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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 9, 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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 16, 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:…

Pentecost 10 Proper 14 August 9, 2020

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

Our first reading today is one of the most famous in the Bible and in Christian education classes—the story of Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was his father’s favorite, and Jacob made his beloved son a coat with long sleeves, what we have come to call Joseph’s “coat of many colors”, or Joseph’s “Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Joseph did have dreams, which he shared with his brothers, and this did not help the situation, One dream that particularly got their goat was that they were in the field binding sheaves when Joseph’s sheaf 

rose above his brothers’ sheaves, and the sheaves of his brothers worshipped his sheaf.

In our reading, Israel sends Joseph out to find his brothers. When Joseph finally finds them after some investigation, his brothers conspire to kill him. Reuben arrives just in time to stop them from actually killing Joseph and they decide to throw him into a pit. When Joseph arrives, they strip him of his clothes and throw him into the pit. It is dry, so at least he will not drown.

Then some traders come by, and Judah convinces his brothers to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders for twenty pieces of silver. As Christians, we can’t help but think of the thirty pieces of silver which Judas received for betraying Jesus. The Ishmaelite traders take Joseph to Egypt. 

The Bible is a library of books written over centuries of time, and between its pages we can find all kinds of stories about things we humans can think and do. Together with the birth of Jacob and Esau, with Jacob hanging on to Esau’s heel, this story is one of the classic examples of sibling rivalry. What does it take for brothers to decide to kill their own sibling? Will Joseph seek revenge? Will he forgive his brothers? Joseph has an amazing, God-given gift for interpreting dreams, and we will see what happens.

In our gospel for today, Jesus has just fed over five thousand people. He tells the disciples to go across the Sea of Galilee while he dismisses the crowd. After the crowd leaves, Jesus goes to the mountain to pray. This is something that he did often. He took time apart to be with God. This is his wonderful example to us—to take time away in quiet to ask God for guidance. By the time he comes back to the shore of the lake, night is falling.

The disciples are out in the boat, but the wind has come up and the boat is far from the land. Large waves are battering the boat. The wind has blown them far out on the lake. With the howling of the wind and the size of the waves, they are afraid.

Jesus comes walking toward them on the water— right through the waves, the wind, and the chaos. They see him, but they do not recognize him. They are terrified. They cry out, “It is a ghost!” They are gripped in icy fear.

But then, Jesus speaks to them, and let us remember these words when we are sailing stormy seas with high waves and winds that threaten to swamp us: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 

Peter immediately responds to the presence of his Lord. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus says, “Come.” So Peter starts walking toward him. But when he notices exactly how strong the wind is, fear rises in his heart  and he begins to sink. He calls out to Jesus, “Lord. save me!” And Jesus reaches out his hand to Peter and saves him. They get into the boat; the wind stops, and Peter says, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

How many times have we been afraid, stricken with pure terror, and we ask our Lord for help, and he stretches out his hand and saves us? We all know that fear can paralyze us. Our Lord can calm any storm. Our Lord can save us from the storms of life. He is reaching out his hand to us right now to steady us, lift us from the chaos of fear, and bring us to a safe place.

In our epistle for today, Paul says many wonderful things. He says, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” Jesus, the eternal Word who brought  the worlds into being, is near us. We can reach out our hands and touch him.

And the other thing that I think is very important for us to remember is that Paul writes here and in other letters, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek.” In his Letter to the Galatians,  he writes, “There is no longer Jew or Greek. there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28.)

Two thousand years ago, Saint Paul was telling us that there are no distinctions between human beings. God loves us all, infinitely and equally. Any distinctions of race, gender, class, social status and all the other things we humans have used to divide us are created by human beings, not by God. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all in this together.

Here we are, sailing in the high winds and choppy seas of Covid-19, and our Lord is saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” As we look out on the rest of our country and see that the rates of illness and death are rising in places where there have been large parties and other gatherings where folks were close together and not wearing masks, we might imagine to ourselves that our Lord might be telling us, “Do not be afraid, but do not be cocky. This is a powerful virus.Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other. I love you.”

