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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:…
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Christ the King  November 21, 2021

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday. We rejoice in the fact that Christ is our King. Our Lord comes from the lineage of David. In our reading from the Second Book of Samuel, we find a description of the good earthly king: “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.”

Good earthly leaders are people of justice, integrity, and morality.

In our gospel, Jesus tells us that his kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom, his shalom, is the kind of world God wants us to live in, to paraphrase retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the shalom of God is a world in which every person is loved and respected, everyone has food, shelter, clothing, health care, and good work to do. Our Lord says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” He is our Good Shepherd, and we are listening to his voice calling us to help him build his shalom of peace, love, and harmony for everyone.

This is also the week of Thanksgiving. We take time to gather with our families as much as we can in this age of Covid.  We have a wonderful meal with all the dishes our family loves best and we take the time to thank God for all of God’s gifts to us.

Everything we have is a gift from God. From time to time, it’s a good idea to make a Gratitude List—just take a few moments and write down all the gifts God has given us. I can walk, I can talk, I can see, I can hear. I have a roof over my head and clothes to wear. Some of us are retired. All of us have had good work to do. Most of us are doing ministries of service to others. God gives us the energy to do all these things.

In and through all these gifts from God is the greatest gift of all—God’s  unquenchable, unstoppable, eternal, unconditional love for us. God knows us, our weaknesses and our strengths—everything about us— and God loves us with a love that is so big and so deep and so wide that we will never be able to grasp how huge it is.

In gratitude for God’s many gifts to us and for God’s unfailing love and blessings flowing out to us all the time, we return a worthy portion of all of this to God. For those who wish to make a pledge, please do that before the end of the year. Our pledge is our thank you to God for all of God’s blessings. Some of us prefer to give back to God without pledging. That is fine, too.

Our pledge includes the gifts of time, talent, and treasure, which God gives us constantly.  God gives us every moment of our lives. The gift of time. God gives us different talents. And God gives us the ability to earn money, treasure. All of you give generous gifts of time and talent in all kinds of church and community activities. Gifts to charitable organizations such as Episcopal Relief and Development, the Red Cross, and Habitat for Humanity are also a part of returning a worthy portion of God’s gifts back to God. In harmony with the theme of Thanksgiving, we are making gifts to UTO, the United Thank Offering, doing the month of November.

One year ago, when we were celebrating Christ the King Sunday, we were not able to be in our church building. We had no vaccine. Governor Scott was announcing that our positivity rate was up to two per cent. As I write this, Vermont’s overall positivity rate is 4.3 per cent. Essex County’s positivity rate is 13.9%; Franklin. 6.99%; Orleans, 6.93%; Chittenden, 2.9%. Our positivity rates are higher. We are in a surge. Governor Scott said this week that 70% of the new cases involve unvaccinated people.

This leads us to a clear reason for gratitude. We have vaccines that work. We have boosters. We are now vaccinating children ages 5 to 11. So, if we are vaccinated, if we  wear our masks, keep social distancing, and pay attention to ventilation, we can be here together, in our building with our friends on Zoom. This year, unlike last year, we are celebrating Holy Eucharist on Christ the King Sunday, and some of us are here in our beloved building. What a blessing!

I am so happy to be here with you all. We have so much to be thankful for.

Hymn 645 is a beautiful hymn which begins, “The King of love my shepherd is.” It is a poem based on the 23rd Psalm. Christ is our King, and he is the King of Love. He is in our midst this very moment, and this includes our brothers and sisters online. He is leading us through this pandemic, through everything, to the green pastures and the still waters. Thanks be to God for God’s unending, amazing gifts.


Pentecost 24 Proper 28A November 15, 2020

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

On our opening reading today, from the book of Judges, God’s people have been oppressed for twenty years by King Jabin. The strength of his oppression is emphasized by the fact that he has nine hundred  iron chariots.

The judges described in this book were not only people who helped citizens resolve conflicts, but also military leaders and charismatic spiritual leaders and sometimes prophets. In our passage this morning, we meet Deborah, the only woman judge in the history of God’s people. Deborah is a highly respected and wise person, People come from long distances to consult her because of her wisdom.

