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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 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 October 9, 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 October 16, 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:…

Easter Day April 17, 2022

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

We were there in the crowd, and they shouted “Crucify him!” It was terrifying. We stood at the foot of the cross with his mother and prayed for him. We could hardly bear it. I don’t know how Mary did it. She has such courage! And he died, a horrible death.

We heard that Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council, objected to what the council was doing. The council didn’t listen to him. But after Jesus died, Joseph went to Pilate and asked permission to take his body and bury him in his own tomb. Another member of the Council, Nicodemus, had gone to meet Jesus at night. He brought spices and helped Joseph to bury Jesus. They could have been killed for that. They were both faithful followers of Jesus, but we never knew.

The sun is just rising now, and we are going to the tomb to make sure his body is properly taken care of. We’re so exhausted and so devastated we can hardly walk. When we get there, the stone is rolled away. We walk in, and there is no body. We’re trying to figure out what has happened when two men in dazzling clothes are suddenly standing beside us. I think they are angels. We bow to the ground. The angels ask us why we are looking for the living among the dead.  Then they tell us Jesus has risen. And we remember that Jesus has told us about this. He said he was going to be crucified but he would rise again. Our hearts are racing. Maybe he is really alive! We run back to Peter and the others. They don’t seem to be taking it very seriously. Then Peter runs to the tomb and sees that it is empty. 

That evening, we hear that two others see him on the road to Emmaus. They don’t even recognize him until they invite him in for supper. Later, he appears to Peter and the others and gives him a breakfast of fish on the shore of the lake. He appears to more and more people. And we realize that he is alive! He has risen just as he said he would. And he has touched so many lives.

That is why we are here, over two thousand years later. Because of Jesus. He has transformed our lives. Here we are. Able to celebrate our first Easter together in person in two years. He has led us through the pandemic, and, while that’s not over, we have at least learned some things about how to cope with it. It has been two years of death and exile. Whether we have been worshipping on Zoom or in person, He has been right in the midst of us, guiding us.

And then Russia invaded Ukraine for no reason and more innocent people are suffering. President Zelenskyy and his people have shown profound courage and resistance, and most of the world is rallying in support. But there is still much death and suffering. It would be easy to lose hope.

But we will not lose hope. Because of the life and ministry of Jesus, we are a people of hope. Brokenness, shadow, hatred, cruelty, and even death have all been defeated. Love, hope, faith, unity, wholeness, life, and peace will prevail. Christ has won the victory.

Love is stronger that any power on earth. stronger that the forces of brokenness and death. May we continue to follow our Lord in the Way of Love. May we continue to help him to build his shalom of peace and harmony. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.

Good Friday  4/10/2020

Good Friday  4/10/2020

Here we are, standing at the foot of the cross with Mary and John and some of the others. It is finished. We are standing here in the midst of a pandemic, what in earlier times would have been called a plague, a plague that is covering the earth with disease and death.

And he has died. He was our great hope, and he has died. Before he gave up his spirit, he turned to John and Mary. To John he said, “This is your mother,” and to Mary he said, “This is your son.”

He formed a new family. And, in our Collect for today we pray, “Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

It is over. He has died a horrible death, the death reserved for the lowest of the low, hardened criminals. He was hardly one of those. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, courageous but hitherto secret disciples, take his body away to give it a loving and reverent burial.

It is over. All hope is gone. Or is it? In her book God in Pain, Barbara Brown Taylor writes concerning the cross, “He took the man-made wreckage of the world inside himself and labored with it—a long labor, almost three days—and he did not let go of it until he could transform it and return it to us as life.”

On Holy Saturday we remember that he descended into hell, descended to the dead, so that every part of the creation, every creature would have the promise, the possibility, of new life in him.

For almost three days he wrestled with it all, the human grasping for power and then abusing that power, the very thing that had killed him; the human wish for power that drives us to conquer each other, to lord it over each other, to kill each other, to torture each other, to sort each other out by race and class so that somebody always ends up on the bottom and we always end up on top.  Every sin, every form of brokenness that kills and destroys all that is good. He takes it all into himself, and, as Taylor says so eloquently and so truthfully, he wrestles with it in the crucible of his love and healing and transforms it into life.

