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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 2023 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 February 12, 2023 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 February 19, 2023 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 Day of Pentecost Year B May 23, 2021

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35. 37B
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27 – 16:4b-15

Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told his followers to stay together and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Earlier in chapter fifteen of John’s gospel, he told them and us that he is the vine and they and we are the branches, that we and our Lord have a bond and a relationship that is like a living organism. We depend on him and each other for life itself.

Now he is going to leave them, and he tells them that, if he does not go to be with God, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, cannot come. And he tells them something else. He says that there are many tings he cannot tell us. And then he says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” That is one of our Lord’s statements that we can spend our whole lives thinking about and praying about. 

In a profound sense, the Holy Spirit is now, day by day, guiding us into the truth that Jesus was not able to share fully when he was here on earth.

After the Ascension of our Lord, the apostles are in deep grief. How will they get along without him? What will they do? How will they make their decisions? Who will guide them? They are very sad, but they do what he told them to do. They stay in Jerusalem, they remain together and they pray and wait for the Spirit to come.

The city is full of people who are there to observe the Feast of Weeks, the celebration of the spring harvest fifty days after the Passover. This is why there are people from all over the known world in Jerusalem at that time, from all the areas surrounding the Mediterranean sea.

The apostles are gathered there, too, saddened but faithful, missing Jesus but doing exactly what he said to do—waiting and praying.

Suddenly, there is a powerful wind shaking the house where they are staying. It is the ruach, the desert wind, the wind of the Spirit. Tongues of fire dance over their heads and they burst out speaking all the languages in the known world, sharing the good news about Jesus so that everyone can hear and understand.

People flock there from the surrounding area, and they hear these simple men from Galilee speaking their own languages, speaking God’s peace and love heart to heart.

Some people think that Jesus’ followers are drunk. Peter explains what is happening and preaches and teaches from the prophets about the coming of the Spirit and about the ministry of Jesus. As a result, three thousand people are baptized. This is the beginning of what we now call the Church. This is the birthday of the Church.

Ever since that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been guiding us. In our epistle for today, Paul tells us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

Like Jesus’ followers two thousand years ago, we have stayed together, we have prayed together, and once again we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the divine energy coursing through the vine and the branches, enlivening the Body of Christ, the Church. The Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world, Wherever we see a spirit of love, caring, unity, and respect, the Spirit is at work.

This has not been an easy journey. Thanks be to God for the grace that has guided us to this day. Thanks to each and every one of you for your faithfulness, determination, grace, patience, flexibility, resourcefulness, humor, love, gentleness. and caring.

Today, after over two thousand years, the Church celebrates the bestowing of the gifts of the Spirit, gifts of love, gifts of healing, gifts of energy to extend God’s love to all we meet, gifts of expressing that love from one heart to another so that we and others can feel and know God’s love.

Our Lord told us that the Spirit would lead us into all truth, and each of us and all of us together are still learning more of that truth. One of the truths that Jesus was trying to tell us is that, because he has gone to be with God and because the Spirit has come to us, Jesus can be with everyone at once, all over the world, everywhere in the creation. Loving God, may your shalom touch every heart.

Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Shalom of God. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter 7B May 16, 2021

Acts 1:15-17. 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John  5:9-13
John 17: 6-19

This past Thursday the Church celebrated the feast of the Ascension. Forty days after Easter, our Lord ascended into heaven. Our window at Grace portrays this scene, with the apostles looking up into heaven as Jesus ascends to be with God. This Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, carries echoes of the Ascension as we worship Jesus as our King.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, the apostles are facing a very important decision. Judas Iscariot had betrayed our Lord, pointing out Jesus so that the authorities could arrest him. This meant that there were only eleven apostles remaining. 

Peter now calls the gathered group of Jesus’ followers, about 120 people, to choose someone to complete the company of the apostles. Peter says, “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Peter calls the group to pray together for God’s guidance and to choose one of the men who have been with Jesus during his entire ministry on earth. They are going to choose someone who has been with Jesus through everything, who knows Jesus, who has eaten meals with our Lord, read the scriptures with him, learned from him, prayed with him, gathered with the others after the horror of the cross, and met the risen Lord after his resurrection. This person will join the apostles as a witness to the resurrection of our Lord.

They choose Justus and Matthias. And then they pray to God  to show them which of these men God has chosen. That man is Matthias.

As we read this wonderful story of the completion of the company of the apostles, the choosing of Matthias, I couldn’t help but think that his story is our story, too. We have not literally walked and talked with Jesus, Jesus has not literally  “gone in and out among us,” but he has been in our midst. He has led us and guided us as our Good Shepherd. We have read the scriptures together and prayed together. We have shared our struggles and supported each other. And always, always, he has been with us. And he has called us to follow him, just as he called Peter and James and John and Matthias.

The feast day of Matthias is celebrated on February 24. We know very little about this person except that he was called to serve with the other eleven as a “witness to the resurrection.” Once again, this is our story too. We did not literally stand at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and John, the beloved apostle. We were not physically there on the first Easter morning.

