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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 11, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 18, 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:…

Pentecost 9 Proper 14C August 11, 2019

Isaiah 1:1. 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

Our first reading today, from the prophet Isaiah, dates back to around 742 B.C. Isaiah’s ministry began in the Southern Kingdom of Judah a bit after the time of Amos and Hosea. Scholars tell us that Isaiah was probably familiar with the work of his two colleagues who ministered in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Isaiah addresses the kings of his time. He calls them “rulers of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah.” This language serves as a big wake up call. The prophet is addressing a society whose leaders need a major transformation.

Isaiah addresses the issue of worship. The temple in Jerusalem was the center of the life of the people. Sacrifices were being offered; holy days were being observed in worship, but there was a glaring problem. The leaders were corrupt. Even those leading worship in the temple were not adhering to God’s values.

God does not want offerings of animals. God does not want the spilling of blood. God calls these “abominations.” We begin to wonder, is God asking the temple officials to stop all worship?

Then God hits the nail on the head: “I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.” What is going on here? The temple leaders are conducting the services, but their hearts are not in the right place. Their attitudes are so far away from what God wants us to have when we worship that God is disgusted.

God says. “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek justice; rescue the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow. In the society of the Southern Kingdom, the rulers are corrupt; the gap between the rich and the poor is growing larger and larger. God is calling them to return to justice, help the oppressed, and care for those who are the most vulnerable.

This passage from Isaiah calls us to remember that when we worship God, we can’t just go through the motions and say the beautiful words in the prayer book and then ignore and forget the values of God’s kingdom. For us as Christians, the values expressed in our worship need to be reflected in our lives.

Our epistle, from the Letter to the Hebrews, was written to Jewish people who had made the decision to follow Jesus. This was extremely difficult for them. Their families could not understand what they were doing; their home congregations were upset, and, as followers of Christ, they were subject to persecution.

To give them strength for the journey, the writer of this inspiring letter turns to the great icon of faith, Abraham and his wife Sarah. When God called them, they set out from their comfortable life to go to an unknown country. Along the way, they met great dangers and challenges.

God had promised the they would have children as numerous as the stars, but, by the time they arrived at their new home, they were very, very old. When God came and told Sarah that she would have a child very soon, Sarah rolled on the floor with laughter, and it was infectious.  Abraham couldn’t help but laugh right along with her. Nine months later, their son Isaac was born. The story of these two courageous people reminds us that God loves us and that we can trust God to lead and guide us to the promised land.  

Our gospel for today is a reflection on our story last week of the man who had such an abundant harvest that he decided to tear down his barns and build new ones to hold all his riches.

Jesus begins with those wonderful and powerful words: “Do not be afraid.” God gives us good things beyond our imagining. God gives us God’s kingdom of peace and harmony. Our Lord reminds us to remember how much God loves us, and to trust in God to guide and strengthen us.

Then our Lord gives us a kind of Advent call: “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” Don’t be like those five foolish maidens who ran out of oil. When the master comes, open the door for him. And then what happens? He invites us to sit down and he serves us a meal. Our Lord truly turns the world upside down. Our Lord, our leader, is serving us, just as he washed our feet on Maundy Thursday.

If we are focused on him and on his shalom, his kingdom, we are constantly praying to him for grace to do his will. We are filled with his love and we are extending that love to others. We are working to build his shalom, his kingdom of peace, in which everyone has food and clothing and a place to live, and medical care and good work to do.

That’s what it means to be ready, to be awake. And then Jesus comes in and puts on an apron and serves us a meal! Patricia Lull from Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota writes, “The Gospel text for this week entices the hearer to place first things first. The things of God are to be given the most urgent priority in every Christian’s life. Neither fear nor worldly distraction is to lure the children from God’s tender, attentive care.   God promises to surprise with the gift of the kingdom those who stand ready and willing to receive this singular treasure.” (Lull, Feasting on the Word Year C Volume 3, p. 334.