In our passage this morning. God tells Deborah to let Barak know that God wants Barak to fight the dreaded Jabin.  Actually, Barak will be waging war against Sisera, Jabin’s military leader. In the part that is omitted from our lectionary, Barak says he will not lead the troops into battle unless Deborah goes with him. Barak is an excellent general and Deborah is known as an expert military tactician. With the help of another courageous woman, Jael, they defeat Sisera.

Scholars tell us that the Book of Judges describes events dating back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries before the birth of our Lord. It is encouraging to think that God’s people had a woman such as Deborah as a spiritual, legal, and military leader thirty-four hundred years ago. All these centuries later, we have elected our first woman Vice-President.

In our reading from Thessalonians, we are reminded that we are “children of the light” and we are called to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation”

In our gospel, a man goes on a journey and gives five talents fo one servant, two talents to another, and one talent to another. As we know, back in those days, the gold coin known as a talent was worth a huge amount of money. After a long time, the man comes back. The servants who were given the five talents and the two talents have each doubled the money given. If we use our talents well, we receive two things—more responsibility and the joy of our master. But the servant who was afraid buried his talent. His fear paralyzed him.

God is a loving God who gives each of us and all of us gifts to be used. Gifts of music, gifts of listening to others and offering God’s healing, strength and hope; gifts of nurturing and rescuing animals; keeping the books, doing audits, gifts of serving our communities by counting ballots; gifts of working with the historical society, gifts of faith and love shared with many people. So many gifts that you all are exercising every day of your lives.

Because God loves us, we can depend on God. We can step out beyond our bounds of caution. I think of our food shelf. Because people were willing to find money for a building, offer their labor, and work for a vision, others were willing to give money and help in any way they could, and now our food shelf is feeding people who are suffering from the economic shock waves of this pandemic.

We are moving toward Thanksgiving. What a wonderful thing to have a national holiday devoted to thanking God for all our many blessings even in the midst of Covid 19. During this time in November, we make our United Thank Offering. Some of us have these little blue boxes and when we are thankful for something we put a coin in the box and then we offer all those coins. I would suggest that we dump out our coins or do an estimate of the many times we have thanked God in the past year and then write out a check and send it to Lori.  Make it out to Grace Church and put UTO on the memo line. 

Lori will put all the offerings together and send a check to our UTO representative here in Vermont. Our UTO rep will send our UTO offering to the national UTO ingathering. The United Thank Offering offers all kinds of help, from grants for building composting toilets at churches such as  St. Luke’s, Alburgh to assistance  to centers for helping refugee children with homework, senior centers, health centers, a ministry of cutting wood for families in need and a wide array of other ministries.

This is also the time of year when we think about our pledges. God gives us so many gifts and blessings, not because we have earned them or deserve them but because God loves us so much. Out of all those blessings, we return a worthy  portion to God. The Bible says that amount should be a tithe, a tenth of what God gives us. Because many centuries have passed and most of us give to charities, some folks talk about a modern tithe of five percent, meaning five percent to the church and five percent to charities. But the important thing is to give a worthy proportion to God in thanksgiving for all that God gives us.

Our giving includes time, talent, and treasure. If you are giving some of your God-given time and talent at the food shelf, or helping others in other ways, whether they are elderly folks or perhaps young people, either by physically helping or offering financial help, that is part of your offering in gratitude to God. Offering a portion of our time, talent, and treasure out of gratitude to God is an important part of our spiritual lives, and I know that each of you is sharing generously your time, talent, and treasure.

We haven’t been together in church for a very long time, so we can’t put our money in the plate, but please send your UTO, United Thank Offering, to Lori. I will put her address in my email when I send out this sermon. For those who have pledged in the past, please send Lori a note listing the amount you wish to pledge for 2021. This will help us to plan our budget. 

In November on behalf of everyone at Grace, we send out our outreach checks to Rock Point School, Brookhaven Center, The Abenaki Circle of Courage, Martha’s Kitchen, Sheldon Interfaith Food Shelf, Oglala Lakota College, Samaritan House, and Kairos prison ministry. This is a total of $1400 to these ministries on behalf of Grace Church.

