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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:…

Pentecost 17 Proper 21A September 27, 2020

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

In our opening reading, we join the people of God on their long journey in the wilderness. Like us in our journey with Covid-19, they are filled with uncertainty. They seem to confront one problem after another. Last week they had no food. This week, they are thirsty.

They ask Moses for water. He asks them why they are quarreling with him and why they are testing God. They complain more loudly. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Moses cries out to God. “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me?” God is right there to help. He tells Moses to take the staff which he used to part the waters of the Red Sea. And God does something very wise. God instructs Moses to take some of the elders with him. Moses is carrying a heavy burden of responsibility, and God wants Moses to share that burden and responsibility of leadership with others. God goes before them and is waiting when they arrive. So often, on our journeys, God is there to help before we even realize we need help. God tells Moses to strike the rock of Horeb with the staff and water pours out. Moses calls the place Massah and Meribah, meaning “test,” the place where the people tested God, and “quarrel.” the place where the people quarreled with God and Moses.

God is always present with us. God gives the people and livestock the water they need to survive. The journey from slavery into freedom is not easy. Without God’s  help, the people might have turned back.

In our second reading, Paul is writing from prison to his beloved Philippians. This is not a new congregation. Paul has had a caring mutual relationship with them over several years. Scholars tell us that some conflicts have arisen within the congregation, and they are also facing challenges from outside. Just as with God’s people in the wilderness, there are challenges.

Paul calls the people to”be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”

He calls us to focus not on our own interests but on the interests of others. This is so contrary to the values we see in our world, where so many people think only of themselves and their needs. But we as Christians as called to love others as we love ourselves, and to treat others as we want to be treated.

Paul calls us to have the same mind as Jesus had. This reminds us of our diocesan mission statement which says that we are called to “Pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ.” We are called to be one with Christ. We are called to be as much like our Lord as we possibly can, with God’s help.

In our gospel for today, Jesus has come into Jerusalem and he has cleansed the temple. The religious authorities are asking him by whose authority he is teaching and preaching and healing people. The inability of these leaders to realize that our Lord was doing God’s work is tragic. They simply cannot recognize spiritual authority when they see it.  Jesus asks them a question, “Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin?” The leaders are caught in a political bind. So they say they do not know.

Then Jesus tells the parable about the two sons. The father asks the first one to go and work in the vineyard. The son says he won’t do it  but then he changes his mind and goes to work.  The other son says “Yes, Sir, I’ll go,” but then he doesn’t go and work in the vineyard.

Jesus asks the leaders which one did the will of his father. They answer, the first. And Jesus says that the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the kingdom of heaven before these leaders.

The tax collectors and prostitutes can see who Jesus really is. They are not the powerful or highly respected members of society, but they are following him. They are trying to lead lives of compassion.

Jesus has such a powerful message to share. He talks about the last being first and the first being last. The religious leaders do not recognize who he is. They have no understanding of what he is about. But the folks whom people despise and look down on have no problem seeing that Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. And his message makes so much sense to them that they follow wherever he leads and they try to model their lives on his teaching.

What are these readings telling us? The journey to freedom and wholeness is not easy. Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other. This is definitely true during this Covid journey. God is with us, God hears us, and God takes care of us.

Our reading from Paul is calling us to be one in Christ, to be on the journey of growing more and more into the likeness of Christ, both individually and corporately, so that his love and forgiveness and healing are with us always, leading us to be a community of hope and reconciliation. 

Our gospel reading echoes that old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can hear people say flowery things which sound good, but, if the actions don’t match the words, we need to look at the actions, and they tell us the truth of the situation. And we are called to be congruent people. Our actions need to reflect our beliefs. As we know, this is possible only with the gift of God’s grace. 

All of our readings today call us to remember that God loves us and is with us. No matter how challenging our journey is, we can trust in God to lead us and help us, and we can have genuine hope that with God’s help, we can and will be God’s loving, faithful, hopeful people, sharing God’s caring and compassion with each other and with our neighbors.

O God, you declare your mighty power chiefly by showing mercy and pity. Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever,  Amen.

Palm Sunday Year C April 14, 2019

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Luke 22:14-23:56

in our first reading, we hear that God’s servant has “the tongue of a teacher, that [he] may sustain the weary with a word.” The servant suffers but is not disgraced.

In our reading from Paul’s letter to his beloved Philippians who are enduring persecution, we have an ancient hymn about Christ.  “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave….”

Jesus calls us to be servants. He calls us to follow the example of the courageous servant described in Isaiah, and, of course, he calls us to follow his example. He emptied himself. And so we are called to empty ourselves. Why do we do this? We empty ourselves so that God’s spirit can come to live within us and so that our every action and thought can be in harmony with God’s will.