When our Lord comes again to bring in his kingdom, to complete his work of creation and heal and make the world whole and full of his love, it will be a time of great joy. This text adds a wonderful picture of our servant Lord serving us a midnight supper or an early morning breakfast!

May we stay awake. May be ready to receive him. May we be ready to receive the gift of his kingdom with great joy and gratitude. Amen.

Pentecost 12 Proper 14C RCL August 7, 2016

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20
Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24
Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16
Luke 12:32-40

The prophet Isaiah had a long ministry in Judah beginning in roughly 740 B.C.E. during the reign of King Uzziah and ending in roughly 701 B.C.E. It was a turbulent time. The Northern kingdom of Israel was taken over and annexed by the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians then began to threaten the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

In the midst of all of this upheaval, Isaiah is called to speak God’s word to the people of Judah. In today’s reading, God is telling us that our actions must be in harmony with our worship. No matter how many services we may offer; no matter how beautiful those services may be, they mean nothing if we do not “learn to do good.” Specifically, God is calling us to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” In other words, God wants us to be sure that we take care of the most vulnerable among us.

In a sense, all of our readings today are about faith, and in our passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, we meet that icon of faith, Abraham. This letter was written to new converts from Judaism. Theirs was not an easy journey, and the writer wanted them to think deeply about the life of this patriarch who was called to leave his home and all that he knew, take his family and whatever belongings they could bring, and go to an unknown land to which God would lead them.

Theologian Frederick Buechner lives in Southern Vermont. Here is his description of Abraham and Sarah.

“They had quite a life, the old pair. Years before, they had gotten off to a good start in Mesopotamia. They had a nice house in the suburbs with a two-car garage and color tv and a barbecue pit. They had a room all fixed up for when the babies started coming. With their health and each other, and their families behind them they had what is known as a future. Sarah got her clothes at Bonwit’s, did volunteer work at the hospital, was a member of the League of Women Voters. Abraham was pulling down a decent salary for a young man, plus generous fringe benefits and an enlightened retirement plan. And then they got religion, or religion got them, and Abraham was convinced that what God wanted them too do was pull up stakes and head out for Canaan where God had promised that he would make Abraham the father of a great nation which would in turn be a blessing to all nations, so that’s what they did, and that’s where their troubles started.”(Buechner,  Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale,  pp.50-51.)

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” On their journey to the Promised Land, Abraham and Sarah had many adventures, some of them quite scary. Yet they never lost faith. They trusted God. They loved God, and they knew that God loved them.

God had promised that they would have descendants as numerous as the stars, and they believed God. True, there were some rather pointed conversations as they grew old and no babies arrived, but finally the day came when they found out that Sarah was actually going to have a baby, and she laughed, and they both laughed, but it happened. They did have descendants as numerous as the stars or as the grains of sand on the beach. God is calling us to have faith like that.

Jesus is calling us to be ready for the coming of his kingdom. He tells us not to be afraid, not to let fear govern our actions. We are called to pray that fear into faith. He tells them to sell their possessions and give alms, to travel light. Does this mean that we have to sell everything? No, but it does mean that we are called to live simply and to share what we have with others.

He calls us to be ready, to have our lamps lighted, so that when the master comes, we will be ready to wait on him. But then Jesus says the master will wait on the servant. In his kingdom, there is no hierarchy. We all help each other.

The main theme of our gospel today is that we are called to be ready for his coming. We are called to be alert.

What are these lessons telling us? First, that the ideals we express in our worship are the ideals that must govern our lives. The values we express in our lives must be in harmony with the values we express in our worship and in our faith.

Secondly, that we need to have the deep and strong faith of Abraham. He left everything and followed God’s leading to a new land and a new life. We do not necessarily have to go to a new land or a new place physically, but we are constantly moving to a new and a deeper place spiritually.

Finally, we are called to be alert, to be ready to put our faith into action, to serve those who are most vulnerable, for they are beloved of God.  Amen.

Last Sunday after Epiphany Year B RCL 2/15/15

2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

Today is the last Sunday after Epiphany. This coming Wednesday, we will gather for our Ash Wednesday service and will begin the season of Lent.

