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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 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 December 18, 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 December 25, 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:…

The Fifth Sunday of EasterYear C RCL April 28, 2013

Acts 11:1-18

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-6

John 13:31-35

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, we are given the gift of being present at one of the pivotal moments in the history of the Church.

Peter has had his powerful vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it. The voice of God says, “Get up. Peter. Kill and eat.”  But Peter refuses. He says that he has always followed the dietary laws. Then God tells him that all foods are made clean by God. This happens three times.

Peter is still pondering these things when three men arrive where Peter is staying in Joppa. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them. Just think how differently things would have been if Peter and Mary and Joseph and Paul and so many others had not been paying attention and being open to the voice of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Peter and the men arrive at the home of Cornelius the Centurion, a military man, a Roman and commander of a body of a hundred soldiers.  When Peter and the men arrive, the Holy Spirit falls upon Cornelius and all his household. Peter shares a meal with the people there.

Then we fast forward to the beginning of our reading. Peter is in Jerusalem.  He is being questioned as to why he shared a meal with Gentiles. He does not try to explain his actions logically.  He shares his experience of the vision in which God tells him that the new faith is for everyone. As Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have said, “God has a big family, the whole human family.”

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, we see the vision of the new heaven and the new earth, where the creation is restored to wholeness. This is the vision we are working for.  God is making all things new.

Today’s gospel takes us back to a crucial moment. This is before the crucifixion, Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet. He has said that one of them will betray him, and Judas has just left. Think of this. Jesus has just performed his act of  servanthood, a tender, gentle, intimate act of washing their feet. Judas has gone off into the night to do his awful deed. Jesus knows his time has come. The terrible chain of events is now under way. “Little children,” he says, I am with you only a little while longer.”

Jesus knew he had very little time to be with them. I suspect that the disciples did not realize all of what was going to happen. They were probably shocked and deeply moved by his washing of their feet. But now he is saying that there is very little time left. The words he is about to speak are some of the most important words in the gospels. These are the thoughts he wanted us to remember forever. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone shall know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

The commandment to love one another is not new. The Hebrew scriptures call us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But Jesus is calling us to love each other as he has loved us. This is what is new about the call to love—that Jesus has showed us how to love in all the words and actions of his life among us. In Christ, we have a living example of how to be loving people. This is not an intellectual exercise or a point for debate or discussion. He is our example.’ And he is the source of the love we are called to live and to share.

Thomas Troeger of Yale University writes, “The newness is the source that feeds this love: the humility of the Almighty as revealed through Christ’s death, the transformation of the meaning of glory from worldly renown to Godly compassion. We are not simply to use words to tell people about the meaning of the cross and resurrection.

“When we allow the love of Christ to take deep root in us, so that it flourishes in all that we do and say to one another, it is the first step in helping the world to understand how Christ has transformed glory. We give witness to what no purely verbal argument can ever accomplish: the glory of God breathing through the life of a Christ-centered community.”

How does our Lord love us? He loves us as a Good Shepherd. He knows each of us intimately, our gifts and strengths, our flaws and weaknesses, and he loves us infinitely.  He gives his life for us and to us. He loves us in a way that calls forth the best that is in us. He loves us in a way that enables us to grow and accept new truths as Peter did and to love and serve others in ways we would not be able to do without his grace. He calls us to be open to new levels of love and service. And he calls us to love each other as he has loved us. He calls us to be a community that lives that kind of love.

He does not call us to offer complex theologies. He does not call us to argue over the words of the Creeds, as we have done for centuries, or to fuss over the fine points of liturgy, as we sometimes have done in the Church.

He calls us to love one another as he has loved us. It may sound simple, but it isn’t easy. Yet, day in and day out, I see you living into this commandment. With his grace and love to empower and guide us, I believe Grace Church is answering our Lord’s call to be a loving community. We know each other, we support each other, we love each other.  We do this because he has called us to be a community of love and inclusiveness, and we know that our life together is possible only because of the amazing gift of his love for us.

Risen Lord, thank you for your love and grace. Lead us and guide us as we follow you and share your love.   Amen

Easter 4C RCL April 21, 2013

Acts 9:36-43

Psalm 23

Revelation 7:9-17

John 10: 22-30

Last Sunday’s reading from the Book of Acts told us the story of Saul’s encounter with the risen Christ. Saul, the persecutor of the Church, becomes Paul, one of the most faithful followers of Jesus.

