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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:…

Easter 7B May 16, 2021

Acts 1:15-17. 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John  5:9-13
John 17: 6-19

This past Thursday the Church celebrated the feast of the Ascension. Forty days after Easter, our Lord ascended into heaven. Our window at Grace portrays this scene, with the apostles looking up into heaven as Jesus ascends to be with God. This Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, carries echoes of the Ascension as we worship Jesus as our King.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, the apostles are facing a very important decision. Judas Iscariot had betrayed our Lord, pointing out Jesus so that the authorities could arrest him. This meant that there were only eleven apostles remaining. 

Peter now calls the gathered group of Jesus’ followers, about 120 people, to choose someone to complete the company of the apostles. Peter says, “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Peter calls the group to pray together for God’s guidance and to choose one of the men who have been with Jesus during his entire ministry on earth. They are going to choose someone who has been with Jesus through everything, who knows Jesus, who has eaten meals with our Lord, read the scriptures with him, learned from him, prayed with him, gathered with the others after the horror of the cross, and met the risen Lord after his resurrection. This person will join the apostles as a witness to the resurrection of our Lord.

They choose Justus and Matthias. And then they pray to God  to show them which of these men God has chosen. That man is Matthias.

As we read this wonderful story of the completion of the company of the apostles, the choosing of Matthias, I couldn’t help but think that his story is our story, too. We have not literally walked and talked with Jesus, Jesus has not literally  “gone in and out among us,” but he has been in our midst. He has led us and guided us as our Good Shepherd. We have read the scriptures together and prayed together. We have shared our struggles and supported each other. And always, always, he has been with us. And he has called us to follow him, just as he called Peter and James and John and Matthias.

The feast day of Matthias is celebrated on February 24. We know very little about this person except that he was called to serve with the other eleven as a “witness to the resurrection.” Once again, this is our story too. We did not literally stand at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and John, the beloved apostle. We were not physically there on the first Easter morning.

But we have faithfully walked the way of the cross with our Lord. We have all walked through our own dark nights of the soul and our own experiences of death and brokenness and hopelessness. And we have all gone to the tomb expecting more death and brokenness only to find him standing there, once we recognize him. And we recognize him when he calls our name. There is the beloved voice of our Good Shepherd calling us. Calling us into new life.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is praying to God before he goes to his death on the cross. He says that he has guarded his flock as a good and faithful shepherd does. He prays that his followers “might have my joy complete in themselves.” And then he prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

What would it mean for us to have the joy of Christ complete in ourselves? What would it mean for us to be wrapped in the holiness and wholeness of “the truth?” One meaning of Christ’s joy might be that he has guarded us and protected us. This does not mean that life is without its challenges, even tragedies. But through them all he has been there, by our side, or out in front leading us, or even carrying us when the going got really tough. His joy means that, as Paul said, “Death has no more dominion.” (Romans 6:9.) Life and love conquer death, brokenness, and hate.

What is God’s truth? If we reflect carefully on the gospels and the life of our Lord, God’s truth is Jesus walking the face of the earth. God’s truth is that God loves everyone and God calls us to do the same. God has a big family and God calls us to welcome everybody into that family and share that love. Love is stronger that any power on earth, stronger by far than hate or fear, or division.

If we have the joy of Jesus complete in us, it means, not that we deny the forces of death and brokenness in the world, but that we look those forces in the face and then we remember that Christ is with us; he has conquered all death and brokenness, and we are following him. Underneath the considerably depressing realities of this world, we have the presence of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the everlasting and loving arms of God.

If we are made holy and whole in the truth, we remember that God is love, that, as the old hymn says, “God is working his purpose out,” that God cares deeply about all people, and that God is a God of justice, and, again and always, God is a God of love.

We are in the last laps of our Covid journey. Hang in there. Keep the faith. We will gather next Sunday for the Feast of Pentecost. Please wear red to symbolize the flames of the Holy Spirit. 

Meanwhile, let us remember that, like Matthias, we are called to be witnesses of the resurrection. We are called to be people of love, people of hope, people of healing. Amen. Alleluia!

Lent 2B February 28, 2021

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:22-30
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

In our first reading today, we meet Abram and Sarai, who will become Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is a shining example of someone who has deep and abiding faith in God. God is telling Abraham and Sarah that God is going to make Abraham and Sarah the parents of  “a multitude of nations.” Abraham is 99 and Sarah is not far behind him in age, yet God is making this covenant with them. They will have as many descendants as the number of grains of sand on the beach or the number of stars in the sky.

