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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 4, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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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All Saints’ Sunday November 7, 2021

Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44

This sermon will be short so that we can hear reports from our delegates to Diocesan Convention. 

Today is All Saints’ Sunday. Our reading from Isaiah rejoices in the great banquet that calls all the people of the world together to celebrate God’s reign. God swallows up death and wipes the tears from our faces.

In our reading from Revelation, there is a “new heaven and a new earth.” God us with us. There is no more mourning and crying, God is “making all things new.”

And in today’s gospel, our Lord raises his dear friend Lazarus from death, foreshadowing his own resurrection. And ours.

This wonderful feast celebrates the fact that we are members of the body of Christ. We are part of the great cloud of witnesses, followers of Jesus who have gone before us, those who are here now, and those who will follow him in the future. We are not alone. We are part of a dynamic, eternal, and very big family.

Our readings today make it very clear that, because of God’s love, and because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are a people of hope. We are called to help to bring in the reign of God, the shalom of peace, wholeness, and harmony that is described in the passage from Isaiah.

After the tomb of Lazarus is opened, the risen Lazarus emerges with the strips of cloth which had been used to prepare him for burial still wrapped around his hands and feet and his face still wrapped in a cloth. Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go.” Jesus frees us from everything that would imprison us— even death. He empowers us to join the great cloud of witnesses working to build his shalom. He calls us to new life, life in him. Today, we thank God for the life of General Colin Powell, a shining example of integrity and leadership among that great cloud of witnesses.

May we follow Jesus. May we walk the Way of Love. May we help our Lord build his shalom. Amen. 

Pentecost 7 Proper 10B July 11, 2021

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Reflecting on our first reading today, Old Testament scholar James Newsome writes, “The presence of God in human life results in a joy that far exceeds that generated by other relationships and by the usual day-to-day experiences of life.” Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year B, p. 422.)

David has defeated the Philistines, a triumph King Saul could not achieve. The northern and southern kingdoms have been united. The ark of God, which had led the people of God out of their slavery in Egypt, has been at the home of Abinadab. Now David and thirty thousand men take a new cart and bring the ark of God to Jerusalem, where it will rest in a tent constructed by David. Later on, in that very spot, David’s son, Solomon, will build a temple to God. 

David wears the priestly garment, the ephod. He blesses the people. He feeds the people with the food offered at the feast in a kind of eucharistic action. In many ways, his actions are liturgical in nature. He is a religious leader as well as a king. He has been chosen by God to lead the people, and it is from his house that the Messiah will come.

As he leads the people in procession, David dances with great joy. 

We have been back in our beloved building for a few Sundays. It is such a blessing to be here where generations of faithful people have worshipped our loving and healing and merciful God. As wonderful as it is to be here, it is such a profound gift just to be together, to look into each other’s faces, to feel each other’s physical and spiritual presence in such a powerful way. For me this is such a wonderful expression of God’s love.

And that is what the writer of the Book of Ephesians, probably not Paul, but a faithful disciple of his, is expressing. This writer is telling us that God, the creator of heaven and earth, God who spoke to the people from Mt. Sinai, which was at that time an active volcano, God, who created all the plants and animals and everything else on earth, has adopted us as God’s very own beloved children.

Can you believe it? We can call God Dad, or Mom, or Papa or Mama. The creator of the universe bestows that level of love on us. We are that close to God. God is holding us in the palm of God’s hand. God is holding us in God’s loving arms.

To paraphrase James Newsome, the presence of God in our lives results in great joy. That is so true,

Then we come to our gospel for today, which is not about joy. When King Herod hears about all the healings and other wonderful things Jesus is doing, he thinks John the Baptist has come back to life. And then he remembers that he beheaded John, and our reading goes to a flashback.

Herod had arrested John the Baptist. Herod had married his brother’s wife, Herodias. John the Baptist told Herod that he had broken the law, You are not supposed to marry your brother’s wife. Herodias hated John the Baptist because he had told the truth about the law and morality.

Herod had a very complicated relationship with John. On the one hand, he did not like that John had criticized him. On the other hand, Herod liked to listen to John’s teachings about the scriptures. Down deep, I think, Herod realized that John the Baptist was a prophet speaking God’s truth.

