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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:…
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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.

Amen.

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.

Last Sunday after Pentecost  Proper 29 Christ the King November 24, 2019

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 4, p. 50 BCP
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 12:33-43

Today is Christ the King Sunday. The season after Pentecost is coming to an end, and we are looking forward to the season of Advent.

In our reading from the prophet Jeremiah, God is speaking to the people. There have been many unfaithful leaders. God is now going to be the shepherd of the people. God will lead God’s people home from exile. And, especially significant for us, God will raise up a Righteous Branch, a good and wise king who rules with justice. In these words we as Christians see a description of our King, Jesus Christ.

Our canticle for today is the song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Zechariah is looking forward to the coming of our Lord, and he is addressing his own infant son, who is going to be the forerunner, telling everyone that the Savior is coming.

In our reading from Colossians, Paul prays that we may “be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power,” that is the power of Jesus. He has “rescued us from the powers of darkness.” He is the head of the Church, which is the Body of Christ here on earth, and we are members of that Body. We are as close to each other as the cells in a human body. We depend on each other. We support each other. We are his hands to reach out in love, his eyes to look on others with compassion, his feet to bring help to those in need.

In our gospel for this day, we are at the feet of our Lord as he is being crucified. He asks God to forgive the people who are doing this because they do not understand what they are doing. People taunt him, yelling at him to save himself if he is so powerful.

There are two prisoners, one on each side of him, One joins the cries to Jesus to save himself—and the two criminals. But the other sees who Jesus really is. He sees that Jesus has done nothing to deserve this punishment. He asks Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom. And Jesus tells him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The crowd sees Jesus as an earthly king, an earthly leader who will do anything he can to save himself. But Jesus is not an earthly king. He has come to save others. We are following him. He is our Good Shepherd. He is our king, a king like no other.

Jesus is the eternal Word who called the whole creation into being, and he will come again to complete his work of creation and reconciliation. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. As we read and learn about the ministry of our Lord here on earth, we see how God feels about us.

God loves us with a love that nothing can stop. God gives us gifts so that we can live our lives in joy and do our ministries. Gifts of listening, healing, growing things, rescuing dogs, singing, playing instruments, keeping the books, caring for the creation, making places and experiences accessible, and on and on the list goes.

For the next two or three weeks, we will be making our offerings to the United Thank Offering, also know as UTO. Every time we are thankful for something, we put a coin in our box or other container and at the end of the year, we put it all together and give it to UTO to help people all around our country and the world. The UTO is an outgrowth of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Episcopal Church. Grace Church has a long and active history of participation in this ministry. 

Also, we will be making our pledges to God for the coming year. Our pledge is also a result of thanksgiving to God for all of God’s gifts to us. For me,  the main gift is God’s amazing love. Each of us can spend our whole life just learning to absorb that love. God knows us, knows our flaws and our gifts and our foibles. Even though God knows our weaknesses, God loves us. As Paul says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”

God gives us gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Every moment we have is a gift from God. Out of all the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that God gives us, we return a worthy portion to God in our pledge. If we are giving contributions to groups like the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society, those are part of God’s gifts to us that we are sharing with others. When we give time and energy to help others, that is part of our pledge. We do this because we are so grateful to God for all of God’s blessings,

This Thursday is that very special feast of Thanksgiving—a day set apart for us to be with family and friends and to be grateful for all the many gifts God bestows on us. 

This Sunday we have two very important themes. One is the theme of  giving thanks. The attitude of gratitude is a powerful force for good. And the other theme is that Christ is our King, a very different kind of king. He is not focused on power—he has all the power in the world. He is focused on love, and he is focused on loving us. He is leading us into life in a new dimension. He is leading us in a process of transformation. He is calling us to become more like him. He is calling us to help him build his kingdom, his shalom of peace and harmony where everyone treats others as he or she wants to be treated.

This week, let us take time to thank God for the many blessings God is giving us. And let us also take some time to meditate on our King, Jesus, the Lord of Life, and, to quote Richard of Chichester, let us ask our Lord to give us the grace “to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly day by day.”

