• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • 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 15 Proper 19 September 13, 2020

Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

In our opening reading for today, God’s people pass through the Red Sea. Scholars tell us that their route led though a part of the sea called the Sea of Reeds, a shallow portion. When it was very windy, the wind would push the water to one side, and you could pass through, if you were traveling light. The people of God were on foot. The Egyptians had chariots and horses, and they sank. 

The thing that strikes me about this passage this year is that the pillar of cloud, which symbolizes the presence of God, and the angel, who have been leading the people, now move to the rear and place themselves between the escaping slaves and the pursuing Egyptian army. God leads God’s people into freedom. God protects God’s people as they flee from slavery. God literally puts Godself as a barrier between God’s beloved people and those who would enslave them. And God protects us from that which would enslave us. God leads us into freedom.

Paul is addressing his letter to a congregation which has people from all kinds of different religious backgrounds. They have all flocked to this new faith in Jesus. Some are Jews, and they continue to observe the Jewish holy days and the dietary laws. Some have worshipped at the shrines of the Greek and Roman deities. There is a wide array of dietary and religious practices, and Paul is saying, please respect each other, continue to follow your dietary practices and religious observances, and do all of this to honor God and to give thanks to God. God is the one binding us together.

Over the centuries, we Christians have had many differences. Some of us remember the controversy over the new prayer book, published in 1979, and then the new hymnal published in 1982. We still have differences of opinion today, but the main thing is that we are gathered because our Lord has called us together, and, no matter what our differences, he calls us to be one in him.

In our gospel for today, Peter asks Jesus, “How many times should I forgive—as many as seven times? Scholars tell us that the rabbis told us to forgive three times, so Peter is being very generous in saying seven times. But Jesus says seventy-seven times. And then he tells a shocking parable. 

A king is settling accounts with his slaves. One slave owes him ten thousand talents. Scholars tell us this is a huge amount, a sum that is almost beyond imagining. One scholar says it is 3 billion dollars. Another says forty-six million dollars in today’s terms. The point is that it is an amount that no one could pay back. This slave cannot pay the debt. The king says that he will sell the slave and his family and possessions to get what money he can.

The slave is devastated. He falls on his knees and begs the king to have patience and he will pay everything. It would be impossible for him to pay this debt. The king has pity. Scholars tell us that the word translated as “pity” is the same word used of the compassion of our Lord for the crowds who follow him, and the compassion of the Good Samaritan for the man who had fallen among thieves. The king forgives the debt.

The slave goes out, and meets a fellow slave who owes hm a hundred denarii. Biblical scholar Thomas Troegher says the modern equivalent would be $12,000. The recently-forgiven slave grabs the man by the throat and demands payment. When his colleague cannot  meet the demand and pleads for mercy, the recently-forgiven man has him put in prison.

We have been forgiven so much. We have received so many gifts and blessings from God. And our loving God is calling us to extend to others the compassion we have received. Our Lord is calling us to forgive each other countless times, to throw out the calculator and not even bother to try to keep track. This parable is addressed to the community of faith. We have been called together by our loving and forgiving God. Beyond and through all differences or controversies, we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. I think our Presiding Bishop, who is teaching us the Way of Love, is calling us to extend this practice to all we meet. Whatever our differences may be, God is calling us to genuinely care abut each other and to work together to find a loving way forward. 

This may seem impossible, but escaping slavery in Egypt seemed impossible, too. God is calling us to explore the many kinds of slavery which hold us in bondage. Africans were brought here beginning in 1619 and held in slavery, but we white people have also been enslaved by our implicit racism and our assumption of white privilege. When we fail to extend to others the gifts of freedom which have been given to us, we are like the forgiven slave who refused to give that gift of freedom and forgiveness to his brother.

Here we are, on September 13, 2020. We have just passed the nineteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which we will never forget. We are still in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic. We also have an economic crisis which is hurting great numbers of people. In the richest country in the world, people are going hungry. We are facing many challenges. They may seem like a Red Sea that we may not be able to cross.

This year, I find the image of the angel and the pillar of cloud inspiring and helpful.  God is leading and protecting us. And we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who have followed God’s leading over the centuries and who serve as inspiring examples to us. And always we think of our Good Shepherd, out in front leading us. 

