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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:…

Easter 6C May 22, 2022

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Our opening reading today is from the Book of Acts. Paul is having a vision. A man from Macedonia is pleading with Paul saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Immediately, Paul and his team set sail from Troas, a city on the northwest tip of Asia Minor, which we now call Turkey. They land in Philippi, a city in northwestern Greece. They have just sailed from Asia to Europe.

Philippi is a major city in that area of the Roman Empire. Paul and his team stay in Philippi for several days and on the sabbath they go to what the text describes as a “place of prayer” by the river. Scholars tell us that this “place of prayer” by the river is probably a synagogue. 

There they find a group of women, and Paul and his team speak to them. Among these women is Lydia, a woman of means who deals in purple cloth. She is a business woman and the head of a household, which was very unusual in those days. After listening to Paul and his team, Lydia and her household are baptized.

Then Lydia invites Paul and his team to stay at her home. They make her house their base of operations  and later the community starts a house church in her home. Her entry in Lesser Feasts and Fasts says that Lydia is recognized as a saint“ in a wide range of Christian traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and many Protestant traditions. In the Orthodox Church she is given the title ‘Equal to the Apostles’ for her role in spreading the Christian faith.” Lydia’s feast day was yesterday, May 21.

This is a very important moment in the history of the Church. The faith which began in Asia is now in Europe.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is telling his disciples and us that he will be going to be with God. He will no longer be here on earth. This Thursday the Church observes Ascension Day. The window above the altar at Grace beautifully and movingly depicts our Lord’s Ascension.

We can only begin to imagine how shocked and saddened the disciples were to hear that Jesus would be leaving them to return to the Father. Their leader, teacher, mentor, and friend would no longer be with them in the flesh.

With Jesus among them, they could always turn to him and ask a question or seek his guidance in a difficult situation. But now he would be gone There would be a terrible hole in their hearts, in their lives.

But Jesus says some things that answer their grief and fear. First, he says the most amazing thing. He says that he and God will come and make their home with us. If we love Jesus and God, they will come and make their home with us. Jesus and God will live in our hearts. And we know that is true. We all have had times when we were confused or grieving or at our wits’ end, and there God was, or Jesus, or the Spirit, comforting us. Now our Lord is telling us that he and God and the Spirit have made their home with us.

Then Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will “teach [us] everything, and remind [us] of all that [Jesus] has said to [us].” In another place, Jesus says that the Spirit is within us. and in another place, our Lord says that the Spirit will lead us into all truth. Nowadays, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation. The Holy Spirit is within us and will help us sort out the truth. And the truth is always about love.

And then Jesus says that wonderful thing: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Jesus is giving us his peace, his shalom. In her book, A Wing and a Prayer, retired Presiding Bishop  Katharine Jefferts  Schori writes, “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.)

Jesus is with us. Jesus, God, and the Spirit have made their home with us. And he tells us that we should not be afraid. So many things that are happening in our world are because people are afraid. Love casts out fear. Faith is fear that has said its prayers. Let us live lives of faith, not fear.

Bishop Schori continues, “Each one of us has the potential to be a partner in God’s government, to be a co-creator of a good and whole and peaceful community.” She goes on to say that we are called
“to use every resource at hand  to build the reign of God—to use the gifts we have, the ones we think we might have, and the ones we haven’t discovered yet, to be willing to speak about our vision of peace, whether in the newspaper or in the halls of Congress, and to dedicate our lives to making that vision come alive, to give our hearts to it, to believe in it, with every fiber of our being.”  

And she concludes, “Building the reign of God is a great and bold adventure, and it is the only route to being fully alive. If we don’t set out to change the world, who will?” (ibid., pp. 34-35.)

Jesus is with us, He and Isaiah and others have given us a vision, a vision based on living lives of faith, hope, and love, and honoring the dignity of every human being. We are already engaged in helping Jesus to build his shalom. We are already committed to walking the Way of Love. Jesus has made his home with us. We have made our home with him, and we are walking and working together. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

Easter 6C May 26, 2019

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Our first reading, from the Book of Acts, is dramatic. Paul and his team are in Troas, a port city in what was then called Asia Minor. Today we call this country Turkey. Herbert O’Driscoll tells us that, if he had looked across the Aegean Sea, Paul would have been able to see Europe.

That night, Paul has a vision. A man from Macedonia is calling to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul immediately realizes that this is a call from God to go and proclaim the good news to the people of Macedonia. The writer of Acts even describes the course they took.

They end up in Philippi, a leading city in the area and a Roman colony. On the sabbath day, they go to an area outside the city gate where, the text says, “we supposed there was a place of prayer.” Scholars think there was no actual synagogue there, but Paul and his team find a group of women gathered. The good news is about to be preached on European soil for the first time. The new faith is leaping from Asia to Europe.

