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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion March 26, 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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Pentecost 24 Proper 28A November 15, 2020

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

On our opening reading today, from the book of Judges, God’s people have been oppressed for twenty years by King Jabin. The strength of his oppression is emphasized by the fact that he has nine hundred  iron chariots.

The judges described in this book were not only people who helped citizens resolve conflicts, but also military leaders and charismatic spiritual leaders and sometimes prophets. In our passage this morning, we meet Deborah, the only woman judge in the history of God’s people. Deborah is a highly respected and wise person, People come from long distances to consult her because of her wisdom.

In our passage this morning. God tells Deborah to let Barak know that God wants Barak to fight the dreaded Jabin.  Actually, Barak will be waging war against Sisera, Jabin’s military leader. In the part that is omitted from our lectionary, Barak says he will not lead the troops into battle unless Deborah goes with him. Barak is an excellent general and Deborah is known as an expert military tactician. With the help of another courageous woman, Jael, they defeat Sisera.

Scholars tell us that the Book of Judges describes events dating back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries before the birth of our Lord. It is encouraging to think that God’s people had a woman such as Deborah as a spiritual, legal, and military leader thirty-four hundred years ago. All these centuries later, we have elected our first woman Vice-President.

In our reading from Thessalonians, we are reminded that we are “children of the light” and we are called to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation”

In our gospel, a man goes on a journey and gives five talents fo one servant, two talents to another, and one talent to another. As we know, back in those days, the gold coin known as a talent was worth a huge amount of money. After a long time, the man comes back. The servants who were given the five talents and the two talents have each doubled the money given. If we use our talents well, we receive two things—more responsibility and the joy of our master. But the servant who was afraid buried his talent. His fear paralyzed him.

God is a loving God who gives each of us and all of us gifts to be used. Gifts of music, gifts of listening to others and offering God’s healing, strength and hope; gifts of nurturing and rescuing animals; keeping the books, doing audits, gifts of serving our communities by counting ballots; gifts of working with the historical society, gifts of faith and love shared with many people. So many gifts that you all are exercising every day of your lives.

Because God loves us, we can depend on God. We can step out beyond our bounds of caution. I think of our food shelf. Because people were willing to find money for a building, offer their labor, and work for a vision, others were willing to give money and help in any way they could, and now our food shelf is feeding people who are suffering from the economic shock waves of this pandemic.

We are moving toward Thanksgiving. What a wonderful thing to have a national holiday devoted to thanking God for all our many blessings even in the midst of Covid 19. During this time in November, we make our United Thank Offering. Some of us have these little blue boxes and when we are thankful for something we put a coin in the box and then we offer all those coins. I would suggest that we dump out our coins or do an estimate of the many times we have thanked God in the past year and then write out a check and send it to Lori.  Make it out to Grace Church and put UTO on the memo line. 

Lori will put all the offerings together and send a check to our UTO representative here in Vermont. Our UTO rep will send our UTO offering to the national UTO ingathering. The United Thank Offering offers all kinds of help, from grants for building composting toilets at churches such as  St. Luke’s, Alburgh to assistance  to centers for helping refugee children with homework, senior centers, health centers, a ministry of cutting wood for families in need and a wide array of other ministries.

This is also the time of year when we think about our pledges. God gives us so many gifts and blessings, not because we have earned them or deserve them but because God loves us so much. Out of all those blessings, we return a worthy  portion to God. The Bible says that amount should be a tithe, a tenth of what God gives us. Because many centuries have passed and most of us give to charities, some folks talk about a modern tithe of five percent, meaning five percent to the church and five percent to charities. But the important thing is to give a worthy proportion to God in thanksgiving for all that God gives us.

Our giving includes time, talent, and treasure. If you are giving some of your God-given time and talent at the food shelf, or helping others in other ways, whether they are elderly folks or perhaps young people, either by physically helping or offering financial help, that is part of your offering in gratitude to God. Offering a portion of our time, talent, and treasure out of gratitude to God is an important part of our spiritual lives, and I know that each of you is sharing generously your time, talent, and treasure.

We haven’t been together in church for a very long time, so we can’t put our money in the plate, but please send your UTO, United Thank Offering, to Lori. I will put her address in my email when I send out this sermon. For those who have pledged in the past, please send Lori a note listing the amount you wish to pledge for 2021. This will help us to plan our budget. 

