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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 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 February 12, 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 February 19, 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:…

Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Ashes are a symbol of mortality. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. It is good to be reminded of our mortality and our weakness. Yet within these ashes is a paradox, because these ashes are made from the palms we waved on Palm Sunday, palms we would have placed on the road in front of our Lord to welcome him as our King. We are on a journey to grow into the likeness of Christ our King. We are on a journey to grow from brokenness to wholeness. This Ash Wednesday we will be putting the ashes on our own foreheads. We will be fasting from the sensation of having the ashes placed on our foreheads by a fellow-journeyer in Christ. Some us do not have ashes to place on our foreheads, but we can still be aware of our mortality by tracing the sign of the cross on our foreheads. All of us are here because we want to observe a holy and life-giving Lent. The word Lent, after all, comes from the Middle English word lente, meaning “spring.”

We are beginning a time of prayer, fasting, self-examination, and spiritual growth. Some of us are also participating in the Social Justice Bible Challenge and Lent Madness.

Our opening reading comes from the person we call the Third Isaiah. God’s people have come home from their exile in Babylon and have begun to rebuild the temple and the city wall. They have become discouraged at the huge task before them. They fast and pray, but they argue and treat each other badly. They oppress their workers. The summary of the law calls us to love God and to treat others as we would have then treat us. Their behavior does not match their profession of faith.

God calls them to an authentic fast that includes social justice. And God calls them and us to “Loose the bonds of injustice,…to let the oppressed go free”…to share our bread with the hungry, to give shelter to the homeless, to clothe the naked—in other words, to extend the love of God to our brothers and sisters of all colors and creeds.

In our epistle, Paul calls us to “be reconciled to God,” In order to do that, we need to take the words of God spoken through Isaiah very seriously. As Christians, we are called to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

In our gospel, our Lord reminds us that our spiritual growth is between us and God. We are not focusing on earthly treasure, but on the precious heavenly treasure of God’s love and grace. We are fasting, praying, and giving to deepen our love for God and others.

This year, we have been through so much with Covid and everything else. Bishop Shannon is inviting us to focus on social justice issues, and I think that is a wonderful idea. We need to heal our nation, just as Isaiah’s community needed to heal their nation twenty-five hundred years ago. God is calling us to treat each other as beloved children of our loving God.

During this liturgy for Ash Wednesday, we would normally celebrate Holy Eucharist. We will not be doing that. We have been fasting from Holy Communion for eleven months, except for one Distanced Communion. We have not been together in person inside our church building for a very long time. We have much in common with God’s people who spent several decades in exile in Babylon.

My point is that we have already been engaged in a very long fast from singing together in person, celebrating Holy Communion, talking to each other face to face, hugging each other, gathering for coffee hour and conversation in person. So, as we follow our Lenten discipline, I ask that we try to be especially aware of God’s love for us, God’s love that cannot be stopped or diminished. And then let us be aware our love for God and each other, our love for all our brothers and sisters, and let us work, fast, and pray to increase and deepen that love. Let us work and pray that we may become “repairers of the breach” and “restorers of streets to live in.” Amen.

Meditation and A Prayer of Self-Offering

We have just exchanged the Peace and sung the Offertory Hymn. As we all know, we will not be celebrating Holy Eucharist. This is a huge loss. It has been an extended exile, a wandering in the wilderness. Nothing can replace sharing Holy Eucharist. Nothing can replace greeting and hugging each other at the Peace. But rather than simply reverting to the ending for Morning Prayer to conclude the service, I wanted to acknowledge the fast we have been in and the exile we have been experiencing.

We are not able literally to stand before the altar at Grace and place bread, wine, and money on the altar, to represent our offering of our God-given time, talent and treasure to God, but, at this time of offering when we would normally move into the Eucharistic Prayer, we offer to you, our loving God, our feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, hopelessness, powerlessness, all the feelings that are welling up during this time of exile and pandemic.

Loving and forgiving and healing God, we thank you for keeping us together, for giving us strength to keep gathering virtually. Thank you for your gift of faith, for those glimmers of hope, for the gift of perseverance. Thank you for binding us together with your love.

Lord Jesus, we are not celebrating Communion, but we know that you are here with us, You told us that where two or three are gathered, you would be with us and you would hear our prayers. We cannot literally receive your Body and Blood today, but we know that you are giving us spiritual food and energy. 

We know that you are walking the Way of Love, the Way of the Cross, with us. Thank you for your presence and for your love. Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit leading and guiding us. Because of you, we are here. You have called us together.

