• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 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 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:…

Pentecost 14 Proper 17B   August 29, 2021

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8. 14-15, 21-23

Our opening reading today is from the Song of Solomon. It is a celebration of human romantic love, and, over the centuries, people have also seen it as a poem about God’s love for us. The images of spring and growth at the end of the passage speak eloquently to the fact that love, both human and divine, is a powerful source of new life.

This morning, we begin to study a series of passages from the Letter of James. Traditionally, Christians have thought that the author of this letter is James, the brother of Jesus. Over the years, there has been much scholarly debate. Luke T. Johnson, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia, makes a convincing argument in favor of the traditional view that this letter was written by James, the brother of our Lord. James became the first Bishop of Jerusalem and led the early followers of Jesus through some very challenging times. 

If James is the author, this is one of the earliest Christian texts. As we read it, we can remember that the person who wrote it was very close to Jesus and knew the mind and heart of our Lord.

James begins, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, from whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” All love and all generosity comes from our gracious and loving God who showers us with gifts of grace. God’s love is infinite and endless. Nothing can change that love or separate us from that love.

Because of God’s gift of love, we have the grace to follow the guidance James is giving us. “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.” The word “righteousness” can be defined as “right relationship with God.” We humans are called to listen to each other very carefully. We are called to be very slow to speak.  And we are called to “be slow to anger,” because anger impairs our relationship with God and with each other. In other words, we are called to listen to each other heart to heart, seek the mind of Christ, and do the will of Christ.

James writes, “Be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” Our faith is shown in our actions, and the center of our faith is loving God and our neighbors. James continues, “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” In the time of James and Jesus, if orphans and widows did not have a male relative to protect them and give them a place in society, they had no power, no voice, and no way to gain respect. Caring for those who are vulnerable is a crucial way for us to express our acceptance of God’s love and our sharing of that love with those who have little or no power in our society. We are called to express God’s compassion, caring, and justice.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is in Galilee, where observance of the law is a bit more relaxed. He and his disciples have not washed their hands before they began their meal. The Pharisees are scolding them because they are not following the rules of ritual purity. Washing the hands is seen by the Pharisees as a way to show that one is following the law.

In Jesus’ time, germ theory, bacteriology, and virology were unknown, so the first thing we need to do is to say that washing our hands before we eat is a very good idea. The gospel is not dealing with biology. It’s a very good idea to wash our hands and eat from clean dishes with clean forks and knives and spoons.

Jesus tells the Pharisees, “There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” On a biological level, there are many things that we can eat or drink that can make us very ill. but that is not what Jesus and the Pharisees are talking about. 

Our Lord is saying that what comes out of us, from our hearts, which are the seat of our will, our intentions, our intuitions as well as our feelings, that is what matters. Are we living lives of love and compassion and generosity? Are we loving God and our neighbor?

Mark’s gospel was written at a time when some of the followers of Jesus were Jewish and some were Gentiles. One of the biggest controversies was whether the followers of Jesus should be required to follow the Jewish law, including the dietary laws. Peter had a vision in which God told him that all foods are lawful, and all people are loved by God. This led the leaders of the community including James, the brother of Jesus, to conclude that following the Jewish law was not essential. The new faith was open to everyone. 

Both our epistle and gospel today make it very clear that outward observances are not the source of faith or a deep relationship with God. Our inward and outward selves must be congruent. We are called to be hearers and doers of the word. Outward observances can be beautiful and inspiring, but they need to be sincere. They need to come from the heart.

Yesterday, our Church calendar commemorated Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, one of the great theologians of the Church. Here is the collect for his day.

Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Pentecost 15 Proper 17B RCL September 2, 2018

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8. 14-15. 21-23

Our opening reading for today, from the Song of Solomon, is a poetic description of the love between God and God’s people. Spring has come; everything is blooming, and God calls to God’s beloved, namely, us. The answering psalm is a royal wedding song.