Lydia is described as a “worshiper of God.” This wording indicates that she is a Gentile who is interested in the Jewish faith; she is drawn to a God of justice and mercy. She has her own business. She sells purple fabric to the wealthy and powerful in the area. She also has her own house. She is a woman of means who is accustomed to dealing with the upper classes. God has opened her heart to listen eagerly to what Paul has to say.

We have no record of what Paul said, but it must have touched the minds and hearts of his listeners. Lydia and the entire group are baptized.  Then Lydia invites Paul and his team to stay at her house. Later on, when Paul returns to stay with Lydia and her household, there is a house church in her home. This is how the new faith spread. The good news was preached; people felt the call to follow Jesus; they gathered in the homes of folks who could afford to have homes, and the word spread.

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, we are in a vision looking down from a mountain onto the holy city of Jerusalem. The light and love of God are shining forth.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is telling the disciples that he will be going to be with God. He will be leaving them. This Thursday, the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension. As the disciples look on, our Lord rises to heaven to be with the Father. This glorious window depicts that scene.

We can only imagine how sad those faithful followers of Jesus were to see him move away from them. They would never see him again.

And yet, here in our gospel, he is telling them and us, “Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” He is telling us that if we love him, our actions will show that love. What we say and do will express his love. True love is not only a feeling. It is actions which respect the dignity of every human being. And Jesus says that, if we live lives centered in him, he will make his home with us. God will make God’s home with us. If we follow Jesus, he will be with us always. He will make his home with us.

Then Jesus tells the disciples and us that he will send his Spirit. Jesus says that the Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has taught us. And our Lord gives us his peace, his shalom, his vision of how human life is to be lived

Retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori writes,”That word ‘shalom’ is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but it’s a far richer understanding of peace than we usually recognize. It’s not just a 1970s era hippie holding up two fingers to greet a friend—‘Peace, Bro.’ 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 divine gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.” (Schori, A Wing and a Prayer,” p. 33.)

As Jesus gives us his vision of Shalom, he also offers us one more paradox. He says, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.”He is going to be with God, but he will also be with us and he will be giving us his grace so that we can help him bring in his kingdom, his shalom across the whole wide earth.

Love is at the root of it all, his love that we know so well—the love that will seek out every lost sheep. strengthen our weak knees, buoy up our spirits, and welcome everyone into his big family. Nothing ca get in the way of his love. Nothing can stop his love.

This week, especially on Thursday, Ascension Day, we meditate on that paradox: Our Lord has gone to be with God and yet he has made his home with us. He is with us, with that unfailing love and grace, leading us and guiding us into his Shalom.  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.

Amen.

 

Easter 6C RCL Year C May 1, 2016

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Once again, our opening lesson places us in the midst of an important scene in the course of history. Paul and his ministry team are in Troas, a city near ancient Troy in what we would call Turkey. Paul has a vision. A man from Macedonia is calling him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” We do not know who the man in the vision is, but it is clear that Paul takes this to be a call from God.

We are given the exact route that they follow. They are going from the continent of Asia to Europe. They are going to make history. They are going to proclaim the Good News on a new continent.

They land in Philippi, an important Roman city.  They remain there for several days. When the Sabbath comes they go outside the city gate to a place of prayer by the river. They are hoping to find a synagogue where Paul, a Rabbi, would have the right to teach.

But they find no building. Instead they find a group of women gathered for worship. Paul and his team sit down and talk with the women. There are two striking things going on here. In the ancient world, it would be highly unusual to find a group of women worshiping together, and it also would be unusual for a rabbi to sit down with these women. God is dong a new thing. Barriers are coming down.

Among these women is an extraordinary person named Lydia. She is a dealer in purple cloth. Most scholars see her as a prosperous business woman. Since only the Roman nobility were allowed to wear purple cloth because purple symbolizes royalty, scholars tell us that we can assume that Lydia is accustomed to dealing with the noble class.

Lydia is a seeker. She is a Gentile who is interested in learning about God.  The Lord opens her heart to listen eagerly to Paul, and she and her household are baptized. This is another unusual thing. Lydia is the head of a household.

She takes her faith so seriously that she immediately invites Paul and his team to stay in her house. After some persuasion, they accept, Later, after Paul and Silas are released from prison, they go to stay with her again. By that time, services are being held on a regular basis in her house. It has become a house church.

Lydia and her community of women who are engaged in the cloth trade are the first converts in Europe. The church in Philippi was the first Christian community in Europe, and it was a loving and faithful group of people. Paul loved them very much.

Here we have the story of how our faith spread from Asia to Europe, People meet beside the river to learn more about God and a new faith community is born.

Our reading from the Book of Revelation describes the glorious and eternal worship of Christ, the Lamb of God.

In our gospel, Jesus is continuing his teaching of the apostles in preparation for the ascension. He is going to leave them, and he is trying to give them everything they will need to carry on faithfully when he is no longer here on earth.

He is telling them and us that, even though he will not be here in a physical sense, the Holy Spirit will be with us, and the Spirit is the presence of Christ with us. The Spirit leads us and guides us as it did Paul and his team in our first lesson.

