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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion June 11, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.comTime:  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 Day  April 21, 2019

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

“Jesus Christ is risen today,” the joyous hymn proclaims. For the next fifty days of the Easter season, all our readings will come from the New Testament, the Greek scriptures, proclaiming that we are an Easter people.

It all begins with the women going to the tomb. They have brought the spices so that they can give Jesus a decent burial. They find the stone rolled away from the tomb. Two angels tell them he is risen. These heavenly beings remind the women that Jesus had said this would happen, and, with this prompt they recall what he had said. They go back and tell the other disciples. The others do not believe them. But Peter gets up and runs to the tomb. He sees that it is empty, and he also sees the linen cloths lying there. Jesus’ body had been there, but was there no longer. The text says that Peter went home, amazed at what had happened.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the women go to the tomb. In Mark it is Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. In Matthew, it is Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” Here, in Luke, it is Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James and “the other women.” In John’s gospel, of course, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone, while it is still dark, and has a dramatic and life-changing encounter with the risen Christ. According to John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene is the first person to meet the risen Lord. According to the other gospels, Mary Magdalene is one of the first witnesses to the resurrection.

To borrow a phrase from Fulton Oursler, this is “The Greatest Story Ever Told,”and at first it was passed on by word of mouth. Different people were struck by different aspects of the story. But always, these women are the first to see that empty tomb, these women from Galilee who followed Jesus every step of the way.

Peter was a fisherman from Galilee, that out of the way and free- thinking area north of the big city. Jesus asked him to follow him and become a fisher of people, and Peter left everything and followed our Lord. Jesus chose Peter to be the leader of the apostles. Peter denied Jesus three times, something he deeply regretted. The Risen Lord met Peter on the beach. Jesus asked him three times, “Peter, do you love me?’ and Peter responded, “Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.” That was a forgiveness and a commissioning of Peter to spread the word. Jesus is asking us to do that, too, feed his sheep.

The good news about Jesus spread, and new converts flocked into the new community. Peter had followed the law and thought everybody else should do the same until he had that vision while he was praying on the roof. All kinds of animals came down on a big sheet, and God said, “Kill and eat.” It was no longer necessary to follow the dietary laws. And in our opening reading he is telling a crowd of people gathered at the home of Cornelius, all Gentiles, that everyone is included in God’s family.

Paul, the writer of our second reading, did not have the opportunity to  be with Jesus during our Lord’s earthly ministry. Paul was a Roman citizen, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, and a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. After witnessing a crowd stoning Stephen to death, Saul of Tarsus, soon to be Paul, was rushing to Damascus to encourage further persecution when the risen Christ confronted him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul was blinded by the light of Christ. He was transformed. He began planting communities of faith around the Mediterranean Sea.

He founded the church in Corinth, and he is telling his beloved Corinthians and all of us that our Lord has conquered every force of brokenness and darkness and death, He has risen and we will rise with him. He will transform our lives.

On Tuesday, April 30, we will be traveling to the United Church in Newport to meet Shannon, Hilary, and Hillary, three women who, like us, have been to the empty tomb this morning. We will meet these three followers of Jesus who feel called to be our Bishop. The Holy Spirit will guide us in discerning which of these three faithful servants of Christ will serve as Bishop of Vermont.

We all are part of the current generation of folks who have heard this wonderful story, who have met our risen Lord at various times in our lives, and have allowed him to lead us into the light of his love, the joy of new life in Him.

The story goes on. The story of newness of life. The story of his infinite love, The story of his endless and eternal healing.

And he asks, “Will you follow me?” And we say, Yes, Lord, we will.”

Amen. Alleluia.

Easter 6B RCL May 6, 2018

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

The Easter season is so full of the love of God and the work of the Holy Spirit that I just want to pause for a moment and reflect. During these Sundays in the Easter season, all our readings are from the new Testament. Instead of a first reading from the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, we have been reading passages from the Book of Acts.