Let us turn to page 246 and pray together the collect for Thanksgiving.

 Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Pentecost 26  Proper 28B November 18, 2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20
1 Samuel 2:1-8  Hannah’s Song
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18)19-25
Mark 13:1-8

One theme for today’s readings might be beginnings and endings. God creates new beginnings.

In our first reading, we meet Hannah, one of the  great heroines of the faith. She lived in an age when women were judged on their ability to produce large numbers of children, and she felt terrible about the fact that she couldn’t even give birth to one child. Her husband, Elkanah, loved her very much and tried to console her about this.

When they went to the temple to worship, Hannah asked God for help with this problem. Eli, the priest, thought she was drunk, and she had to reassure him that wasn’t the case. Eli realized that he had been mistaken, gave Hannah a blessing, and asked God to grant Hannah’s request. She promised that, if God gave her a son, she would offer that son in God’s service. She and Elkanah went home, made love, and nine months later, one of God’s great priests and prophets, Samuel, was born. Hannah’s Song, which we read today as our psalm, is a wonderful song of praise and thanksgiving which bears many similarities to the Song of Mary, the Magnificat.

In our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, the writer tells us that the animal sacrifices offered in the temple “can never take away sins.” By his offering of himself, our Lord brings us very close to God and to God’s love. In that love, we are called to gather together, strengthen each other’s faith, and encourage one another on the journey. 

In our gospel, Jesus and his followers are coming out of the temple in Jerusalem.  One of the disciples is commenting on how large and impressive the temple is, and indeed it was huge. Jesus tells them the temple will be destroyed, and indeed it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  

Later on, Jesus and the disciples are sitting on the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew ask him privately when this destruction will take place and what the signs will be that this is going to happen.  

Jesus answers, “Beware that no one leads you astray.”  He tells them and us that people will actually come and pretend to be Jesus, or say that they come in his name. He tells us that when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, when we see or hear of conflict, we should not be alarmed. We should stay grounded in him and in our faith.  And he says that all of this is part of the birth pangs of his kingdom, his shalom.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “I think that our Lord is not so much describing any one particular time in history, as offering his people in any age an approach, an attitude, for living through great upheaval and change. Ours is such a time. Our lord is saying that we must see in the turmoil the possibility that God is bringing new realities to birth.” (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us Year B, Vol, 3, p. 157.)

The kingdom of God is growing even now. We can see many signs of upheaval in our world, and our Lord is reminding us that, as his shalom grows, there will be turmoil, but we should always go out into the world, look for the places where God is at work, and do all we can to support that work. Wherever the fruits of the Spirit are present-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, wherever God’s love and compassion are being shared, God’s shalom is growing.

Hannah’s song is full of praise and thanksgiving to God, and this is a season of thanksgiving and praise for us as well.

This is the month when we make our outreach contributions to groups who are sharing God’s caring and compassion. These include Martha’s Kitchen, Samaritan House, Abenaki CIrcle of Courage, Sheldon Methodist Church Food Shelf, Rock Point School, Oglala Lakota College, and Brookhaven Treatment Center.

During this month of thanksgiving, we also give our contributions to the United Thank Offering, and we will be doing this for the next two Sundays. The  Church Women’s Auxiliary evolved into the United Thank Offering, and thus we continue all kinds of ministries both in the United States and all over the world. As you know, the Women’s Auxiliary of Grace Church had a very strong ministry.

Finally, at this time of year, we prayerfully make our pledges  for the following year. We make these pledges in gratitude for God’s love and care for us, for our families, and for all people.  We will never be able to grasp the depth and breadth of God’s love. It is beyond our imagining, but we can sense it. We can sense God’s loving presence every moment of our lives and God’s guidance as we take each step of our journey. We will have the pledge cards out on the table next Sunday, and I would ask that you try to make your pledge by December 9.