Frederick Buechner is a Presbyterian minister and writer who lives in southern Vermont. Here is his description of Abraham and Sarah. “They had quite a life, the old pair. Years before. they had gotten off to a good start in Mesopotamia. They had a nice house in the suburbs with a two-car garage and color TV and a barbecue pit. They had a room all fixed up for when the babies started coming. With their health and each other and their families behind them they had what is known as a future. Sarah got her clothes at Bonwit’s, did volunteer work at the hospital, was a member of the League of Women Voters. Abraham was pulling down an excellent salary for a young man, plus generous fringe benefits and an enlightened retirement plan. And then they got religion, or religion got them, and Abraham was convinced that what God wanted them to do was pull up stakes and head out for Canaan where God promised that he would make Abraham the father of a great nation which would in turn be a blessing to all nations and that’s where their troubles started.

“They put their house on the market and gave the color TV to the hospital and got a good price for the crib and bassinet because they had never been used and were as good as new….

“So off they went in their station wagon with a U-Haul behind and a handful of friends and relations, who, if they didn’t share Abraham’s religious convictions, decided to hitch their wagon to his star anyway.

(Buechner, Telling the truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, pp. 50-51.)

Abraham and Sarah lived in Ur of the  Chaldeans, which is now a city in southern Iraq. The distance from Ur to Canaan is 3,461 miles. Abraham and Sara had no idea where they were going. God told them God would lead them there, and they trusted God. Think of starting on a journey to an unknown land and trusting God to help us find the way. That is real faith. Think of packing everything into a U-Haul and driving into the unknown. Think of packing everything onto camels or donkeys. Abraham and Sarah had deep faith. And, since we know the ending, we know that they persevered to the end. Sarah had a son, Isaac.

The other example of faith I would like to share today is Eric Liddell. In Holy Women, Holy Men and A Great Cloud of Witnesses, his commemoration date is February 22. Eric was born to Scottish missionaries in China in 1902. He and his older  brother Rob, were sent to a school for the children of missionaries in London. In school and later at the University of Edinburgh, Eric was a champion runner and rugby prayer. He was also an excellent student and a person of deep faith. On their leaves from missionary work, his family lived in Scotland, and the film Chariots of Fire portrays Eric running fleet-footed in the Scottish highlands.

In the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Eric was slated to run the 100 meter race and was strongly favored to win the gold medal. After arriving in Paris, Eric was told that the race was scheduled for a Sunday. Because he strongly believed in the observance of the Sabbath, Eric refused to run the race. He ran the 400 meter race and won the gold medal. He also ran the 200 meter and won a bronze medal behind two American runners.

After his graduation from Edinburgh, Eric returned to the area in China where he had been born and served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943. In 1932, he was ordained a minister in the Congregational Union of Scotland. Because of conflict between China and Japan, the missionaries suffered many hardships. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the British government advised all British citizens to leave the country. Eric’s wife, Florence, who was from Canada, took their three children and went to be near her parents.

Eric and his brother Rob stayed on and continued their work. In 1943 Eric was interned in the Japanese concentration camp in Weihsein. This camp held 1,800 people from many allied countries under terrible conditions. Holy Women, Holy Men tells us that Eric won the trust of his captors so that he could go around the camp and minister to his fellow prisoners. He died shortly before the camp’s liberation on August 17, 1945. He was 43 years old.

We have Abraham and Sarah and so many other people of deep faith, On Tuesday, we remembered Polycarp, a faithful and gentle Bishop who was burned at the stake. On Wednesday, Matthias, who replaced Judas as an apostle, on Thursday,  John Roberts, a priest who worked with First Nation people in Wyoming. We are all on a journey of faith, and thank God for all the holy examples of people we have to guide us. We are all taking up our cross, trying, with God’s grace, to follow our Lord Jesus in the way of the Cross, the Way of Love.

We can think of Abraham and Sarah, traveling all those miles without a road map, GPS, cars, or airplanes. We can think of Eric Liddell, a champion athlete in sport, and a champion of faith, doing all he could do to comfort his fellow prisoners who were suffering under inhumane conditions. And all the saints of God who have shared God’s love and hope with others over all these centuries. We are part of that great cloud of witnesses. And we love and support each other. Through this wilderness journey we have stayed together and prayed together and encouraged each other. And in the midst of us, often out ahead us leading us, is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, making sure we stay on track, nourishing us with his presence, protecting us so that we can share the good news of his love.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost  May 20, 2018

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Today we are celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are waiting and praying. Their community has survived the betrayal of Judas. Under God’s guidance, they have chosen Matthias to complete the company of the apostles. They are all together in the house where they have been gathering, and suddenly there is a sound like the rushing wind as the Holy Spirit fills the house and flames of fire dance over their heads and they burst forth in all the languages of the known world the world around the Mediterranean Sea.