In November on behalf of everyone at Grace, we send out our outreach checks to Rock Point School, Brookhaven Center, The Abenaki Circle of Courage, Martha’s Kitchen, Sheldon Interfaith Food Shelf, Oglala Lakota College, Samaritan House, and Kairos prison ministry. This is a total of $1400 to these ministries on behalf of Grace Church.

God is constantly showering us with all kinds of gifts and filling us with grace. Let us continue to share these gifts with others and to thank our loving God for all these blessings and, most of all for God’s unfailing love. Amen.

Pentecost 24 Proper 28A RCL November 19, 2017

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

In our opening reading, the people of God have fallen into the hands of King Jabin of Canaan. The commander of Jabin’s army is Sisera. The people of God have been living under the harsh rule of King Jabin for twenty years, and Sisera has amassed a huge army. He has nine hundred chariots of iron.

In this reading, we meet one of the great women leaders of God’s people, Deborah, who is a judge and a prophetess. She is highly respected, and people come from miles away to consult her. The other hero of this story is Barak, a great military leader.

In this time of crisis, God calls Deborah to lead the people. Deborah is known to have a gift for military strategy. She has the wisdom to ask Barak to make the first move in this military campaign. With the combination of Deborah’s gift of strategy and Barak’s gift of courage and military leadership, God’s people take the important step to conquer King Jabin.

In our epistle, Paul reminds us that we are children of the light. He calls us to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation,” Most of all, he calls us to keep awake. Advent is coming.

In today’s gospel, we hear the beloved parable of the talents. As we know, a talent was a coin that was worth a great deal of money. Thomas Troegher computes that five talents would be worth $156,000.
The person who received those five talents goes out and makes five more. The two talent fellow makes two more. But the poor fellow who got one talent has gone and buried it. And the master is not at all pleased. Caution and prudence are great virtues, but our one talent man carries them a bit too far. He could have at least put the talent in the bank and gained interest.

Matthew’s congregation was being encouraged not to hide their light under a bushel. They were being called to go out and spread the good news even in the face of persecution. We, too, are called to go out and spread the good news every day of our lives, and all of us take that very seriously. Every one of you is out in the world doing God’s work, and I thank God for that and for each of you.

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. We are moving toward the time when we make our UTO offering, and I suggest that we bring in that offering next Sunday. This is also the time when we think about our pledges for the coming year.

In that context, I submit that each of us has been given the maximum of five talents. We have been given the gift of God’s love. God loves each of us as the apple of God’s eye. God loves us with a love that cannot be stopped. As Paul says in another epistle, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.”

We have been given gifts of God’s healing and forgiveness. We have been given gifts of energy and compassion and caring so that we can go out into the world and do good work and care about people and care for our families and make the world a better place. All these gifts are like the talents in the parable, God gives these gifts to us because God loves us.

What is our response? Our response is to return a worthy portion of or time, talent, and treasure to God. All of you devote time to Grace Church. Many of you devote time to the work of the diocese. All of you devote great amounts of time to helping other people, both in your work and in your spare time. In terms of treasure, we make pledges of money that we are returning to God from the treasure God has given us. This includes not only our pledges to the Church but also contributions we make to charities like the United Way, The Red Cross, and so many others.

Someone once said that we Christians know Whom to thank. We know that God gives us everything. We may go out and help people, but it is God who gives us the ability to do that. And so we thank God with all our hearts. That is what stewardship is all about—thanks.

The attitude of gratitude is a powerful thing. We know that all good things come from God, and we thank God by returning a worthy portion. We have so much to be thankful for. It would take us hours to name all of these things. Thank you, dear Lord, for your love, for our families, for our life together, for our country and our freedoms, for those who have fought for these precious rights, for warm homes, food, clothing, health, the ability to help others, and on and on our lists could go.

The United Thank Offering, UTO, is based on the fact that every day we can put a coin into our UTO box to thank God for some gift that God is giving us or has given us. Incidentally, the UTO is the outgrowth and continuation of the Women’s Auxiliary which was such a key part of Grace’s history for so many years. We continue that tradition in our gifts to UTO.

Please think about all these wonderful gifts from God prayerfully and with full gratitude to our loving God. We will do our UTO ingathering this coming Sunday, and we will also have our pledge sheets available so that we can take them and fill them out.

Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts to all of us. Amen.

Pentecost 23 Proper 28A RCL November 16, 2014

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

In our reading from the Book of Judges, God’s people have fallen into the hands of King Jabin. We hear the good news that God is going to give strength to Barak and Deborah to win the victory over King Jabin and live in freedom. In our epistle, Paul once again sounds the theme that we are called to be awake.

This morning, I would like to focus on the parable we hear in the gospel, the familiar parable of the talents. The master gives one person five talents, another two talents, and another one talent. Scholars tell us that a talent is worth fifteen years’ wages. If we recall the work of Thomas Troeger, who actually calculated the value of one talent, basing his figures on a wage of fifteen dollars an hour after taxes, one talent is worth $468,000’ two talents are worth $936,000. and five talents are worth $2,340,000. This master is generous.

I would offer the thought that each of us is the servant who has received five talents. God has given us so much. God has given us the gift of life itself, the gift of loving families, good work to do, comfortable homes, food, medical care, clothes to wear so that we can stay warm in winter. We are rich in blessings. We have so much.

Now, we can say, Well, I worked hard for what I have. And this is true. But who gave us the energy and the intelligence and the drive and the perseverance to work hard? These, too, are gifts from God. The point is that everything good in our lives comes from God.

I always like to suggest here that we make a gratitude list or update our list. I can breathe. I can walk. I can talk, I can see. I can hear. I can think. I can listen. Many people here have the gift of being healers. Some folks here are gifted painters and carpenters. Some folks here are gifted athletes, musicians, gardeners, teachers, creators of accessible spaces. All of you here have the gift of being with other people and helping them to feel heard and giving them hope. All of these are gifts from God. And you honor those gifts from God, Quietly, without fanfare, you use those gifts to God’s glory.

Perhaps the greatest gift that God has given us is God’s unconditional, unfailing love. In our opening reading today, God’s people have fallen away from God, and God is still going to raise up Deborah and Barak to set them free. God can count the hairs on our heads, God knows us inside and out, God knows our strengths and our weaknesses, God knows us, wears and all, and still God loves us mightily. God loves us with a love that will never go away, never die.

This is made so clear to us in the life and ministry of Jesus, God walking the face of the earth. God is not a God who stands far off. God loves us so much that God comes to be with us, to teach us how to live. This is the greatest gift of all.

Let us just pause for a moment and remember: God loves me. If I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have died for me on the cross. God loves me more than I can ever imagine. May God give me the grace to accept that unfailing love.

In response to all of God’s gifts, which are beyond our imagining, we are called to return to God a worthy portion—the Bible says one tenth— of what God has given us. A worthy portion of the time, talent, and treasure that God has given us.

This is what our pledge represents. Our thankful response to God, and our returning to God a worthy portion of what God has given us. This is between each of us and God.

Our pledge includes our service to others in the community, our caring for neighbors and friends and family. I know that all of you are constantly reaching our to others and offering help. Our pledge also includes charitable contributions to organizations such as the Red Cross, Episcopal Relief and Development, the United Thank Offering, the United Way, and many other fine charities.

Time, talent, and treasure. How do we spend the time God gives us? How do we use the talents God has given us? How to we spend the treasure God gives us? Someone once said that we can tell our priorities by looking through our checkbook. That is probably true. We can also get an idea of our priorities by looking at how we use the time and talents God gives us.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving and Advent, please think about these two key things: 1) God loves us more than we can fathom; and 2) everything we have is a gift from God.

After we spend some time meditating on these things—they are mysteries which we will never be able fully to understand, but it is still good to try to plumb the depth of the love behind these truths—then we make our pledge in gratitude.

The Attitude of Gratitude—one of the most powerful things in this world. That is the basis of our pledge and that is the ground of our offering of our God-given time and talents in service of our brothers and sisters.

God has given us so much. May we always be grateful. May God’s Name be praised! Amen.

Pentecost 22 Proper 28, November 13, 2011

Pentecost 22 Proper 28 A RCL November 13, 2011

Judges 4: 1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Matthew 25: 14-30

In our lesson from the Book of Judges, the people have been oppressed by Jabin, King of Canaan, and his military commander, Sisera. The people cry out to God for help, and God calls forth two leaders to meet this crisis. One of them is Deborah, a judge of Israel, wife of Lappidoth, Deborah is also called a prophetess. The judges of that period in Israel’s history were a combination of military leaders and wise people who helped to settle disputes as judges do today. Deborah was highly respected among the people.

