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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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Sixth Sunday of Easter Year B RCL May 13, 2012

Acts 10: 44-48
Psalm 98
1 John 5: 1-6
John 15: 9-17

There is quite an action-packed story leading up to our reading from the Book of Acts for today. First, an angel has appeared in a vision and has given some instructions to Cornelius, a Roman centurion, that is, a military man in command of 100 men. The text tells us that Cornelius is a devout man who worships God and gives alms to the poor, but he has not joined the Jewish faith. Cornelius lives in Caesarea. The angel has told Cornelius to send a messenger to Peter, who is staying in Joppa with a man named Simon the Tanner.

Then Peter, miles away in Joppa, falls into a trance while praying and has his life-changing vision of a sheet coming down from heaven The voice of God says, “Get up, Peter, and eat.” But Peter tells God that he would never eat anything unclean. Three times the voice says to Peter, “What God has made clean, you shall not call profane.” The sheet rises up to heaven.

Peter is “greatly puzzled” about this vision. After all, God is telling him that the dietary laws are no longer necessary. As he is trying to figure all this out, the men sent by Cornelius arrive. Peter can hear them asking for the house of Simon the Tanner and, once they arrive at the house, he can hear them asking for him. Meanwhile, the Spirit tells Peter that these men are searching for him and that Peter should go with them because the Spirit has sent them. So Peter goes and talks with the men, and the next morning Peter and some of the other  followers of Jesus from Joppa go along as well. The next day, they arrive at  the home of Cornelius, who has assembled quite a large group of people to hear what Peter has to say.  Like the Ethiopian man, Cornelius is a seeker, and he has been praying to God to sent him guidance.

Peter tells the people that he has learned that nothing is unclean to God. All his life Peter, as a Jew, has felt that he should not associate with Gentiles, but, because of this powerful vision which he experienced, he knows that those barriers are coming down. He goes on to preach his wonderful sermon which begins, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality…” And then explain the meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

While Peter is still speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on the people–Jews and Gentiles alike. They begin to speak in tongues, showing forth one of the gifts of the Spirit. Peter echoes the thoughts of the Ethiopian man who asked, “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Peter says, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit as we have?”

The early followers of Jesus had assumed that they were a part of the Jewish faith. The early Church had arguments about whether to follow the Jewish dietary laws and whether they still had to observe the Law of Moses. This experience of Peter and the friends and family of Cornelius makes it clear that the new faith is for everyone.

L. P. Jones, Pastor of Mount Washington Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, writes, “Peter’s experience warns members of the faith community not to use indelible ink with any dividing lines we draw. The Holy Spirit moves at will, falling on whomever the Spirit chooses. When the gifts of the Spirit appear, the faithful look for ways to affirm and participate, even if that challenges our carefully drawn and sometimes cherished boundaries.  Easter focuses on what God alone can do. God alone decides who receives the gifts of the Spirit.  God calls and challenges us to recognize and give thanks for those gifts no matter where or on whom they appear.” Jones, New Proclamation 2012, p. 46.

Jones’ words and the message of this text seem especially relevant in this post-Christendom era. The Holy Spirit is at work bringing in the shalom of Christ. But the Spirit knows no bounds and is not enclosed within the walls of the Church. In fact, many thinkers are saying that the Church, or some churches, will need to die in order to bring the new life. The Holy Spirit is at work wherever the fruits of the Spirit grow—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The Spirit is at work as a Peace Corps volunteer, who would never darken the door of a church, helps African villagers to dig wells so that they can have clean drinking water and better sanitation. The Spirit is at work as a Muslim physician gives excellent care to her patients in an inner-city clinic in Detroit. The Spirit is at work as Jan tends to a child who has wet the bed, as Frank takes a discouraged young man out fishing, listens to what he has to say, and helps him get his mind of those nagging problems for a few hours.

Jesus is telling us to abide in his love. He has assured us of his love, and he does that constantly. And he tells us that he has come among us so that his joy may be in us, and so that our joy may be complete. He has given us one key commandment, to love one another as he has loved us. We are blessed; we are fortunate. We know how much God loves us. That gives us faith and joy and hope. But faith is, after all, a gift, and we should never get smug or feel superior because we are aware of this gift.

Jesus today gives us an inexpressibly special gift: he calls us his friends, not his servants, or his followers, or his disciples, but his friends. That is a great gift. And he calls us to bear fruit, fruit that lasts. And, most of all, he calls us to love one another. These words are addressed to his followers, to us. As we get to know each other more deeply, as we become aware of our differences, we are to continue to love each other because his love is what has drawn us together.

Last Sunday we had our first Confirmation/Baptismal Ministry gathering. I found it very moving to hear everyone share his or her journey. I believe that sharing of that kind brings us closer together. I already had deep love for everyone in the group, but that love became stronger as a result of our sharing. Thanks to all who took the time to be together and share. This is the foundation for our ministry beyond Grace Church. From here, we go out to share the love of Christ. Many times, in our ministries, we show the love of God and Jesus and the Spirit without saying that’s what we are doing. Many times the ethics of our professions or our workplaces and even the law of the land require that we avoid discussing our faith. I believe that the Spirit works through our actions in those situations. Every day, in the things you do for others, you are showing forth the love of Christ. Every day, in your ministries, the Spirit is at work.

                                                                              Amen.

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