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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 18, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 25, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Epiphany 3A January 26, 2020

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Our first reading, this powerful and moving passage from Isaiah, is also our first reading on Christmas Day. Scholars tell us that this text dates back to around 725 B.C.E. The Assyrian Empire has defeated the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, has been living in deep fear and anguish. They have been terrified that the Assyrians will defeat them, too.

A new king has been born, and God is telling the people that they are moving from the darkness of that fear into the light. God has freed them from the oppressor. There will be a new kingdom of justice and compassion. As Christians, we immediately think of the reign of our King, Jesus, who comes among us to break every yoke/

Our psalm describes what life is like in the light, the presence of God. Yes, life has many challenges, but we do not live in fear. We sense the presence and protection of God. Both our reading from Isaiah and our psalm for today are filled with the  joy of being in the presence of God.

Last week, our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians focused on the gifts which God has given them—and us— so that they and we, can follow Christ and be a loving community. In today’s passage, Paul is beginning to address some of the major problems that are affecting the community in Corinth.

There are some people in the Corinthian community who feel that their gifts are superior to the gifts of other people. For example, some of the people feel that the gift of speaking in tongues is the highest gift of all, and, if you don’t have that gift, you are inferior. In Chapter 13 of this letter, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that the greatest gift is love.

 In today’s text, Paul is pointing out that the members of the community have divided up into factions. Some are following a man named Apollos, a charismatic teacher who had come through town and attracted followers in the congregation. Others are following Paul, others Peter, and so on. The question is, who are we supposed to be following? The answer is, not Paul, nor Peter, not Apollos, but Jesus. 

Herbert O’Driscoll talks about “the indignant claim to being right or superior or more genuine than others….a putting down of someone else, an excluding of them from some real or imagined charmed circle of orthodoxy or shared spiritual experience. The message—rarely put into words—is, ‘I am of Christ, and you are not!’” (O’Driscoll, The Word Today Year A Vol. 1, p. 81.)

We can tell from reading this passage that Paul is deeply troubled by these divisions. Christ was crucified for us, not Paul. We were baptized in the name of Christ, and he is the head of the Church. One of the great strengths of Grace Church is that you keep these truths constantly in mind. You remember that you are following Christ, and that he calls you to be a community of love.

In our gospel for today, Jesus learns that John the Baptist has been put in prison. This is ominous news. Jesus had gone South to be baptized by John the Baptist. This brought him closer to Jerusalem, where Herod Antipas ruled. Now he moves north to Galilee, where there is more distance from the center of Herod’s ruthless and unjust tyranny.

And what does our Lord do? He can see that Herod is asserting his deadly control, ready to extinguish any flickering flame of justice or compassion. He could have allowed fear to deflect him from his mission. He could have run away. He could have tried to hide. 

But he does not run away or hide. He knows that it is time for him to form a community. He knows that he is not going to spread the good news of the light and love of God alone. He knows what Isaiah has written. He knows that it is time for the light to shine. Walking by the Sea of Galilee, he sees Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, casting their nets, and he says those words we will never forget: “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately, they leave their nets and follow him. A little further along, he sees James and John, the sons of Zebedee, on the boat with their father, and he calls them. They leave the boat and their father, and follow him.

And then, very simply, Matthew tells us that Jesus went all around Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. We can imagine that, as he and Peter and Andrew and James and John went from place to place, others joined them.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We have seen that light. Our darkness has been enlightened by the light and love of our Lord. We are following him. With his grace, we are sharing his love.

In our Collect for today, we pray that God will give us the grace to answer “the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the good news of his salvation…”

This past Tuesday, the clients of the food shelf gathered in the new building. There, Nancy and Debbie welcomed the people and signed them up to receive food. Some folks shared their needs and illnesses and challenges. We prayed with them. And then we prayed together for all the folks who come for help. Meanwhile, our volunteers were at work in the church undercroft packing and distributing the food. It was a very cold day, but they  cheerfully helped the clients carry their food to their vehicles.

Our volunteers did a lot of hard work in that extremely cold weather, but there was no complaining. Our clients had to wait for a long period of time but there was no complaining. There was a lot of laughter, and love, and light. In this and many other ways, we are receiving the grace to answer the call of our Lord and to share the good news of his salvation. Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts. Amen. 

Lent 1 Year A March 5, 2017

 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

In our Five Marks of Love Lenten series, Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist has a meditation called, “You Are My Beloved.” Brother Mark reminds us that, according to Mark’s gospel, when Jesus was baptized, God spoke to him, saying, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.” Brother Mark goes on to say that Jesus’ journey of forty days in the wilderness gave him time to absorb the reality of God’s love for him.

I was happy to read this meditation because I had been having similar thoughts. During those forty days, Jesus was absorbing the depth and breadth of God’s love for him. His entire ministry was rooted and grounded in God’s love. Every word and action of Jesus during his entire ministry poured out God’s unconditional love.