He is doing this while Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risk their lives asking Pilate for permission to take his cherished body and place it in Joseph’s new tomb. He is doing this while he is lying in that tomb.

As we walk through the rest of the journey to Easter, through the remainder of Good Friday and then Holy Saturday, may we be aware, not only of the horrific death which he endured, but of the power of his love, which is able to labor with every misuse of power, every brokenness which human sin can create, to labor with all of that and transform it into life.  Amen.

Lent 2A March 8, 2020

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Our first reading today is so short, yet it says so much. Abram, later renamed Abraham, is one of the greatest examples of faith in all of the Bible. He lives in Ur of the Chaldeans, in a region which in those days was called Mesopotamia, on the bank of the Euphrates River, about 225 miles southeast of present-day Baghdad, Iraq. It is about 1600 years before the birth of Christ. 

God is calling Abram to make a journey far away from everything and everyone that he knows. Abram has a comfortable life and many possessions. Yet he packs everything up and goes on a journey.

That is what we are doing this Lent. We are going on a journey to grow closer to God. We are going on a journey to become more and more the persons God calls us to be.

Our psalm for today is one of my favorites, and, I think it may be one of your as well. It speaks of the hills, and we can think of our beloved Green Mountains and all the smaller hills that we love. This psalm reminds us that God is with us every moment of our lives. God watches over us. For those of us who are reading The Restoration, this psalm reminds us of Step One, remembering that God is everywhere and God is always with us.

In our gospel for today, we have the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Judah. This is a group of extremely powerful men who make decisions that govern the religious and community life of the people. As a member of the Council, Nicodemus is familiar with the ways of worldly power.

Nicodemus has been hearing about Jesus and he may even have seen our Lord from a distance or heard him speak. In any case, Nicodemus has reached the point where he simply must go and talk with Jesus. But if he goes in the daytime, people will see him and this could cause great trouble for him. He could lose his place on the Council, and he could lose his life for associating with this powerful teacher who is a threat to those in power.

So, Nicodemus goes to see Jesus under cover of night. Nicodemus gets right to the point. He says that Jesus must come from God because of his teachings and his healings.

But then Jesus makes a spiritual quantum leap. He tells Nicodemus that we can’t see the kingdom of God without being born from above.

Poor Nicodemus is overwhelmed by this, and he takes it in a concrete sense, thinking that we will all have to go back into our mothers’ wombs and be born again. Then Jesus says that we have to be born of water and Spirit. For us, this is a clear reference to Baptism.

Nicodemus is still trying to figure all of this out. “How can these things be?” he asks with some frustration. Jesus refers to the time when poisonous snakes were biting and killing God’s people in the desert and God ordered Moses to hold up a statue of a serpent, which cured the people of the snake bites. and prevented them from dying. This is also a reference to the cross. And then our Lord says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

We do not meet Nicodemus again until after Jesus has been crucified. According to John’s gospel, Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate’s permission to take Jesus’ body down from the cross and bury it in his own tomb. Nicodemus comes with spices to anoint the beloved body  of our lord. Both men are members of the Council, and both are risking their lives.

We can imagine that Nicodemus never forgot his meeting with Jesus. that he meditated on their conversation and grew in his understanding of who Jesus really was.

Abraham’s journey was both earthly and spiritual. He traveled hundreds of miles to a new land, always trusting in God’s promise that in Abraham all the families of earth would be blessed. The journey of Nicodemus was not geographical but spiritual.

Every day he would go to his work on the Sanhedrin. He would watch as a kangaroo court found Jesus guilty and as an angry mob demanded his death. As far as we know, he had only one close, face to face meeting with Jesus, but every day he grew closer and closer to our Lord, until the time came when his love for Jesus told him that he had to help his colleague Joseph of Arimathea take care of our Lord’s body no matter what that action might cost. He and Joseph were not able to save Jesus, but they felt compelled to give his precious body a decent burial.

Abraham went on a journey into the unknown with complete trust that God would lead him in the right direction. Nicodemus had the courage to go and meet with Jesus, and after that, his life was never the same. He grew closer and closer to Jesus. He grew to love Jesus so much that he joined Joseph in carrying out the most intimate and loving act of washing and anointing Jesus’ body for burial.