Paul prays that we might have the mind of Christ, each of us individually and all of us together as a congregation. Whatever we learn as we relive the events of this day and of Holy Week and Easter, whatever we perceive as our Lord’s call to us, individually and corporately, that is the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ for us includes our intentions, our guiding principles, our motivations for our actions. We are called to pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ. Individually and corporately, it all begins and ends with love, the love of God in Christ, so freely given. May we empty ourselves that we may receive God’s love, forgiveness, and healing.  Amen.

Palm Sunday Year B  March 25, 2018

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5=11
Mark 14:32-15:39

At the beginning of our service on Palm Sunday, we welcome our King. We throw palms in his path and shout Hosanna, as well we should. Isaiah describes the suffering servant as one who listens to God so that he can “sustain the weary with a word,” and how many times has our King sustained us with his word and presence. Writing to his beloved congregation at Philippi, Paul tells us that our Lord “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” and humbled himself to the point of suffering death on a cross.

Why would our King do such a thing? Why didn’t he summon a huge army and destroy those who wanted to destroy him?

First, our King knows all too well that empires defeat empires and it goes on and on, endlessly. Earthly power is not the ultimate solution. Yes, sometimes earthly power has to be used, as in World War II when Hitler had to be stopped. But there is another way, and that is the way of love. Our sequence hymn beautifully expresses this.

The only way God could get through to us was to come among us as one of us—someone who grew up the son of a carpenter, truly loved everyone he met, healed and taught many people, and they loved him and followed him, and so have we, and here we are, two thousand years later, still loving him, still following him.

But he made some people very angry, people who had a great deal of power but did not use that power in the way God wanted them to. And they tried to destroy him with the worst they could do. With unwavering courage, he endured their torture. Yes, they killed him.

And here we are, two thousand years later, following him.  Amen.

Pentecost 17 Proper 21 A RCL October 1, 2017

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

In our opening reading for today, the people have no water to drink. They complain to Moses, who brings the problem to God. Immediately, God provides water for the people. This reading reminds us that God provides for our needs. I know that we are all praying that food and water and essential supplies will reach our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico as soon as possible.

Our passage from Paul’s letter to his beloved congregation in Philippi gives us a powerful description of the way to be a Christ-centered community of faith. Paul calls us to “be of the same mind.” In our diocesan Mission Statement, we say that we are called to “pray the prayer of Christ, seek the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ.” We are called to be of one mind, and that mind is the mind of Christ.

This means that we are daily seeking in prayer to know the will of our Lord and to do his will. We are of one mind, his mind, because we are one Body, his body.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” What a striking difference from the arrogance and narcissism rampant in our culture. If we defer to each other, if we are not competing with each other, what a difference that makes in a community.

“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” This would mean that we are not focused on ourselves but on others. We are not trying to climb the ladder of success or make all the money we can. We are thinking of the needs of others.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” Our Lord came among us as a servant of all. He called us to be servants. Because our Lord poured himself out in love for us, we worship him and we follow him. We try to be like him.

Paul then calls us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in [us], enabling [us] both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul is calling us to continue our journey with Christ, knowing that we will never be perfect as he is, but nonetheless knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, energizing us to be people of love and compassion, people who reach out to those in need, servant people who care about others.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem.  The chief priests and elders, the very people who should be seeing the truth of who Jesus is, come to challenge him, asking him by whose authority he is teaching and ministering. It is such a shame to see tyranny pretending to be true authority, and this reminds us of David Brown’s distinction between authority, auctoritas, authorship, creativity, and imperium, tyranny, control beating down the creativity of the people.

Jesus stumps them with his answer, and they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They try to come up with an answer and they realize they should simply say they do not know.

Then Jesus tells the parable about the two sons. The father asks the first son to go out and work in the vineyard. The son says he won’t do it, but later he changes his mind and goes to work. The second says “Yes, Sir,” but he never goes out into the vineyard.

One thing this parable tells us is that it is our actions that count. We can say all kinds of wonderful and flowery things, but, if our actions are not in harmony with what we say, it’s all just flowery words. If we want to find out where someone truly stands, we have to watch that person’s actions. Do they do what they say they are going to do?

The first son said No, but then that No turned to Yes. He went out into the vineyard and worked. The second son politely said, Yes, Sir,” but his actions were the opposite of his words.

Are we congruent? Do we have integrity? Do our actions match with our words? Do our lives reflect our beliefs? Jesus tells these religious leaders that the tax collectors and prostitutes will be first in his kingdom. They are the ones who are living in harmony with his gospel of compassion and service. As Lisa Ransom says, Jesus is turning the world right side up. The last shall be first and the first last.

Jesus is our model for authority—auctoritas. He has true, authentic authority. He is among us as one who serves. He empowers people. He frees up their creativity. He helps people fly like eagles. He does not hold them down and imprison them.