The Book of Acts reads like a running newspaper report on the growth and challenges of the early church and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is fast-paced and action-packed. We could say that the Book of Acts, is a kind of spiritual cable news show on the early history of the Church.

Our first reading for today illustrates this perfectly, so I’m going to fill in some background. Several days before the event in our reading, a man named Cornelius has been praying. Cornelius is a centurion in the Roman army. This means that he commands a group of one hundred men. This is a position of power and prestige. He knows what it is to give orders and have them obeyed, He also knows what it is to follow orders.

He is a wonderful person, well-respected, even loved in his community of Caesarea Philippi. He is not a Jew, but, like the Ethiopian eunuch whom we met last Sunday, he is a seeker. He gives generously to the local synagogue and gives alms to the poor, but he is not a member of the synagogue. He is widely known in his community as a person who cares about others and helps others.

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

Meanwhile, miles away in Joppa, Peter is praying and falls into a trance and has a vision of all kinds of unlawful foods coming down on a sheet and God telling him to go ahead and eat them. Peter tells God that he has never eaten anything that is against the law to eat, and God responds, “What God has made clean, you shall not call profane.” The text tells us that Peter is “puzzled” about this vision. After all, God has just erased the dietary rules.

While Peter is pondering all this, the messengers from Cornelius arrive. The Spirit instructs Peter to welcome them and to go with them. So Peter goes down from the roof, welcomes the men in for the night, and the next day they head toward Caesarea. Some of the followers of Jesus in Joppa go with Peter and Cornelius’ messengers. Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered his household and many guests to hear what Peter has to say.

The next day, Peter, the other followers of Jesus from Joppa, and Cornelius’ messengers arrive at Cornelius’ home. Cornelius falls to 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 substantial crowd gathered at Cornelius’ house. He says, “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 why Cornelius has summoned him. And Cornelius tells him that an angel instructed him to send for Peter and listen to what Peter had to say.

Then Peter preaches his sermon which 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 Peter tells the people the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and how all people receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name.

This is where our reading begins. While Peter is still speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone in that large crowd. Everyone begins praising God. And then Peter baptizes them, realizing that the gifts of the Spirit are open to everyone, God loves all people, and all are welcome to be followers of Jesus.

Peter and his companions were simply putting into practice what Peter had heard from Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love…This is my commandment, that you love one another.”

And Jesus also says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” And he says that we are his friends. Not his servants, but his friends. And he says that he has chosen us, and he has chosen us to bear fruit.”

Today, in a world that is so fraught with conflict and a country that is being polarized by hate and misinformation, things that are directly in opposition to the love and truth of Christ, we need to remember that he is telling us all this so that our joy may be full.There is deep, refreshing, hope-instilling, joy in following Christ.

In today’s reading, Peter’s entire belief in the law has just been rocked on its foundations. The early Church agonized over whether it was going to stay a sect of Judaism and require folks to follow the dietary laws and be circumcised.  Because of this chain of Spirit-inspired events, Peter went to the council of Jerusalem and said what he says in our reading today. God has a big family, and there are no barriers. If you want to love God, come in, If you want to follow Jesus, come and be a part of his risen body.

There is great and deep joy in the faith we have been given as a gift beyond measure. Remember how Sarah burst into laughter when she heard that God was going to give her a son? Well, every now and then, maybe we should just laugh with joy that God has showered us with such unconditional love and that Jesus is the kind of friend and brother and good shepherd who would give his life for us and lead us into new life here and now.

He is alive among us. We are alive in him. We are his risen body. We have the gifts of the Spirit, and we are equipped to spread the Good News of his love, healing, and joy just as Peter and Cornelius did all those many years ago.  Amen.

Easter Day  Year B April 1, 2018

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus said this to his closest followers shortly before he died, and it is the theme of our sequence hymn.

John’s gospel takes us back to that first Easter morning. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, sees that the stone has been removed, and runs back to Peter and John. Although he denied Jesus three times, Peter is back with the twelve. He denied that he knew Jesus because he was afraid that the authorities would kill him, too.

