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    • 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:…
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    • 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 16 Proper 20A RCL September 24, 2017

Exodus 16:2-15
Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45
Philippians 1:21-30
Matthew 20:1-16

In our opening reading today, we are journeying with the Israelites, who have escaped their slavery in Egypt, but they are now wishing they had died there, because they are missing the abundance of food which they enjoyed. Of course, they are forgetting that they were enslaved.  All they can do is complain that they do not have enough food. Any journey from slavery to freedom is a demanding one. God gives them quails and manna from heaven.

In his letter to his beloved congregation in Philippi, Paul says that he would actually be glad to die and to go and be with Christ, but he will stay here in order to help the community of faith to grow and progress and have joy in their faith. Paul calls the Philippians and us to “Live [our lives] on a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

In our gospel for today, our Lord gives us a parable that tells us how to live lives worthy of him.

Back in the time of Jesus, there was no Vermont Department of Labor, no employment office where you could go to find work. If you were looking for work, you would go to the village marketplace and employers would come and hire people.

Early one morning, a landowner goes to the village marketplace and hires some workers for the usual daily wage. They go to his vineyard and get to work. He goes out to the marketplace about nine o’clock and finds other people standing idle, and he tells them to go to work in the vineyard ad he will pay them what is right. They go to work. Apparently, this landowner wants to give everyone some useful work to do.

The landowner goes out at noon and again at three o’clock and again at five o’clock and hires more people.

At the end of the day, the landowner tells his manager to pay the laborers, but he does it in a very strange way. He tells the manager to begin with the last and go to the first. This sounds a lot like Jesus is the landowner because he kept saying that the last shall be first and the first last. So we can be pretty sure that this is how Jesus would run things.

The manager calls the people who were hired last and he gives them the entire usual daily wage for a full day’s work. That is more than fair. That is extremely generous. Finally, the people who started early in the day receive their pay. Lo and behold, it is the usual daily wage.

They are so upset they can hardly contain themselves. “You paid those late guys the same as you paid us. We worked all day. What is the matter with you? You should have paid us more.”

The landowner quietly but firmly replies, “When I hired you, I said I would pay you the usual daily wage. That is exactly what I did. I chose to give to these last folks the same as I gave to you. After all. they were standing there all day waiting for a job. They were willing to work. Why are you so angry because I am generous?”

With God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit, the last shall be first and the first shall be last. God is fair, God is just, and God is generous.

Lately, I have been thinking of my own family. My mother’s side of the family came over from Germany before the American Revolution. They fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. My father’s side of the family were Roman Catholics who came over from Northern Ireland in the latter part of the nineteenth century. My grandfather, who was  eight years old, came over in a ship with his grandmother. They landed at Ellis Island in New York City and they worked hard and became civil servants in the City of New York and later in Vermont.

When my grandfather was growing up, I am sure that he saw signs that said, “No Irish need apply.” Later on, the Italians came over and they were the low people on the totem pole, and then others and others. Now we have the dreamers and we have our neighbors from Mexico who keep our dairy farms going

For God, no one is the low person on the totem pole. The last are the first and the first are the last.

This year, our clergy conference is on “Racial Reconciliation.” Right now, I am reading a wrenching book by Michael Eric Dyson. The title is “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.” Michael’s own son, a physician, has been stopped by the police for no reason. Michael, who has written nineteen books, is a professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and holds numerous honors, has had to deal with racism directed at him his whole life.

In preparation for this clergy conference, we are required to take the RACE Implicit Bias Test.

Today’s gospel addresses many issues. It addresses race. It also addresses the issue of our migrant workers here in Vermont. Kim Erno will be speaking on that at our potluck agape feast at noon today. This gospel speaks to all the issues that we use to separate ourselves, all the issues we use to give some people privilege and power and other people less privilege and power. God is calling us today to think about these things, to pray about these things, to do honest and thorough self-examination and to follow our baptismal vows to “respect the dignity of every human being.” “Dignity” is also the theme of our diocesan convention this year.

May we “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.” May we strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Amen.