When Jesus reaches out his hand to take us into the boat and bring us to safety, his hand is not only a hand of rescue, but it is a hand of guidance. He gave us minds so that we could do research and determine exactly what we are facing, and then take the actions we need to in order to stay safe and keep our brothers and sisters safe from illness and death. The Way of Love is to help everyone stay safe and stay healthy. May we continue to walk in the Way of Love. Amen.

Lent 1C RCL    March 10, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16
Romans 10:8b-13
Luke 4:1-13

In our opening reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy, we have the opportunity to look on as Moses prepares the people of God to enter the promised land. They will be planting crops and raising cattle and sheep. When the harvest comes in, they are to offer the first fruits of that harvest to God in thanksgiving for all that God has done for them. God has brought them out of slavery.

The text offers precise directions for this liturgy. The person is to say certain words to the priest. The priest is to say certain words and perform very specific actions. This is to be done with deep reverence. This text is part of the background for our practice of making and carrying out our pledge of time, talent and treasure to God.

God constantly showers us with many gifts, and we respond with gratitude. This is part of our journey in faith.

Our psalm is one of the most profound statements of faith in the Bible. God is our refuge and our stronghold. The psalm says, “For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” This line is a direct link to our gospel for today.

In our reading from Romans, Paul says, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim.)” This passage can refer to our favorite psalms and other passages from the Bible, which are on our lips and in our hearts, but it also refers to the risen Christ, who is here with us now, very near us, among us, leading and guiding us.

And Paul says something else that is very important. He says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call upon him.” We are all one as Jesus and the Father are one.

Now we turn to our gospel. Every year on the First Sunday in Lent, we read one of the accounts of the temptation of Jesus. This year our gospel is from Luke.

Jesus has just been baptized by John, and God has said that Jesus is God’s Son. Now Jesus goes out into the wilderness, and he is tempted by the forces of darkness. How is he going to carry out his ministry? What values are going to guide his decisions and his actions?

This yearly review of the temptations is a great gift to us. For one thing, we realize once again that Jesus went through just what we go through. He was fully human. He was also fully divine, and he did not succumb to these temptations. This gives us hope that, with his grace, we can faithfully follow him. We can resist the things that would draw us away from God, things that would divert us from following our Good Shepherd who is out in front of us.

This year, the thoughts of Herbert O’Driscoll, one of my favorite scholars and preachers, speak profoundly to me.  He notes that when Satan says, “If you are the Son of God,” it should probably be read in a sneering tone. Satan is questioning the identity of Jesus.

So often temptations have to do with our identity. Who am I? How am I going to conduct my life? O’Driscoll notes that the temptations “appeal to the ego as being self-sufficient.” O’Driscoll says of the first temptation, to turn stones into bread,”We are hearing the temptation to attract followers through bribery, by producing what they want and need. Our Lord refuses.”

When the devil shows our Lord all the kingdoms of the world and offers them to Jesus, O’Driscoll says, “The temptation is to get people to follow by the use of naked power. If you don’t want to bribe them,  then dominate them. Again our Lord refuses.”

In the third temptation, the demon tells Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple. As our psalm says, angels would come and rescue him. O’Driscoll writes, “The third option the demon offers is the possibility of impressing people so much that they will be mesmerized by spectacle and will follow. Jesus once again refuses.”

O’Driscoll writes, “Every option is an appeal to his human ego…Jesus defers to a will higher the his own.” And O’Driscoll connects these temptations with that moment of faithful surrender in Gethsemane when Jesus says, as we are called to say from time to time, “Not my will but thine be done.”

Finally, O’Driscoll makes an observation that I think is crucial to us on our journey. After this time of challenge is over, what does Jesus do? He goes to Galilee and calls his first two disciples. O’Driscoll writes, “He has chosen, not the way of the solitary ego, but the way of community, sharing, relationship.”

O’Driscoll notes the line that follows the temptations.”When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” The temptation to rely on our own strength, to be less than God calls us to be, is always there, waiting in the wings. But, with God’s grace, it is as a speck of dust in the face of the light of  Christ.