One day, Herod had a birthday party and all his courtiers were invited. There was a great feast and the guests ate and drank their fill. His daughter came in and danced. Herod was so pleased that he offered her anything she wanted. She went out and asked her mother what her request should be. And her mother, who had a huge grudge against John the Baptist, told her to ask for John’s head. 

Scholars tell us that it is safe to assume that Herod had had far too much to drink. As drunk as he was, he did not want to kill John. He had genuine respect for John. But he had given his word, and what would all these powerful guests think if he went back on it? So he sent a soldier to do the nasty deed. This is one of the most grisly stories in the Bible or anywhere else—a tale of power and hatred gone mad.

John’s disciples come and take his body and give it a decent burial. And when Herod hears about Jesus he thinks it is John the Baptist risen from the dead, a kind of foreshadowing of the resurrection of our Lord. New Testament scholar Charles Cousar writes, “Truth-telling becomes a perilous venture in a world of Herods and Pilates.” (Cousar, Texts for Preaching Year B, P. 427.)

Even in the face of Herods and Pilates, the presence of God in our lives gives us joy. John the Baptist was the forerunner announcing the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is the light of the world and that light is shining in our lives right now. Nothing can change the power of that light and love. Nothing can dim that light. David danced with joy as he brought the ark of the covenant to a more permanent home. We dance for joy to be here now in our spiritual home. That light and love and joy is stronger than hate or fear.  Let us walk in the Way of Love. Let us dance in the Way of Love and Joy. Amen.

All Saints’ Sunday

Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11: 32-44

Today, we celebrate All Saints’ Sunday. The feast of All Saints happens on November 1, but we are, as the Church says, translating that feast to today. so that we can reflect on the meaning of this wonderful day in the Church calendar and carry that forth into our lives.

In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah describes a feast which God makes for all people. God will swallow up death forever and will wipe the tears from all faces. The whole human family is filled with joy. God has made us whole. There is nothing to fear.

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, the same theme is repeated, God will wipe every tear from our eyes. As John Donne said, “Death has no more dominion.” Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, is making all things new.

In our gospel for today, we read once again the powerful story of the raising of Lazarus. Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus were among Jesus’ closest friends, They lived a short distance outside of Jerusalem, and our Lord would go to their home and stay with them and share meals and discussion and prayer with these very close friends.

Jesus is so deeply moved at the death of Lazarus that he cries in front of the people gathered. This is a good example for us. There are times to grieve, and tears are the welling up of those deep feelings. Tears are a healing gift, a way to cope with emotions that are deep and powerful.

Both Mary and members of the crowd tell Jesus that he could have prevented this death. The truth is that Jesus cannot save us from death and suffering. We live in a fallen creation. The world is not operating as God would have it work. But he can free us from every bond. He can give us new life, life on an entirely different plane—richer, more full of light, more full of love.

They open the tomb, and there is a stench. Lazarus is really dead. But Jesus calls to him, and Lazarus stumbles out into the light. And then Jesus tells them to unbind him and let him go. I translate that to myself as Jesus’ command to set us free from whatever may imprison us.

The feast of all Saints reminds us that we are part of a great cloud of witnesses, faithful followers of Jesus who have gone before us, those who are here now, and those who will follow us. We are not alone. We are part of a huge community of faith, the Body of Christ, the Church.  As our Presiding Bishop would say, we are members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.

And today we also pray that, together with all the rest of that great cloud of witnesses, we “might rejoice in their fellowship, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, and, together with them, receive the crown of glory that never fades away.” Living the Christian in a secular age is not easy. We can certainly use every ounce of endurance that God can give us.

As we look at the world around us, we are still reeling from the terrible events of recent days. There have been several different acts of violence. As people of faith, we are especially horrified by the fact that eleven of our Jewish brothers and sisters were killed while they were in their sanctuary, which they saw as a place of safety, worshiping God.