God is with us. The risen Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us. The creativity of God is in our midst. The redemptive healing and forgiveness of Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit, God at work in us and in the world, is with us. God is surrounding us with love, filling us with grace, and energizing us for the work ahead. We have received God’s love and forgiveness. Let us share it. Amen.

Let us now pray the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

Pentecost 14 Proper 18A September 6, 2020

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

In our opening reading, in the first month of the new year, under the leadership of the two men God has called to be leaders, God frees God’s people from their slavery in Egypt. God calls the people to eat a special meal of roast lamb, unleavened bread,  and bitter herbs to remind them of their time of suffering under slavery. This is the Passover meal, which will be celebrated for centuries to come.

As they eat this first Passover, the people are ready for the journey, They are going to travel light. Like every great story of our ancestors in the Bible, this is our story.

As we know, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his apostles before he was crucified. He blessed the bread and wine and told them that the bread was his body and the wine was his blood shed for all of us. Although we have not been able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist together for five months, we gather as the risen Body of Christ every Sunday. Though we share Morning Prayer and not Eucharist, we know that our Lord is present with us and that he feeds us with his presence and with his love.

When we celebrate Holy Eucharist, the celebrant elevates the host, and breaks the bread, and we sing “Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia! “ The broken bread symbolizes the brokenness of our Lord’s Body and also the brokenness in us and in our world. As Christians, we believe that in his suffering on the cross Jesus took into himself all that brokenness and made it whole, and, as Barbara Brown Taylor says, “Gave it back to us as life.” As God freed God’s people from slavery in Egypt, Jesus, through the power of his love, frees us from slavery to sin. Our Lord can take our brokenness and make it whole.

In today’s gospel, our Lord gives us a pathway toward reconciliation in the community of faith. Scholars remind us that context is crucial. Preceding this gospel passage, the disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest, and our lord calls a child to come into their midst to remind them and us of the importance of innocence, humility, and openness. Then he speaks of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes off to find the one lost sheep and bring it to safety.  For Jesus, no one is beyond the pale. He will search for us and rescue us when we are lost. Following this passage, Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who hurts us, and Jesus says to forgive ninety-nine times. Jesus calls us to be humble, open, hopeful, loving, inclusive, and forgiving.

Our passage reads, “If another member of the church sins against you,…” but the original Greek reads more like, “If a brother or sister sins against  you…” This lets us know that Jesus is thinking of us as brothers and sisters, people who care deeply about each other and who treat each other with respect and love. This means that this approach of conflict resolution is not designed for situations of abuse or domestic violence. In those situations, the first thing is to get the victim to a safe place.

In our gospel scenario, the person who has been hurt goes and talks with the person who has hurt him or her. The hope is that the other person will listen carefully, acknowledge and apologize for the wrong, and change his or her behavior. If that does not work, the injured person gets one or two other members of the congregation to go with him or her and try again to get accountability and amendment of behavior from the person who has caused harm to another. If that does not work, the matter is brought to the whole congregation.

In the early Church, if there was any conflict in the congregation, the people involved had to reconcile that issue before the Peace was exchanged. In those days, the Bishop always presided, so the people stood before the bishop, worked out the matter, and then everyone passed the Peace.

Scholars tell us that the portion that talks about ejecting the person who does not listen and looking upon that person  as “a Gentile or a tax collector” is not something Jesus would say. This is the work of a later editor. We know that Jesus chose a tax collector, Matthew, as one of his apostles, and that he associated with Gentiles. Jesus did not look down on anyone. He did not exclude anyone.

Then he says, “Where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them.” And, indeed, he is with us now whether we are gathering on Zoom or in person. 

In our epistle for today, Paul, the Pharisee, the expert on the law, gives us the summary of the law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And then he says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” Jesus has said that he came to fulfill the law. Our readings today are telling us that God’s love can lead us into freedom. In this time of profound polarization, I ask us all to focus on the love God has for us and for all people and the power of God’s love to bring our country together in a spirit of reconciliation so that we can center our attention on the important work God is calling us to do together.

Grace Church has a long history of love and a wise history and spiritual practice of holding opposites in loving tension, and finding the path to reconciliation. This is a wonderful God-given gift in these times of division. The ability to look at each other and at others beyond our community as beloved children of God is what is going to carry us through these times of polarization into a time of reconciliation. 