Jesus tells us several very important things in this reading. First, the heart of our life with him and in him is love, and the quality of our love for him will be demonstrated in our actions.

Secondly, we will always have his peace, his shalom. This means that, no matter what happens to us, his presence and his stillness and faith will always be within us. In addition, the vision of his shalom, his reign of peace and harmony for the whole world, will always be our vision.

He has taught us to respect the dignity of every human being, and in our opening reading we see Paul and his helpers sitting and praying with a group of women to whom they would not have been allowed to speak if they had been following the customs and laws of that time.

He has called us to create a world of peace in which everyone has enough to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live, good and useful work to do, adequate medical care, a world in which all people can feel safe. He has called us to  help him to extend his shalom to the whole creation.

Perhaps most of all he has assured us that he will be with us wherever we are. He will be with us in the sharing of bread and wine which is the food of his love and presence and energy. He will be with us as we pray for healing for our brothers and sisters, and our beloved pets. He will be with us in times of joy and in times of loss. He will be with us in every moment. He will abide in us and we in him.

When Paul and his helpers landed in Philippi, and then rested, and then went to the river to find the praying community they brought with them the presence of Christ. Lydia was waiting for that moment. It changed her life. The Church began in Philippi, and countless others were able to experience the presence of Christ in a community of deep faith.

Thanks be to God for two hundred years of that experience of the presence of Christ here at Grace, and thanks be to God for all the saints who, like Lydia, accepted our Lord with all their hearts and spread the Good News.

May we follow in their footsteps.  Amen

Easter 5C RCL April 24, 2016

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

There are certain events which change the course of history. This is true of the story we read today in our opening lesson. Peter is a faithful Jew. He has followed the Law every day of his life. He has never eaten anything that the Law declares to be unclean.

One day, he goes up to the roof to pray. He is hungry and a meal is being prepared. He has a vision. A large sheet comes down from heaven. On it there are all kinds of foods, some of them forbidden by the dietary laws. A voice, which he takes to be the voice of God, tells him to “Kill and eat.” Three times he refuses, saying that nothing unclean has ever entered his mouth. This happens three times, and Peter refuses three times. But then God tells him that all these foods have been made clean. The sheet is pulled up into heaven.

Then three men come from Caesarea. They have been sent by an angel to go to Joppa, get Peter, and bring him to the home of Cornelius, a Roman citizen and an officer in the Roman army, a centurion, who is a man of faith, not Jewish, but a supporter of the synagogue in his city and a compassionate person who cares about his neighbors.

Cornelius had been praying and an angel came to him and told him to send to Joppa and have Peter come to his house, so Cornelius has sent messengers to fetch Peter. As Peter is finishing his time of prayer, and has just had this vision, the messengers arrive from Cornelius. Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered all the members of his household, plus many neighbors, to hear Peter’s message.

The next day, Peter and his ministry team go with the messengers to Cornelius’ house. Peter begins to speak about his vision and how he has realized that God shows no partiality. God loves everyone. As he is preaching and teaching, the Holy Spirit falls on these Gentiles. They begin speaking in tongues and praising God, and they are baptized.

The news that these Gentiles have accepted Jesus, have received the Holy Spirit, and have been baptized, reaches the apostles and the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.

The followers of Jesus up to this point have always assumed that they would continue to be a part of the Jewish faith. They would follow the law and all the observances of their faith but they would also be following Jesus. They assumed that this new faith was open only to Jews.

But now the Holy Spirit has filled these Gentiles and they have been baptized. The apostles and followers of Jesus in Jerusalem want to know how this could have happened. So, Peter is telling the story of how God opened the horizons of his faith. Peter is sharing how God has convinced him that God loves everyone and that faith in God is for everyone. And he says,”If God gave then the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” And the Jerusalem community responds, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

A couple of chapters ago, in Chapter Nine of the Book of Acts, we have the story of Saul, meeting the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. He gets a new name, Paul, and a new identity. From persecuting the followers of Jesus, he is called to preach the Good News to the Gentiles.

God spoke to Peter and to Saul, and expanded their vision. If they had not responded as they did, the course of history would have been very different.

In our gospel for today, Judas has just left the room to go and betray Jesus. This is a tragic moment in history. Jesus must have had many feelings as he contemplated Judas going to the authorities and promising to lead them to our Lord. Jesus knows that he is going to the cross. What a horrible reality to face. And yet, he uses this moment to give the apostles and us the great commandment, that we love one another as he has loved us.

The encounters that Peter and Saul had with the Lord called them to love everyone as Jesus has loved us, and they responded faithfully to that call.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “For us, moving year by year into an increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural society, this passage is eloquent. I would suggest that it asks us to live in this society as a Christian but to remain open to the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through men and women who do not share this tradition with us.”

God loves everyone. God showers gifts of the Spirit on everyone. When Pope Francis took several Muslim families home with him to the Vatican to embark on a new life, he was expressing that love.

May we do the same.  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.