Lent is a journey. God’s people journeyed for forty years in the desert. Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days in the wilderness. We journey together to grow closer to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Closer to realizing that God is always with us, leading and guiding us, forgiving us. feeding us, giving us the grace to take the next step, the next leap of faith, the next quantum leap into the loving heart of God. Amen.

Trinity Sunday Year B RCL May 27, 2018

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12-17
John 3:1-17

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. The doctrine of the Trinity expresses our human experience of God in three persons—God the  Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier.

God the Creator. God created the world, from the tiniest subatomic particles to the galaxies; from the most delicate, tiny flower to the planet Jupiter. As theologian Mary Daly has noted, when we create anything—whether it be a safe haven for a child or a refugee or a rescue pet; whether it be a symphony, or a book, or a cathedral or a painting, or peace between two countries or two members of a family—when we create, we become co-creators with God.

God the Redeemer. Jesus who has come among us to save us from our brokenness and make us whole. Jesus is God incarnate, God embodied, God enfleshed. God walking the face of the earth, teaching us and healing us and making us whole, helping us to be born again into a new life based on love of God and love of others.

God the Holy Spirit. As David Brown has said, the Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world. Wherever conflict becomes peace, the Spirit is at work. Wherever creative work is done, it is done with the energy of the Spirit. So we see that God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier are constantly working together to make us whole and to heal a broken world.

Theologian John Macquarrie talked about Being and about God calling things into being. He wrote that in any big project, such as the writing of a book or the creation of a building, there is the vision, the plan, and the realization of the plan. We have the vision of the building; we draw the plans in very careful detail; and then we carry out that plan.

God has a vision for the world— a world full of peace and harmony. Jesus is the plan. The Greek word logos means plan, model, pattern, blueprint. Jesus is the pattern for human life. The Spirit is the energy who carries out the plan. The Spirit is at work in us and in the world to realize God’s plan of peace and harmony.

Theologian Robert Farrar Capon, a favorite of David Walters, David Brown, and many of us, writes about creation in his wonderful book, The Third Peacock. Capon makes it clear that each created thing is an object of God’s infinite love, and that God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rejoice in the work of creation. Thus, in the creation of, say, chicken number thirty-four thousand eight hundred forty-two, all three persons of the Trinity are cheering each other on, laughing and joyfully celebrating the wonder of creation. God’s love in bringing this wonderful, unique, beloved creature, chicken number 34,842, into being.

In our first reading for today, Isaiah has a vision of God, whose power and glory are almost terrifying. Stricken by his sinfulness, Isaiah confesses, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” Then, doing for Isaiah what Christ would later do for all of us, God cleanses Isaiah from his sin. When God calls, Isaiah is able to respond to that call.

In our reading from the Letter to the Romans, Paul is reminding us that, because of the love of God, Jesus, and the Spirit, we have become as close to God as a child is to his or her mother or father. In fact, we are so close to God that we can call God Abba, “Dad” or “Daddy,” “Mom”, or “Mama”. We have received a spirit of adoption, and we are God’s children in the closest way possible. If we think back to the reading from Isaiah, with the angels flying about in the temple, the glory of God shining forth, the smoke and the sheer power of the transcendent God, our becoming God’s beloved children in this intimate way is almost mind-boggling.

In our reading from John’s gospel, Nicodemus, who is a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, goes to Jesus by night. He is risking his position in visiting our Lord, and he may well be risking his life. But he wants to know more. Jesus tells Nicodemus that “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus takes this literally and wonders how someone can enter his mother’s womb, so Jesus tries again, telling him that “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.”

God the Creator has the vision for God’s shalom. Jesus is standing there in front of Nicodemus proclaiming the Kingdom and telling him that we enter that Kingdom through the water of baptism and the power of the Spirit because of the love of God expressed in all three persons. God has created the vision of God’s shalom of peace and harmony. Jesus, the living example of that vision, is inviting Nicodemus to join God’s shalom.

