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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:…

Lent 1C RCL    March 10, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

In our opening reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy, we have the opportunity to look on as Moses prepares the people of God to enter the promised land. They will be planting crops and raising cattle and sheep. When the harvest comes in, they are to offer the first fruits of that harvest to God in thanksgiving for all that God has done for them. God has brought them out of slavery.

The text offers precise directions for this liturgy. The person is to say certain words to the priest. The priest is to say certain words and perform very specific actions. This is to be done with deep reverence. This text is part of the background for our practice of making and carrying out our pledge of time, talent and treasure to God.

God constantly showers us with many gifts, and we respond with gratitude. This is part of our journey in faith.

Our psalm is one of the most profound statements of faith in the Bible. God is our refuge and our stronghold. The psalm says, “For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” This line is a direct link to our gospel for today.

In our reading from Romans, Paul says, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim.)” This passage can refer to our favorite psalms and other passages from the Bible, which are on our lips and in our hearts, but it also refers to the risen Christ, who is here with us now, very near us, among us, leading and guiding us.

And Paul says something else that is very important. He says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call upon him.” We are all one as Jesus and the Father are one.

Now we turn to our gospel. Every year on the First Sunday in Lent, we read one of the accounts of the temptation of Jesus. This year our gospel is from Luke.

Jesus has just been baptized by John, and God has said that Jesus is God’s Son. Now Jesus goes out into the wilderness, and he is tempted by the forces of darkness. How is he going to carry out his ministry? What values are going to guide his decisions and his actions?

This yearly review of the temptations is a great gift to us. For one thing, we realize once again that Jesus went through just what we go through. He was fully human. He was also fully divine, and he did not succumb to these temptations. This gives us hope that, with his grace, we can faithfully follow him. We can resist the things that would draw us away from God, things that would divert us from following our Good Shepherd who is out in front of us.

This year, the thoughts of Herbert O’Driscoll, one of my favorite scholars and preachers, speak profoundly to me.  He notes that when Satan says, “If you are the Son of God,” it should probably be read in a sneering tone. Satan is questioning the identity of Jesus.

So often temptations have to do with our identity. Who am I? How am I going to conduct my life? O’Driscoll notes that the temptations “appeal to the ego as being self-sufficient.” O’Driscoll says of the first temptation, to turn stones into bread,”We are hearing the temptation to attract followers through bribery, by producing what they want and need. Our Lord refuses.”

When the devil shows our Lord all the kingdoms of the world and offers them to Jesus, O’Driscoll says, “The temptation is to get people to follow by the use of naked power. If you don’t want to bribe them,  then dominate them. Again our Lord refuses.”

In the third temptation, the demon tells Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple. As our psalm says, angels would come and rescue him. O’Driscoll writes, “The third option the demon offers is the possibility of impressing people so much that they will be mesmerized by spectacle and will follow. Jesus once again refuses.”

O’Driscoll writes, “Every option is an appeal to his human ego…Jesus defers to a will higher the his own.” And O’Driscoll connects these temptations with that moment of faithful surrender in Gethsemane when Jesus says, as we are called to say from time to time, “Not my will but thine be done.”

Finally, O’Driscoll makes an observation that I think is crucial to us on our journey. After this time of challenge is over, what does Jesus do? He goes to Galilee and calls his first two disciples. O’Driscoll writes, “He has chosen, not the way of the solitary ego, but the way of community, sharing, relationship.”

O’Driscoll notes the line that follows the temptations.”When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” The temptation to rely on our own strength, to be less than God calls us to be, is always there, waiting in the wings. But, with God’s grace, it is as a speck of dust in the face of the light of  Christ.

O’Driscoll writes, “The demon does not depart permanently even from Jesus. There will be other encounters, other struggles. We know only too well that this is true for our lives. But we know something else—because of the risen life of our Lord, there is grace for us in our encounters with the demon.” O’Driscoll, The Word among Us, Year C, vol. 2, pp. 16-17.)

This Lent, as we let go of things that draw us away from God, and take on practices that help us grow closer to God, dear Lord Jesus help us to remember that you have walked this way before us and that  you are here to help us on the journey. In your holy Name we pray. Amen.

Epiphany 4C  February 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-13
Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

Once again, our readings tell us God’s truth. God tells Jeremiah and us that God knew and loved us before God formed us in the womb, and God has put God’s words in our mouths. God has given us everything we need to carry out our ministry. In our gospel, our Lord tells us that God reaches out to those who are outside the household of faith. Our epistle tells the quarreling and competitive Corinthians and us that the greatest gift of all is love.

St. Paul traveled around the Mediterranean basin preaching the good news to people who were outside his original household of faith. He was called to share the love of God in Christ to the Gentiles. He planted congregations and then left them to spread the good news on their own with God’s help and Paul’s support through letters and visits.

