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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:…

Christ the King Year A November 22, 2020

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Our opening reading today takes us back to the time of the Babylonian Exile. Twenty-six hundred years ago (597 B.C.E.) the powerful Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem and sent God’s people into exile in Babylon. Eleven years later, (586 B.C.E), the Babylonians returned, destroyed the temple, and leveled many of the surrounding buildings.

Ezekiel, a priest, had been in Babylon with the people for about eleven years. The destruction of the temple was one of the most tragic points in the history of God’s people. It was heartbreaking.

We have often reflected on how the history of God’s people as revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures reflects on and parallels our own history. As we read about this low point in their life together, we here in Vermont are losing our battle with Covid-19. Once again I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine, who had to stand before us this week and let us know that the positivity rate is up to two percent, hospitalizations are rising, and we need to reverse this trend. The reason these numbers are rising is that folks are getting together socially, eating, drinking, and enjoying each others’ company without wearing masks or social distancing. Our governor said that he hasn’t seen his mother in a year. As a good leader, he understands how we all feel. As he encouraged us to wear masks and do all the other things that we know stop the virus from spreading, Governor Scott acknowledged that he cannot make people follow the guidance from our medical experts.

He spoke with courage and sincerity to those who refuse to follow the guidance, and I quote him. Don’t call it patriotic. Don’t pretend it’s about freedom. Because real patriots serve and sacrifice for all, whether they agree with them or not. Patriots also stand up and fight when our nation’s health and security is threatened. And right now, our country and way of life is being attacked by this virus, not by the  protections we put in place.” (Gov. Phil Scott, Press Briefing, Tuesday, November 17, 2020.)

This Corona Virus is killing as many people as an invading army. We heard this week that we have exceeded the number of deaths we suffered in World War II. In may ways, we can identify with our spiritual ancestors in Babylon. The Babylonian Exile is an excellent metaphor for this pandemic. In this dark moment, in this time of utter discouragement, God puts God’s words in the mouth of Ezekiel. God is going to be a good shepherd to God’s people. God is going to feed them and take care of them. God is going to  bring God’s people back together and bring them home. And God has a special word for leaders who have been abusive to the people. God will stop them from misusing their power. God directly addresses those who “pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted all the weak animals with [their] horns.” God will feed them with justice. God will set things right. God will bring the people a wise and compassionate leader like King David. As Christians, we immediately think of our King, Jesus. In these dark days of increasing positivity rates, we have  compassionate leaders in Governor Scott and his team. May we all follow their directions.

In our gospel for today, we have the blueprint for why we all gathered together and built a new building for the food shelf and why our wonderful volunteers gather six days a week to minister to our neighbors who are suffering from this pandemic. People have lost their jobs. Unemployment benefits have run out.  Extensions have expired, and there is no help forthcoming. People who have never been to the food shelf find that they have to come for help.

Our Lord tells us that when we give food to those who are hungry, we are feeding him. When we give water to the thirsty, or welcome to the stranger, or clothing to those who need it, we give those things to Jesus. When we take care of those who are sick or visit those who are in prison, we are doing that to him. We are the hands of Christ reaching out in love to help others. And every person we meet is an alter Christus, an other Christ. There is a spark of the divine in every person. Our Lord is telling us to see every person we meet as Himself, as Christ.

Christ is our King, but a very different kind of king. He eats with the lowest of the low. He loves the people nobody loves. In his kingdom, everybody is infinitely precious. Everybody is loved. This is God’s shalom.

Our retired Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori writes: 

That word “shalom” is usually translated as “peace,’ but it’s a far richer and deeper understanding of peace than we usually recognize. …It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences.

Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts  with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.  (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and A Prayer, p. 33.)

Today we celebrate Christ the King and we also celebrate Thanksgiving. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” He prays for them and us that  “eyes of our hearts may be enlightened.” What a great metaphor, Paul is praying that the light of Christ’s love may come into our hearts and lives and lift our hearts and spirits so that our hearts and lives may become full of light and love, and that we may be filled with hope. I think that lifting of our hearts is like the hope that came to God’s people 2,500 years ago as they faced the destruction of their beloved temple, the center of their worship. They believed that God dwelled in the temple, and they came to realize that God was in their midst. God gave them the hope and determination to return and rebuild.