We can imagine Peter rejoining the disciples, confessing his denial, which he deeply regretted, and then waiting with the others to see what would happen next.

He and John literally race to the tomb, Peter goes in first and sees the cloth that had wrapped Jesus’ head rolled up neatly. One has a vision of Jesus rising and very considerately folding the head cloth before he leaves. Peter and John then go home. They have not grasped the fact that Jesus is risen.

But Mary stays. She can’t leave. And she weeps. They are all shattered by grief, but she is the one who expresses it. She looks into the tomb and sees the two angels. They ask her why she is weeping, and when she says she does not know where Jesus has been taken, there he is. He asks her the same question, “Why are you weeping?”

In all of these post-resurrection encounters, people do not recognize Jesus, and this is true for Mary Magdalene. She thinks he is the gardener.  She asks him to tell her where the body of Jesus is so that she can take it away.

And then he says her name—“Mary!” And she realizes that it is Jesus.

He gives her the profound honor of being the first one to see him risen. Just as she is going to hug him, he tells her that he has to go to be with the Father. She cannot hold onto him. But he gives her another high honor. He asks her to be the one to tell the apostles that he has risen. Immediately, she goes and tells his followers that he is alive.

In all the gospel accounts, those who loved Jesus so deeply and watched his torture on the cross have an extremely difficult time realizing that he has risen. Yet God has brought good out of this horrible event.

When we go through something terrible, when we lose a dear one, or go through a disaster of one kind or another, or receive a serious or even terminal diagnosis, it seems impossible that any good or anything like new life could come out of it.

And yet, “Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain.” A little green shoot rises out of the earth in spring. The grain of wheat has been buried in the earth and now comes to life.

John Macleod Campbell Crum was an Anglican theologian, poet, and hymn writer who lived from 1872-1958. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1900 and served several parishes.He was a canon of Canterbury Cathedral from 1928-1943.

On Easter we know that love is come again like wheat that springeth green. Christ is love. God is love. Love is the strongest force in the world.

“Now the green blade riseth like the buried grain,  wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; love lives again that with the dead has been:  Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

Because of God’s unconditional love, we can always have hope. Because God loves us so much that nothing can stop that love, even the greatest brokenness, even the darkest hour, even the most profound and painful suffering, can and often does lead to light and life.

God cannot protect us from suffering, but, in some way that we will never understand, because God has gone though the worst suffering that anyone can endure, because God has taken all that darkness and hatred and brokenness and wrestled with it and worked with it and labored with it, and transformed it into life, we can experience that newness of life. John Macleod Campbell Crum has captured all of that meaning in his wonderful hymn:

“In the grave they laid him, love whom hate had slain, thinking that never he would wake again. Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen, love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

“When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, thy touch can call us back to life again, fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.


Easter Day Year A April 16, 2017

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18

Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

During the fifty days of the Easter season, all three of our readings will be from the Greek scriptures, or the New Testament. Christ is risen, and we take time during this special festive season to devote all three readings to events that happened during and after his ministry here on earth.

Our first reading is from the Book of Acts, which traces the very early history of the new faith. Peter had always believed that followers of the new faith in Jesus would have to follow the Jewish dietary laws and other parts of the law. But he had a vision of all kinds of food which were forbidden by the law and he heard the voice of God telling him it was all right to eat these foods. Peter also got to know some Gentiles, among them Cornelius the Centurion, and God still caused the Holy Spirit to fill these people.

Our opening reading is Peter’s proclamation that God does not show partiality. God loves everyone, and God gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “God has a big family,” and it includes everyone.

Our reading from the Letter to the Colossians reminds us that we have been welcomed into new life in Christ, and we are called to live in him and allow him to live in us.

In our gospel, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while it is still dark.  As she walks to that tomb, she is expecting to find the dead body of Jesus. Instead, she finds the tomb empty. She runs to tell Peter and John what has happened, and, after they leave, she goes in and sees the two angels guarding the place where Jesus’ body had been placed. She thinks someone has taken Jesus’ dead body away.