With all our heart, we thank you, and we offer our selves and our lives to your service. Lead us and guide us, that we may observe a Holy Lent, that we may love and serve you with singleness of heart, and that we may share your love with others. In your Holy Name, the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

Ash Wednesday    February 14, 2018

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Here we are, on Ash Wednesday in the year 2018. Today, we will receive ashes on our foreheads which will remind us that we are frail human beings, and we need God’s help. We are dust, and to dust we shall return.These ashes are made from the palms with which we welcomed our Lord at the beginning of Holy Week.

We are here because we are about to begin another Lent, a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, a time to deepen our relationship with God, a time to confess our sins, ask for God’s healing and grace, and get back on track so that we can follow Jesus as faithfully as possible.

Our reading from Isaiah comes from the time when the exiles had returned to Jerusalem. They were trying to rebuild the temple, their homes, and their lives, and they were becoming more and more discouraged.  They were beginning to argue with each other instead of working together. Their worship was reflecting this situation. They were going through the motions but not opening their lives to God. They were forgetting that love of God means that we also love our neighbor, and they were even oppressing their workers.

In this passage, God is calling them and us to worship with sincerity and faith and to trust in God’s response to true worship. As we do our work of self-examination this Lent and as we discover the ways in which we need to grow, God will help us with God’s grace. God does answer prayers. In this passage, God is also calling us to remember  that we engage in prayer and fasting and self-examination not only to grow in our love for God, but also to enable us to reach out in love to others.

In our passage from Isaiah, God calls us to “loose the bonds of injustice, …to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke, to share our bread with the hungry,” to give shelter to the homeless and clothing to those who have none. As we accept God’s love and extend that love to others, we are all transformed in the process. As Isaiah says, “[our] light shall rise in the darkness.”

Jesus talks about this in the gospel. Our spiritual discipline is between us and God. It is not a matter for outward show. As we pray, and as we try to increase our giving to others, and as we ask God’s help in dealing with the sins and flaws that keep getting in our way, God’s light and love will fill us more and more.

Lent comes from the middle English word “lente” meaning “springtime.” Lent is a time of growth. Yes, we fast. We simplify our lives. We give up something as a form of self-denial. We give alms in order to help those who need our help. We increase our prayer time if we can in order to spend more time with God and seek God’s direction. All of this helps us grow stronger in the faith so that we can share God’s love and healing more and more.

In our epistle for today, Paul calls us to “be reconciled to God.” Perhaps the most wonderful part of Lent or any time of penitence and self-examination is that such a season gives us the opportunity to grow even closer to God. As we simplify our schedules and our diet, and as we add more prayer time or whatever we feel God is asking us to do, the spiritual light in our lives grows just as surely as the light is increasing with the approach of spring. We are walking the way of the cross, and that way always leads to lightness and newness of life.

As a part of our spiritual life, the Church offers the sacrament of Reconciliation in which we can make our confession to a priest and receive God’s absolution. Lent is also a good time to seek spiritual guidance. If you would like to explore these, please let me know.

May our loving God be with us all as we make our Lenten journey. Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 1, 2017

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a time of penitence, that is, sorrow for our sins. It is a time for honest self-examination, a time to ask our Lord’s help in allowing him to transform us into the persons he calls us to be. The Greek word for this is metanoia.  We have seen him transfigured on the holy mountain, and we are deeply committed to growing into his likeness. The ashes that will soon form the sign of the cross on our foreheads have been made from the palms that we waved on Palm Sunday to welcome our King. We will go with him to the cross and we will move with him into newness of life.

In our first reading, Isaiah reminds us that if we truly love God, we will love our neighbor. We will be a people of justice; we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless.

In our epistle, Paul tells us that this is the time to be reconciled to God, that is to grow as close to God as we possibly can.

In our gospel, our Lord calls us not to make an outward show of our spiritual practice, but to do an honest evaluation of our spiritual state and to follow spiritual practices that will build up treasures in heaven, that is, practices that will bring us closer to God. Our Lord also reminds us that deep and true spirituality is the source of great joy.

How do we do an honest assessment of or spiritual condition? One way is the summary of the law, “Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself.” Our reading from Isaiah also speaks to this.

Another guideline would be the Ten Commandments. We will be reading these each Sunday during Lent.

Another set of guidelines for self-examination and transformation are the Seven Root Sins, also called the Seven Deadly Sins, counter- balanced by the Cardinal Virtues and the Theological Virtues. These insights have come from many sources, but I especially thank David Brown, beloved mentor and former rector at Christ Church, Montpelier, now retired in Connecticut, for his wisdom and guidance.

So here we go with the Seven Root Sins, or as David used to say, “Sins I have known and loved,” and don’t we all!

First comes pride, doing it our way instead of God’s way.

