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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 15 Proper 19 September 13, 2020

Exodus 14:19-31
Psalm 114
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

In our opening reading for today, God’s people pass through the Red Sea. Scholars tell us that their route led though a part of the sea called the Sea of Reeds, a shallow portion. When it was very windy, the wind would push the water to one side, and you could pass through, if you were traveling light. The people of God were on foot. The Egyptians had chariots and horses, and they sank. 

The thing that strikes me about this passage this year is that the pillar of cloud, which symbolizes the presence of God, and the angel, who have been leading the people, now move to the rear and place themselves between the escaping slaves and the pursuing Egyptian army. God leads God’s people into freedom. God protects God’s people as they flee from slavery. God literally puts Godself as a barrier between God’s beloved people and those who would enslave them. And God protects us from that which would enslave us. God leads us into freedom.

Paul is addressing his letter to a congregation which has people from all kinds of different religious backgrounds. They have all flocked to this new faith in Jesus. Some are Jews, and they continue to observe the Jewish holy days and the dietary laws. Some have worshipped at the shrines of the Greek and Roman deities. There is a wide array of dietary and religious practices, and Paul is saying, please respect each other, continue to follow your dietary practices and religious observances, and do all of this to honor God and to give thanks to God. God is the one binding us together.

Over the centuries, we Christians have had many differences. Some of us remember the controversy over the new prayer book, published in 1979, and then the new hymnal published in 1982. We still have differences of opinion today, but the main thing is that we are gathered because our Lord has called us together, and, no matter what our differences, he calls us to be one in him.

In our gospel for today, Peter asks Jesus, “How many times should I forgive—as many as seven times? Scholars tell us that the rabbis told us to forgive three times, so Peter is being very generous in saying seven times. But Jesus says seventy-seven times. And then he tells a shocking parable. 

A king is settling accounts with his slaves. One slave owes him ten thousand talents. Scholars tell us this is a huge amount, a sum that is almost beyond imagining. One scholar says it is 3 billion dollars. Another says forty-six million dollars in today’s terms. The point is that it is an amount that no one could pay back. This slave cannot pay the debt. The king says that he will sell the slave and his family and possessions to get what money he can.

The slave is devastated. He falls on his knees and begs the king to have patience and he will pay everything. It would be impossible for him to pay this debt. The king has pity. Scholars tell us that the word translated as “pity” is the same word used of the compassion of our Lord for the crowds who follow him, and the compassion of the Good Samaritan for the man who had fallen among thieves. The king forgives the debt.

The slave goes out, and meets a fellow slave who owes hm a hundred denarii. Biblical scholar Thomas Troegher says the modern equivalent would be $12,000. The recently-forgiven slave grabs the man by the throat and demands payment. When his colleague cannot  meet the demand and pleads for mercy, the recently-forgiven man has him put in prison.

We have been forgiven so much. We have received so many gifts and blessings from God. And our loving God is calling us to extend to others the compassion we have received. Our Lord is calling us to forgive each other countless times, to throw out the calculator and not even bother to try to keep track. This parable is addressed to the community of faith. We have been called together by our loving and forgiving God. Beyond and through all differences or controversies, we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. I think our Presiding Bishop, who is teaching us the Way of Love, is calling us to extend this practice to all we meet. Whatever our differences may be, God is calling us to genuinely care abut each other and to work together to find a loving way forward. 

This may seem impossible, but escaping slavery in Egypt seemed impossible, too. God is calling us to explore the many kinds of slavery which hold us in bondage. Africans were brought here beginning in 1619 and held in slavery, but we white people have also been enslaved by our implicit racism and our assumption of white privilege. When we fail to extend to others the gifts of freedom which have been given to us, we are like the forgiven slave who refused to give that gift of freedom and forgiveness to his brother.

Here we are, on September 13, 2020. We have just passed the nineteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which we will never forget. We are still in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic. We also have an economic crisis which is hurting great numbers of people. In the richest country in the world, people are going hungry. We are facing many challenges. They may seem like a Red Sea that we may not be able to cross.

This year, I find the image of the angel and the pillar of cloud inspiring and helpful.  God is leading and protecting us. And we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who have followed God’s leading over the centuries and who serve as inspiring examples to us. And always we think of our Good Shepherd, out in front leading us. 

God is with us. The risen Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us. The creativity of God is in our midst. The redemptive healing and forgiveness of Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit, God at work in us and in the world, is with us. God is surrounding us with love, filling us with grace, and energizing us for the work ahead. We have received God’s love and forgiveness. Let us share it. Amen.