Nicodemus may seem quite flustered and overwhelmed at this point, but we know that the Holy Spirit is leading him into all truth. John’s gospel tells us two important things.  First, when the Council, the Sanhedrin, becomes more and more suspicious of Jesus and begins building its case against our Lord, Nicodemus reminds them that the law says that Jesus or any person being accused of an offense is entitled to a hearing.  Secondly, after Jesus is crucified, Nicodemus helps Joseph of Arimathea take down the Body of our Lord from the cross and give that beloved body a respectful burial. Both Nicodemus and Jospeh of Arimathea have developed such a devotion to our Lord that they risk their honored positions and their lives in taking care of Jesus’ body.

God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit—Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier. God who loves each of us as the apple of God’s eye. God who loves the whole creation and is working to bring the creation into harmony. God who is calling us to help in that work and who is cheering us on and energizing us with God’s Spirit as we do that work.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

Lent 2 Year A March 12, 2017

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Lent is a time for journeying. After God’s people had been freed from slavery in Egypt, they journeyed for forty years in the wilderness until they finally reached the promised land. After he was baptized, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, accepting and absorbing God’s love, growing closer to God, and, through prayer, coming to a clear understanding of the nature of his mission and ministry.

In our first reading today, we meet one of the great heroes of our faith, Abraham. Abraham had a good life in Ur of the Chaldees. Ur was an ancient city located in Mesopotamia. It is located on the right bank of the Euphrates River 225 miles Southeast of Baghdad and about 9.9 miles from the city of Nasiriyah in Iraq.

Abraham had a wife, a large extended family, flocks and herds and many possessions.What Abraham and Sarah did not have, much to their sorrow, was children. God called Abraham to leave everything and to journey far from his home into a new land. God said that God would make Abraham a blessing. God also said that Abraham and Sarah would have children as numerous as the stars. Abraham accepted God’s call and became a great icon of faith for all of us.

In our gospel for today, we meet someone else who is on a journey. Nicodemus is a leader among his people. He is a person of deep faith. But there is something about Jesus which compels Nicodemus to go and see him. Being a member of the council of the elders, Nicodemus is taking a great risk to go and talk with Jesus because there are some people on the council who think that Jesus is up to no good, and, if they ever found out that Nicodemus had actually visited Jesus, it could cost him his job and maybe his life.

So Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. Nicodemus tells Jesus that he knows Jesus is a teacher who has come from God. He is going to ask Jesus some questions. but, before he can do that, Jesus throws him a mysterious comment. Jesus says that no one can see the kingdom of God unless they have been born from above. What in the world does that mean?

Well, Nicodemus takes it literally. You can’t be born when you have grown old, he reasons. Only babies are born. Being a member of the council of the elders, he is old. Then he becomes even more literal. He thinks Jesus is talking about going back into the womb. Jesus throws him an even more mysterious comment. We can’t enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit.

In our baptisms, we have been born of water and the Spirit. We are no longer of the flesh, that is, on the human level only. We have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have the gift of newnesss of life. We see things, not only on the human level but also on the level of God’s vision of shalom, God’s kingdom of peace and harmony. Life has a whole new meaning for us.

We can see Nicodemus grappling with these new ideas. And then Jesus ends their discussion with the best of the Good News: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

What does this mean for us, especially now in Lent? There is a  wonderful hymn which says, “Love came down at Christmas.” Jesus came to be with us because of love. Jesus is love. God is love.

Into a world controlled by the powerful and ruthless Roman Empire, God came to be with us. God came to be with us to say to us, “Always remember, I love you, and I will be with you. I will be among you always.

And he says, “The journey can be difficult, It can seem impossible at times. Always remember that I am right beside you. Sometimes I will go ahead of you, like the Good Shepherd that I am. I will go ahead to show you the way. Sometimes, when it seems impossible to take another step, I will even carry you. I will always be with you. You are not alone, You are never alone.”

This Lent, we are following our Lord on his way to the cross, that instrument of torture and humiliation. Yes, our Lord died on that cross. Why? Because he loves us.  And because he was trying to show us another way to do things. Not by earthly power, but by the power of the Spirit, the power of love.

In a profound sense, our Lenten journey is a journey begun, continued and ended in God’s love.  As we accept and absorb God’s love, we are changed. We are reborn. We become new people. We look at the world and at people with different eyes, eyes filled with hope and love and compassion.

