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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:…

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.