God is bringing forth a new thing, God is giving birth to a new community, God’s big family, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it. The apostles are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of God’s love so that each person there hears this wonderful news in his or her native tongue.

And just to make sure that everyone understands, Peter completes this extraordinary event with a sermon. God is fulfilling the prophecy of Joel, that the people will see visions and dream dreams, and God will pour out God’s Spirit on all people.

In our gospel for today, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will come, and will lead us into all truth. The Spirit is still leading us into the truth about the depth of God’s love for us and the call of our Lord to help him to build his shalom of peace and love.

In our epistle for today, Paul talks about this birth process of a new thing, a new vision for life, the vision rooted and grounded in God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.

God’s love is so great that when we cannot find words to pray, the Spirit prays for us “with sighs too deep for words.” When we become wordless, God hears our prayer and voices it for us.

We say that the Day of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The apostles could have become swamped by sorrow and anger at the betrayal by Judas, but they did not. They asked God’s guidance and, with prayer and care they chose Matthias to complete God’s team called to spread the good news.

Today, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, giving the followers of Jesus the gift to be able to share the truth about Jesus. He came among us to share his love, healing, and forgiveness, his vision of peace and harmony and wholeness for all people and for the creation. And on Pentecost, the apostles received the gift to share that Good News with everyone who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world—to share that good news heart to heart—not just on an intellectual level, but in a way that could be received by the heart, the center of will and intention as well as thought, emotion, and intuition.

The Spirit continues to lead us into all the truth. Not just emotionally, not just intellectually, but on every level. What did our Lord mean when he called us to love each other as he and God love each other? As we answer this question for ourselves and walk that journey, we find that  barriers come down and we move closer and closer to his shalom, God’s deep peace and harmony over the whole wide earth and the entire creation.

As we go out into the world today, let us remember that the Holy Spirit has touched our minds and hearts and will and intention and understanding on every level and has called us to share God’s love on a deep level—heart to heart. Often we will share God’s love by actions rather than by words.  To paraphrase an old saying, “Share the good news of God’s love. Use words if necessary.” Amen.

Easter 7B RCL May 13, 2018

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

Before our opening reading, Jesus has ascended to be with God. We have this scene on our beautiful window here over the altar. The apostles look on as Jesus rises to heaven. We can imagine all the feelings they must have had.  Their beloved leader is no longer physically with them. He has promised that he will send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but they must have felt a bit lost and sad.

Peter assumes leadership and calls the believers together. There are about one hundred and twenty of them.  Judas has betrayed Jesus, and the community must choose someone to take his place. This must be someone who has been with Jesus from the time he was baptized by John until the Ascension. Two men are chosen, Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.

This is the only time we hear of these two men in the Bible, but the scriptures tell us that they were with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry until he went to be with God. The group prays together that this may be God’s choice. Then they cast lots, and Matthias is chosen.

Although we never hear of Justus or Matthias again, we can assume that, because they were such faithful followers of Jesus, each of them carried out his ministry all the days of his life, one as an apostle, the other as an ordinary faithful follower of Jesus. This reminds us that most of the followers of our Lord are not famous. They are people who love Jesus and who go about their lives quietly sharing his love in the best way they can, with the help of his grace. They are people you meet in shops or at tea, people like you and like me.

And so, quietly, without fanfare, the community of the faithful asks God to call forth the person who will complete the company of the apostles. Two thousand years later, we in Vermont have already begun the process of discerning the person God is calling to be the next Bishop of Vermont. We will continue to pray for God’s guidance in that process.

Our gospel for today is the continuation of Jesus’ statement that he is the vine and we are the branches. The portion we are reading today is really a prayer to God. As we read and meditate on this passage,  we realize again how much our Lord loves us. Jesus tells God that everything God has given to Jesus, Jesus has given to his followers.

Jesus tells us that we are not his servants but his friends. He calls us to a shared ministry with him and with each other.

Throughout his time with his disciples, Jesus has tried in every way to convey the profound truth about the depth of God’s love for us humans and for the whole creation. Now Jesus asks God to protect the community of faith, what we now call the Church.

We can see God protecting the community of faith as we watch Peter, whom Jesus appointed to be the leader, calling the faithful together to enter a process of prayer and discernment to choose a new apostle. Over the centuries, the Church has gone through all kinds of challenges, including times of persecution, and even that has not stopped people from making the choice to follow Jesus.