Let us say together The Baptismal Covenant, page 304.

Pentecost 17 Proper 22A RCL October 5, 2014

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

In our beginning reading from the Book of Exodus, we are with God’s people at Mount Sinai, and God is giving them the Ten Commandments. The first four of these commandments have to do with our relationship with God, and the last six commandments deal with our relationship with each other. These commandments were the foundation of the life of the covenant community, and they can serve as an excellent framework for life together over three thousand years later.

In our epistle, Paul has been trying to counteract the efforts of opponents of his, some of whom have been trying to convince Gentiles who are joining the new community of faith that they have to follow the Jewish dietary laws. Paul lists his credentials. Like Jesus and John the Baptist, he was circumcised on the eighth day of his life. He is an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, an expert on the law. On the secular level, he is a Roman citizen. Paul openly admits that he persecuted the Church. But when he met the risen Lord on the Road to Damascus, everything changed. His whole world was transformed.

All that Paul wants to do now is to grow closer to Christ. All of those previous privileges and honors and signs of status are as trash to him. Entrance into the kingdom of God has nothing to do with our past accomplishments. In fact, it has nothing to do with us. It is a gift. Coming from his own history and background as one who followed the law to the letter, Paul is now saying: Brothers and sisters, let us not make these new believers follow the law. That is not the point. The new life in Christ is a gift from God, Let us accept that gift. Of course, we will strive to carry out the commandments. But let us strive to surpass the law, to move from the letter to the spirit of the law.

Our gospel for today must be approached with great care. The gospel is an allegory. Jesus is in the temple and he is addressing the religious leaders of his time. The vineyard is an image used by Isaiah for the people of God. We could say it could also be an image for the kingdom, the shalom of God. The landowner is God. The slaves who were sent are the prophets, The son is Jesus. The tenants are the religious leaders.

Matthew’s gospel was written about 90 C. E.. Scholars tell us that Matthew’s community was a Jewish community which was incorporating new Gentile members. The new faith was being persecuted. This parable may have provided a ray of hope for Christians who were being oppressed.

But the point of this gospel is not to be anti-Semitic. It is to ask ourselves how we would receive the Son if he came to ask us how the vineyard is doing. Are we following the commandments? Are we bearing good fruit? Are we, like Paul, trying to align our lives with the life of our Lord? Are we trying to let him live in us? Are we trying to live in the light of his grace? Are we sharing his love with others?

This parable is asking us to look at religious leaders. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time were arguing with God. They were blind to the work that God was trying to do among them. Are we blind to the work of the Holy Spirit? Our Bishop has called us to engage in a year long process of discernment looking at what it means to be a missional Church. A couple of Saturdays ago some of us went to a Ministry Fair. In the context of Holy Eucharist, we went outside the walls of the cathedral to discover what God is doing in the neighborhood.

Several of the groups went to the Old North End, which is the less affluent part of Burlington. Many of our new Americans live there now, as well as in nearby Winooski. We found many signs of life, as some folks shared last Sunday—gardens, a solar installation. a Sustainability Academy, a compassionate veterinary practice, Pathway to Housing, an organization which provides houses for homeless people. We saw people sitting on their porches talking. We saw houses painted artistically in bright vibrant colors. There was a lot of life out there.

The religious leaders of his time were constantly challenging Jesus, Last Sunday they were asking him by what authority he healed and taught and forgave. Some people in Philippi wanted everyone to follow the dietary laws, Paul felt that was putting a stumbling block in the way of folks coming into the new faith. It is a sad thing when religious authorities or religious people get in God’s way.

One of the ideas we hear about when we discuss the missional church is that we need to go out into the world and see what God is doing. I would say, what the Holy Spirit is doing. That is because I define the Holy Spirit as God at work in us and in the world. Wherever peace grows, wherever healing happens, wherever someone is learning, there is the Holy Spirit. And we need to support those things. The Holy Spirit is at work in many ways and in many people. Some of those people do not believe in God. Some of those people cannot believe in God because religious leaders or religious people have put stumbling blocks in their path.

