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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:…
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Seventh Sunday of Easter Year B RCL May 20, 2012

Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5: 9-15
John 17: 6-19

In our reading from the Book of Acts, Jesus has ascended into heaven. Peter tells the community of Jesus’ followers that one of the men who have been with Jesus through all his earthly ministry must be chosen to replace Judas, who has betrayed Jesus. Whoever is chosen must be someone who has been with Jesus since his baptism and has endured  all the challenges, including the horror of the crucifixion and the joy of the resurrection. It has to be someone who has had the courage and the faith to abide–to hang in there through it all.

They pray, and Matthias is chosen. What does this tell us, here in the twenty-first century? It tells us that the work and ministry of Jesus will always continue, even in the face of a betrayal by one of his closest associates.

It also tells us something else. We never hear another word about Matthias or Justus, the other candidate. We had not heard their names before this moment, Yet they had both faithfully followed Jesus everywhere he went. They had learned from him, eaten meals with him, and, we assume, they had gone out when he sent his disciples out to teach and heal in his name. Like so many of us, they were faithful but quiet followers. There are so many people who go about their ministries in Jesus’ name, faithfully sharing his love and healing, and don’t make a big fuss about it.  All of you are such people, and I thank God for all the quiet faithful folk who love to do Jesus’ will.

Our epistle today says so much in so few words. One of the things it says is that the fact of knowing Jesus, of being numbered by him as among his friends, is the greatest gift we will ever receive. Knowing him changes our lives, places our lives on a new plane. Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “[John] and other Christians are utterly convinced that their relationship with Jesus Christ has given them a quality of being alive that puts them in touch with ultimate reality. They express this experience in the phrase eternal life. This quality of being alive is so deep, so all-embracing, that once they possess it, they cannot conceive of it being available from any other source. “The Word Today, Year B, Vol. 3, p. 93.

In our Gospel for today, Jesus is praying for the disciples. I believe he is also praying for us, and I suggest that we read this prayer as though it is for us. Jesus has made known to us the nature of God, the love, the forgiveness, the high standards of conduct which God calls us to live up to.

Jesus prays to God to protect us as he, the Good Shepherd, guarded us.

He prays to God that his joy may be made complete in us.  We so often forget that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and that Jesus wants us to be people of joy. This doesn’t mean that we have to walk around with fake smiles pasted on our faces. It means that, no matter how challenging life gets, no matter how many reasons there might be to become cynical and give up, we remain people of hope, joy, and faith.

Jesus is saying that we are his. We belong to him.

L. P. Jones, Pastor of Mt. Washington Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, has a story about this.  “As a young teenager, I had the privilege of being pitcher on our Pony League baseball team. I could throw reasonably hard and accurately, but often lacked confidence.

When I arrived at the park at the beginning of one season, our coach, Coach Crump, handed me a ball and told me I was pitching against last year’s championship team. I evidently did not respond enthusiastically, because Coach Crump looked at me and asked, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ What followed was not my proudest moment. I whined, ‘We lost to them three times last year. I’m not sure I’m good enough.’ Coach Crump placed his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, ‘You let me worry about them. You’re on my team and I want you to pitch.’ Then he told me again to warm up and walked away.

“Playing for Coach Crump was not a small thing. At the end of the previous year, as we took infield practice before a game, our third baseman made a throw to me at first base that I missed. The ball slammed into Coach Crump’s head and he crumpled to the ground. He was hospitalized for several days. Yet, when the new season began, Coach Crump returned to the team. I never wanted to pitch well as much as that evening when he told me I was his and handed me the ball. Forget about self-confidence. I was pitching for Coach Crump.

 “Unless we consider baptism and other calls to ministry as solely human acts, they confirm that we belong to God and that Jesus commissions us for ministry.” (L. P. Jones, New Proclamation Year B 2012, p. 60.)

Jesus is alive, and he commissions us for ministry. He calls us to use our gifts. Combined with his grace, our gifts can go far. We have all the gifts we need in order to do the ministry we are called to do. That is one basic tenet of baptismal ministry, We don’t have to be flashy or dramatic. Think of Matthias and Justus. They were quiet and faithful. That’s a fine model for us to follow.

We belong to Jesus. He is putting his hand on our shoulder and asking us to minister in his name.                                     

 Amen

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