Epiphany is the season of light. The wise men followed the star which led them through the dark nights to the place where the new king was. They worshipped because they knew that a new order, a new creation, had come into being. They went home by another way. They were wise enough to avoid Herod, who was willing to resort to murder to destroy this new kingdom.

Epiphany is also a time when we focus on the glory of God. God has sent God’s son. God has come to be with us. And today, we go up the mountain with Peter and James and John and we see his glory as we have never seen it before. And we will never forget it.

We see some foreshadowings in our opening reading. The great prophet Elijah is getting old, He is going to leave. He does not actually die, He is carried up into heaven in a most dramatic way. He and his faithful assistant, Elisha, journey to the Jordan. Elijah keeps telling Elisha to stay behind, but Elisha is not going to leave his mentor. The waters part, recalling the crossing of the Red Sea, the journey from slavery into freedom. Finally, Elijah, knowing that he is about to leave, asks Elisha what he can do for him. Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. If Elisha sees his mentor as he is carried up to heaven, the double portion will be his. Then the chariot of fire and horses of fire separate them and Elijah is carried up in a whirlwind. Elisha sees this glory. He cries out in grief and also describes the glory he is seeing. Then he tears his clothes in mourning.

Elijah is one of the great prophets of Israel, but Elisha follows faithfully and is a courageous prophet of God. This is one of the great stories about the passing of the torch from one leader to the next.

This story is a wonderful preparation for the Transfiguration of our Lord. He takes Peter and James and John and goes up the mountain. Mountains are where we meet God. Moses encounters God on Mount Sinai. Jesus becomes blazingly white and surrounded by light. Moses and Elijah are with him.

Peter tries to capture the moment, but, of course, we cannot hold on to those moments. But we have seen our Lord for who he truly is, and that vision will never leave us. That vision will carry us through Lent, to the foot of the cross. It carries us through the dark and lonely places of our lives. It gives us hope when there seems to be no reason to hope.

At the beginning of Epiphany, when Jesus was baptized, God spoke only to Jesus, saying, “You are my son, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.” Now God speaks to Peter, James, and John—and us— and says, “This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him!”

We have this very short time with Jesus on the mountain, a time when we see him for who he truly is. And this is a moment we will carry with us forever. We cannot endure the intensity of those mountaintop moments for long. They are fleeting. But they change our lives. They alter our perspective. They transfigure us.

We see Jesus . We see the reality of who he is—and it does something to us. He is walking with us. He is talking with us and teaching us a new way to live. It is not an easy way to live. It is extraordinarily demanding. And it is quite different from the values of the world surrounding us.

There is a new creation breaking in on the old one. The transfiguration of our Lord lets us know that, as we follow him, we, too, are going to be transformed.

This is where our epistle comes into the picture. Some of the folks in Corinth are apparently having trouble understanding Paul’s message. Paul goes way back to the Book of Genesis, to the point when God was creating the world. God creates the light and lets the light shine out of the darkness. That light shines in our hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Those of you who have attended the Easter Vigil will remember that, in the darkness, the new fire is kindled and the deacon comes down the aisle in the darkness with the lighted paschal candle, saying or singing, “The light of Christ,” and the people respond. “Thanks be to God.” As St. John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”

But before we reach Easter Even, we will walk the way of the cross in Lent. And as we walk that way, we will carry the memory of the Transfiguration. We will remember seeing our Lord radiating the glory of God. We will recall the warmth of that light entering into us and giving us power for the journey ahead.

We can’t stay on the mountaintop for long. The emotional high would give us all heart attacks. Life can be boring, and dull at times. It can be like the valley of the shadow of death. It can have times of great joy.

Through the times of boredom, dullness, trial and tribulation, and joy, we will carry those glimpses of the mountain. We will be with him. We will feel him with us, guiding us, leading us, shepherding us. And we will know who he truly is. And we will thank God for his presence and power among us. Amen.