Even when she turns around and sees the risen Lord, she still does not recognize him. She is still thinking of him as dead. She thinks he is the gardener. It is only when he calls her name that she realizes who he is. She is then able to go and tell the others that she has seen the risen Lord.

Jesus takes death, brokenness, and suffering and transforms it into life wholeness, and joy. Jesus takes death and transforms it into newness of life, life in a deeper dimension for everyone. That is the meaning of Easter. After he appears to Mary, two of his disciples see him on the road to Emmaus. Peter meets him on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Three times, Jesus asks him, “Peter, do you love me?” and three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord. I love you. And Jesus says, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”

As Jesus called Mary Magdalene and Peter and so many others, our risen Lord is calling us. Centuries after Jesus walked with us here on earth, one of his most faithful followers wrote a prayer which describes what Jesus is calling us to do and to be. It is the Prayer of St. Francis, found on page 833 of the prayer book. Let us pray this together.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

Alleluia. Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ January 8, 2017

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. Our first reading is the inspiring description of God’s servant and of the ministry to which God calls all of us. God’s servant is gentle, He does not break a bruised reed, He does not put out a candle that is flickering. He is here to bring forth justice.

God tells us that God has taken us by the hand and guided and protected us. God has called us to be a light to the nations. God has called us to open the eyes of the blind, to free prisoners from their dungeons. God tells us that the former things have passed and that God is creating something new.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, we hear from Peter. He has realized that the new faith in Christ is for all people. Peter gives a summary of the ministry of our Lord and tells his listeners that we have been called to spread the Good News to everyone.

In our gospel for today, we have the privilege of being present at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Up to this point, Jesus has led a quiet life. We think that he spent time studying the scriptures and that he was familiar with the passage from Isaiah which describes God’s servant. He probably worked with Joseph in the carpenter shop. He may have studied with the Essenes, a religious community of that time. We can assume that he knew how to work hard, that he was part of a large extended family and he lived a normal, quiet everyday life.

But now he goes south from Galilee to where his cousin John is baptizing people in the Jordan River. John feels that Jesus should be baptizing him, but Jesus insists that John baptize him.

This is baptism by immersion, a kind of drowning, That is what baptism means in Greek— a drowning to our old self. Jesus falls back into the water and is submerged. Then he comes up out of the water and he hears the voice of God telling Jesus who he is.

Jesus was fully human. Like all of us, he had wondered who he was, what his gifts were, what he was called to do, what his ministry would be. As we watch his ministry unfold, we can see that he knew the scriptures about Gods suffering servant, the one who is so gentle and compassionate, the one who can see deep into each of us, the one who can reach the hurt places within us and offer healing and forgiveness, the one who can cure us of our blindness and free us from things that imprison us.

But when he emerged from the water and heard the voice of his heavenly father, he knew on a deeper level what he was called to do. From then on, he gave all his time and energy to the people who thronged around him, hungry for love and healing and forgiveness.

The prophet Isaiah gives us God’s description of the suffering. compassionate servant. That is a description of the ministry of our Lord, but it is also a description of the ministry to which each of us is called, and to which all of us are called together.

We are called to free people from blindness and to help them see the love and healing that comes from our Lord. We are called to help to free people from things which imprison them, things such as addiction, poverty, and abuse. We are called to help to bring justice to the earth.

As we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, we remember that we are members of his risen Body called to do his ministry here on earth.

So this morning, let us renew our own baptismal vows by sharing in the Baptismal Covenant, page 304.

Easter 6B RCL    May 10, 2015

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

Our first reading today is so short that we may miss its significance. It comes after a whirlwind of events powered by the Holy Spirit. Cornelius, a Centurion in the Roman army, lives in Caesaria, gives money to the people and prays constantly, but he is a Gentile. An angel comes to Cornelius and tells him to send for Peter, who is in Joppa. So he sends some men to Joppa.