Let us now pray the Prayer for the Power of the Spirit.

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.

Pentecost 4 Proper 8A RCL July 2, 2017

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Our first reading is a story that can cause intense responses—shock, puzzlement, even anger. How could God do such a thing to Abraham after all that Abraham has endured? He has just given up his son Ishmael. How could God ask him to give up Isaac?

Biblical scholars Cuthbert A. Simpson of Christ Church, Oxford and Walter Russell Bowie of Virginia Theological Seminary tell us that this is one of those passages that must be put into context. (The Interpreter’s Bible, pp. 642-645.) Thomas Troegher echoes their insights (New Proclamation, Series A 1999, pp. 128-129.)

Scholars tell us that this passage was written by the Elohist writer, who was working around 750 B.C.E. The story of Abraham, depicting the journeys of nomadic people around 1600 B.C.E., dates back several centuries earlier.

One one level, this is a story about the testing of Abraham’s faith. Sarah has had a son, Isaac. This fulfills God’s promise to Abraham that he would be the father of countless people. But now God calls to Abraham and says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering.” Abraham gets up early, makes things ready, and takes Isaac and two young men with him. Abraham is obedient. We have no idea what he is thinking.

After three days’ journey, they arrive at the point where Abraham and Isaac will go on and the two young men will stay with the donkey and wait. Abraham, who is not a fool or a dreamer, tells the young men, “We will worship, and then we will come back to you.” We may be wondering and agonizing, but Abraham is trusting that he and Isaac will come back. He is focused on worshipping God. He has walked a long way with God, and God has always been faithful to him.

So they journey on. Isaac is carrying the wood on his back. Abraham is carrying the fire and the knife. As they walk on, Isaac asks one of the most poignant questions in the Bible. “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham is focused fully on Isaac. His response is full of love for his son and attentiveness to Isaac: “God himself will provide a lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Have you ever had a time when you felt God was calling you to do something you did not want to do, something you felt was extremely scary, something that you did not understand, but still you went step by step, trusting in the goodness of God? This is one of those times. The tenderness and deep faith of this moment make us catch our breath. Now Abraham and Isaac are bound together in this deep faith. God will provide.

The story moves on. Everything is prepared for the sacrifice. Now we aren’t breathing at all and our eyes are welling up with tears and perhaps rage. Why would God do such a thing?

Abraham takes the knife. But an angel of the Lord stops him. “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him.” Abraham looks up and sees a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns.

Scholars Simpson, Bowie, and Troegher remind us that, at that time in history, the Canaanites were practicing child sacrifice. They say that this story, as wrenching as it may be to us today, is an eloquent statement that God does not want us to engage in that kind of sacrifice. God calls us to offer the spiritual sacrifice of changed hearts and transformed lives.

In our epistle for today, Paul is saying that before Christ came to free us humans, we were slaves to sin. Now, because of the grace given us by our Lord, we are free. We have been changed forever. We are now living in the realm of eternal life, newness of life, fullness of life. We are citizens of God’s kingdom We are moving in an entirely new direction, a direction leading to life rather than death.

in our gospel, Jesus is instructing his disciples. He says that whoever welcomes them will be welcoming him, will be welcoming God. Whoever gives them a drink of water will be giving that drink to him.

The disciples would be going out into the world, two by two. They would be totally dependent on the hospitality of people in the towns and villages they visited. For people who welcomed them into their homes, think what a blessing that would be to those people. To sit with Peter or James or John or Thomas, to listen to what they had to say about their life with Jesus and how he had taught them and what they had done together and what a difference he had made in their lives. That would be transforming, We wouldn’t be able to get enough of that. Our lives would be changed.

Wherever he went, Jesus would take children in his arms. He always calls us to take care of the most vulnerable among us.

What are these readings saying to us today? Our first lesson is a story of faith. God sometimes calls us to walk new roads, and when that happens, we have to take each step, slowly and thoughtfully, and with great attention and deep faith, and we need to trust that God will give us what we need. God will provide. Our first reading is partly about faith and also about letting go of practices that are hurtful, practices that God would not want us to follow. God loves children; God has special love for those who are vulnerable, and God wants us to care especially for those people.

Our epistle and gospel let us know that Christ has given us a great gift, the gift of newness of life, and that gift has been shared and cherished throughout all the centuries since he was here on earth. May we open our hearts and lives to our Lord’s gifts of faith and transforming love, and may we share those gifts.  Amen.