But we have faithfully walked the way of the cross with our Lord. We have all walked through our own dark nights of the soul and our own experiences of death and brokenness and hopelessness. And we have all gone to the tomb expecting more death and brokenness only to find him standing there, once we recognize him. And we recognize him when he calls our name. There is the beloved voice of our Good Shepherd calling us. Calling us into new life.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is praying to God before he goes to his death on the cross. He says that he has guarded his flock as a good and faithful shepherd does. He prays that his followers “might have my joy complete in themselves.” And then he prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

What would it mean for us to have the joy of Christ complete in ourselves? What would it mean for us to be wrapped in the holiness and wholeness of “the truth?” One meaning of Christ’s joy might be that he has guarded us and protected us. This does not mean that life is without its challenges, even tragedies. But through them all he has been there, by our side, or out in front leading us, or even carrying us when the going got really tough. His joy means that, as Paul said, “Death has no more dominion.” (Romans 6:9.) Life and love conquer death, brokenness, and hate.

What is God’s truth? If we reflect carefully on the gospels and the life of our Lord, God’s truth is Jesus walking the face of the earth. God’s truth is that God loves everyone and God calls us to do the same. God has a big family and God calls us to welcome everybody into that family and share that love. Love is stronger that any power on earth, stronger by far than hate or fear, or division.

If we have the joy of Jesus complete in us, it means, not that we deny the forces of death and brokenness in the world, but that we look those forces in the face and then we remember that Christ is with us; he has conquered all death and brokenness, and we are following him. Underneath the considerably depressing realities of this world, we have the presence of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the everlasting and loving arms of God.

If we are made holy and whole in the truth, we remember that God is love, that, as the old hymn says, “God is working his purpose out,” that God cares deeply about all people, and that God is a God of justice, and, again and always, God is a God of love.

We are in the last laps of our Covid journey. Hang in there. Keep the faith. We will gather next Sunday for the Feast of Pentecost. Please wear red to symbolize the flames of the Holy Spirit. 

Meanwhile, let us remember that, like Matthias, we are called to be witnesses of the resurrection. We are called to be people of love, people of hope, people of healing. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter 6B and Rogation Sunday May 9, 2021

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

Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and it is also Rogation Sunday. On Rogation Sunday, we pray God’s blessing on those who work in agriculture and industry.

Our opening reading from the Book of Acts comes at the end of a chain of events that almost boggle the mind. In Chapter 9, Paul has his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and he is transformed. Jesus asks him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and Saul feels the love of Jesus in a way that changes him forever.

Peter undergoes a similar transformation which results in today’s events. Several days before the events in today’s reading, a man named Cornelius has been praying. Cornelius is a centurion in the Roman army. A centurion commanded one hundred soldiers.

In addition to being a respected commander, Cornelius is a wonderful person. He is not a Jew, but he gives generously to the synagogue in town and also gives generously to the poor. He is well known as someone who cares about others and helps them.

One day, as he is praying, an angel of the Lord comes to him in a vision and tells Cornelius to send a message to a man called Peter, who is staying at the home of Simon the Tanner in Joppa.

Meanwhile, miles away in Joppa, Peter is up on the roof praying and falls into a trance. He has a vision of all kinds of unlawful foods coming down on a sheet and God telling him to eat these things. Peter tells God that he has never in his life eaten anything unclean, and God answers, “What God has made clean, you shall not call  profane.” God has just wiped out the dietary laws which Peter has followed all his life.

While Peter is trying to grasp this revolutionary thought sent from God, the messengers from Cornelius arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to welcome them and to go with them. So Peter welcomes the men in for the night and the next day they leave for Caesarea. Some of the followers of Jesus from Joppa go with Peter and  Cornelius’ messengers. 

Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered his household and many guests to hear what Peter has to say. When Peter, the messengers, and Peter’s friends reach the home of Cornelius, Cornelius falls on his knees and worships Peter. Peter tells Cornelius to get up and makes it clear that he, Peter, is a mere mortal. Then Peter realizes that there is a large group of people in Cornelius’ house. He tells them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” Peter asks Cornelius why he has summoned him. And Cornelius tells Peter that an angel instructed him to send for Peter and to listen to what Peter had to say.

Then Peter preaches his sermon which is the opening reading for Easter Sunday. It begins, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality….”Peter tells the people that he has learned that anyone who loves God is acceptable to God. And then he tells these people the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, and how all people receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name.

This is where today’s reading begins. While Peter is still speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone in the crowd. Everyone begins praising God. And then Peter baptizes them, realizing that the gifts of the Spirit are available to everyone. God loves all people, and all are welcome to follow Jesus.