Joyce Feinberg, 75, a research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, Richard Gottfried, 65, a dentist, Rose Mallinger, 97, Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, a primary care physician, Cecil Rosenthal, 59, and David Rosenthal, 54, two brothers, Daniel Stein, 71, Bernice and Sylvan Stein, Bernice was 84, Sylvan 86. Irving Younger, 69, and Melvin Wax, 88, a former accountant. Each of these people was a loving member, not only of the Tree of Life synagogue, but also of the Squirrel Hill community.

Messages of love and support have come to the Tree of Life synagogue from all over the world. A neighboring Muslim community has already sent generous contributions of money and help, and stands ready to do anything needed. The Rabbi says that the community will rebuild the sanctuary.

Remember how shocked we were when a young man sat in a Bible study at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston South Carolina and then killed nine members of that group. Once again, we gather together to remember those who have died, their families and friends.

This is yet another terrible tragedy, and I ask you to keep the people of the Tree of Life synagogue in your prayers.

Even in the midst of tragedy, our readings today remind us that we are a people of faith. We are a people of joy. We are a people of hope. We are a people of endurance. Our Lord is a God of compassion who brings light and life and love to all people. That is the One we are following, as saints have followed him for over two thousand years.

May we follow him in faith, and may we continue to share his love.



Pentecost 8 Proper 10 B RCL     July 15, 2018

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1:3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Our first reading is full of joy at the gifts of God. David has defeated the Philistines, something that King Saul was never able to do. God’s people are now united under one king. David is going to move the ark to Jerusalem, which he has just conquered. Jerusalem will now be the civil and religious capital of the new kingdom. David and an army of thirty thousand men are going to get the ark of God, which had led the people out of slavery in Egypt, had resided at the temple in Shiloh, and then had been placed at the home of Abinadab, a short distance from Jerusalem.

Scholars tell us that we have no way of knowing what the ark had looked like or exactly what was inside the ark. But for God’s people, it symbolized the presence and power of God. Clearly, it was large and heavy enough to require a cart. David and all the people dance with joy at this celebration of the presence of God.

David wears the ephod, a priestly garment. He makes a sacrifice to the Lord. The people place the ark inside the tent which David has made. All of this is a solemn liturgical action. David then blesses the people and distributes the food of the offering to all the people. All of this reminds us of the Eucharist and the feeding of the huge crowds by our Lord.

The rule of David, the shepherd-king, will be rooted and grounded in God, and this is something to be celebrated by all the people.

Our first reading reminds us that there is great joy in our faith in God, and our epistle builds upon that thought. The Letter to the Ephesians was probably written by a disciple of Paul, and it was a kind of newsletter addressed to the many Gentile congregations in Asia Minor.

This inspiring letter tells us that, before time began, God chose us to be God’s children. God has poured out grace upon us and has given us the gift of forgiveness and newness of life in Christ. We have been made part of the living body of Christ on the earth, and we are working with our Lord, in the power of the Spirit, to build his kingdom. These are gifts we have received from our loving and generous God, and we could spend the rest of our lives dancing with joy in gratitude for God’s many gifts to us.

Our first two readings are filled with joy, but our gospel for today seems full of darkness. Jesus and his disciples have been going around the countryside healing people and teaching about the love of God.  Jesus has just sent the disciples out to teach and preach and heal people. King Herod Antipas thinks that Jesus is John the Baptist resurrected.

It is a grisly story, and we actually have a flashback here.  Herod married his brother Philip’s wife, which was against the law. He was able to do such an awful thing because he was the ruler and no one would dare to try to stop him or even confront him.

Herod Antipas, like his father before him and descendants after him, had no respect for the law and used his power to do whatever he felt was necessary to preserve his position. Very few people would have the courage to challenge such a ruthless leader. But John the Baptist told him that what he had done was wrong. Herod had John thrown in prison, but there was something about John that drew Herod to him. Herod would talk with John from time to time. He respected John. Deep down, he knew John the Baptist was right.

We all know the story. Contrary to what Hollywood has told us, there is no Salome in this story. There is a Salome in some accounts of the resurrection, but that’s a different person.