The ministry methods of St. Paul are the foundation for what we now call Local Ministry Support Teams or mutual ministry or baptismal ministry or total ministry. Paul’s approach was the subject of an article by Roland Allen called “Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?” Roland Allen was born in England in 1868 and served as a missionary in China from 1895-1900 and then again for a short period ending in 1902. From his studies of St. Paul’s ministry, he pioneered the idea of indigenous ministry.

Back in the nineteen sixties and seventies, some of us here in Vermont had the joy and privilege of watching a film about a more contemporary example of indigenous ministry. The Rt. Rev. William Gordon, who served as Bishop of Alaska from 1948 until 1974, would fly his own plane all over that huge diocese to remote mission stations that could be reached only by air. Members of each congregation would be called to serve as local priests, deacons, members of pastoral teams, parish administrators, liturgical planners, financial teams, and any other ministries needed to carry on the ministry of Christ in that place.

Here in Vermont, the Rev. David Brown, Rector of Christ Church, Montpelier and Canon Missioner to the Northeast Kingdom Regional Ministry, helped congregations put these principles into practice.

The basic premise of a Local Ministry Support Team is that the local parish has all the gifts it needs to be the Body of Christ in that place. The members gather and prayerfully discern what ministries are needed in order carry on their congregational life and support the members of the parish. These ministries might be worship, pastoral care, administration, Christian formation (education). Then the team prayerfully discerns what roles are needed in each ministry area and  the competencies needed for these ministries.

Keeping in mind the competencies needed for each ministry, the individual members of the team discern who is called to be a priest (This person is a sacramentalist who presides at the Eucharist but does not do all he duties of a traditional priest); who is called to be a deacon, who is called to plan worship (Often this is done as a group); who is called to administrative/financial ministry, who is called to offer pastoral care. In a small parish like ours, each person may be called to several ministries. This is done by giving each person a piece of paper with the different ministries listed and each person, with prayer and thought, writing the name of the member or members they feel are called to that ministry.

The training for members of a Local Ministry Support Team takes place in their local church. Usually there is an Itinerant Priest who serves as a link between the parish and the Bishop. Currently, that function is served by the diocesan Companions.

We have one person here who has already participated in the Diocesan Study Program, which, unfortunately, was discontinued. But that gives a good start. I have a list of books which folks have read in order to educate themselves in the areas of The Holy Scriptures, Church History, Christian Theology, Christian Ethics, Contemporary Issues, Liturgy and Church Music, and Theory and Practice of Ministry. Most of you love to read, and I think if we went over the list of suggested books. many of you have already read a goodly number of those books. Many times at coffee hour, your discussions have been excellent formation.

At this point, we on the Commission on Ministry and Discernment are thinking that there are parishes that do not have to start from scratch in this process. These are parishes where there are people who are voracious readers who have already done a significant amount of formation. There are also parishes, such as Grace, where the members have the personal qualities and competencies needed for ministry.

Many of the congregations who have chosen Local Ministry Support Teams have experienced growth in numbers. New people have come in and have taken up their own ministries. The key thing it that is is a team. The members support each other.

We are at the point in the Episcopal Church in Vermont where we are  developing ways to meet parishes where they are and to form teams with the least possible numbers of hoops to jump through and the greatest respect for the learning and experience which folks already have.

I asked Shelie Richardson to come to be with us in May, thinking that weather conditions will be improving by then. She has offered May 5 and 19. May 12 is Mother’s Day. Please let me know your thoughts. I have also brought several of the Books on the current reading list for you to look at. I think Grace Church is already a Local Ministry Support Team, with each person offering his or her gifts to share God’s love inside the community of faith and beyond. May God continue to lead us and guide us. Amen.

Epiphany 3C RCL January 27, 2019

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Luke 4:14-21

It is so good to see you after two Sundays of having to cancel our services. I will try to be brief because we have Annual Meeting today.

Our first reading, from the Book of Nehemiah, is one of the most important passages in the Bible. The people have returned from exile and they are rebuilding the temple. The leaders gather all the people in the square, and they read passages from the law and interpret them so that everyone can understand. This reading takes an entire day. The people are so deeply moved that they weep when they hear the reading. They are hearing and understanding the guidelines that govern their life together. This is an inspiring moment in the life of God’s people.

In our reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is telling the Corinthians and us that the Church is the Body of Christ. Each member is precious and necessary to the health of the whole Body. The Spirit bestows many gifts, and each gift is as valuable as every other gift. It is just as important to balance the books, sweep the floor, or paint the window trim as it is to preach an excellent sermon. Our Lord calls all of us to work together and to offer our gifts. We are so close that, as Paul says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice with it.” We are all in this together, and what binds us together is the love of Christ.

In our gospel, Jesus is teaching and healing in Galilee. He goes to his hometown, Nazareth, and goes to the synagogue. When he stands up to read, the scroll of Isaiah is given to him.  Jesus reads,“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind…to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That is a description of his ministry and of our ministry.

Today, with these inspiring readings in our minds and hearts, we hold our Annual Meeting. I suspect that most of us are not thrilled by administrative meetings. I know they aren’t my favorite thing.