We have so much to be thankful for, The attitude of gratitude is a very powerful thing. It is a power for good. In these dark days of Covid, our own exile from Holy Eucharist, our Exile from our beloved church building, our Good Shepherd is here in our midst. We thank you for your presence, O Lord, and we thank you for leading us and guiding us. We will celebrate Thanksgiving, with your help. We will help and feed our neighbors. We will, with your grace, help you build your shalom.

Here, in these darkest days of the pandemic, give us the grace to get back on track. Our own governor has had to remind us that not wearing a mask is not patriotic. Send your love among us, O Lord, that we may love you and love each other, that we may take care of each other, as you our Good Shepherd, take care of your flock. Amen.

Christ the King — November 26, 2017

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-14
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Our first reading today is from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest who served among the people of God exiled in Babylon from about 593 to 563 B.C. The powerful Babylonian Empire conquered Jerusalem in 597 B.C. and sent many of the leaders and others into exile. Then, in 586 B.C., the Babylonian armies came back and totally destroyed the temple and many of the surrounding buildings. Scholars tell us that this is the point when Ezekiel wrote this passage. Not only are the people in exile, but now the temple, the center of their worship, has been turned to rubble.

At this darkest hour, God calls Ezekiel to speak God’s word to the people. And God is telling the people that God will gather them up. God will gather all of God’s people from wherever they have had to flee, and God will bring them home. God will feed the people with good pasture, and God will be their shepherd.

God will bring back the ones who have strayed. God will bind up the wounds of those who are injured, and will strengthen the weak. But the fat and strong, that is, the leaders who have hurt the people and have prospered at the expense of the people, will face a time of reckoning. God speaks directly to these leaders, who in essence have bullied the people. God says, “Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scatted them far and wide, I will save my flock….”

God says that God will set over them one shepherd, God’s servant David. We know that David had ruled several hundred years before this time in history, so, as Christians, we take this as a reference to the kingship of Christ, who was from the family of David.

In this prophetic writing, from twenty-five hundred years ago, God is calling all leaders to care for their people, not to hurt them.

In our gospel for today, as we celebrate Christ the King, Jesus speaks about the  values and actions of those who are following him and bringing in his kingdom. He tells us that, if we feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty or welcome the stranger or clothe folks who have nothing to wear, or take care of those who are sick or visit those who are in prison, we are doing those things to him.

Our king identifies, not with the rich and powerful, but with those who need help, those who are weak, those who have no power, those who are at the margins of society. When he tells his followers that they have done all these things to him, they are astonished. They had no idea. They were just trying to help a fellow human being.

Jesus is so different from our usual ideas of a king. He is not powerful in the world’s meaning of the word. He has no army. He has no palace. He was born in a stable to a carpenter and his wife. Shortly after his birth, his father had to take the family to Egypt to save Jesus’ life, so they became refugees, aliens in a strange land because King Herod was killing baby boys. Our king has suffered, and he has a special place in his heart for those who suffer.

Our king grew up in a carpenter’s home, worked in the shop with his earthly father, studied at the synagogue with the other kids, and eventually he went to the river Jordan and was baptized by his cousin John.

Wherever he went, he lived the values of his kingdom. When he went into the synagogue and reads the scroll of Isaiah, it said that he was coming to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to comfort all who mourn, and to bring God’s peace and harmony. That is what he did during his entire ministry, and that is what he calls us to do.

Today we make our United Thank Offering and we also begin to pray about our pledges. Today and every day, God calls us to help those who need God’s love and caring. The season of Pentecost is coming to a close, and this coming Sunday we move into Advent.

May we take time to reflect on the depth of God’s love for us and for all people. May we help and serve others in Christ’s Name. Amen.

Last Sunday after Pentecost Proper 29A RCL November 20, 2011

Last Sunday after Pentecost Proper 29A RCL November 20, 2011

Christ the King Sunday

Ezekiel 34: 11-16, 20-24
Psalm 100
Ephesians 1: 15-23
Matthew 25: 31-46

Today is the last Sunday of the Pentecost season, also called Christ the King Sunday. It is also the beginning of Thanksgiving week. Next Sunday, we will begin the Advent season. What a wonderful time of the year, a time when we celebrate the paradoxical kingship of our Lord, a time when we focus on all the things we have to be thankful for, and a time when we are on the verge of preparing for our Lord to come again and complete the creation.