God is constantly showering us with all kinds of gifts and filling us with grace. Let us continue to share these gifts with others and to thank our loving God for all these blessings and, most of all for God’s unfailing love. Amen.

Pentecost 24 Proper 28A RCL November 19, 2017

Judges 4:1-7
Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Matthew 25:14-30

In our opening reading, the people of God have fallen into the hands of King Jabin of Canaan. The commander of Jabin’s army is Sisera. The people of God have been living under the harsh rule of King Jabin for twenty years, and Sisera has amassed a huge army. He has nine hundred chariots of iron.

In this reading, we meet one of the great women leaders of God’s people, Deborah, who is a judge and a prophetess. She is highly respected, and people come from miles away to consult her. The other hero of this story is Barak, a great military leader.

In this time of crisis, God calls Deborah to lead the people. Deborah is known to have a gift for military strategy. She has the wisdom to ask Barak to make the first move in this military campaign. With the combination of Deborah’s gift of strategy and Barak’s gift of courage and military leadership, God’s people take the important step to conquer King Jabin.

In our epistle, Paul reminds us that we are children of the light. He calls us to “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation,” Most of all, he calls us to keep awake. Advent is coming.

In today’s gospel, we hear the beloved parable of the talents. As we know, a talent was a coin that was worth a great deal of money. Thomas Troegher computes that five talents would be worth $156,000.
The person who received those five talents goes out and makes five more. The two talent fellow makes two more. But the poor fellow who got one talent has gone and buried it. And the master is not at all pleased. Caution and prudence are great virtues, but our one talent man carries them a bit too far. He could have at least put the talent in the bank and gained interest.

Matthew’s congregation was being encouraged not to hide their light under a bushel. They were being called to go out and spread the good news even in the face of persecution. We, too, are called to go out and spread the good news every day of our lives, and all of us take that very seriously. Every one of you is out in the world doing God’s work, and I thank God for that and for each of you.

This week we will celebrate Thanksgiving. We are moving toward the time when we make our UTO offering, and I suggest that we bring in that offering next Sunday. This is also the time when we think about our pledges for the coming year.

In that context, I submit that each of us has been given the maximum of five talents. We have been given the gift of God’s love. God loves each of us as the apple of God’s eye. God loves us with a love that cannot be stopped. As Paul says in another epistle, “Nothing can separate us from God’s love.”

We have been given gifts of God’s healing and forgiveness. We have been given gifts of energy and compassion and caring so that we can go out into the world and do good work and care about people and care for our families and make the world a better place. All these gifts are like the talents in the parable, God gives these gifts to us because God loves us.

What is our response? Our response is to return a worthy portion of or time, talent, and treasure to God. All of you devote time to Grace Church. Many of you devote time to the work of the diocese. All of you devote great amounts of time to helping other people, both in your work and in your spare time. In terms of treasure, we make pledges of money that we are returning to God from the treasure God has given us. This includes not only our pledges to the Church but also contributions we make to charities like the United Way, The Red Cross, and so many others.

Someone once said that we Christians know Whom to thank. We know that God gives us everything. We may go out and help people, but it is God who gives us the ability to do that. And so we thank God with all our hearts. That is what stewardship is all about—thanks.

The attitude of gratitude is a powerful thing. We know that all good things come from God, and we thank God by returning a worthy portion. We have so much to be thankful for. It would take us hours to name all of these things. Thank you, dear Lord, for your love, for our families, for our life together, for our country and our freedoms, for those who have fought for these precious rights, for warm homes, food, clothing, health, the ability to help others, and on and on our lists could go.

The United Thank Offering, UTO, is based on the fact that every day we can put a coin into our UTO box to thank God for some gift that God is giving us or has given us. Incidentally, the UTO is the outgrowth and continuation of the Women’s Auxiliary which was such a key part of Grace’s history for so many years. We continue that tradition in our gifts to UTO.

Please think about all these wonderful gifts from God prayerfully and with full gratitude to our loving God. We will do our UTO ingathering this coming Sunday, and we will also have our pledge sheets available so that we can take them and fill them out.