Peter is praying and has his vision of a sheet with all kinds of foods on it. God tells Peter to “Get up and eat,” and Peter, who has followed the dietary laws faithfully all his life, realizes that no foods are unclean.

Peter is trying to figure out the meaning of all this when Cornelius’ men arrive looking for him. The Spirit tells Peter to go with these strangers, so, the next morning, Peter and other followers of Jesus travel to Caesaria. When they arrive at the home of Cornelius, they find that he has gathered a group of people to hear what Peter has to say. Peter preaches his wonderful sermon which begins, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality…” Then Peter goes on to preach about the ministry of Jesus. Peter has realized that the family of God includes everyone.

Our reading today comes as Peter is still speaking about God’s big family. The Holy Spirit fills the people listening and they speak in tongues. With the gifts of the Spirit pouring out on these people, Peter realizes that they should be baptized. And so it happens. The Spirit is moving, touching and transforming peoples’ lives. Everyone is welcome in this new faith.

And what is at the center of our faith? Love. Last Sunday, we read that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. We could say that the love of God and Jesus and the Spirit is the energy in the vine. God loved us first. We are called to love God and to share God’s love with everyone we meet. When we do that, we become people of joy. And our Lord makes us his friends.  Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last….” In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control. Those are the fruits of close loving communities such as Grace Church, and those are the fruits that we bear as we go out into the world to bring the love, forgiveness, and healing of Christ to people who need it so much.

Last Sunday, Bishop Tom made his visitation to Grace Church. He offered us some of the real fruit of the vine, delicious grapes, and we reflected together on what it means that Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. We are connected with him and with each other so closely that our lives are interdependent and intertwined. His energy, his love, flows into us and nourishes us to do our ministries in the world.

Some of you shared deeply and honestly in a profoundly powerful way about your journeys with Christ and your ministries in his name. What you shared was authentic and moving. God has called us together from far and wide, and yes, we have responded. We have chosen to be here, to be together in Christ and in the Spirit,

The reflections which you shared spoke of a depth of community that only God could create. And I know that our Bishop was listening. And I was listening, too. You are such quiet people that I know it took a lot to do that sharing. You don’t blow your own horn. Perhaps to our detriment, we don’t call the newspaper every time we do something.

But the truth is that every day, you go out into the world and live your faith, and that is the fruit that lasts because that is what is building the shalom of God.

We have been given a great gift—three years of work together with annual reviews, and it wasn’t limited to three years, so who knows?

We have a time frame that is a bit longer than just a year, and I am very happy about that. Bishop Tom has been generous with us, and I believe that is because of the depth of your faith and your ministries out in the world. God is the center of our lives, and we and God have built a community of faith that supports each of us to strengthen our faith and minister in the name of Christ.

Thanks be to God for each of you and for this community! Well done, good and faithful servants, or, as Jesus has said in today’s gospel, “Well done, good and faithful friends!   Amen.

Easter Day April 5, 2015

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

We were so happy to see the crowd welcome him. Then we shared the meal, and when he took the bread and wine and said the blessings over them, he told us this was his body and blood and that we should do this in remembrance of him. He had been saying that he would die. Our hearts sank.

Then we went to the garden, and he struggled. We fell asleep. Judas betrayed him. Jesus was arrested. Peter denied him three times. He felt so terrible about that. But when he and Jesus met later on, that was all forgiven.

And then the trial. Pilate wanted to let him go, but the crowd wanted Pilate to free Barabbas. And then the horror of the cross. And his mother right there. How she did it I will never know.

And then he was dead. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling Council, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He took a huge risk. He could have been killed on the spot. Once Pilate made sure that Jesus was actually dead, he let Joseph take that beloved body and put it into Joseph’s own tomb. There were some people in high places who were secret followers of Jesus, but Joseph was the only one who stepped forward to help. Everyone was scared. If they could kill Jesus, they could kill any one of us.

