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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 9, 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 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 September 20, 2020

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

Last Sunday, we read the inspiring account of how God led the people out of slavery into freedom. This Sunday, we are on the journey with God’s people. Sometimes journeys are exciting. Going to new places can be interesting, educational, and a lot of fun. Sometimes journeys are more challenging, like hiking the Long Trail or the Appalachian Trail or even climbing Camel’s Hump on a late autumn day when the higher you got the icier it gets. Sometimes journeys are inward exploration, like therapy or recovery from addiction. In the beginning there can be a sense of excitement, and there are also times when you just want that drink or drug or when it’s so hard to move away from old habits of thinking or doing that you just want to quit.

Today, God’s people just want to give up, turn around  and go back to Egypt because they are really hungry and the food was very good there. In other parts of the scripture, the text actually mentions their favorite foods, the melons and the leeks. So they complain to Moses and Aaron. And God hears their complaint and feeds them with quails in the evening and manna in the morning. God hears them. God feeds them. God’s mercy and care are always with us.

The Scriptures tell us that God’s people wandered in the wilderness for forty years. We have  been wandering in the wilderness of this Covid desert for six months, and we are getting very tired of the whole thing. We have not shared Holy Eucharist for all these months; we cannot gather in our beautiful church building which symbolizes God’s love to us and which reminds us of the great cloud of witnesses, the faithful people who have worshipped and absorbed God’s word and tried to do God’s will over two centuries. This building is a holy place for us. It wraps us in God’s love. And we cannot go in.

And we are feeling sad and frustrated. And maybe a bit angry as well.

I think we can identify with the people of God on their journey through the wilderness. We may not be physically hungry but we have had it  with this pandemic, and we have a lot to complain about.

This past Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci joined Governor Scott’s press briefing for the first half hour. He gave Vermont high marks for our work so far. He even said that Vermont can be an example for the nation. He noted that we have not achieved this because we have a small population. He said that we have achieved our low numbers because of wearing masks, social distancing at least six feet, washing our hands as often as possible, avoiding crowds, and being outdoors as much as possible. If more populated areas followed the same guidelines, he said, they would have the low positivity rates and other great statistics that we have.

In other interviews, Dr. Fauci has warned that the fall and winter will be a challenge and that we need to be careful to continue to follow the guidelines. On Tuesday he advised us to “Be prudent,” and to be careful regarding our interactions in the community. He said he does not think a second wave is  inevitable if we continue to follow the health measures we have been doing.

We want to get back to normal. We want to go back into our church building, share Holy Eucharist, not wear masks, sing, and have coffee hour. Unfortunately, that is not going to be happening for a while. 

On May 18, delegates from all our parishes gathered in the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul. Our delegates were Beth, Lori, Jean, and me. We had three outstanding priests who felt called to be our Bishop. We had had opportunities to meet and talk with these people at the walkabouts. In an atmosphere of love and with a framework of meditation and prayer, and, with a profound sense of our oneness in Christ, we elected our Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown, on the first ballot. An election on the first ballot is very rare.

The Episcopal Church goes back to the earliest roots of the Church in claiming the apostolic succession. We can trace our bishops back to the apostles.  The word “Episcopal” means “having bishops.” In the service of ordination of a bishop, we read that a bishop is called “to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church.” St. Paul addresses this when he writes to his beloved Philippians, “Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that…I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.”

In her meeting with the clergy this past Wednesday, Bishop Shannon told us that the House of Bishops had recently met with Dr. Fauci.  In that meeting, Dr. Fauci encouraged everyone “Not to let [our] guard down.” He said that “cold and dry air helps the virus to thrive.” He told the bishops that fifty percent of transmissions of the disease come from people who have no symptoms. The  bottom line is that in-person worship indoors will not be happening soon. This is not just in Vermont but in Episcopal churches around the nation. These decisions are based on science.

This is extremely difficult news to hear. I think it’s easy for us to identify with God’s people in the wilderness. Why do we have to be going through this?

Our gospel for today can be shocking. Biblical scholar Thomas Troeger writes, “The story is about something greater than employment practices.” Referring to Matthew’s community, Troeger writes,  “People have made enormous sacrifices to follow Jesus, and now there are newcomers, including Gentiles. …This is what the kingdom of heaven is like. God, without breaking agreements with the friends who came early to the cause, will be generous to all, including the latecomers.” (Troeger, New Proclamation Series A 1999, p. 224.

God’s love and grace go far beyond our expectations. We are all beloved workers in God’s vineyard, whether we have been working faithfully for years or months or weeks or days. God’s love and grace are given to all of us in equal and generous amounts. 

We have called Bishop Shannon to be our leader. Her guidance to us is coming, not from a place of fear, but from a place of wisdom and love. God has called us together. Some of us have been here at Grace for a long time. Others have joined us more recently. I know we all love each other, and those of us who have been here awhile are very happy to welcome our new bothers and sisters. 

This time in the life of the Church and in our life together is extremely challenging. And it is one of those times when we really need to focus on being one with God and each other just as Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are one.