There are many ways to think about the Church. We can think of it as an institution that has been around for two thousand years and has many structures and procedures and so on. Then we can think of ourselves as the community gathered. Yes, we have to deal with things like electing delegates to convention so that we can keep things running and this year elect a new bishop. Here at Grace, I think we try to take care of these things as efficiently as we can. And we also pray at every meeting we have, which is so important. We ask God’s guidance. We realize we are in the presence of God, that the risen Christ is here in our midst.

And we are gathered here today as a community of faith and as part of an institution that has been around for a long time. We love God. And, because we love God, we truly love and care about each other. We do see ourselves as the Body of Christ, called to carry out the ministries mentioned in the passage from Isaiah. We are here to bring good news and to share God’s love and healing and forgiveness with others.

Thank you for your faithfulness, for your generous offering of your many gifts, for your resilience and humor, and for your love for God, for each other, and for all people. These are precious gifts.

Risen Lord, thank you for being in our midst. Lead us and guide us, O Lord.  Amen.

 

Lent 1 Year C RCL February 14, 2016

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2.9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

We are now in the season of Lent. The Alleluias are gone from our service. The green altar hangings have been changed to purple. Purple is the color of penitence, and it is also the color which denotes royalty, and we use it to honor Christ our King. We sing the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, and we follow disciplines of fasting and self-examination in order to become stronger in our faith.

Every Lent we are reminded that our journey is one with the journey of God’s people centuries ago. Joseph’s brothers were angry with him, so they sold him to a slave trader who sold him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph was faithful and worked hard and became the right hand man to the pharaoh. He was in charge of everything. Eventually, because of a famine, his family came to live in Egypt.

Many years passed, and a new pharaoh came into power. He made slaves of the people of God, and they toiled to make bricks for all of the king’s many construction projects. A new leader was called by God to lead the people out of slavery. That man was Moses.

In our first reading, the people are about to go into their new land. God is calling them to remember their journey from slavery into freedom, and to offer the first fruits of their harvests in thanks to God.

Our loving God has brought each of us and all of us “through many dangers, toils, and snares,” and we offer our thanks to God for leading and guiding us.

Our epistle today is reminding us that God is near us and that we are all one in God. “There is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

In our gospel, Jesus has just been baptized. He goes out into the wilderness to struggle, to battle, to go through a process of discernment.

The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. In some ways, that would be a very good thing. In those days, as in our own time, there were many people who did not have enough food. Jesus could have fed the world. That is a good thing.

So many times, we do not have a clear choice between good and evil. Often we face choices between two things that could both be seen as good. Later on, Jesus would feed thousands of people at one sitting. But his real ministry is a spiritual one. He answers, “One does not live by bread alone.” He has come to feed us spiritually. He has come to call us into a journey of spiritual transformation. He also calls us to feed the hungry and to take care of our brothers and sisters.

Then our Lord is shown all the kingdoms of the world.  If he will worship the devil, he will receive all those kingdoms and that power. First of all, this is a very strange proposition on the part of Satan. Christ, the eternal Word,  called the world into being, and he has all power. It is the height of presumption for Satan to offer worldly power to our Lord. He does not want worldly power. He is here to bring in the kingdom of God. He and we are called to worship God alone. As we all know, the values of God’s kingdom are not the values of this world.

Then the devil takes our Lord up to the pinnacle of the great temple in Jerusalem. “Go ahead. Jump off the top. The scriptures say that God’s angels will come and save you.” This is a way for Jesus to say, “Look who I am. God saved me.” It is a publicity stunt. Even in those days, word would have spread fast. Wow! Somebody jumped off the pinnacle of the temple and thousands of angels came and swooped him up.” Jesus would have had instant fame.

But that is not the point.That is not Jesus’ goal. Jesus went to great pains to work quietly. One person at a time, he touched people and made them whole.

We are all on the journey with our Lord. During Lent, we will face our own opportunities to clarify our ministries and to make choices that will help us to stay on track and grow even closer to God.

The Ten Commandments are a time-honored template for our spiritual lives. The cardinal virtues— justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude— can be very helpful as a guide, together with the theological virtues— faith, hope, and love. The fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are also excellent qualities for meditation.

During Lent, we sometimes give up some things as a spiritual discipline. Sometimes we take on additional spiritual practices. such as increased quiet times for prayer. or reading that nourishes our spirits.

Because the word “Lent” comes from the root word for “spring,” I tend to think of Lent as a time of greenness and growth, even though it is still winter. Whatever will help our spiritual growth is the thing to do in Lent.

Ascetic is the branch of theology that deals with spiritual discipline. The Greek root is askesis, and it comes from a root that means “to work, or to exercise.” Lent is a time when we practice askesis. We do our spiritual exercises. We strengthen our spiritual muscles. We become stronger in our faith, and we grow closer to our Lord. Although it is a serious season, it is not a dreary one. Undergirding all of our spiritual work in Lent is the deep joy of growing closer to our Lord.

Day by day, dear Lord three things we pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.