We spent the night in the room where we had gathered. We prayed and cried. His kingdom would have been so different. How could this awful thing have happened, we wondered. He could have raised up an army, but he refused to do it. Through his own power he could have killed them all. But that is not his way. That night, as we mourned, many of us were so angry we almost wished he had killed them all. But we know that he would never have done that. As he hung in agony on that cross, he forgave the people who were killing him.

We had had such high hopes for a different kind of future, a different kind of world. Now those hopes were gone.

We got up early in the morning to go to the tomb and anoint his body. We had no idea how we were going to move that huge stone. We really didn’t want to get there and see his beloved body dead. It took all our strength and prayers to put one foot in front of the other and drag ourselves there. But when we arrived, that enormous stone was rolled away, and there was a young man there—I think he might have been an angel—and he told us that Jesus had risen and we should go to Galilee and find him.

We couldn’t believe it. We had been filled with hopelessness, but the tomb was empty. As we talked about it later, we remembered that, as we got near the tomb and saw the stone rolled away, we began to feel his presence. We knew that it wasn’t just us. We knew that he was with us. Jesus was alive. Jesus is alive.

People began meeting him—on the road to Emmaus, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He came right through the walls of the upper room where we kept gathering to pray. Thomas had had his doubts, but, when he saw Jesus, those doubts evaporated.

Centuries have passed. Millions upon millions of people have chosen to follow Jesus. You are among those people. You gather just as we did all those centuries ago. Because he is risen and he is alive in you and you are alive in him, he is just as close to you as he was to us. He is with you every moment.

You are part of his risen body, You have been given the gift of new life in him. Keep sharing that life and hope and love with others. Keep up the good work!

Alleluia! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.


Easter Year A RCL April 20, 2014

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18

They said I had seven demons. All I know is that I was very ill. I met Jesus and he gave me my life back. I had to follow him.

It was amazing to watch him. He truly loved people, and they knew it. He met them as they were, rich and poor, young and old. He taught them, healed them, treasured every one of them. People flocked to him. But his love was a threat to the people in power.

We went with him to Jerusalem. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. Peter felt awful about that, but later he and Jesus had that wonderful reconciliation on the beach. There was the questioning by Pilate and then one horror after another.

We stood at the foot of the cross. I don’t know how his mother endured it. She is so courageous. And, at last, he died. Two members of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had been secret followers of Jesus. They risked their lives and asked permission to take his body down off the cross and place it in Joseph’s new tomb.

We all gathered to cry and pray. Now it was really over. All our hopes were gone. We would never see him again. I cried most of the night.

Then I realized I just had to go to the tomb. I could not stay away any longer. I had watched him die. I couldn’t do anything then and I couldn’t do anything now, but I just had to go.

When I got there, the stone was rolled away. I ran and got Peter and John. Jesus’ body was gone. We were devastated. Peter and John went back to where we were staying.

I stayed and the tears flowed. It broke my heart to think that some thing had happened to his body. Two angels asked me why I was crying. I suppose they were trying to comfort me. I tried to put it into words.

And then I saw someone I thought was the gardener. I thought maybe he had taken Jesus’ body away. But then he called my name. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize him until that moment. Anyway, I finally realized that it was Jesus. He was alive! There he was, standing right in front of me!

I wanted to hug him. But he asked me not to hold onto him. Oh, that hurt! I was so shocked I could hardly breathe.

Much later, I realized that, now that he is risen, he is with all of us all over the world. I couldn’t hold onto him. We couldn’t keep him in Jerusalem or even in Galilee.

Then, I went to Peter and John to tell them, “I have seen the Lord!” He had journeyed all the way through the hatred and brokenness and darkness and transformed it into love, wholeness, light, and new life.

He is with you. He is with me. He is with each of us and all of us in a powerful way that can transform our lives. I have spent my life absorbing that reality, and I imagine that you have done the same.

When darkness surrounds us; when hope flickers and fades; when all seems lost, let us remember that moment when we are standing in front of that empty tomb and Jesus calls our name and we know that he is risen; he is with us; the light is showing over the horizon, and he is here among us.

We have seen the Lord. He is risen! Amen.

Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Our Lord

Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

Our first reading today is the First Servant Song from the prophet Isaiah. This passage dates back to a special and joyful time. The exiles are going home from Babylon.

Some scholars suggest that the servant described is the entire people of Israel, the people of God. Others state that this and other similar passages describe the messiah who will bring in a reign of justice for all people.  For us, this passage describes the qualities of a ministering community.

As Christians, we see the figure and ministry of Jesus in this description. He is quiet. He does not make a lot of noise. He is gentle. He does not break a bruised reed or quench a flickering flame. He is persistent and courageous. He will not stop until justice prevails over the whole earth.

We are called by God in love to open the eyes that are blind, to free people from all that imprisons them, to bring light to those in darkness. The revered scholar Herbert O’Driscoll  points out that nowadays, in our secular age, we do not think of a whole nation as reflecting this kind of spiritual character. (The Word Today, Year A, pp. 63-64), but he suggests that we as Christians can imagine and work toward creating this vision for our nation. What would it mean if a whole country were dedicating to healing and freeing people?

Our second reading is from the Book of Acts, Peter has just had his vision of the sheet of all kinds of meat and has heard the voice of God saying, “Kill and eat.” God is telling Peter that the dietary laws no longer apply. Christ has fulfilled the law. The gospel is for everyone. This is one of the great themes of the Epiphany season, that the good news is for all people and that God loves all people.

Peter is now called to the home of Cornelius, the Centurion. Cornelius is a faithful person, a seeker, but he is not a Jew. Cornelius has been guided by an angel to call on Peter to come to his home and has gathered his friends and family to hear Peter speak. When Peter finishes his sermon on God’s inclusiveness, the Holy Spirit falls on all the people gathered. This simply emphasizes the fact that God wants everyone to be a part of God’s family. So Peter and his helpers baptize all these people, and then they stay with them for several days. This is how the early Church grew and grew.

Our gospel for today is the baptism of Jesus. We know very little about Jesus’ life up to this point. We read in the gospels that the family made a trip at the time of the Passover to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve, and that they started home only to discover that he was no longer with them. They went back to the Temple and found him there, and he said, “Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Together with the journey into Egypt to escape King Herod’s murder of the innocents, this is the only event we find in the gospels between Jesus birth and his baptism.

We can picture Jesus growing up in Nazareth. His earthly father, Joseph, was a carpenter. We can imagine Jesus working in the shop and learning the carpenter’s trade from Joseph.

Many scholars think that Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist studied with the Essenes, a religious sect of that time. From the way Jesus conducted himself, I believe he studied the scriptures and knew and understood the law.

But now he is called to go to the banks of the Jordan River and allow John to baptize him. This will fulfill what has been written by the prophets. It will also be the beginning of Jesus’ formal ministry. He is about twenty-nine or thirty years old at this point.

Probably Joseph was dead by this time. He had been quite a bit older than Mary when they were married. But what did Mary think when Jesus said, “Well, I’m going off to the River Jordan to be baptized?” Among the many things she had to ponder in her heart was the moment when he would leave to go out into the world and begin his ministry.  Knowing him as she did, I think she had some idea of how it would all turn out.  Some of us are reading Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly. The brutality and violence of the world under the Roman Empire are hard to exaggerate. They were diametrically opposed to Jesus’ shalom. There was going to be a clash.

Jesus walks into the river and is immersed in the waters of the Jordan. Baptism comes from the Greek word for drowning. Our old identity is drowned. A new person is born. We receive a new identity. We are children of God and inheritors of the kingdom, the shalom, of God.

Each of us is called to live out the meaning of our baptism in our own lives, using the gifts and grace God gives to us. But all of us together are called to be that servant people, the People of God—gentle, caring, courageous. We are called to heal people, to free people. We are called to bring justice for everyone.

Just as the voice of God spoke to Jesus and said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased,” so God speaks to each of us: “You are my own beloved child.” And God calls us to share in the servant ministry of Jesus.                  Amen.