Wrath, (Ira), not normal healthy anger, but holding onto a grudge, nursing it until it becomes a voracious cancer that infects everything we think and say and do.

Envy—the inability to rejoice in the blessings bestowed on others.

Greed—wanting more than we have.

Gluttony—taking more than we need.

Lust—Using other people, exploiting others for our own needs.

Sloth (acedie)—Giving in to that “I don’t care” attitude. Despair. Giving up hope.

On the positive side, we have the Cardinal Virtues.

Prudence—Kenneth Kirk defines prudence as, “The habit of referring all questions to God.” Constant communication with God. Lord, what is your will in this situation? What would you call me to do or not do?

Justice—treating everyone equally. “Respecting the dignity of every human being.”

Temperance—Balance. Like steel that has been tempered in fire and ice. Flexibility. Again, a sense of humor.

Fortitude. The grace and ability to hang in there with faith and patience on the side of God’s shalom.

And the Theological Virtues—

Faith—Total trust in God.

Hope—The ability to look at a situation in all if its brokenness and see the potential and the path for growth and healing.

Love—Accepting God’s unconditional love for everyone, including ourselves, and extending that love to others.

Always remember that Lent comes from the root word meaning “spring,” a time of growth and renewal.

In addition to all of these resources, many of us are using “Living Life Marked as Christ’s Own.”

May this Lent be full of joy and growth and healing for all of us.

Special prayers for jan’s surgery tomorrow.

Amen.

Ash Wednesday March 5, 2014

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Psalm 103:8-14
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6; 16-21

Our first reading for this Ash Wednesday comes from the Book of Joel, one of the so-called minor prophets, such as Amos and Hosea, whose books are grouped at the end of the old Testament, or Hebrew Scriptures. Scholars tell us that Joel lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah from 539 to 331 B. C. His ministry took place from about 400 to 350 B. C. This was during the time after the exiles had returned home from Babylon.

Scholars tell us that Judah is being invaded by a huge army of locusts, so many that they make the sky turn dark. This is a major disaster, something like Hurricane Katrina or Tropical Storm Irene in our own times. An enormous amount of damage is going to be done. The invasion of insects is compared to a military attack by an enemy.

In the face of this disaster, Joel, who is a prophet associated with the temple in Jerusalem, is calling the people to turn to God in worship. He is calling people of all ages, from babies who are still nursing to elderly people. He is calling people in all circumstances, even brides and bridegrooms. And he is calling us to “rend our hearts and not our garments,” in other words, to enter into sincere repentance, to turn our entire beings to focus on God and on God’s will for us, not merely to engage in external, rote worship. This is in complete harmony with the gospel for this day.

In our epistle for today, Paul is calling the Corinthians and us to “be reconciled to God.” This is a wonderful theme for Lent. We are called to seek God’s help in growing closer to God during these forty days.

Our gospel gives us so much good food for thought. Back in Jesus’ time there were some folks who would fast and pray and give alms in order to appear virtuous or to draw attention to themselves. Our Lord tells that our spiritual life is something very private, something that is between us and God. Jesus says that, when we fast and pray, we should not show any outward signs of this discipline, but we should anoint ourselves with oil and wash or face. In other words, as someone has said, “It’s an inside job.” We are called to do our spiritual work. We are called to do what we need to do in order to grow closer to God. But Jesus calls us not to make a show of our spiritual discipline. Our motive for praying and fasting and following our Lenten discipline is not to make a public display, but to engage in rigorous self-examination, acknowledge our sins to God, and receive God’s forgiveness.

And then our Lord calls us not to store up treasure on earth, but in heaven. Jesus is reminding us not to place our trust in material things, but to put our trust in him. It is so easy to lapse into materialism. It is so easy to begin to trust in the things of this world. But we are called to trust in God.

What a profound statement we have in this gospel: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We are called to consider our faith in God and our relationship with God as a great treasure in our lives.

Lent comes from the root word for spring, and Lent is a time of spiritual growth. It is a time when we follow a spiritual discipline, maybe giving up some things or taking on some things. All in order to grow closer to God. It is a process of metanoia, conversion, transformation. What we give up or take on is between each of us and God. Each of us has prayed and asked God’s guidance as we prepare to walk the way of the Cross.

We have seen our Lord transfigured on the mountain, and we want to grow into the persons God calls us to be. So we follow our Lenten discipline to allow that to happen. The ashes on our foreheads today were made from the palms strewn in his path on Palm Sunday. We are marked as Christ’s own forever. So we will walk with him and he will walk with us. And our journey will lead to a garden and a mock trial and a horrible death and then new life.

Lord Jesus, give us grace to walk the Way of the Cross faithfully with you. Amen.