Our epistle, from the Letter of James, is one of the most down to earth portions of the Bible. James begins by saying that all generosity and all generous acts of giving come from God. God gave us the creation and made us stewards of this beautiful world. God came among us as a human being, Jesus of Nazareth. These are two gifts beyond imagining. God loves us so much that God has come among us. God gives us every moment of our lives; God gives us the gift of being alive. At the root of our faith is gratitude for God’s many gifts, especially God’s love.

Out of deep awareness of these gifts from God, we are guided to certain ways of living. We are called to be quick to listen and slow to speak. When we give others the gift of being heard, we are giving a gift of love. Not only does God call us to be slow to speak and to listen carefully,  God also calls us to be slow to anger, because anger does not lead to right relationship with God. James actually calls us to pull out the weeds of anger and other unhelpful traits and prepare the soil of our hearts as we would plow and harrow the earth to receive the planting of the Word within us. We are to “welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save (our) souls.” This reminds us that humility is not groveling before God, It comes from the root word humus, good earth plowed and harrowed, prepared to receive the word of God.

Then we get to the nitty gritty. “Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” We gather to hear the word of God and then we go out and do our best to live the word of God seven days a week. All of you are doing just that, with God’s help. Thank you for that witness to God’s love.

And then James sums up the essence of both the old and new testaments in his succinct but powerful last sentence: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The words of great prophets such as Isaiah and Amos and the life of our Lord all proclaim that truth. God calls us to care for those who are the most vulnerable. And God calls us to learn to cope creatively in this world while continuing to live according to the values our Lord has taught us. Not an easy thing, but possible with God’s grace.

In our gospel for today, the Pharisees scold Jesus and his disciples for failing to wash their hands before they eat. The Pharisees were not evil people. They were deeply concerned with making sure that everyone followed the law in order to make sure that they were ritually pure.

Jesus is saying that it is not what goes into us that causes a spiritual problem, it is what comes out of us. In spiritual life, what matters is our hearts, the seat of our will and intentions.

Jesus says that the words and actions that come out of us can hurt others and hurt us and grieves the heart of God. Jesus says that destructive words and actions come from within, from the human heart, and that’s exactly what James is saying, too.

We are being called today to allow our hearts to beat in harmony with the compassionate heart of God and to conform our words and actions to God’s loving will. God has planted God’s words, God’s love, the presence and power of Jesus and the Spirit within us, and God is calling us to cope from God’s presence in everything we say and do.

This is a tall order, and we can’t do it ourselves. Thanks be to our Savior and Brother, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who is walking out there ahead of us, leading and guiding us, holding us by the hand, helping us over the rocky places, sometimes carrying us. And thanks be to the Holy Spirit, energizing us to synchronize our hearts with the  loving heart of God, who is still calling to us, God’s beloved, and still building the shalom of harmony and wholeness, God’s peace in our hearts, God’s peace in our lives, God’s peace in the whole creation.  Amen.

Pentecost 15 Proper 18B RCL September 6, 2015

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23
Psalm 125
James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17
Mark 7:24-37

Our reading from the Book of Proverbs makes some clear ethical statements. Biblical scholar James Newsome goes back to the Hebrew root words in our lesson. His translations would go something like this. “It is better to be known for your honesty and integrity than for great riches. A spirit of generosity and compassion is better than silver or gold.” We may think the rich and the poor are different from each other, but that is an illusion. God makes us all, and everyone is worthy of respect. There are strong warnings throughout the Bible not to take advantage of or oppress those who are vulnerable.

James is echoing the values of Proverbs. As Christians, we are called to treat all persons with respect and compassion, and we are called to take care of those who need food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical care. All of us have been praying for the refugees from Syria and other places who are trying to get to freedom in Europe. Episcopal Relief and Development has been working with this tragic situation together with many other organizations. I hope that we will consider making a special contribution to help in this effort.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is going into Gentile territory, into what we would call Syria.  He goes into a house. He has been surrounded by the crowd, and he is hoping for a respite. But a woman comes to him. Her daughter is very ill, and she is desperate and determined to get Jesus to heal the little girl.