Peter was one of our Lord’s apostles, and now he is simply practicing what Jesus told his closest followers: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love…..This is my commandment, that you love one another.” Jesus also says to his apostles and to us, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” And he tells us that we are his friends, not servants but friends, and he has chosen us to bear much fruit, the fruit of the Spirit—love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

As we contemplate these readings today, stirring passages that show us the power of God’s love to change people and situations, we can remember that in the early Church, some folks felt that all members of the Church should follow the dietary laws. As a result of his experience with God dissolving the boundaries, Peter was able to tell the assembly that the new faith was open to all people.

Governor Scott has told us that we are in the final laps of this race against Covid. Vermont is number one in the nation in vaccinations. We also rate highly in testing and contact tracing. Things are  beginning to open up. And, once again, I haven’t said it every Sunday, but I think we all have thought it: thank God for Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and Dr. Kelso, and all our leaders for sticking with the science.

As you know, our country has been deeply divided for several years now. Tragically, we are even divided over whether to get vaccinated or not. Experts are saying that because of people’s hesitation and/or opposition to getting the vaccine, we may not reach herd immunity. 

Saul began as a persecutor of the Church and was so profoundly transformed that he got a new name—St. Paul, a Pharisee who became the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter thought it was absolutely necessary to follow the law, and God spoke to him and told him no food and no person was unclean. God’s love has the power to change lives. What would we have done without Saints Peter and Paul leading us to realize that God’s love breaks all barriers and makes us into the big family which is God’s vision for all of us? Let us pray that God’s healing love will touch the hearts of enough of us so that we can vaccinate enough people to protect all of God’s beloved children. May God surround us all with love and fill us with grace so that we can run these final laps. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Easter 5B May 2, 2021

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

Before we look more deeply at our reading from the Book of Acts, let us look at the context of this passage. Back in Chapter 6, the apostles realized that they could not preach and teach and also take care of the widows and orphans. Guided by the Holy Spirit, they chose seven men as the first deacons. Philip was one of those men.

In today’s passage, Philip is in Samaria. An angel of the Lord tells him to go to the road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza. On that road is an Ethiopian eunuch. Under the law, this man would be considered unclean on two counts. He was a foreigner, from  Ethiopia, and he was a eunuch. This man— we do not know his name and this is the only time he appears in the Bible—has made a long journey to pray in the temple in Jerusalem. He is on his way home and is reading from the prophet Isaiah.

This man has a position of huge responsibility and honor in his home country of Ethiopia. He is a member of the queen’s court. He is in charge of her entire treasury. The Spirit tells Philip to go over and join the man. 

Philip runs over and realizes the man is reading from Isaiah. He asks the man if he understands what he is reading. When Philip asks that question, the man responds with wonderful openness. “How can I understand unless someone guides me?” And he invites Philip into the chariot to do just that. The passage is about the suffering servant. As Christians, we believe that our Lord is described in that passage. The Ethiopian man wants to know more. Philip shows him the relationship between the suffering servant and Christ. This man is so open to the presence of the Holy Spirit that, when they reach some water, he asks to be baptized. When they come up out of the water, the man goes on his way rejoicing. The Spirit carries Philip to Azotus, and he proclaims the good news all the way up the coast to Caesarea, some 58 miles.

In this passage we see the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s  love at work. The Ethiopian man is so eager to learn more about God, so open to guidance from Philip. And Philip is so full of the energy of the Holy Spirit, flowing over with the love of God. Because of God’s love, this man is baptized into the faith.

Our epistle for today is also filled with the love of God. “God is love,” this passage proclaims. We are called to abide in God’s love. We love others because God first loved us, and the most powerful expression of that love is the life and ministry of our Lord.

Our gospel for today is one of my favorite passage in the Bible. Jesus tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. “

This is another image for the Body of Christ. We are literally connected with each other and with our Lord. Branches are connected with the vine. Parts of a body are connected with each other and with the head who is Christ. We are called to stay connected with our Lord and to bear much fruit. This makes me think of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

“I am the vine; you are the branches,” Jesus says. And he calls us to abide in him. This is part of what scholars call his Last Discourse, the portion toward the end of John’s gospel in which our Lord tells us everything he can think of to help us be faithful followers through thick and thin.

If he is the vine and we are the branches, this means that we are connected very closely with him and with each other. We are dependent on him and on each other. His love is the life energy of the vine. His love, coursing through all of us, is the energy enabling us to do what Philip did—reach out to people we meet and extend the love of Christ.

The word “abide” in Greek can mean “to stay in place,” “to endure,”and we all know that followers of Jesus have had to hang in there through all kinds of trials. But to abide in this context also means to stay connected with each other and with our Lord. We stay connected but it is an active kind of connection. We are always ready to share his love with others. And we are actively nourishing ourselves with his word, with the scriptures, with prayer and meditation, staying in touch with our Lord.

In his  contemporary version of the Bible, called The Message, Eugene H. Peterson describes the relationship between us and Jesus as “intimate and organic,” and he has Jesus inviting us to “make [our] home” with Jesus. That is a wonderful translation of “abide.” 

Lord Jesus, help us to make our home with you. May we live in you and you in us. May your love fill us to overflowing, and may we share that love with everyone we meet. In Your holy Name. Amen.