As patience frays and tempers flare in this pandemic, I once again thank God for Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and Dr. Kelso, who are exemplifying God’s love by calling us to follow the science and take care of each other. I ask your prayers for them, for all leaders, and for our children, educational leaders, and school personnel as they begin a new term. 

May our our wise and loving God lead our nation out of slavery to divisiveness and destruction into the freedom of reconciliation, respect for the dignity of every human being, and sincere work on common goals which will help all of us. May God give us the grace to see each other as brothers and sisters, neighbors we have in God, that we all may love and serve and help each other. Amen.

May we pray together the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

Advent 4A December 22, 2019

Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

In our first reading today, it is 732 B.C. E. King Ahaz of Judah is in a tough situation. The Assyrian Empire is growing in power. The King’s other northern neighbors, Syria, with its capital Damascus, and  Israel, with its capital Samaria, want him to join them in an alliance against the Assyrians.

The prophet Isaiah is calling Ahaz to have trust in God and to remain neutral in this conflict. Ahaz is only twenty years old, but he really does not want to hear what Isaiah has to say. Biblical scholar Robert Kysar says that Ahaz is telling Isaiah, “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with the facts.” (Kysar, New Proclamation Series A, 1998-1999, p. 25.)

King Ahaz has decided that the best thing to do is to make an alliance with the Assyrians. This will result in disaster as Judah will lose its independence and fall under the control of the powerful Assyrian Empire.

But God never gives up on us, and Isaiah tells the young king that God will send a child born of a young woman, and he shall be called Emmanuel, God with us.

In our gospel, we read about the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. Joseph and Mary are engaged. They have made solemn vows that they will be married and they will be faithful to each other. We enter the story after Mary has told Joseph that she is pregnant. Now Joseph is in an agonizing situation. To all earthly and human appearances, the woman he loves has been unfaithful to him. This astounds Joseph beyond all measure since he has always felt that Mary is as faithful as anyone can be. Looking in on this scene, with two thousand years of hindsight, we know that she is an icon of faith. Later, she will follow Jesus every step of the way and stand at the foot of that horrible cross until every bit of his life has drained out of him.

One thing that always strikes me when we read these lessons is the enormous difference between King Ahaz and Joseph. The text tells us that Joseph is a righteous man. Righteous does not mean someone who thinks he or she knows everything, someone who has rigid beliefs and you have to agree with them. Righteous means having a right relationship with God. It means being open to God’s guidance at all times. As a righteous man, Joseph makes the painful decision to divorce Mary quietly and save her reputation.

Unlike King Ahaz, Joseph is open to God’s leading even in his sleep. In his dream, an angel of the Lord tells him the truth about Mary’s pregnancy. God is bringing a new life into the world. God is coming into the world to bring new life to everyone just as Isaiah had said.

When Joseph wakes from his dream, he does something entirely different from what he had planned and dreaded to do. He marries Mary. And when the baby is born, Joseph follows the angel’s directions and names him Jesus.

Joseph is one of the shining examples in the scriptures. He is a person of deep prayer who listens for the voice of God in everything he does. He takes Mary to Bethlehem, the City of David, and protects her all along the way. Later, when King Herod starts killing little boys so no one can seize his throne, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

Scholars remind us that Jesus was born under the cloud of illegitimacy. His parents were married after he was conceived. And then the holy family became refugees fleeing from a tyrant who was full of hate and fear. All along the way Joseph listens for the guidance of God and follows that guidance. Joseph is a wonderful example of a foster father. Like him, may we listen for the voice of God. May we have the depth of faith that Joseph had.

The light is shining in the darkness. The days have been getting shorter and shorter, and the light shines ever more brightly. The light is shining in the darkness ad the darkness has not overcome that light.

May we make room for Jesus in the inn of our hearts. As Master Eckhardt centuries ago called us to do, may we give birth to Jesus in our lives. As our collect says, “May he find in us a mansion prepared for himself.” Amen.

Pentecost 14 Proper 18A RCL September 10, 2017

Exodus 12:1-14
Psalm 149
Romans 13:8-14
Matthew 18:15-20

In our opening reading from the Book of Exodus, we find the instructions for what has come to be called the Passover. For centuries, our Jewish brothers and sisters have celebrated this feast of their escape from slavery into freedom.