One of the reasons I went back to school and got my psychology degree is that I wanted to help people on their journeys toward wholeness. I also wanted to be helpful to people who would never darken the door of a church. All of you are out in the world living your faith and doing your ministries. You are able to touch the lives of people for whom our faith has become irrelevant or. worse, a negative force.

I think that is what our readings are talking about today: living our faith and being open to the work of the Holy Spirit out in the world as well as in the Church. The Shalom of God is growing every day. Loving God, help us to be open to your Spirit. Give us grace to help you build your Kingdom, your Shalom of healing and harmony and wholeness. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pentecost 16 Proper 22 October 2, 2011

Pentecost 16 Proper 22    October 2, 2011

 Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20
Psalm 19
Philippians 3: 4b-14
Matthew 21: 33-46

In our first lesson from the Hebrew scriptures, Moses and the people have made a long journey. They have reached Mt. Sinai. Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God. These commandments reflect the basic guidelines of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, as well as other religions and ethical human beings.

God is the only God. We should not worship idols, We should not take God’s name in vain or use God’s name lightly.   We are called to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. In these days of working all kinds of shifts and traveling through time zones, we are called to keep Sabbath time for prayer, rest, and renewal. We are called to honor our parents, although, if there has been abuse by our parents, we are called to take care of ourselves. (All of these commandments are assuming a community of love and respect.) Don’t murder. Be faithful to your spouse or partner. Don’t steal. Don’t lie about your neighbor. Don’t covet your neighbor’s possessions.

These commandments are the framework, the foundation, the glue that holds the community of faith, indeed, the human community, together.

In our epistle for today, Paul is making it clear that he is a person who can claim the highest privilege. He is a Jew, a Pharisee, a Roman citizen. Yet he sees all this as rubbish, trash, compared to the experience of knowing and experiencing and following Jesus. That’s what happens to all of us on this spiritual journey. Jesus becomes real to us as our model, our hero, and our leader, and everything else pales by comparison. Paul says, “Jesus has made me his own,” And then he continues with some of the most inspiring words in the Bible, “Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press onward toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

In today’s gospel, we hear a parable. Jesus is still in the temple being challenged and attacked by the religious leaders. A man plants a vineyard. He does everything possible to nurture this vineyard. Then he leases it to tenants and goes away. When he sends his slaves to collect the rent, the tenants beat one, kill one, and stone another. He sends other slaves and the tenants treat them in the same way. Finally, he sends his son, thinking the tenants will respect him. The tenants kill the son.

On one level, which we should be aware of just for historical reasons, this is a story about how God has sent prophets and finally God’s son, and the leaders of God’s people have killed the prophets and Jesus. Matthew’s gospel was written about 90 CE, about 60 years after Jesus’ ministry ended, and this parable comments on how the religious establishment of the time resisted the prophets and even Jesus. But we should never use this in an anti Semitic manner, as it has been used in the past. We are called to use this parable to ask ourselves, “How are we responding to God’s call, to God’s vision of shalom?” How are we responding to Jesus? How are we responding to the prophets in our midst—Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Bill McKibben? Are we caring for this planet? Are we treating other members of the human community with love and respect?

On a human level, we could understand why the landowner might come back and kill those tenants. But God does not do that. God is faithful and loving toward us.

We are called to produce the fruits of God’s shalom. In Galatians 5: 22, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These qualities speak for themselves. They are the qualities which folks show in their lives when they are living the Ten Commandments and when they are centered in God, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or followers of any other major spiritual path.

I was listening to the radio the other morning, and there was a discussion about the Euro Zone. One woman, a German, said how wonderful it was that, after all the wars that had been fought, Germans could be close to and care about French people,  and other Europeans, and the conflicts and divisions of centuries could turn into friendship and common purpose and human community. That’s God’s shalom.

Ultimately, that is what all these lessons are talking about, that we are all one as Jesus and the Father are one, that, if we take God’s love seriously, we will love our neighbors as ourselves. May we run the race; may we produce the fruits of God’s shalom.