The prophet Ezekiel was one of the leaders of God’s people during their time in Exile in Babylon. Ezekiel was deported to Babylon in 597 B. C. E., the first time the massive and powerful Babylonian Empire captured Jerusalem. During the time in exile, Ezekiel and other leaders led the people in much deep soul-searching, and they realized that their leaders had not been good shepherds of the people. The rich and powerful pushed the little people around. There was no justice in the land.  

The Babylonians came back to Jerusalem in 586 B. C. E. This time they leveled the temple. This was a huge blow to the people. The temple was the center of their worship, and, in some sense, they felt that God dwelled in the temple. At this time, more of the people, especially the leaders, were sent to exile in Babylon.

God spoke to Ezekiel at this most dark and hopeless time. God gave Ezekiel the vision of a people made new, the vision of a return to Jerusalem and a time of rebuilding and restoration. God gave the vision of a community of people of compassion and caring.  And God said that God would be the shepherd of the people. This helped the people to realize that God was not only in Jerusalem. God was with them in their exile, guiding them to become the people God called them to be. As we know, the people did eventually return and rebuild.

In our post- Christendom era today, many scholars point out that we are in a kind of exile, as the Church seems to more and more people to be irrelevant. This passage from Ezekiel reassures us that the vision of God’s shalom is never irrelevant and gives us faith and hope to persevere in helping to bring in Christ’s kingdom.

Our reading from Ephesians is one of the most beautiful and powerful descriptions of community in the Bible. Paul says that he has heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and of their love toward all the saints. He prays that God may give them a “spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe….” Our Lord is alive and is at the head of his Body, the Church, to fill us with all the gifts we need to follow him and to do the ministries he calls us to do.

Today’s gospel rounds out these lessons which focus on our king. Christ is enthroned as king and judge in this passage. But our king and our Lord calls us to a ministry of servanthood. We are called to feed the hungry, give a drink to those who are thirsty, give clothes to those who need them, welcome the stranger, extend hospitality, heal the sick, and visit those in prison.

God leads us out of exile into fullness of life. God leads us out of hopelessness into joy. Christ our King comes among us as one who serves and calls us to share that servant ministry. Christ, our Good Shepherd, leads us to good pasture, leads us beside still waters, and restores our souls.

We have so much to be thankful for, and that attitude of gratitude is the source of our stewardship. God has given us so much. It’s almost beyond our ability to comprehend.  God loves us unconditionally. Nothing can separate us from that love.  God gives us everything we need. God gives us all the gifts for ministry that we need in order to do the ministry he calls us to do.  God gives us the gifts of faith, hope, and love. Faith that gives us a sense of security in a world that fosters anxiety and fear. Hope that anchors us to a vision of the kingdom, the shalom, of Christ, a kingdom of peace, harmony, justice, and caring. And love, the love of Christ, who gives his life so that we may live in him and extend his love to others.

The power of his life and love is perhaps the greatest gift for which we are so thankful. He has extended that love to us and called us to share that love with others. And because of our Lord and all his gifts to us, we return to God a worthy portion of what God has given to us. In the next couple of weeks we will be making our pledges for 2012. We make these pledges from a deep sense of God’s abundance, which God has given to us.  Please make your pledge prayerfully in response to God’s love and generosity.

As I celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I thank God for this community, Grace Church, Sheldon, Vermont. Paul’s description of the church at Ephesus fits you very well. You gather to share the word of God, to be fed and energized by our risen Lord in the Holy Eucharist, to catch up with each other and support each other in your faith journey and your ministries out in the world, and then you go out and share God’s love with people in so many ways, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I believe Grace Church is a wonderful, vibrant community doing the ministry of servanthood which our Lord calls us to do. Thank you, and thanks be to God, for your good and faithful ministry.

May we grow ever closer to Christ our King, our Good Shepherd who  leads us into wholeness and newness of life. May we continue to be a community of faith in our Lord Jesus and love to all. May we continue our ministries to those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who need clothing, shelter, healing, welcome and caring.  Amen