thing—gratitude. Someone once said, and I do not know who—I heard it second or third hand. But whoever it was said: “As Christians, we know Whom to thank.” We know where all good things come from. We know that there is an inexhaustible supply of love, and it comes from God. And we can thank God for all the many blessings God showers on us. Like those exiles so many centuries ago, we can spend time with God in prayer, individually and corporately, and we can count on God to lead us and guide us in every moment and season and challenge of our lives.

Loving God, Jesus, our Good Shepherd, Spirit of truth, thank you for your unfailing love and for all the blessings you bestow on us. Help us to seek and do your will. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Christmas 1 Year B RCL December 28, 2014

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147:13-21
Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

The scene of our first reading is around the year 539 B. C. God’s people have been in exile in Babylon (Iraq) for almost sixty years, in those days, three generations. King Cyrus of Persia (Iran) has conquered the Babylonian Empire and is allowing the exiles to return home.

Just imagine the scene in Babylon. The news spreads, “We’re going home! Were going home!” This is wonderful news. The people pack up and make the long journey. But when they get there, the temple is in ruins. Many buildings are in ruins. The land has been ravaged.

They want to rebuild. But they become deeply discouraged. Herbert O’Driscoll suggests that, if we want to try to imaging their plight, we should look at pictures of the destruction of war—the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, for example. Whole cities in ruins. This is how it was. The people were overwhelmed. They were paralyzed, They had no idea how and where to begin.

Into this situation, God calls the prophet Isaiah to give the people hope, to share with them God’s vision of restoration and renewal. Jerusalem is going to rise up out of the rubble and become a city of light and life. Isaiah is the one who inspires the people to get to work and tackle this huge job. Thank God for our cheerleaders who can inspire us to carry out God’s vision.

Our epistle today says so much. If all we had was the law, the Ten Commandments, we would feel like prisoners. There are things we are supposed to do, and when we do not do them, we feel awful. There are things we are not supposed to do, and when we fail and do those things. when we break God’s commandments, we are imprisoned in or own sense of our weakness and sinfulness.

Into this situation of hopelessness, God sends God’s son and God adopts us as God’s own children. This is mind boggling. Remember when we read the Book of Exodus and Moses is going up the mountain to meet God? Only Moses can get that close to God. The belief then was that you could not see God and live. Now that Jesus has come among us, we are able to call God “Abba.” This is a very intimate term, like Dad or Mom. Because of Jesus we are that close to God our divine parent. We are not caught in the prison of sin and hopelessness. We are surrounded by love and grace. We can get free of sin. We can grow and change. There is help. We are children of God. We are children of light.

Our gospel today is the prologue to the gospel of John. We have the story of Jesus’ birth under such humble circumstances, shepherds and kings coming to worship him, the whole creation rejoicing, the whole world filled with music and light and love.

St. John was trying to explain the meaning of the birth of Jesus. He was putting the story we know so well into philosophical terms that would be understood by both Jews and Greeks.

Jesus is the Word, the logos, the plan, the pattern for life. Jesus is the one who has called the whole creation into being. Remember Robert Farrar Capon’s wonderful description of creation in The Third Peacock? God thinks up the creation and Jesus, the Word, together with the Spirit, makes it all happen. The Word, the One who called the world into being, has now come among us. God has come among us.

God walking the face of the earth was not accepted by everyone. But there were some people who did see who Jesus really was—Mary and Martha and Lazarus. who gave him hospitality and support, his earthly father, Joseph, who protected Jesus and Mary so carefully, his Mother, Mary, the apostles, Mary Magdalene. There were people he healed like the man born blind, people he met, who could see deeply into spiritual reality, people like the woman at the well, who ran into the village to tell folks about him. The little people. The powerful people were too busy protecting their turf to be able to recognize him. But the little people could see immediately who he was. The light was coming into the world, full of grace and truth. Those with humility, openness of spirit, could see that. We know that.

We are children of God. Jesus is our brother. God is as close as our breath. In Jesus, God became incarnate, embodied, enfleshed.

I know we all love to sing. Here is a hymn which express the meaning of our gospel today.

O Most mighty! O most holy!—Song Sheet