To paraphrase our reading from Paul and our gospel, let us all stand firm in the unity of the Spirit, thanking God for God’s outpouring of love and grace. And let us work together in God’s vineyard to share God’s love and grace with everyone we meet. With God’s unfailing help, we will get through this time, and we will be stronger for it. Amen.

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 15 Proper 20 A RCL September 21, 2014

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

In our first reading, we join God’s people on their journey. We’ve all been on journeys of one kind or another, perhaps a road trip or a hike, or a bike trip. Or we have begun a journey of another kind. We have gone into
therapy, or we have made a decision to recover from an addiction.

At first, it’s exciting and every day is an adventure, but gradually, it becomes a struggle. If we are on a hike, the mountain seems as though it’s straight up at a ninety-degree angle. If we are on a car trip, we wonder when we are going to get there. If we are doing hard internal spiritual work as in therapy or recovery, the first thrill of excitement is long gone and the work gets very difficult and we want to quit. Our brothers and sisters out in the wilderness are looking with fond nostalgia at their former life as slaves!

The journey of life, the journey with and toward God, can be a struggle at times. We complain. And God feeds us and gives us water and gives us strength to keep journeying. God is always there to help us.

In our epistle for today, Paul is writing to his beloved congregation at Philippi. Paul is in prison. He is suffering. His letter is so honest. He can’t travel around to visit all the congregations he has founded and wants to nurture. He writes, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” With the suffering he is enduring, the idea of dying is attractive to Paul. He would like to “depart and be with Christ.” But he feels deeply called to continue to stay alive in order to be with these beloved people and support them. He writes, “I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” Paul says that he knows that the people of the congregation are not intimidated by their opponents. We do not know exactly whom he meant, but these were times of persecution. Paul actually says that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. In our own time, Christians are being persecuted. Paul is in a challenging time on his journey and he chooses to remain alive to continue his work of nurturing all the congregations he has planted around the Mediterranean Sea.

Our gospel for today is not about how to manage a business. It is about the kingdom, the shalom, of God.

Here is the context of this parable. Matthew’s congregation was growing. New people were coming in. Some had been there from the beginning. Some of the old-timers viewed the newcomers as second class citizens. How come these new people are greeted with all of God’s grace and love when I’ve been here slaving away for so long?

We are all familiar with this parable. The landowner goes out to hire workers for the vineyard. He goes out at six o’clock and hires a group of folks and agrees to pay them the usual wage for a day’s work. Then he goes out at nine and at noon at three and at five o’clock, he says he will pay those workers what is right.

The day ends, and the manager begins with those who were hired at five. That’s rather unusual. Something is different here. He gives these latecomers a full day’s wage. If I am back in line and I have worked since dawn, and I am sweaty and tired and hungry and ready to faint in the heat, and I see this, I can begin to think, Wow! He paid that guy a whole day’s wage. The pay scale has taken a leap! He’s going to pay me more. Maybe seven or eight or twelve times more. That guy started at 5 PM and I started at 6 AM. But when I get there, the manager pays me a day’s wage, too. Maybe I am a bit upset. The pay scale has not changed. The manager paid the latecomers a full wage. But he also paid me what we had agreed upon—also a full day’s wage. The owner has been fair to me and very generous to those who arrived late in the day.

If I can identify with the person who was hired at five PM, if I can think of a time when I couldn’t find a job or if I can think of the hundreds of kids today who have gone to college and can’t find a job in their field, so they are waiting on tables or bar tending or working some other minimum wage job and still living at home, if I can identify with the vulnerable side of myself, the part of me who is out there in the market place every day and has sent out hundreds of resumes and can’t even get a response, let alone an interview, then I am beginning to understand this parable.

Jesus is always looking for workers in his vineyard. And if you are there in the village square, if you show up, it doesn’t matter whether you have a Ph.D or a high school diploma or a third grade education, if you are willing to go out there and share his love with others, he has a job for you. If you are a little older and have a few aches and pains, if you can’t see as well as you once did, if you have a disability, he sees that as a strength. All you have to do is show up. He will welcome you with all the love and respect that he would give to any one of the twelve apostles. They were there at the beginning. We have joined the community two thousand years later.

That’s how his kingdom is, That’s his shalom of peace and harmony and wholeness and healing. Everyone is treated in the same way, with the infinite love and respect that our Lord has for every one of his children. No one is losing anything. It’s just that those who are more vulnerable, those who, for one reason or another didn’t get the good news as soon as some of the rest of us, get the same embrace with wide open arms of love that Jesus gives to Peter and James and John and Mary Magdalene and Martha and Mary and Lazarus and all those who were there at the very start of it all.

Before he tells this parable, Jesus tells us that the last will be first and the first will be last. He also says this at the end of the parable. And he is on his way to Jerusalem, so all of these discussions of grace and forgiveness are in the context of the cross.

May we hold fast to those things that shall endure—God’s grace and love, and the fellowship of the Body of Christ. Amen.