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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 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 February 12, 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 February 19, 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:…

Maundy Thursday March 29, 2018

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin Mandatum Novum, meaning “new commandment.” Jesus said, “ I give you a new commandment,that you love one another.” Jesus did two other revolutionary things on that day. He took the bread and wine that they had shared before, and he said the usual blessings, but then he said of the bread, “This is my body” and of the wine, “This is my blood.” And he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”” The word translated as “remembrance” is anamnesis. Literally, “un-forgetting.” Do this for the unforgetting of me. Do this to call me into your midst.
And then, after supper, he washed their feet. He did a thing that servants, slaves would do. Peter could not bear this. Martin Smith of the Society of St, John the Evangelist has a wonderful meditation on this. He says that Peter’s difficulty in accepting Jesus as a servant mirrors our own. He points out that it is much easier for us to look up
to Jesus as our Lord and Master that it is for us to look down at him as he washes our feet. We have been trained to be self-sufficient, and it is extremely difficult for us to accept the unconditional love that we receive from our Lord this day and every day. It is that unconditional love that is touching me very deeply this year as we gather for this service. Martin Smith says that Jesus is telling us that, if we don’t let him wash our feet, we will be cutting ourselves off from him. That is why Peter asks Jesus to wash his hands and his head as well.

God’s unconditional love is so beyond our earthly imaginings that I believe we have to spend our whole lives gradually learning to accept that love. In a profound sense, Maundy Thursday is about learning to allow our Lord to minister to us, to serve us, to wash us. At the end of his meditation, Martin Smith offers this prayer: Spirit of yielding, Spirit of consent, Spirit of Yes, Spirit of letting-go, Spirit of acceptance, Spirit of humility and openness, Spirit who trains my eyes to look down at Jesus looking up to me, ever ready to wash and serve me—I need you, I need you to give me a fresh receptivity to the unconditional love of God, to make my embrace of the Cross real and not just a matter of words.” (A Season for the Spirit, p.154.)

And my prayer, Beloved Lord, open our hearts to your love. Amen.
Beloved Lord, open hour hearts to your love. Amen

Lent 1 Year A March 5, 2017

 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

In our Five Marks of Love Lenten series, Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist has a meditation called, “You Are My Beloved.” Brother Mark reminds us that, according to Mark’s gospel, when Jesus was baptized, God spoke to him, saying, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.” Brother Mark goes on to say that Jesus’ journey of forty days in the wilderness gave him time to absorb the reality of God’s love for him.

I was happy to read this meditation because I had been having similar thoughts. During those forty days, Jesus was absorbing the depth and breadth of God’s love for him. His entire ministry was rooted and grounded in God’s love. Every word and action of Jesus during his entire ministry poured out God’s unconditional love.

We know that Lent is a time of self-examination. We take an honest look at our lives. We confess our sins. Sins are those things that get between us and God, between us and others, and between us and our true selves. We humbly confess our sins. And we ask God to give us grace so that we can grow, so that we can become more like our Lord Jesus. And we thank God for the areas of grace and love in our lives, times when we have followed the Ten Commandments, and the cardinal and theological virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and love.

Lent is a time for growth, a time to allow God to give us the grace to take our next steps in our spiritual growth.

In order to do this, we need to accept and absorb God’s love. God loves you. God loves me. Not because of anything we have done, but simply because God loves us. God is saying to us what God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you”

For many of us, perhaps most of us, accepting the sheer fact of God’s unconditional love is extremely difficult. How can God, who knows all our faults, all our frailties, all our mistakes and weaknesses, love us unconditionally? If we are parents or grandparents, or loving aunts and uncles, or if we have a beloved pet, we can begin to understand this. God knows we are far from perfect, and God loves us with the wild abandon of a mom or dad, a grandparent, or a devoted owner of a pet. God loves us without reservation. God loves you and me with all God’s infinitely big heart. Each of us is and all of us are the apple of God’s eye.

Yes, but—Lent is a time for penitence, a time to look at our sins in their stark reality, confess them, express our sincere sorrow about them, and ask God’s grace to grow closer to God.

That is true. Lent is a time for growth and transformation. But our journey of transformation becomes much easier and much more joyful the more we are able, with God’s grace, to accept the fact that God loves us, sins and all, warts and all, with a love that will forever boggle our minds. God is here right now to help us blundering, bumbling humans to grow into the fullness of the persons God calls us to be.  So, I am encouraging us to spend some time this Lent accepting and absorbing the fact that God loves you no matter what. God will never stop loving you, and God is here to help you.

As we accept God’s love, we are of course called to share that love. The Five Marks of Love tell us what we are called to be doing and are already doing, with God’s help.

 

  • Proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom (Tell);
  • Teach, baptize, and nurture new believers (Teach);
  • Respond to human need by loving service (Tend);
  • Transform unjust structures, challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation (Transform);
  • Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth (Treasure).

Yes, we are frail and fallible humans, and it is important for us to take stock of our lives and, with God’s help, do any course corrections which may be needed. But, as Brother Mark reminds us, we are also members of the risen body of Christ, called to share his love, healing, and forgiveness in a broken world. Each of us is beloved by God.

May we accept his love. May we absorb his love. May we share his love with others.  Amen.

