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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 5 Proper 7B RCL June 24, 2018

1 Samuel 17(1a, 4-11. 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

If we think back to our Sunday School days, what Bible passages do we remember? I think today’s first reading would rank near the top of the list for many of us. It is the classic story of the underdog winning the battle.

The text tells us that Goliath’s height was six cubits and a span. Scholars tell us that that translates into a height of ten feet. Goliath is huge; he is scary, and he is a bully. He challenges the Israelites to send one of their men to fight. If Goliath wins the battle, the Israelites will become the slaves of the Philistines.

Meanwhile, David’s father, Jesse, has asked David to bring supplies to his brothers who are at the front. David has gotten up early, left the sheep with a keeper, and brought the supplies. He goes to visit his brothers and hears the taunts of Goliath.

When he goes to King Saul and offers to fight the giant, Saul is afraid that David will be killed. But David assures Saul that, as a shepherd, he has killed bears and lions in order to protect his flock. Saul then offers David his armor, but it is far too heavy and bulky. David goes into battle with his shepherd’s staff, five smooth stones, and his sling.

As Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “David wears armor that we cannot see.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us, Year B, vol. 3, p. 32.)

When David arrives on the battlefield, Goliath hurls threats. David answers, “You come to me with sword and spear, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts.” Goliath is trusting in his own physical strength and brutality. David is trusting in God.

In our epistle for today, Paul is writing to the troubled congregation in Corinth. Some people have gotten the idea that Paul is doing his ministry for his own personal gain and that he is insincere in what he is teaching. With all that Paul has been through, including shipwrecks, prison, and beatings it is difficult to conclude that he is in it for the glory, but that is what folks are saying. In spite of all this, Paul says that his heart is wide open to the people of Corinth, and he invites them to “Open wide [their] hearts also.”

If we open our hearts to each other, remembering that in Biblical terms the heart is the center of the person, the source not only of emotions but also of intention, will, commitment, thought, and intuition, opening our hearts is a powerful thing. We are speaking our truth from the depth of our being. When we can do that in a respectful and loving way, hurts can be healed, issues can be resolved, reconciliation can come out of conflict. Paul was a wise pastor and his words are as true today as they were all those centuries ago.

In today’s gospel, Jesus calls his disciples to get into the boat and go to the quieter side of the Sea of Galilee. They have been surrounded by huge crowds and they need some time away. Of course, the boats follow him. We know the story well. A major storm comes up, with powerful winds and waves so high that the boat is being swamped. The disciples are terrified. Jesus has fallen asleep. They wake him up, shouting, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”  He asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And the text says, “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?”

Biblical scholar Fred Craddock tells us that at this point in their life together, the disciples had not realized who Jesus was. Craddock points out that Mark wrote this gospel for the Church, for those of us who know who Jesus is.

Jesus is with us at every moment in our lives. God is in the boat with us. God was with David. The Holy Spirit is with us. In every storm in life, God is present. Jesus is with us, leading and guiding us, giving us grace and strength to follow him, to rely on him for courage, to follow his lead in doing the right thing.

As I meditated on these readings this week, especially the encounter between David and Goliath, the words of the prophet Zechariah came to mind: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul listed the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Lord Jesus, our Savior and brother, help us to remember that you are always with us. Give us the grace to transform our our fears into faith. Help us to seek and your will. In your holy Name we pray. Amen.

Pentecost 4 Proper 6B RCL     June 17, 2018

1 Samuel  15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17
Mark 4:26-34

Last week the people wanted Samuel to appoint a king for them. Our reading ended with Saul becoming King of Israel. As our reading opens today, Saul’s reign is spiraling downward. He is a disaster as a leader, and he has little regard for the guidance of God.

While Saul is still alive, God calls Samuel to anoint the next King. The tyranny of Saul is apparent in Samuel’s asking God how he can go to the home of Jesse to carry out this mission, for Saul will kill him. God tells Samuel to say that he has come to sacrifice to the Lord.

