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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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Easter 2 Year CRCL April 3, 2016

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

Our readings today tell us a powerful story about the early Church. Chronologically, the gospel comes first, and it begins with a sense of fear. The doors are shut for fear of the authorities. The women have gone to the tomb and have found it empty. The angel has told them that Jesus has risen. They have gone back and told Peter. He has gone to look for himself.

They gather in the upper room. They are afraid. After what happened to Jesus, who wouldn’t be afraid? They think the same thing might happen to them.

Jesus comes into their midst, past the locked doors and the walls of fear. He gives them his peace, his vision of shalom. He takes all their terror and confusion and gives them faith and clarity and hope. He breathes the Spirit into them and gives them the ministry of healing and reconciliation.

Thomas is not with them. When they tell him that the risen Lord has come to them, he says that he just has to see for himself. Thomas just has to touch Jesus’ wounds.

A week later, Jesus comes among them once more. Again, he gives them his peace, that calm faith that is like bedrock, that serene spirit that remains steady under all kinds of pressure, and that vision of shalom. This time, Thomas is with them. Jesus has come especially to make it possible for Thomas to know that he is truly alive. Jesus invites Thomas to touch his wounds, but Thomas does not even have to do that. He bursts forth in a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus says to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Our reading from the Book of Acts happens a short time after Pentecost. The apostles have overcome their fear. They are out in Jerusalem teaching and preaching and healing. Their message is so powerful that people simply lay their loved ones out on mats or cots so that Peter’s shadow can fall on them and make them well.

More and more people are following the new faith, and the authorities are not pleased. They are trying to control this new faith. They have put Peter and the apostles in prison, but an angel has let them out and the Spirit has told them to go right back where they were and continue their ministry.

They are now being questioned by the high priest. They have been told to stop what they were doing, but Peter and the apostles answer, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” This is a far cry from their original fear. They are almost fearless now. The Spirit is with them, and they feel compelled to carry out their ministry. Nothing is going to stop them.

Our middle reading is from the Book of Revelation. This was written some fifty years after that first Easter. This book is a series of letters to seven Christian communities in what we would now call Turkey.  Herbert O’Driscoll points out that, in this short period of time, there are now seven churches one thousand miles from Jerusalem in a time when the major means of transportation was walking. This is a huge amount of growth.

These communities are suffering persecution under the Roman Emperor Domitian, who had commanded that everyone address him as “Lord and God.” Christians refused to do that, and they were either killed or exiled. These letters were written to strengthen their faith during this time of persecution and to let them know that, no matter what the Roman Empire might do, Christ is our King, and he far surpasses any earthly ruler.

In our readings for today, we see that the new community of faith began with a group of very scared people who had gathered behind locked doors. They knew what could happen to them.

And yet, a short time later, we see Peter and the apostles healing people and preaching the good news and gaining more and more followers. No human rulers were going to stop them from doing this. Then, fifty years later, John was writing letters to encourage seven communities a thousand miles away.

We were not there in that upper room. We have not literally seen the risen Christ. We have not touched his wounds. But, because of the faith and courage of the apostles and all the saints during the past two thousand years, we have been in his presence and we have experienced his healing and forgiveness.

From that fearful beginning, our risen Lord gave the apostles the courage and the faith to share his presence, his love and healing, with everyone they met, and the new faith grew and grew.

Here we are, two thousand years later, and we are about to celebrate Grace’s two hundredth birthday. Christ is alive in us and we in him.

May we continue to share his peace his healing, and his forgiveness.

Amen.

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