Lent 1 Year B RCL February 26, 2012

Genesis 9: 8-17
Psalm 25: 1-9
1 Peter 3: 18-22
Mark 1: 9-15

 Martin Smith is a priest and a monk, a member of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, a religious community for men in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Martin is a member of the community based in Boston. I have long respected his spiritual depth.

In his book of meditations for Lent,  A Season for the Spirit, Martin has a wonderful meditation on the Baptism of Christ. I am going to share this meditation with you because it gives us a perspective I have never heard expressed by any other person. I hope this will be as helpful to you as it has been to me.

Martin Smith writes, “If you were to picture the scene of Jesus’ baptism in your imagination, what would it be like? What feelings would arise? I did not realize how much I had been influenced by the typical representations of the scene in conventional Christian art until I went to a showing of Paolini’s film, The Gospel according to St. Matthew.  I found myself taken by surprise at the scene of Jesus’ baptism by John, and wept. It took a lot of thinking and praying to gain insight about why I had been moved by this scene in particular. In time I realized that hundreds of stained glass windows and paintings depicted only the two figures in the water. But the film shook me into the realization that Jesus’ baptism was  not a private ceremony but a mass affair with hundreds of men and women swarming in the river, and hundreds more waiting on the bank to take their place. Religious pictures had blunted the impact of the gospels’ insistence on the sheer numbers involved. “And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem, and they were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins.”  (Mark 1:5.) Luke repeats the word ‘multitudes’ and paints the picture of a mass baptism. ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized….’  (Luke 3: 21.)

Insight gradually dawned that I had been moved by an intuition of Jesus’ solidarity with ordinary, struggling men and women. John preached a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” It was for the masses of mediocre people whose failures, lukewarmness, and mundane unfaithfulness made the prospect of coming judgment terrible. New converts to Judaism passed through a baptismal rite as part of their initiation. Now everyone needed a fresh start, as radical as the one made by a pagan who was embracing Judaism. John was offering  to the masses of ordinary people a baptism which could give them that new beginning.

Jesus’ reaction to John’s preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins was a crucial turning point. He could have kept his distance, an innocent young man conscious of unbroken faithfulness to God, looking with pity on the thousands of ordinary people who were overwhelmed by the realization of their own moral inadequacy. But instead of looking down on them from afar, secure in his own guiltlessness, Jesus plunged into the waters with them and lost himself in the crowd. He threw away his innocence and separateness to take on the identity of struggling men and women who were reaching out en masse for the lifeline of forgiveness.

It was at that moment when Jesus had thrown away his innocent individuality in exchange for the identity of needy, failed, struggling human beings that ‘the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “thou art my beloved Son: with thee I am well pleased.”’ (Luke 3: 21, 22.)

God’s pleasure in Jesus can no longer be contained, and it bursts out. God is well-pleased precisely in Jesus’ self-emptying assumption of our identity. The Spirit reveals to Jesus that he is the beloved Son of God at the precise moment when Jesus had taken on the role of the son of Man. The strange idiom which Jesus was to use to refer to himself might be better translated, ‘the Human Being.’ In the muddy river Jesus was taking on the role of representing Humanity, of being its suffering  Heart and Self before God. As soon as Jesus had done that decisively, God flooded him with awareness of his unique relationship as Son and anointed him with the life-giving Breath for his mission.

I had wept because the fleeting images of the film had invited me into the Jordan experience as no static stained-glass window or old master had done. Can you feel and see yourself as part of that crowd of  humanity in the muddy water, as I started to then, and experience the entry of Jesus into our condition, into our needs? He chooses to plunge into it and make it his own. Nothing about me, about us, is foreign to him. He has chosen to be the Self of our selves.

And now, years later, I believe I wept because of the timing of the descent of the Spirit, the coincidence between the moment of Jesus’ solidarity with human beings and the moment of God’s revelation of intimate relationship with Jesus. Never did any event so deserve the name ‘moment of truth.’ The Spirit descended when Jesus embraced the truth of our interconnectedness, our belonging together in God. As soon as Jesus undertook to live that truth to the full, he was suffused with awareness of his own unique origin from and union with God and was filled with God’s Breath. This coincidence reveals the axis on which the gospel turns. The barriers which hold us back from one another in fearful individuality are the identical barriers which block the embrace of God and insulate us from the Spirit. It is one and the same movement of surrender to open ourselves to intimacy and personal union with God in the Spirit, and to open ourselves to compassion and solidarity with our struggling, needy fellow human beings. I was weeping in that Oxford cinema, though I did not understand it at the time, under the impact of this insight. To be open to the Spirit is also to be open to humanity in all its fractured confusion and poverty and its ardent reaching for fulfillment. To be open to the embrace of the Father is necessarily and inevitably to be open to the whole creation which is held in that embrace.”

Martin closes the meditation with this prayer:

“Spirit like a dove descending, in spite of my timidity I am appealing to you to centre my heart on this axis of truth in these forty days. Every small step you enable me to take towards a deeper compassion for my fellow human beings will lead me further into the experience of the Father’s delight in me and care for me. And vice versa. Every step I take in meditation to intensify my awareness of the love of God poured into my heart through the gift of your indwelling, will take me into a deeper identification with the suffering world, ‘groaning in travail together until now.’”