Barak was a military leader of great strength, but Deborah was a thinker who was expert in strategy. This was going to be an important battle against a much larger foe, so God combines the gifts of two leaders, Deborah and Barak. They lead the people into battle, and the battle is won.

In our epistle for today, we are reminded that our Lord will come quickly, as a thief in the night, and we are called to be awake and to live as children of the light. We are called to live in faith and love and to build up each other, that is, to support each other in our faith journey.

Our gospel for today is the beloved parable of the talents. A man goes on a journey and he calls three of his servants and entrusts to them his estate. He gives to each according to his ability. To one he gives five talents, to the second, he gives two talents, and to the third, he gives one talent.

A talent is a huge amount of money. It is the equivalent of fifteen years’  labor. Bible scholar Thomas Troegher has computed the value in modern terms and he comes up with $31, 200 for one talent based on a wage of fifteen dollars per hour. Thus the first man received $156,000, the second 62, 400, and the third $31, 200. That’s a lot of money.

As we know, the first man makes five talents more, the second man makes two more talents. They each double their master’s money. The third man sees his master as someone who is harsh and mean and reaps where he does not sow, so he buries the talent for safekeeping.

After a long time, the master comes home. He praises the first two servants and gives them more responsibilities, and welcomes them to the joy of their master. The third servant is thrown into the outer darkness. Once again, this is more Matthew’s editorializing than the voice of Jesus. The comment that those who have will get more is also a later edition, It is not the vision of Jesus. He would never agree with the idea that the rich should get richer and the poor should get poorer.

A talent in those days was a coin worth a great deal.  Scholars tell us that the word “talent” came into English as a result of this parable. But this parable is not just about using our God-given talents, It includes that idea, but it involves much more.

One scholar notes that the master entrusts the entire estate to the servants. God has entrusted the entire creation to us. We are called to be good stewards of this planet. We are called to “live simply that others may live.”

The third servant sees the master as a mean guy. Do we see God as that old man with a beard carefully totaling up our mistakes, our sins? Or do we see God as a loving and generous God, the one who is waiting at the end of the driveway to welcome the prodigal son when he finally comes home?

God gives us everything. Every breath we take. Every gift we have. Our money, our health, our abilities, our ability to work, our ability to love and care, all come from God. These things are not ours. They are gifts from God. This moment which we are sharing is a gift from God.

Next Sunday is Christ the King Sunday, and we will be starting to make our pledges. In gratitude to God for all that God gives to us, we will return to God a portion of what God has given us. The Biblical standard is a tithe, a tenth. Nowadays, we often think of the modern tithe, or five per cent of our time, talent, and treasure to be returned to God, This includes all our donations to charities.

Some comments on this parable.  First, God is not a mean master, As someone has said, “God is a lover, not a lawyer.” When we truly realize what God has given us, it is natural to want to return a worthy portion to God.  Second, the master welcomes the first two servants into his joy. Stewardship does give us joy. The attitude of gratitude does generate deep joy. Third, the poor fellow who hid that one talent was operating our of fear. Dear Lord, help us to avoid operating out of fear. Fourth, the first two servants took some risk. They operated out of faith, not fear. Now, I’m not saying that this parable is telling us to take stupid risks, but I am saying that being people of God’s shalom sometimes involves taking some risks.

Together with our pledges for next year, we are also going to be collecting our offering for Episcopal Relief and Development. During this month of November, every gift to ERD will be matched. So, if you give ten dollars, that will be matched and become twenty dollars. As you know, ERD helps people both here in the United States and all around the world. Some of the folks who were on the ERD team for Hurricane Katrina and stayed to help all along the Gulf Coast for two years came here to help with the ministry to those affected by Tropical Storm Irene here in Vermont. They are continuing to help for the long haul.

So please think and pray about both your pledge for next year and your offering for ERD. Next month, in December, we will be making our contributions to the United Thank Offering.

God has blessed us with so much. May we be thankful.  May we share with others, and may we return a worthy portion to our loving and generous God.    Amen.