Last Sunday, Kim Erno talked about Paulo Freire and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Paulo Freire says that teaching and learning do not go just one way—from the teacher to the learner. He says that we learn from each other.  That is what Jesus did. He let the oppressed teach him. He learned from a Canaanite woman that his ministry was to all people. He called a tax collector to be one of his apostles.

When our Lord calls us to go out into his vineyard, that is the world, and do his work, I think we are going to say Yes and then we are going to match our actions with that Yes. We are going to go out into his vineyard and work for his kingdom, his shalom. May we follow him wherever he leads. Amen.

Palm Sunday Year A  April 9, 2017

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Palm Sunday is such a heart wrenching day. We welcome our king, casting palms in his path to honor him, and then we look on in horror as, step by step, he walks the Way of the Cross.

This Holy Week, we will be walking the Way with him as we gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Hymn 84 begins with the words, “Love came down at Christmas.” That is true. “Love came down at Christmas,” and now Love is going to pour itself out on the cross. Love is going to take all sin and darkness and brokenness and wrestle with it and labor with it and transform it into new life. He will wash our feet and share a meal with us, a meal which he will give us as a sign of his presence among us. And then, we will stand with his mother Mary at the foot of the cross.

As we walk with our Lord and spend time with him and learn from him and pray with him, we become closer to him. Our diocesan mission statement calls us to “Pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind Christ, and do the deeds of Christ.” Our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, calls us to “Let the same mind be in [us] that was in Christ Jesus.”

Significant events have happened in the past few days and are continuing to happen. For six years, Syria has been in a humanitarian crisis, and this tragic situation is connected with and surrounded by a web of political alliances and power dynamics. As we walk the Way of the Cross with our Lord this week, I hope and pray that we will seek the mind and will of Christ and that we will follow our Lord as faithfully as we possibly can. Dear Lord, help us to follow where you lead. Help us to seek and do your will.  Amen.

Palm Sunday Year B RCL March 29, 2015

Mark 11:1-11
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
Mark 14:32-15:39

Today, we welcome Jesus as our King and then we journey with him to his crucifixion. It is a heart-wrenching day, and each year we learn something new about our Lord and about ourselves.

Every Palm Sunday, we read the amazing passage from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. Paul wrote this letter from prison, and we know that the congregation in Philippi was suffering persecution.

Our passage begins, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” When Paul says “mind,” he does not mean just the intellect. Charles Cousar writes, “[Our] entire identity—[our] intuitions, sensitivities, imaginations—is to be shaped by the self-giving activity of Christ.”

Jesus upset the secular and religious authorities of his time so much that they felt their only option was to kill him. He also upset many of the ordinary people because they wanted him to conquer the Roman Empire. And so, he was sentenced to one of the most horrific deaths the human mind has ever imagined, a death reserved for the worst criminals. He did not meet violence with violence.

Jesus trusted that God could bring a greater good out of this disaster, and Jesus knew that God loved him and loved everyone of us humans and the whole creation. So Jesus allowed himself to be nailed to that cross.

Twelve step programs have a saying—“Let go, and let God.” When we are in a really tough situation, we let go of our own will and our own plans and thoughts, and we turn the whole thing over to God, knowing that God can do things we could never imagine. That’s what Jesus did on the cross. He suffered agony. He kept trusting in God’s love and power. He forgave those who were doing this awful thing. He died. Like a grain of wheat, he fell into the ground of God’s love.

Sometimes when situations are way beyond anything we can handle, we have to do that. We have to let go and let God. We have to get out of God’s way and let God take over. When we do that, I think we are very close to our Lord. When we do that, we allow God to work.

Amen.

Palm Sunday—April 13, 2014

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Our reading from Isaiah is the Third Servant Song. The servant is called to “sustain the weary with a word.” He is encouraging the exiles in Babylon to have hope, to know that God is with them. Isaiah tells the people that God is more powerful than any empire. As Christians we see our Lord as the suffering servant.

Paul writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Paul is calling us to think like Jesus, to model our attitudes and behavior after Jesus’ life.

And then, in the gospel reading, we are with Jesus in the garden, Judas betrays him, Peter denies him. Pilate interrogates him, Barabbas is released, and one horror leads to another. At the end of it all, our Lord is dead.

The Roman Empire used crucifixion to terrify people and keep them under control. Our Lord, who spent his entire life helping people, healing them, teaching them, giving many words to the weary, giving people hope, so terrified the authorities of his time, both secular and religious, that they had to kill him. They had to destroy him because he opened up new ways of thinking, new possibilities that would have threatened their power and domination.

Jesus came to offer a whole new way of living, a way, not of domination, but of compassion and caring. To paraphrase Paul, “Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.” This Holy Week, may we focus on the power of Christ’s love. May we follow his example of servanthood. May we help and support others. May we focus on sharing his love, his hope, his encouragement. We are here today because his love is stronger than any earthly power. Amen.