Now the focus shifts to Peter’s ministry. Peter is in Joppa. There is a faithful and generous disciple called Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek. The text tells us that “She was devoted to good works and charity.” Tabitha has died. Her body has been washed and has been laid out in an upstairs room. The community of Jesus’ followers sends two men to Lydda to ask Peter to come to them. Peter follows them back to Joppa. They take him to the room where she is lying.

All the widows from the community are there, weeping. They show Peter clothing that Tabitha has made for them. Widows were often poor in those times, and Tabitha has clearly ministered to these women. They love her deeply.

Peter asks all of them to leave. I believe that he does this, not to be cruel, but to have quiet in the room so that God can work in a concentrated and powerful way. Then Peter kneels down and prays. I believe that he is praying for God’s presence and healing for Tabitha.

Peter stands up, turns to the woman’s dead body, and says, Tabitha, get up.” She opens her eyes, sees Peter, and sits up. He extends his hand and helps her up. Then he calls in all the members of the community to see that she is now alive.

This is a wonderful and important story. Tabitha is a beloved woman who is carrying out a key ministry to the widows in Joppa. The Revised Common Lectionary, which we started using a few years ago, was developed because we wanted to include more stories of women in our readings. This is one of those stories.

Also, the ministry of healing was a powerful part of the life of the early Church.  Many contemporary Christian communities are being called to lively ministries of healing, and we do have services in the prayer book involving the laying on of hands and anointing with oil for healing. These can be used at any time. Many parishes offer these services on a regular basis. As we read through the Book of Acts during the Easter season, we see how vibrant the ministry of the early Church was. The deeds of people like Peter and Paul and Tabitha demonstrated the love and healing of Christ and drew people to the community of faith.

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved parts of the Bible, Many people can recite it from memory. In powerful and comforting words and images, this psalm tells us that God is with us in everything and that Jesus is our Good Shepherd.

Our reading from the Book of Revelation reminds us that Christians thirty or forty years after the death and resurrection of our Lord were encountering persecution. Here we have the vision of thousands of people, many of whom have suffered for their faith, worshipping God.

Today’s gospel comes at the end of the passages in which Jesus has been saying that he is the Good Shepherd. He is not a hireling who runs away when the wolf attacks. He knows and loves the flock and he knows each sheep intimately. When he calls our name, we answer and follow him. We know his voice.

It is January. It is the feast of Dedication which we would know as Hanukkah. This feast celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in 160 B. C., which freed the people from foreign rule and allowed the temple to be restored to their control.

Scholars tell us that as we read this passage, we need to be aware that some of the religious authorities were genuinely interested in what Jesus was trying to teach and what he was trying to accomplish. Others were suspicious of Jesus and were trying to trap him. Both groups  were present in this encounter. They are asking Jesus how long he is going to keep them in suspense. Is he the messiah or not?

The question about whether Jesus is the messiah is an attempt to put Jesus into a known and defined category. But Jesus goes beyond categories. What sounds like a simple enough question does not have a simple answer.

I believe that Jesus is saying that he is calling everyone to be a part of his flock. He is the one who calls us to be his sheep. But we have to respond to his call. And the response is not only intellectual. It is a response of every part of us—our minds, yes, and also our hearts, our feelings, our will, our ethical and moral selves, our physical selves, all parts of us.

When Jesus calls and we respond to him because we know he is our Good Shepherd, it’s because we know that he is everything to us that is described in the 23rd Psalm. He gives us everything we need. He leads us to good pastures and pure water. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, even when all we can see is the next step, we know that he is with us, and somehow, though we may wonder how we will ever make it, we are not paralyzed by fear, because we know that he is walking with us.

Being a part of his flock, being among his sheep, is not just an intellectual exercise; it’s experiential. We have to live it in every part of our being. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me.”

And then he says, “The Father and I are one.” This is the key of John’s gospel. In every action and word of Jesus, we are seeing what God is like. We are seeing God walking the face of the earth and loving people and healing people. Not just some people, but all people.

Most of us have not been shepherdesses or shepherds. Few of us have has close relationships with sheep or flocks of sheep. Yet we instinctively know what this image of the Good Shepherd means. He takes care of us, He is with us, No, he can’t protect us from every harm that happens in a fallen creation. But he goes through it with us, and it always leads to new life.

What a gift we have received, that Jesus is our Good Shepherd.

May we listen for his call, May we follow where he leads.  Amen.