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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 7 C RCL May 8, 2016

Acts 16: 16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

This past Thursday, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus has gone to be with God. A week from now we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which will complete the Easter season.

In our first reading this morning, Paul and his companions meet a slave girl who has a spirit of divination. Some men have enslaved her, and they are making a large amount of money from her gift. She is calling out in a loud voice that Paul and his team are followers of God who are showing people the path to salvation.

After several days of this, Paul becomes annoyed and tells the spirit to come out of her. Her owners, whom Herbert O’Driscoll calls “pimps,” are so upset at the loss of their profitable business that they bring charges against Paul and his team. Their accusations are expressed in the most lofty terms. They present Paul and his helpers as enemies of the public good.

Paul and the team are given a severe flogging and placed in the most secure cell.   An earthquake comes, destroys the building and frees them. The jailer is afraid that they have escaped. This could cost him his life. Paul reassures him that his prisoners are present and accounted for. The jailer realizes that Paul and his team are representatives of God. The jailer and his entire household are baptized.

This reading is so timely. We know that human trafficking, prostitution, and other firms of exploitation are rampant in our world.

At our Diocesan Convention this year, we are going to be discussing these issues, and we are going to meet an extraordinary person. Her name is Becca Stevens, and she is the founder of a ministry called Thistle Farms.  According to information on their website, Thistle Farms is “the largest social enterprise in the United States run by survivors.”

Becca writes, When I first began working with women on the streets of Nashville I had one child and was pregnant with my second. The idea of opening a two year free sanctuary for women survivors had been simmering for years. But with the demands of work and a growing family that idea was just sitting on the back burner. Then one afternoon late in 1994 I was leaving work and putting my four year old son in the car when he looked up at me and asked, “Momma, why is that lady smiling?”

The billboard he could see was a huge image of a stripper in a cat suit smiling. The question broke my heart because I knew one day he wouldn’t ask it. The sign would just fade into the landscape where women are bought and sold without notice. On that day, I felt I had a fire burning in my chest and knew I needed to open the first home for women who have survived lives of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution. The woman in the cat suit was a sign. What I would also learn later is that because I have a history of child sex abuse in my background… I had a deep connection to the women I was serving in shelters and in ministry on the streets at that time. My son was a living prayer, and by the grace of God that day I could see the sign and hear the prayer.

I quote from Thistle Farm literature: “In 1997, Episcopal priest Becca Stevens opened one home for four women survivors of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution under the name Magdalene. Today,  the residential program of Thistle Farms serves over 700 women yearly with advocacy and referral services as well as managing a two-year residential program and an inmate program, Magdalene on the Inside. The residential program offers housing, medical care, therapy, education and job training without charging women or receiving government funding. No staff member lives with residents. Instead the community is guided by 24 spiritual principles. We believe that in the end, love is the post powerful force for change in the world.”

Here are the 24 Spiritual Principles and again I quote: “1) Come Together; 2) Proclaim Original Grace; 3) Cry with Your Creator; 4) Find Your Place in the Circle; 5) Think of the Stranger as God; 6) Take the longer path; 7) Make a Small Change and See the Big Difference; 8) Let God Sort It Out; 9) Stand on New Ground and Believe You Are Not Lost; 10) Forgive and Feel Freedom;  11) Unite Your Sexuality and Spirituality; 12) Show Hospitality to All; 13) Laugh at Yourself; 14) Consider the Thistle;  15) Listen to a New Idea; 16) Lose Gracefully; 17) Remember You Have Been in the Ditch; 18) Walk Behind; 19) Live in Gratitude; 20) Love Without Judgment; 21) Stay on Point; 22) Pray for Courage; 23) Find Your Way Home;  24) Leave Thankfully.”

One more quotation: “Why the Thistle? Thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Thistle Farms have walked. Considered weeds, thistles have a deep root that can shoot through concrete and survive drought. In spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower. Being a Thistle Farmer means the world is our farm and that we choose to love all creation.”

Paul and his team freed a woman from slavery. Our epistle prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus may be with all the saints. In our gospel for today, Jesus prays that we all may be made one, and that the love which God has given him may be in us, and that we may be in Christ and he in us.

The theme of Thistle Farms is “Love heals.” The ministry of Thistle Farms is a wonderful response to the call and challenge of today’s readings. You can learn much more at thistlefarms.org.

May we respect the dignity of every human being. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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