At that time in history, Jews did not talk to Gentiles, and women did not talk with rabbis.  At this point in his ministry, Jesus is thinking that he is called to minister only to the Jewish people.  Perhaps he has begun to wonder if he is called to reach beyond those boundaries. In this extraordinary encounter, this courageous woman, this outsider who would be scorned by all those in authority, is also an excellent theologian.  She breaks through those boundaries and helps Jesus to realize that he is called to minister to everyone. Jesus heals her daughter, and he goes on to heal a man who has been unable to hear or speak.

One of the great blessings of the Church is that we celebrate saints’ days. On August 24, we celebrated St. Bartholomew. He is one of our capital S saints. But we have a lot of small s saints like you and me, and their feast days are found in Holy Women, Holy Men, formerly Lesser Feasts and Fasts. This past Tuesday, we remembered David Pendleton Oakerhater. His story illustrates  some of the points in our readings for today. Here is the account from Holy Women, Holy Men.

God’s Warrior” is an epithet by which David Pendleton Oakerhater  is known among the Cheyenne Indians of Oklahoma. The title is an apt one, for this apostle of Christ to the Cheyenne was originally a soldier who fought against the United States government with warriors of other tribes in the disputes over Indian land rights. By the late 1860s Oakerhater had distinguished himself for bravery and leadership as an officer in an elite corps of Cheyenne fighters. In 1875, after a year of minor uprisings and threats of major violence, he and twenty-seven other warrior leaders were taken prisoner by the U. S. Army, charged with inciting rebellion, and sent to a disused military prison in Florida.

Under the influence of a concerned army captain, who sought to educate the prisoners, Oakerhater and his companions learned English, gave art and archery lessons to the area’s many visitors, and had their first encounter with the Christian faith. The captain’s example, and that of other concerned Christians, from as far away as New York, had their effect on the young warrior. He was moved to answer the call to transform his leadership in war to a lifelong ministry of peace.

With sponsorship from the Diocese of Central New York and financial help from a Mrs. Pendleton of Cincinnati, he and three other prisoners went north to study for the ministry. At his baptism in Syracuse in 1878 he took the name David Pendleton Oakerhater, in honor of his benefactress.

Soon after his ordination to the diaconate in 1881, David returned to Oklahoma. There, he was instrumental in founding and operating schools and missions, through great personal sacrifice and often in the face of apathy from the Church hierarchy and resistance from the government. He continued his ministry of service, education, and pastoral care among his people until his death on August 31, 1931.

Half a century before, the young deacon had told his people, “You all know me. You remember when I led you out to war I went first, and what I told you was true. Now I have been away to the East and I have learned about another Captain, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is my leader. He goes first, and all he tells me is true. I come back to my people to tell you to go with me now in this new road. a war that makes all for peace.”

The captain at that prison and the other Christians involved, lived out our readings for today. Back in the 1860s, in spite of their advanced language and culture, Native Americans were seen by some people as savages and less than human. Yet this captain and Mrs, Pendleton and the others saw David as a gifted fellow human being. Thank God for them and for David and his ministry. And I thank God for the openness and inclusiveness of Grace Church.

Let us pray the collect for the remembrance of David Oakerhater.

O God of unsearchable wisdom and infinite mercy, you chose a captive warrior, David Oakerhater, to be your servant, and sent him to be a missionary to his own people, and to exercise the office of deacon among them: Liberate us who commemorate him today, from bondage to self, and empower us for service to you and to the neighbors you have given us; through Jesus Christ, the captain of our salvation, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pentecost 14 Proper 17B RCL August 30, 2015

Song of Solomon 2:8-13
Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10
James 1:17-27
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Our opening reading is from a beautiful series of poems. Christians usually think of them as being about the love that exists between God and the community of faithful people, or between Christ and the Church. Our psalm for today is a song of celebration for a royal wedding.