Even in recent times, we can recall various controversies. Through all of these, God has protected the Church. Over all these centuries, millions of folks like us have responded to the call of our Lord to help him spread his shalom.

Our Lord prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name…so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus is praying for God to protect us so that we may be one as he and the Father are one. 

It goes back to the way Jesus describes our life together. He is the vine. We are the branches. His love is the oxygen, the energy, the life-spirit that courses through his body, the Vine. We all share that energy. We are all part of him, and we are all part of each other. Part of God’s protection of us is that we realize that we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. That is a very strong bond, a profoundly deep and close love.

And once again our Lord prays that we may have his joy complete in ourselves. Once again, he reminds us that following him brings great joy.

This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to experience and share the depth and breadth of God’s love. Please wear red to symbolize the flames dancing over the heads of the apostles. If anyone can translate a couple of sentences of the gospel into a foreign language, please let me know. I also have a text in French if anyone would like to read a portion of that.

Meanwhile, like Matthias and Justus, whose names we hear only once; and like all the other followers of Christ whose names we do not know but whose faith and example we cherish; may we faithfully seek and do God’s will. May we live in the reality of Christ’s presence and love, and share his presence and love with others.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost Year C RCL May 15, 2016

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, (25-27)

On that first Pentecost, people were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world. It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost, a festival much like our Thanksgiving. But scholars tell us that there were many Gentiles there as well.

Jesus had gone to be with God. He had told the apostles that he would not leave them comfortless, that he would send the Holy Spirit. They stayed together and prayed. They chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot so that the company of the apostles would be whole and ready to do ministry.

They were together in a house somewhere in Jerusalem when it happened. There was a sound like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the house. Tongues of fire rested over each of their heads. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in all of the known languages of that time.

Some people thought they were drunk, but Peter explained that the prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled, that God would pour out God’s spirit on everyone.

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. From this moment on, the apostles will be traveling around the Mediterranean basin planting communities of followers of Jesus wherever they go.

Our epistle for today is brief but powerful. We have received a spirit of adoption. We are children of God. Because of the life and ministry of our Lord, we have been brought so close to God that we can call God Daddy or Dad or Mama or Mom. Because of our Lord, we have an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe.

Our gospel is part of Jesus’ last teaching session with the apostles. Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied,” And Jesus tells Philip and us that, in seeing him, we have seen God. Jesus is God living a human life. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. The almost unbelievable quality of love which Jesus shows to all people is God’s love. Jesus and God are one.

Then Jesus tells us that “the one who believes in me will do the works that I do.” In other words, the fact that we bier in Jesus means that we are called to carry on his ministry here on earth. We are called to reach out in love to others; we are called to feed the hungry and to give clothes and shelter to those who need them. We are called to follow Jesus as our model, to live as he lived.

Jesus tells the apostles that he will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us, to lead and guide and energize us .

After this teaching time with the apostles, called his Last Discourse, Jesus was crucified. We know that one of the apostles, John, was there at the foot of the cross. We do not know where the others were. It was the saddest day in the history of the world.

But then people began seeing the risen Christ. Two of them walking to Emmaus saw him. He appeared to Peter and the others on the beach. He came through the locked doors of the upper room. Gradually they realized that he was alive. And they gathered as he had told them to do, and they waited together, and they prayed.

It must have been very strange for them to realize that he was alive. More and more people had encounters with him. And then he ascended to be with God. He told them that he had to do this so that the Spirit could come to them.

It is one of the mysteries of our faith that, because of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is alive in every corner of the creation at all times. Jesus is here with us now, and he is with people all over the world.

When the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, they were able to share the Good News in every language. They were able to speak of God’s love in such a way that their message reached deep into the hearts of all the people gathered there.

That message has come down to us over the centuries. God loves us so much that God has adopted us as God’s children. God loves the whole big human family.

I would like to ask you to help me end this sermon by singing together an ancient chant. The words date back to a Latin text from the 9th century. The tune was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. and was published in 1865. John Henry Hopkins Jr was the son of our first Bishop, John Henry Hopkins. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in 1839 and his master’s degree from UVM in 1845. He taught music at General Theological Seminary from 1855-57, was rector of Trinity Church in Plattsburgh, New York from 1872-1876 and of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania from 1876 to 1887. He delivered the eulogy at the funeral of President Ulysses S, Grant in 1845.

This beautiful hymn calls on the Holy Spirit to come to us and fill us with the gifts of the spirit.

May the Holy Spirit fill us this day and always.  Amen.