You know the story. All of Jesse’s excellent sons pass before Samuel. As wonderful as they are, none is the one called to be King. It is the youngest, David, the shepherd, who will become the beloved leader of his people. In this passage, we read something on which we could meditate for the rest of our lives: “For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God does not look at our outward appearance. God looks into our hearts. That is to say, God looks at our intentions, our will, our intuitions, our thoughts. Bishop Tom mirrors this statement about God when he says that we should always evaluate situations, especially vocations, in terms of two things—intentions and integrity. What are our intentions? Are we carrying out those intentions with integrity?

In our epistle for today, Paul is still in difficult circumstances. He actually admits that it is difficult for him to be here on earth alive. He would rather be at home with the Lord. But since he is here, he is going to try to please God. We can all follow his example. Paul says that Christ died so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for our Lord. I think we are all trying, with his grace, to do that.

Then Paul echoes our first lesson when he says that, because of Christ, we should no longer regard others from a human point of view, that, because we are now following Jesus, we are called to look at others through the eyes of Christ and love them with the heart of Christ.

And then he says this most mysterious thing—mysterious because we can think about it and pray about it and meditate on it, but we probably will never plumb its depths.  Paul writes, “So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.” That is what is happening to us. We are being made new. We are being transformed in Christ.

In today’s gospel, we have two parables. In the first, the kingdom of God is as if someone plants the seed, time goes by, the seed grows, we know not how. The grain grows, as if mysteriously, but the growth is energetic and robust. Finally, the grain is ready to be harvested.

In the other parable, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. very, very small. Yet is grows into a large shrub, so large that birds can nest in it.

What are these parables telling us? Here are some thoughts. The kingdom of God is growing all the time. We do not understand how it grows, but it is progressing constantly without our awareness of how it grows. And, the other amazing thing is that the kingdom of God starts small, just like a seed, like the tiniest of seeds. Yet it can grow into something we would not believe possible.

Here in Vermont, the parable of the mustard seed is very important. Here in Vermont, a very small state which assumes national leadership on all kinds of topics far out of proportion with its size, we really do think that small is beautiful. Bigger is not always better.

In the Church, we are grappling with the fact that we will never return to the glories of the nineteen-fifties, with burgeoning buildings, bulging church schools, and no end in sight. We are now in the post-Christendom era. Membership is shrinking, formation is taking place in different ways, and we are looking around our neighborhoods seeing where God is doing good things and finding ways that we can pitch in and help. Once again, Vermont is leading in this effort, and I give thanks for Bishop Tom’s leadership on these issues.         

One of the things we will want to continue is the practice of placing just as much value on small churches as on large ones. St. Martin’s Church in Houston, where Barbara Bush’s service was held, is the largest parish in the Episcopal Church, with an average Sunday attendance of 1700 people. Vermont has no parish that even comes close to that size in numbers. But in depth of faith, commitment to the life of local parishes,  interest in learning, willingness to help neighbors near and far, the Episcopal Church in Vermont has no equal. In numbers of what we may call “mustard seed churches,” Vermont may be our national leader. This is a great gift, and I hope we will cherish that gift. When people visit with you here at Grace, or even hold concerts here, they sense a deep quality of faith and life in community. This is a pearl of great price.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation. Let the whole world see and know that things that have been cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pentecost 4 Proper 7B RCL June 21, 2015

1 Samuel 17 (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49
Psalm 9:9-20
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Mark 4:35-41

Our opening reading tells us one of the unforgettable stories in the Bible. The giant, Goliath, is defeated by the little shepherd boy, David.

Goliath is big and strong and scary. He challenges the Israelites to send out one man, and Goliath will make short work of the poor fellow. David has come to the scene of battle because his father asked him to bring supplies for his brothers, who are in the army of King Saul. David arrives just as the armies are facing each other and Goliath is hurling arrogant taunts and threats.