Thanks be to God for all of God’s many gifts to all of us. Amen.

Christ the King Year B November 22, 2015

2 Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-13 (14-19)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the day when the season of Pentecost comes to an end and we prepare to begin the season of Advent. This week, we will celebrate Thanksgiving.

Our opening reading describes King David, and all great leaders in these powerful and beautiful words: “One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.” David is the shepherd-king. Though he had flaws, the people of his kingdom had far better lives and a more just society than did the people in surrounding cultures. Our Lord, the Good Shepherd, is descended from the House of David.

Our second reading is from one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible, the Book of Revelation. Revelation, singular, not Revelations. One of the ways in which this book is misinterpreted is to think that it was written to foretell the future. This book is not to be applied to today or to any future time or events.

Bruce Metzger, the scholarly and careful editor of The New Annotated Oxford Bible, writes, “…it is probable that the author, whose name is John, put the book in its present form toward the close of the reign of the Emperor Domitian (A,D, 81-96. It was then that Domitian began to demand that his subjects address him as “Lord and God” and worship his image. For refusing to do so, many Christians were put to death. Others, like John, were exiled, and all were threatened. One reason for the author’s couching his teaching in mysterious figures and extraordinary metaphors was to prevent the imperial police from recognizing that this book is a trumpet call to the persecuted, assuring them that, despite the worst that the Roman Empire could do, God reigns supreme, and Christ, who died and is alive forevermore, has the power to overcome all evil.”

To summarize, this book was written in code, and the imagery of evil refers to the Roman Empire.

The book opens with a prayer of praise to God and Christ, who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, who will come to complete the creation, restore the creation to wholeness, and bring in his reign, his shalom of peace and harmony.

In our gospel, we meet our King, and he is on the way to the cross. He is being interrogated by Pilate. “Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks. Jesus asks him whether this is Pilate’s own question, or whether he is asking because those above him told him to ask. In other words, Jesus is questioning Pilate’s authority. Pilate replies scornfully, “I am not a Jew, am I?” He says that Jesus’ own people have handed Jesus over as a criminal.

Finally, Jesus makes a statement: “My kingdom is not from this world.”  In the gospel for this day from Year A, he describes the nature of his kingdom. He tells us that when we feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty or welcome the stranger, we are feeding him and welcoming him.

His is a kingdom built on concern for others. He calls us to care for our brothers and sisters. Our Lord says to Pilate, “Every one who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

The truth is that God wants us to love each other. God is love, God is not hate or worldly power. God is not the conquering of empire. God is not the acquisition of power or possessions or lordship over others as the Emperor Domitian and so many other world rulers have thought.

When Jesus says this wondrous thing, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice,” he is calling us, his faithful flock, to follow him and to help him to build his shalom.

What does this mean for us today?  How can we best follow our King? Well, it strikes me that these times are not very different from the times of John and the times of Domitian. Paris and Mali have been attacked. Christians are being persecuted.

When Jesus is interrogated by Pilate, our Lord does not operate from a place of fear. Pilate, the representative of the world’s greatest empire of that time, is grilling Jesus, and our Lord never loses balance. He questions Pilate’s authority, and well he might, because Pilate is part of an oppressive power structure that wants to preserve its control at all costs.

But Jesus’ power goes so far beyond anything that Pilate or Domitian or anyone else could ever muster. Jesus has already conquered evil in all  its forms. He has conquered death itself. His kingdom is not from this world. It is so much larger and full of light and love that it would blind someone like Pilate.

Jesus tells Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Everyone who belongs to his risen Body, everyone who responds to his call to care for our brothers and sisters, everyone who is knit together into the  risen body of his love and his new life, listens to his voice.

As we listen to his voice, he tells us not to be afraid. He tells us not to operate from a place of fear.  He calls us to center ourselves in him. He calls us to seek his kingdom and to live from the values of his kingdom. He calls us to be strong in his strength, and he calls us to look at the world and at other people with his eyes and his heart.

Our King is the direct opposite of Pilate and all the Caesars and Domitians and tyrants of this world. He calls us to seek first his kingdom.   Amen.