And that changes everything. It changes us and it transforms the world. God’s love heals and changes us and the world. By virtue of our baptisms, we are a part of this process of transforming the creation.

Love came down at Christmas. Love lives among us. Love has been crucified and has risen from the dead.  Love is with us always. We are never alone. He will walk with us, He will go ahead to show us the way. He will carry us when the going gets too tough. He is transforming us. He is transforming the world. May we follow him.  Amen.

Lent 2 Year A RCL March 16, 2014

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-7

In our opening reading today, we encounter the great icon of faith, Abram, who will later become Abraham. Abram and his wife Sarai, who will later become Sarah, have a comfortable life. But when God calls Abraham to take Sarah and all their possessions and go to the land of Canaan and start a new nation, Abraham says Yes to God. The journey of Abraham and Sarah will lead them into whole new identities.

Abraham has no idea where Canaan is or how to get there. He is taking a journey into the unknown. But, if God wants him to go and found a nation that will be a blessing to all nations, even when he and Sarah have no children, Abraham is going to take that journey. He has faith that God will indeed bless him, and he has courage, the kind of courage that astronauts have, or sea captains have when they set out to find a new world.

Our psalm describes the kind of relationship we need to have with God when we set out on the journey of life. We need to know that God is going to be with us, God is going to do all that God can to protect us and help us. God cannot shield us from every adversity, but God will be there to guide us and comfort us. We are so fortunate that we can lift up our eyes to the hills and feel the loving protection of God.

In our gospel for today we have another courageous person. Nicodemus is a member of the Sanhedrin, the council that is in charge of the Temple in Jerusalem and is also the governing body of Judah. This group of men has a huge amount of power. They are the religious and political leaders. Nicodemus is a Pharisee, an expert on the law. He is a scholar and a very intelligent man. He is also wealthy, as are all the members of the Council. He is an astute politician, accustomed to the power dynamics which take place at the highest levels of any government.

Nicodemus has a lot to lose. He is at the top of the political and religious structure of Judah. And yet there is something about this Jesus which draws him like a magnet. It would be foolhardy to go and see Jesus in the daytime, so he goes to visit Jesus under cover of night. If anyone knew that he was doing this, he would lose his job, his position of respect, and possibly even his life.

The Pharisees and others are already keeping their eyes on this Jesus, thinking that he is a major troublemaker. Nicodemus clearly respects Jesus. He says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do the things that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Jesus’ response makes a quantum leap into a whole new world. “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” This blows Nicodemus’ theology right out of the water. He has never heard such talk. He goes to the literal level and asks Jesus if people have to go back into their mother’s womb and be born again. Jesus says, “No, the Holy Spirit does this. And then Jesus says that he is the Savior, the One sent from God because God loves us so much that God wants us to have life in a new dimension, starting right now. We have no idea what Nicodemus’ reaction is to this.

The next time we meet Nicodemus is in Chapter 7 of John’s gospel when the authorities are plotting to condemn Jesus. With great courage, Nicodemus asks, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing, does it?” The authorities accuse Nicodemus of being from Galilee, in other words, an ally of Jesus. (7:50-51.)

Our final meeting with Nicodemus takes place at the saddest time of all. Jesus has been crucified. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower of Jesus, risks everything and asks Pilate for permission to take down Jesus’ body from the Cross.  Nicodemus comes with one hundred pounds of costly spices with which to anoint the body of Jesus. Together, they take our Lord from the cross. They are exposing themselves to ritual uncleanness by handling a dead body. Their careers will be over. Their lives may be in danger.

Yet together they gently and lovingly lift the beloved body off the spikes, reverently anoint it with spices and wrap it in cloths for burial. Then they place the body of Jesus in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus have clearly been transformed. They have entered the kingdom of Jesus. They have been born anew.

We have no idea about the stages of Nicodemus’ journey, but we see these profoundly moving glimpses. He is willing to risk everything for Jesus. Just this one encounter with Jesus allowed Nicodemus to be born again. Just those few moments with Jesus began his process of transformation. What a wonderful example for us,

May we be open to the love of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

Amen.