Herodias comes in and dances. Herod is probably quite drunk, so his judgment is impaired, but he promises her anything she wants. She consults her mother, who hates John the Baptist for telling the truth, and the next scene in this horrific tragedy is the gruesome appearance of John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Herod does not feel good about this but he gave his word, and, probably more importantly, what would all these guests think if he goes back on his ill-advised promise? John’s disciples come and give him a decent burial.

If we look at the actual text, there is a pause of several lines. We come back to the present after that flashback to the death of John the Baptist.  We remember that Jesus has sent his disciples out to share God’s love forgiveness, and healing. The disciples return from their mission trip and tell Jesus about all the healings they have done and all the wonderful gifts God has given people. Then they are surrounded by a huge crowd of people hungry to hear Jesus’ message. Night is coming, and you know this story, too. More than five thousand people are fed, and there are plenty of leftovers.

Then and now, it is a dangerous thing to speak truth to power. John the Baptist and Jesus paid the ultimate price. Many others, following in their footsteps, have also paid that price. But make no mistake: God’s love, as shown forth on the Cross, is the most powerful force in the world. Love is stronger than hate. Love is stronger than fear. God’s kingdom is growing, and God is calling us to help to build it. Now, as always, the followers of Jesus have, as our baptismal covenant says, “the gift of joy and wonder in all [God’s] works,” just as David and the people of God had great joy in God’s presence so many years ago, just as Paul and his followers had deep joy in God’s grace as the followers of Jesus were building new communities of faith.

I close with a prayer which was given to me by my sister in Christ, Sara. It is by William Sloane Coffin. “May God give us grace never to sell ourselves short, grace to risk something big for something good, and grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.  Amen.”

Pentecost 7 Proper 10B RCL July 12, 2015

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19
Psalm 24
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6:14-29

Our first reading describes a memorable and joyful moment in the history of God’s people. King David has defeated the Philistines, which sets the people free for a new beginning. The ark of God, which is the center of God’s presence, the ark which led them through the wilderness into the promised land, is being carried into Jerusalem, which is going to be the religious and political center of the new united kingdom of Judah and Israel under David.

We do not know exactly what the ark looked like, but, clearly, it was large enough to have to be carried on a cart, a new cart to signify the new beginning. This cart was pulled by oxen. The entire journey from the home of Abinadab to Jerusalem, becomes a joyful procession. David and all the people of Israel dance together and sing praises to the glory of God. This celebration is for everyone, not just for the king’s court.

David wears the priestly garment, the ephod, and makes sacrificial offerings to God. When the ark has been reverently placed inside the tent constructed for it, David blesses the people and gives food from the ceremony to all the people to take home.

This event, at the beginning of David’s reign, makes it clear that David is the good shepherd who places his faith in God and takes care of all the people. The king is a spiritual leader as well as a political figure. This whole ceremony reminds us of the Eucharist and the feeding of the five thousand. David is a good shepherd of the people, and this ceremony foreshadows the coming of our own Good Shepherd Jesus.

Everyone present at this celebration will remember it for the rest of his or her life. What a beautiful and joyful beginning to a new reign!

In our reading from the letter to the Ephesians, we read of all the gifts and blessings God has given us. God has adopted us as God’s own children, God has chosen us to be members of the Body of Christ. Most of all, God has come among us and lived among us. Our Lord Jesus has freed us from the mire of our sins and given us the grace to live life in a new way. All these many gifts are not just for a few people, but for everyone. Just as the celebration of David’s kingship was open to all, so the gift of new life in Christ is for everyone.

Our gospel for today is extremely difficult. Let’s place it in context. Last Sunday, Jesus went to his own home town and the people did not accept him. But at the end of that gospel reading, Jesus sent his disciples out into the world to preach the good news and to teach and heal people. So at the beginning of this gospel, the disciples are out in the world carrying on Jesus’ ministry.

Herod Antipas was a very different kind of king from David. He had divorced his wife to marry the wife of his brother Philip. John the Baptist has told him that was wrong. Herod used to go and talk with John the Baptist because he knew John was right, that John had courage and morality, and that he, Herod needed both those things. But at the same time, he rankled that John had named his immoral acts.