We know that Lent is a time of self-examination. We take an honest look at our lives. We confess our sins. Sins are those things that get between us and God, between us and others, and between us and our true selves. We humbly confess our sins. And we ask God to give us grace so that we can grow, so that we can become more like our Lord Jesus. And we thank God for the areas of grace and love in our lives, times when we have followed the Ten Commandments, and the cardinal and theological virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and love.

Lent is a time for growth, a time to allow God to give us the grace to take our next steps in our spiritual growth.

In order to do this, we need to accept and absorb God’s love. God loves you. God loves me. Not because of anything we have done, but simply because God loves us. God is saying to us what God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you”

For many of us, perhaps most of us, accepting the sheer fact of God’s unconditional love is extremely difficult. How can God, who knows all our faults, all our frailties, all our mistakes and weaknesses, love us unconditionally? If we are parents or grandparents, or loving aunts and uncles, or if we have a beloved pet, we can begin to understand this. God knows we are far from perfect, and God loves us with the wild abandon of a mom or dad, a grandparent, or a devoted owner of a pet. God loves us without reservation. God loves you and me with all God’s infinitely big heart. Each of us is and all of us are the apple of God’s eye.

Yes, but—Lent is a time for penitence, a time to look at our sins in their stark reality, confess them, express our sincere sorrow about them, and ask God’s grace to grow closer to God.

That is true. Lent is a time for growth and transformation. But our journey of transformation becomes much easier and much more joyful the more we are able, with God’s grace, to accept the fact that God loves us, sins and all, warts and all, with a love that will forever boggle our minds. God is here right now to help us blundering, bumbling humans to grow into the fullness of the persons God calls us to be.  So, I am encouraging us to spend some time this Lent accepting and absorbing the fact that God loves you no matter what. God will never stop loving you, and God is here to help you.

As we accept God’s love, we are of course called to share that love. The Five Marks of Love tell us what we are called to be doing and are already doing, with God’s help.

 

  • Proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom (Tell);
  • Teach, baptize, and nurture new believers (Teach);
  • Respond to human need by loving service (Tend);
  • Transform unjust structures, challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation (Transform);
  • Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth (Treasure).

Yes, we are frail and fallible humans, and it is important for us to take stock of our lives and, with God’s help, do any course corrections which may be needed. But, as Brother Mark reminds us, we are also members of the risen body of Christ, called to share his love, healing, and forgiveness in a broken world. Each of us is beloved by God.

May we accept his love. May we absorb his love. May we share his love with others.  Amen.

Epiphany 3 RCL January 26, 2014

Annual Meeting

Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-13
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4: 12-23

What inspiring reading we have for this Sunday of Annual Meeting.

Our opening lesson from Isaiah is one of the readings appointed for Christmas. Scholars tell us that this passage is announcing the birth of a king from David’s line and that it may refer to King Hezekiah of Judah. For us as Christians, it refers to our Lord Jesus Christ. He brings us out of darkness into light. He frees us from all that oppresses us. What a wonderful reading this is for the week in which we have celebrated Martin Luther King’s legacy.

In our epistle, Paul is addressing the serious problems of division in the congregation in Corinth. This is a community which Paul had founded and shepherded for eighteen months. Now they are dividing into factions and being mean to each other. We can tell how anguished Paul is over these behaviors.  We can hear it in his voice as he asks,  “Has Christ been divided?  Was Paul crucified for you?” Paul calls us to be one in Christ and to be loving and respectful toward each other and to all who come to be with us.

In our gospel, Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been arrested. This is not good. Now John is in the awful prison of Herod Antipas, a ruthless ruler who will stop at nothing. Jesus has been in the south near Jerusalem, dangerous territory. He moves from Nazareth to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee., the “land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali” mentioned in our first lesson.

Jesus is now going to move forward with his ministry. He is going to form a community. We can imagine him getting to know these strong, sturdy, hardworking fishermen. He calls people to repent, to turn to God and let God transform their lives. And he calls Peter and Andrew, James and John. He tells them and us, “I will make you fish for people.”

Capernaum was much like Sheldon. It was a small town where people worked hard. Jesus chose these people to form the core of his community.

Today, as we gather for our Annual Meeting, we can celebrate many gifts that we have received. Jesus is the light of our lives. We are no longer stumbling around in the darkness. He leads us and guides us. All we have to do is ask for his direction.

We are not divided into factions who follow Apollos or Paul or Cephas. We are all one in Christ. We are a community built on mutual love and respect. These are precious gifts which our Lord has given us.

This morning, Jesus is calling each of us and all of us together to follow him. He is calling us to spread the good news of his love and healing. Just as he called Peter and Andrew, just as he called James and John, so he is calling us to live as a community which shows forth his vision of transformation for the world.

May we answer his call. May we be one in him.  Amen.