O’Driscoll writes, “The demon does not depart permanently even from Jesus. There will be other encounters, other struggles. We know only too well that this is true for our lives. But we know something else—because of the risen life of our Lord, there is grace for us in our encounters with the demon.” O’Driscoll, The Word among Us, Year C, vol. 2, pp. 16-17.)

This Lent, as we let go of things that draw us away from God, and take on practices that help us grow closer to God, dear Lord Jesus help us to remember that you have walked this way before us and that  you are here to help us on the journey. In your holy Name we pray. Amen.

Pentecost 9 Proper 14A RCL August 10, 2014

Genesis 37:1-4,12-28
Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33

In our first reading, we are continuing the story of Jacob, who has become Israel. Israel now has twelve sons. His beloved wife, Rachel, the mother of Joseph and of Benjamin, their youngest son, has died. Joseph is Israel’s favorite son. He helps his brothers to tend the flocks, and he has just given Israel some negative feedback on the work and behavior of his brothers.

Joseph is a dreamer. He also has visions. Some of those visions indicate that he is going to be more powerful than his brothers. As we can imagine, this does not exactly make him popular among them. On top of that, Joseph has been given what a later musical called his “amazing technicolor dream coat.” His brothers do not like that at all.

Israel sends Joseph out to see how things are going with his brothers, and, as they say, the rest is history. They want to kill him, but Ruben prevents that. Finally, they throw him into a pit and sell him to some traders. They dip his wonderful coat of many colors in goat’s blood and tell their father that Joseph is dead. The traders take Joseph to Egypt, where he reaches the highest position in the land. He becomes the chief assistant to the pharaoh. We will pick up the story next Sunday.

These stories, which go back so far in history, are fascinating because we know about these family dynamics, and they are timeless. Younger brother takes on airs and ambitions, seems to want to lord it over older brothers. Older brothers get mad and do something awful to him. Sibling rivalry is alive and well, and people don’t always behave the way God wants us to. We will tune in next Sunday for the amazing way in which Joseph deals with his brothers.

In our gospel, Jesus has just fed the five thousand. He makes the disciples get into the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which, as we know, is a big fresh water lake. We can think of Lake Champlain or maybe Missisquoi Bay. When the winds and storms come up, the Sea of Galilee, like Lake Champlain, can be a terrifying and treacherous place.

Jesus dismisses the crowds and goes up the mountain to pray. What a wonderful model for us. He has been working hard. He has been ministering to these people, healing them, feeding them. Loving them. He knows that he needs to spend time with God. He needs to renew his energy. As the song implies, we cannot be a light to others unless we keep putting oil in our lamp. Jesus constantly turns to God in prayer.

Meanwhile, out on the lake, the wind has come up, and the boat is being battered by the waves. They are far from the land and the wind is against them. Jesus comes walking on the water. What is their response? They are so scared that they do not even recognize him. Have you ever been so afraid that you couldn’t even recognize God, or recognize the help that was coming to you? Sometimes, when a person is drowning and a rescuer comes to save the person, he or she will flail about and fight the rescuer. As strange as it may seem, sometimes we do not recognize God’s presence and God’s willingness to help us. They actually think Jesus is a ghost. They scream in fear.

And then Jesus speaks those words, the words we so need to hear: “Take heart; it is I; do not be afraid.” How many times have we gotten caught in heavy seas and called upon Jesus to rescue us? How many times have we felt overwhelmed with problems and scared out of our wits. We struggle and struggle and finally we remember to pray. Always that strong arm is there. Always that loving face is there. Our Lord is always with us to help us.

That is the point of our epistle today. God is always near us. On our lips and in our hearts. God is Lord of all. If we feel that the boat is sinking, Jesus is right there with us, calming the storm.

Today’s readings are a call to renewed faith, especially in the face of things that we know are beyond our control, things that are terrifying. Like the situations in the Middle East and in Ukraine, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the suffering of so many people around the world, and the pain and suffering of those close to us. We can pray, and there is help. Our loving God does care about these situations and these people.

Loving God, help us to remember that we are all in the same boat, and you are in the boat with us. Give us the grace to pray, to recognize you, to seek your will, and to help you to build your shalom of peace and
harmony. In Jesus’ name. Amen.