When Herod hears about Jesus’ ministry and how word is spreading about this wonderful teacher, he thinks that John the Baptist has come back to life.

Herod’s wife had never forgiven John for pointing out the immorality of her marriage to Herod Antipas. We all know the gruesome story of the murder of John the Baptist. Depending on which gospel we are reading, the details differ slightly. Contrary to what we see in the world of film, the gospels do not mention anyone named Salome in this story. There is someone of that name mentioned in connection with the resurrection.

So Mark is doing one of his sandwich things here. He starts out one story and then inserts another one. Jesus sends the disciples out to do ministry, Herod hears about it and then we have this awful flashback to the killing of John the Baptist. John’s disciples come to get his body and give it a decent burial.

Why is this story here? One reason is to draw a parallel between Jesus and John. They both speak truth to power, threaten power, and are killed. Ultimately, Jesus is going to be crucified.

But let’s look again at the context. What happens after this section of Mark? What happens is that the disciples come back to report to Jesus on their work. And they are full of joy. They have brought healing and good news to people, and the response has been wonderful, They have had success.

What are these readings telling us? What is God telling us this morning? David was not perfect by any means. Later, he would make many mistakes. But he began by rooting and grounding his kingship in faith in God and care for his people. And he felt deep joy in his relationship with God. He danced and sang with joy in God’s many blessings.

Our epistle echoes that theme. How many blessings God has showered upon us, and how much joy we can have in knowing how much God loves us and how much we love God.

And what about this most difficult gospel? Jesus sends the disciples out. Travel light. Trust in God. Stay where you are welcomed. If people do not want to hear you, shake the dust off your feet and go on to the next town.

Yes, Herod killed John the Baptist. People in power use that power to protect themselves. Many of John’s disciples joined Jesus’ followers. And they went out and spread his love and forgiveness. And here we are, inheritors of all those gifts.Yes, there are obstacles and challenges, and persecution. These things are happening right now in our world. But above and beyond all those things is the joy in following Christ, and the gratitude for all his gifts.  Amen.


All Saints Sunday November 4, 2012 Year B RCL

Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21: 1-6a

John 11:32-44

Today we are celebrating the feast of All Saints, which actually occurs on November 1. This sermon will be brief because we will be hearing reports on Diocesan Convention.  We will focus on the gospel in a moment, but, first, just a few thoughts about All Saints.

There are capital S saints, like St. Mary Magdalene and St. Francis, and there are what my dear mentor Al Smith used to call small s saints, like us. In the letters to congregations in the early Church, St. Paul would address the saints at Corinth or the saints at Colossae. If he were writing to us, he would probably address the letter to the saints in Sheldon.

We are members of the Body of Christ, which means that we are part of that great cloud of witnesses–those who have followed Christ through the ages—those who have gone before us, those who are here now, and those yet to come.  We have many companions on the journey. The hymn, “I sing a song of the saints of God, makes it clear that saints are people from all walks of life, people you can see anywhere you go. They are just folks like us.  We are all running the same race, the race of faith, which demands that we stay strong in our spiritual practice of praying the prayer of Christ; learning the mind of Christ and doing the deeds of Christ.

Just a brief word on the gospel. When Jesus arrives, his friend Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, scolds Jesus for not arriving earlier. If  you had gotten here earlier, she says, my brother would not have died. Jesus is with us on every step of the journey, but he cannot protect us from every adversity. He cannot protect us from all bad things, but he helps us through every challenge. In this case, he raises Lazarus from the dead, just as he will raise us on the last day. When Lazarus comes out of the tomb, “his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth, “ Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go.” Jesus frees us from everything that binds us or enslaves us.

Because our Lord walks with us on the journey, we can be free. We do not have to be held in the grip of fear or in the grip of any kind of death. We can live life in a new and deeper way.

Our Diocesan Convention theme was, “What About Jesus?” Our speaker was Michael Curry, the Bishop of North Carolina. Our delegates, Beth, Lori, and Jan, are going to share some thoughts on convention.

Like true spiritual athletes, may we run the race, or, as Bishop Curry might say, may we dance with God and each other until we become the new family of God which Jesus came to create.