Herbert O’Driscoll reminds us that, because our Lord was crucified and rose from death at the time of the Passover, our Holy Eucharist is associated with that feast. At the time of the Fraction, the celebrant breaks the bread, and we sing, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.”

When we break the bread, this symbolizes the brokenness in our lives, in our communities, in our nations,  and in the world. At the same time, we rejoice in the fact that our Lord has taken all that brokenness,  including the brokenness of death, and made it into the wholeness of new life. We celebrate our own Passover from slavery to sin into the freedom of life in Christ.

In our reading from the Book of Romans, Paul, who is a Pharisee, a scholar of the Law, tells us that great truth—that love is the sum total of the Law. He writes, “The commandments are summed up in this word,  Love your neighbor as yourself. “

Paul tells us that the night is gone and the day is here, and he calls us to “put on the armor of light.” He actually calls us to dress ourselves in Christ, to clothe ourselves in the love and grace of our Lord, and to do only those things which are in harmony with love of God and others.

In our gospel, we recall that a bit earlier, the apostles have asked Jesus who is the greatest and he has taken a child in his arms and called us to become as humble and open and trusting as little children. Following that, Jesus has told the parable of the lost sheep, reminding us that everyone is precious to him, even those whom we might consider to be “lost.” To our Lord, no one is lost or beyond hope.  As further context, following this passage, Peter asks Jesus how many times we must forgive and our Lord answers, “seventy-seven times.”The point is that we should not count the times we forgive each other as we try to live together in community.

In today’s gospel, Jesus gives us a short course in conflict resolution. If someone in our faith community has hurt us, we should talk with them privately. We hope they will acknowledge that they have hurt us, ask our forgiveness, and change their behavior.  If that does not happen, we take one or two others along with us and make another attempt. This means that we are asking the prayers and wisdom and help of others in the community in order to resolve the conflict. If the person refuses to listen to even two or three members of the community then the issue is shared with the whole church.

At this point, we recall that, in the early Church, at the peace, any people who were not reconciled would come before the bishop, who was always the celebrant in the very early Church. Right in front of the whole congregation the bishop would help the people to reconcile. Then the bishop would extend the peace. When the celebrant says, “The peace of the Lord be always with you,” and we answer, “And also with you,” that is the remnant in our service of the early process of reconciliation. The community would not move ahead into the Eucharistic Prayer until they were all reconciled with each other.

Scholars tell us that we need to look at the the next part of this passage with great care.  Jesus would not say that we should excommunicate people or shun people. These are words added later, by an editor. Jesus was criticized for associating with Gentiles and tax collectors. He loved these people. He even called a tax collector, Matthew, to be one of the apostles. So he would not say that we should treat people as Gentiles and tax collectors.

At the end of our passage for today, Jesus says, “When two or three are gathered in my name, I am among them.” When we are gathered in his name, this means that we are gathered with a clear sense that, in his view, no one is “lost,” or beyond the pale. Everyone is worthy of respect. Our baptismal vows call us to “respect the dignity of every human being,” and we are called to forgive countless times. When we gather in his name, we are centered and focused in his love.

Once again, I must emphasize that this gospel does not apply to situations of abuse or domestic violence. These provisions apply to life in community where everyone is considered precious and equal. In situations of abuse or violence, we must do all we can to help victims get to a place of safety.

God cared deeply about God’s people enslaved in Egypt and called Moses to lead them to freedom. God with us, Emmanuel, God walking the face of the earth, died and rose again to lead us to freedom through life in him. Paul, a Pharisee who had devoted his life to the law, has been transformed in Christ and tells us that love is at the center of everything. Our Lord calls us to resolve any conflicts and to practice the ministry of reconciliation so that we can keep the community of faith strong and ready to respond to any need.

Love is at the center of everything. Amen.

Pentecost 14 Proper 19A RCL September 14, 2014

Exodus 14:19-31

Psalm 114

Romans 14:1-12

Matthew 18:21-35

This morning we read the dramatic story of God’s people crossing the Red Sea. This passage tells us that God can lead us into freedom. It also tells us something about traveling light. The Israelites can move over the sea of reeds and not sink in. but the Egyptians, with their chariots and horses, sink up to their axles and get stuck. This makes me think of the story of David and Goliath. God is rooting for the under dog. God loves everyone, and God especially treasures ordinary folks like you and me. God protects us, leads us, and guides us. We are called to pray constantly for God’s direction.

