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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 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 7B RCL May 13, 2018

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

Before our opening reading, Jesus has ascended to be with God. We have this scene on our beautiful window here over the altar. The apostles look on as Jesus rises to heaven. We can imagine all the feelings they must have had.  Their beloved leader is no longer physically with them. He has promised that he will send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but they must have felt a bit lost and sad.

Peter assumes leadership and calls the believers together. There are about one hundred and twenty of them.  Judas has betrayed Jesus, and the community must choose someone to take his place. This must be someone who has been with Jesus from the time he was baptized by John until the Ascension. Two men are chosen, Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.

This is the only time we hear of these two men in the Bible, but the scriptures tell us that they were with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry until he went to be with God. The group prays together that this may be God’s choice. Then they cast lots, and Matthias is chosen.

Although we never hear of Justus or Matthias again, we can assume that, because they were such faithful followers of Jesus, each of them carried out his ministry all the days of his life, one as an apostle, the other as an ordinary faithful follower of Jesus. This reminds us that most of the followers of our Lord are not famous. They are people who love Jesus and who go about their lives quietly sharing his love in the best way they can, with the help of his grace. They are people you meet in shops or at tea, people like you and like me.

And so, quietly, without fanfare, the community of the faithful asks God to call forth the person who will complete the company of the apostles. Two thousand years later, we in Vermont have already begun the process of discerning the person God is calling to be the next Bishop of Vermont. We will continue to pray for God’s guidance in that process.

Our gospel for today is the continuation of Jesus’ statement that he is the vine and we are the branches. The portion we are reading today is really a prayer to God. As we read and meditate on this passage,  we realize again how much our Lord loves us. Jesus tells God that everything God has given to Jesus, Jesus has given to his followers.

Jesus tells us that we are not his servants but his friends. He calls us to a shared ministry with him and with each other.

Throughout his time with his disciples, Jesus has tried in every way to convey the profound truth about the depth of God’s love for us humans and for the whole creation. Now Jesus asks God to protect the community of faith, what we now call the Church.

We can see God protecting the community of faith as we watch Peter, whom Jesus appointed to be the leader, calling the faithful together to enter a process of prayer and discernment to choose a new apostle. Over the centuries, the Church has gone through all kinds of challenges, including times of persecution, and even that has not stopped people from making the choice to follow Jesus.

Even in recent times, we can recall various controversies. Through all of these, God has protected the Church. Over all these centuries, millions of folks like us have responded to the call of our Lord to help him spread his shalom.

Our Lord prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name…so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus is praying for God to protect us so that we may be one as he and the Father are one. 

It goes back to the way Jesus describes our life together. He is the vine. We are the branches. His love is the oxygen, the energy, the life-spirit that courses through his body, the Vine. We all share that energy. We are all part of him, and we are all part of each other. Part of God’s protection of us is that we realize that we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. That is a very strong bond, a profoundly deep and close love.

And once again our Lord prays that we may have his joy complete in ourselves. Once again, he reminds us that following him brings great joy.

This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to experience and share the depth and breadth of God’s love. Please wear red to symbolize the flames dancing over the heads of the apostles. If anyone can translate a couple of sentences of the gospel into a foreign language, please let me know. I also have a text in French if anyone would like to read a portion of that.

Meanwhile, like Matthias and Justus, whose names we hear only once; and like all the other followers of Christ whose names we do not know but whose faith and example we cherish; may we faithfully seek and do God’s will. May we live in the reality of Christ’s presence and love, and share his presence and love with others.  Amen.