David goes right up to King Saul and tells him he doesn’t want people’s hearts to fail because of this predatory bully, and that he, David, will fight the giant. Interestingly, Saul does not laugh at David. But he is concerned for David’s safety. David assures King Saul that he has extensive experience in killing lions and bears, and, as the Lord has saved him from the lions and bears, the Lord will save him from Goliath. This is not a battle between David and Goliath. This is a battle between God and Goliath. If the Philistines had won this battle, the Israelites would have become their slaves. God is constantly acting to free us from oppression and slavery of any kind. When the odds seem overwhelming, when we feel that all may be lost but we go forth in courage and faith, God can turn the tide. Think of England in World War Two.

Saul wants to help David in any way that he can, so he gives David his helmet, his sword, and his armor.  But military armor hampers David. It’s too big and heavy. He has to take it off. He is a courageous warrior, but he is a warrior of the spirit. His strength comes from God.

You know the rest. David chooses just the right stones, and at the crucial instant, he puts one of those smooth stones into the pouch on his sling, throws it with all his might, and hits Goliath in the forehead. Goliath falls face down on the ground. Herbert O’Driscoll writes of this encounter,”The truth of the story is that those who know clearly that their own resources are limited, but that spiritual resources are available to them, are the ones who win all the battles that matter.”

Our gospel for today is another wonderful and familiar event in Jesus’ ministry. Our Lord and his disciples are being followed by the crowds, and Jesus wants to go over to the Eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the quieter side. He needs to rest. He needs to be with God. Even then, boats follow him. A storm comes up, and the boat is being swamped. The disciples are terrified, as well they should be. They could drown. Jesus is asleep. He has that much trust in God. When they shout at him, he wakes up and calms the storm.

What is this telling us? Well, before we go out in a boat, it’s a good idea to listen to the National Weather Service radio and make sure there isn’t a lake wind advisory.  If there is an advisory, it’s a good idea to stay on shore that day.

But the point is something like this. If we call on him, he can still the storms, both outside us and within us. He is always present with us. He can and will still the storms of life if we turn to him. Last Sunday he told us that, if we have faith even as small as a mustard seed, we can do great things with his help. As we grow closer to our Lord, our inner calm grows, too, and we know that he is always present and able to bring peace.

We all have battles in our lives. We all run into storms on our journeys. We all feel weak and vulnerable at times, perhaps often. We may feel as though we are looking into the face of Goliath or perishing in a storm that is about to sink the boat. Often with these struggles, there is nothing that we can do but pray and put our complete trust in God. Always, we must remember, our Lord is with us

This past Thursday, our brothers and sisters in Christ at Holy Trinity, Swanton, celebrated  a new season of ministry. Their new Rector, Rob Spainhour, comes from South Carolina, and the preacher at the service came from Charleston. This past week, nine people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. The shooter, Dylan Roof, believes that white people are superior to black people, that black people are taking over the world and must be stopped. He went into a bible study at a church which welcomes all people, and he has been quoted as saying that the people were so kind and caring that he almost decided not to carry out his deadly plan. Tragically, he went through with his plan and killed nine people who were all gifted and faithful ministers of Christ.

The magnitude of this hits home for us, not only because there are such connections between South Carolina and Holy Trinity, but also because some of us have gotten to know Bishop Michael Curry from South Carolina. Bishop Curry is now running for presiding Bishop.

Another connection is that both Emanuel AME Church and Grace were founded in 1816, and both are deeply committed to welcoming everyone, especially those who are vulnerable. Dylan Roof was aware of the love people were extending, and yet he committed what many experts are calling a hate crime and possibly an act of terrorism. The families of the victims are calling for forgiveness.

I ask your prayers for Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Daniel Simmons Sr.,DePayne Middleton Doctor, and for Dylan Roof.

All through his ministry, our Lord made it clear that each and every person, regardless of color, class, national origin, sexual orientation, education, income, or any of the other things we use to divide ourselves—each and very person is precious and beloved. We are called to look at every person as if that person were Christ himself.

Our Lord is here with us to help us, and he is not asleep in the boat. May he give us the grace, as individuals and as a nation,  to work our way though to seeing all people through his eyes. Amen.