The Letter of James is one of the most down to earth parts of the Bible. It is about putting our faith into practice, We might say that this letter tells us where the rubber meets the road. It all begins with God’s love for us. “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above,” writes James, Everything begins with the generosity of God, who showers us with gifts. God does not change. God’s love for us is always there. God’s grace is always available to us. God gives us life itself. We are the first fruits. That is, we are placed here by God so that we can share God’s blessings with others.

What are we called to do? First, we must be ready to listen. always open to hearing what others might want or need to say. We are called to be more ready to listen than to speak. So often, especially in this fast-paced world, everybody wants to get a word in. As humans, we want to be heard. We want to get our point across first. But our Lord is calling us to be good listeners first and foremost. So, we are called to be “quick to listen, slow to speak.”

We are called to be slow to anger. Anger is a normal human emotion, but we are called to practice “restraint of tongue and pen.” Elsewhere, Paul calls us to aim for the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So we are called to weed the garden of our souls, get rid of all the stuff that gets in the way of our spiritual growth and make room for the word of God to be planted in us, because that word has the power to save our souls. The incarnate Word, Jesus, has the power to transform us.

Then we get down to the meat of the matter. We are called to be doers of the word and not hearers only. It is comparatively easy to listen to the word of God, listen to the call to be people of compassion. But to live that twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is a tough challenge. We will need generous doses of grace from our loving God to do that work.

When we look deeply into God’s vision for human life, when we look to the living Word, Jesus, and use him as our model, when we truly study his life and his ministry and try to model our lives on his, and let him live in us, that’s when our actions are in harmony with what we profess to believe. And we will be truly blessed.

And then James deals with a very small part of our bodies which can do a great deal of good if handled well, but a great deal of damage if not properly bridled. That, of course, is the tongue. As we know, our tongues are small, but, in this passage, they are compared to horses that need to be bridled. We all know what it is to let some words slip out and then want to take them back. Like horses unbridled, our tongues can trample over people if we let them. Our tongue needs to be speaking words of compassion, and our deeds need to match those words.

The bottom line is that we are called to take care of those who are the most vulnerable. This letter calls us not only to talk the talk, but to walk the walk.

Our gospel for today is extremely complex, and I hope we can think about it carefully. Jesus and the disciples have just fed the five thousand, and they have crossed the Sea of Galilee to arrive at Gennesaret on the northwest side of the lake. They are in Galilee, but some of the Pharisees and Scribes have come up from Jerusalem. We have to be careful not to make caricatures of these authorities. They were not evil people. They were deeply concerned about ritual purity, a concept that is quite foreign to us. Some scholars tell us that things in Galilee were a bit looser than in the areas nearer to Jerusalem.

Jesus and the disciples are having a meal. They have not washed their hands. The Pharisees and Scribes do wash their hands before meals, and the text tells us that this is the tradition of the elders. Scholars tell us that this is a tradition rather than the law. In any case, the Pharisees and the Scribes challenge Jesus and the disciples by asking why they have not washed their hands.

Jesus calls them hypocrites.This may not be the best analogy, but I am trying to find an example of a tradition that at one time could really stir up strong feelings among Episcopalians, so I am going to turn to liturgical matters. The comment of the pharisees was like telling us that we didn’t really believe in God because we were using Rite One instead of Rite Two, or the other way around. Our liturgical practice is not a reflection of whether we believe in God. It is a tradition. It is not the Law. Peter later had a vision of different foods, clean and unclean and God told him there was nothing that was unclean. But that was later.

Now, we all know that it is a good idea to wash our hands often, especially before eating. But Jesus was trying to focus on essential spiritual matters, not on tradition or even hygiene. Our inner attitude, the attitude of our hearts, is at the center of it all. This takes us right back to the Letter of James.  What comes out of our mouths reflects the contents of our hearts, the Spirit within. On a literal level, what goes into our mouths can certainly hurt us, especially if it is infected with salmonella or Listeria. But on a spiritual level, the question is, do our words and actions reflect our belief in Christ?

Lord Jesus, help us to love you with all our hearts and to love and serve others in your Name. Amen.