Thanksgiving is coming up this Thursday, and we have so much for which to be thankful—family, friends, many blessings, this beautiful place in which we live, and, most of all, our loving God who has come to be one of us, our God who is leading and guiding us, our God who is bringing new things to birth.  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.

Advent 1 Year A RCL November 27, 2016

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

This Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, is the New Year’s Day of the Church calendar. We change from Lectionary C to Lectionary A. Our liturgical color changes from green to purple, the color of royalty because Christ is our King, and also the color of penitence because Advent is a time of self-examination when we take stock of our spiritual lives and prepare for the coming of Christ to complete the creation.

But Advent is also a kind of in-between time because we are looking forward to the coming of our Lord, but we are also looking backward to his first coming to earth as a little baby born in Bethlehem. In this in-between time, we recognize that his kingdom has already begun but it is not yet complete. There is much work yet to do.

Advent is a time to get ready, to be awake, to prepare the way of the Lord. It is a good time to clean house, to get things in shape, to make or revise wills, to take time to evaluate our spiritual fitness and to make any necessary adjustments to get ourselves fully in line with our Lord’s model of how to live a human life.

In our first reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the kingdom, the shalom of God is proclaimed. We are called to “beat [our] swords into plowshares, and [our] spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall [we] learn war any more.” God is calling us to turn weapons of war into tools for raising crops and feeding people. God is calling us to turn from violence toward care and compassion. As we look around our world and see what is happening in Aleppo and other places, and see refugees fleeing by the hundreds and thousands, and hear that our Air Guard is going on yet another mission, we are reminded of how much work there is yet to do.

Our psalm speaks powerfully of the beautiful city of Jerusalem, which is a holy place for three major religions of the world. We work and pray for the day when all people may gather as one in that holy city, but the way forward will demand deep thought and more prayer and skilled diplomacy and understanding of centuries of history. Yet this is another step in helping to bring in God’s shalom.

In our reading from his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul strikes another Advent note. God is calling us to be awake. The night of darkness is almost over. The day is near. We are called to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” But this armor is not ordinary armor. It is the fabric of the Being of Christ. We are called to actually dress ourselves in the likeness of Christ. We are called to continue on our journey of becoming more and more like him.

We are called to prepare, to be ready for his coming, and we are told in today’s gospel just how sudden his appearing will be. We need to begin now to achieve total readiness, because there is not going to be much warning. Our Lord calls us to “Keep awake.”

Just as winter comes. clear and fresh and cold, Advent comes to call us to awake to our ongoing process of transformation and our call to help our Lord build his kingdom of peace, wholeness, and harmony for the entire creation.

And today we make our United Thank Offering, a small expression of gratitude for all the gifts he gives us every day. Science is now telling us how powerful gratitude can be. It can improve our physical and mental health. It can actually strengthen us to be stronger and better ministers of Christ.

As we live in this in-between time, we are deeply grateful that our Lord came among us all those centuries ago, not as a rich and powerful king, but as a human being just like us. He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, grew up in the out of the way village of Nazareth in Galilee, helped Joseph in the carpenter shop, learned how to work hard and be honest and care about others as we all do in the small villages of Vermont.

We are grateful that he knows each of us and cares about us and about all people. He loves and cares about every person on this planet. And he loves the entire creation. He calls us to care about each other and about the creation which he called into being.

When he comes to make the creation whole and bring in his kingdom, he wants us to be ready, to be fully awake. When he comes to bring in his shalom, we will each look into his eyes, those eyes full of love for us and for the world he has created. And he is going to want us to be ready to help him in that work of completing his shalom.

The world of his shalom is a far cry from the strife-filled world of today. In that world, because of his abiding love, there will be a place for everyone to live and work and thrive. No one will be left out. No one will be on the sidelines or on the margins. Everyone will be included and valued. Everyone will have enough, not only to survive, but to thrive and grow.

This Advent, let us be fully awake; let us do everything we can to be in top spiritual shape; let us continue to work to help our Lord build his shalom; let us be grateful for his coming among us to live a human life and show us the way to live together. Let us put on his likeness and continue to follow him.  Amen.