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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 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 October 9, 2022 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 October 16, 2022 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:…

Easter 4, May 15, 2011

Easter 4A RCL v.2 May 15, 2011

Acts 2: 42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2: 19-25
John 10: 1-10

During the Easter season, we are doing a continuous reading of the Book of Acts. Last week, Peter concluded his powerful sermon explaining the identity and ministry of Christ. Three thousand people were baptized. This week, we look in on the life of the early Christian community.

Our passage says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Scholars tell us that this means that they probably gathered on a daily basis; they engaged in education, what we would call Christian formation, they talked about what they had learned from the apostles. They shared fellowship, discussing their insights and realizations regarding the Faith. And they shared in the breaking of the bread and the prayers. Scholars think this means that they ate together and they shared Eucharist together on a daily basis. They also shared all their resources in common. And they went daily to the temple because they still considered themselves to be Jewish. It was only later that they split off from Judaism. Finally, their community grew and wonderful, almost miraculous things happened.

Our gospel for today is the beginning of Chapter 10 of John’s gospel. Later, Jesus will tell us that he is the Good Shepherd. Today, he says that he is the gate for the sheep. This passage follows the story of the healing of the blind man, in which the Pharisees question the healing and also question Jesus’ authority to heal.

Scholars tell us that, in describing himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus is sharing his concept of leadership. This contrasts the leadership of the Pharisees. The Good Shepherd knows each member of the flock, and each member of the flock recognizes the shepherd’s voice and follows the shepherd.

These passages led me to think about Anthony Robinson’s book, Changing the Conversation. Several of us have been reading this book, in preparation for our special convention on June 4, when Anthony Robinson will be making a presentation.

For the first three centuries of its life, the Church was a minority that was often persecuted and always marginalized. When Emperor Constantine took steps to make Christianity the state religion in the fourth century A.D., things changed in a huge way. Over time, the Church became part of the political power structure.

This is what Robinson calls the Christendom Church. The Church had a great deal of power; it was where you met all the movers and shakers; it was fashionable to go to church. Now, in the post-Christendom era, the Church is no longer the center of the community, the Church no longer has the influence it once had, and church attendance is no longer a social requirement. In many ways, Christianity is seen by many as irrelevant.

Along with many other writers, Robinson is encouraging us to look at the Book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament to find our best models for how to be the Church. He talks about the idea that the church needs to shift from a culture of membership to a culture of discipleship, that we as the church are called to deepen our discipleship so that we can go out into the world and help others to become disciples of Jesus.

Robinson says that we need to focus on Christian formation for all ages. This would include learning about about the life and ministry of Christ, the basics of the Faith, Church history, liturgy, Scripture, ethics, and other topics we need to know about. Robinson says that clergy need to be not only pastors but also “preachers and teachers who build up the church on a theological basis.” (p. 85.)

He says that one way of doing this all ages formation is to have a two hour service each Sunday with the first hour being the all ages Christian formation time and the second hour being Holy Eucharist. He encourages us to take time to reflect on what approach would work for us. While I think most of us would find two hours of programming each Sunday to be a bit much, I think maybe we could consider one Sunday a month to do something like this. Actually, this is a goal we had set earlier in our mutual ministry reviews—to have an all-ages Christian formation session once a month. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic.

I think Robinson is saying that true leadership involves helping congregations to be articulate Christians out in the world and to do ministry in the world around us. He points out that for the post- Christendom Church, our mission field is our surrounding communities, not far off countries.

He also says that we need to identify our purpose—“Why are we here?’ and then ask God’s help in shaping our vision—“What is God calling us to do in the next three to five to ten years?” (p. 121.) Obviously, this needs to be done in a thoughtful and prayerful way. One ministry I am quite certain Grace will continue in the coming years is Summer Music at Grace. The Public Value of this ministry is $74,955.84. A community value of almost $75,000. Amazing.

I hope we will have a chance to discuss Robinson’s book and some of his ideas. Robinson talks about a leadership team in each congregation, large and small. For us, that would be all of us. I think his ideas are in very much in harmony with the concepts of baptismal ministry, which is something we are trying to live out in our journey together. I hope that we can continue to build our leadership team here at Grace, so that we can continue to grow in our ability to exercise our ministries out in the world.

One of the most important things about Jesus’ leadership was and is that he calls all of us to share in his ministry. The whole idea of baptismal ministry, team ministry, and mutual ministry comes from him.

Lord Jesus,
Thank you for being our Good Shepherd. Thank you for knowing us so well and for loving us so deeply. Thank you for making us part of your risen and living body. Help us to listen for your voice, answer your call, follow where you lead, and share your love with others. In your name we pray. Amen

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