In our epistle, Paul is addressing differences between people in congregations. In the early Church, some folks had come from the Jewish tradition and were still following the dietary laws and celebrating the holy days and festivals. Other people might have been coming from a tradition of worshipping at the temples of the Roman gods and celebrating other festivals. We do not know the exact details, but we know that the new church was drawing people from all kinds of backgrounds.

Every congregation has differences of opinion. Some people like the traditional language; some like the contemporary. Some like incense; some do not. We could go on and on. We also have political differences. We could go on and on about that.

One thing that Paul is saying is that, if we focus on Christ, these differences assume their proper place. Our oneness in Christ is the important thing. We should not judge each other. In fact, Paul says that each of us has to be responsible for our own beliefs and behavior. It’s between each of us and God. I would add that our differences make us strong, and that, as long as we place our Lord at the center of our lives, we will be one as he and God are one.

Our gospel draws all of this together. Peter asks Jesus that very  important question: “If another member of the church sins against me, how often shall I forgive? As many as seven times?” Peter is being generous here. The rabbis said to forgive three times, and Peter is expanding it to seven. But then Jesus says seventy-seven times. Other translations say seventy times seven, or 490 times. And then Jesus tells a parable.

A king wants to settle accounts with his slaves. The first one owes him ten thousand talents. Scholars wonder how a slave could even accumulate such a debt. It is huge. Biblical scholar Thomas Troeger tells us that a talent is about fifteen years worth of wages. Therefore, ten thousand talents is 150,000 years worth of wages.

Troeger says, “If we calculate this in modern terms and allow fifteen dollars per hour after deductions and a forty hour work week, we come up with$600 per week or $31,200 per year, which in 150,000 years would equal forty-six million dollars. Forty-six million dollars! The king forgives him forty-six million dollars!”

The send slave owes a hundred denarii. A denarius is one day’s wages. Troeger says that one hundred denarii would have been a hundred days in back wages.He writes, “ If, once again, we figure fifteen dollars an hour, an eight hour day would be worth $120, or twelve thousand dollars for a hundred days.”

Troeger continues, “The slave who is forgiven a debt of forty-six million dollars refuses to forgive a fellow worker a twelve thousand dollar debt even after the man promises him, ‘I will pay you.’ After walking away scot free from the king, the first slave sends his fellow worker to debtor’s prison.” (Troeger, New Proclamation 1999, p. 218.)

I find Troeger’s calculations helpful because they point out the almost unbelievable amount the first slave has been forgiven—46 million dollars and his inability to extend that forgiveness for a comparatively tiny debt of twelve thousand dollars.

The point is that God is more generous to us than we can even imagine. God showers us with gifts of grace and forgiveness and healing. If we are truly aware of how much God has done for us, we will be generous and forgiving to others.

Of course, the ultimate point that our Lord is making is that we should not be going around carrying calculators. God has done so much for us. God has extended to us such love and forgiveness. We are called to extend that love and forgiveness to others.

This call to forgive seventy-seven times or 490 times, to stop counting the number of times we forgive, is a call to those of us living in Christian community. In Christian communities, we know that we are called to respect every person. We are also called to extend God’s love and forgiveness to those outside our communities.

But, a word of caution. This does not apply to cases of child abuse or domestic abuse. Children and adults who have been abused need to be protected, placed in safe environments, and helped to recover. Perpetrators of abuse must be held accountable and prevented from hurting anyone else. Nor does this reading apply to cases of international abuse or genocide. In those cases, those committing the abuse need to be called to be accountable.

The United States is working with other nations to deal with a terrorist group, ISIS, or the Islamic State, or ISIL, which is terrorizing and killing Muslims, Christians, women, and children. The nations of the world are gathering in order to deal with this very grave situation. Please keep our President and Congress and the leaders of our nation and the world in your prayers.

Meanwhile, even in the face of this horror, we are called to be people of compassion. May we pray again our Collect, Page 233.

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Hoy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.