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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:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 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 October 16, 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 6C May 22, 2022

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Our opening reading today is from the Book of Acts. Paul is having a vision. A man from Macedonia is pleading with Paul saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Immediately, Paul and his team set sail from Troas, a city on the northwest tip of Asia Minor, which we now call Turkey. They land in Philippi, a city in northwestern Greece. They have just sailed from Asia to Europe.

Philippi is a major city in that area of the Roman Empire. Paul and his team stay in Philippi for several days and on the sabbath they go to what the text describes as a “place of prayer” by the river. Scholars tell us that this “place of prayer” by the river is probably a synagogue. 

There they find a group of women, and Paul and his team speak to them. Among these women is Lydia, a woman of means who deals in purple cloth. She is a business woman and the head of a household, which was very unusual in those days. After listening to Paul and his team, Lydia and her household are baptized.

Then Lydia invites Paul and his team to stay at her home. They make her house their base of operations  and later the community starts a house church in her home. Her entry in Lesser Feasts and Fasts says that Lydia is recognized as a saint“ in a wide range of Christian traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and many Protestant traditions. In the Orthodox Church she is given the title ‘Equal to the Apostles’ for her role in spreading the Christian faith.” Lydia’s feast day was yesterday, May 21.

This is a very important moment in the history of the Church. The faith which began in Asia is now in Europe.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is telling his disciples and us that he will be going to be with God. He will no longer be here on earth. This Thursday the Church observes Ascension Day. The window above the altar at Grace beautifully and movingly depicts our Lord’s Ascension.

We can only begin to imagine how shocked and saddened the disciples were to hear that Jesus would be leaving them to return to the Father. Their leader, teacher, mentor, and friend would no longer be with them in the flesh.

With Jesus among them, they could always turn to him and ask a question or seek his guidance in a difficult situation. But now he would be gone There would be a terrible hole in their hearts, in their lives.

But Jesus says some things that answer their grief and fear. First, he says the most amazing thing. He says that he and God will come and make their home with us. If we love Jesus and God, they will come and make their home with us. Jesus and God will live in our hearts. And we know that is true. We all have had times when we were confused or grieving or at our wits’ end, and there God was, or Jesus, or the Spirit, comforting us. Now our Lord is telling us that he and God and the Spirit have made their home with us.

Then Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will “teach [us] everything, and remind [us] of all that [Jesus] has said to [us].” In another place, Jesus says that the Spirit is within us. and in another place, our Lord says that the Spirit will lead us into all truth. Nowadays, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation. The Holy Spirit is within us and will help us sort out the truth. And the truth is always about love.

And then Jesus says that wonderful thing: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Jesus is giving us his peace, his shalom. In her book, A Wing and a Prayer, retired Presiding Bishop  Katharine Jefferts  Schori writes, “Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.” (Jefferts Schori. A Wing and a Prayer, p. 33.)

Jesus is with us. Jesus, God, and the Spirit have made their home with us. And he tells us that we should not be afraid. So many things that are happening in our world are because people are afraid. Love casts out fear. Faith is fear that has said its prayers. Let us live lives of faith, not fear.

Bishop Schori continues, “Each one of us has the potential to be a partner in God’s government, to be a co-creator of a good and whole and peaceful community.” She goes on to say that we are called
“to use every resource at hand  to build the reign of God—to use the gifts we have, the ones we think we might have, and the ones we haven’t discovered yet, to be willing to speak about our vision of peace, whether in the newspaper or in the halls of Congress, and to dedicate our lives to making that vision come alive, to give our hearts to it, to believe in it, with every fiber of our being.”  

And she concludes, “Building the reign of God is a great and bold adventure, and it is the only route to being fully alive. If we don’t set out to change the world, who will?” (ibid., pp. 34-35.)

Jesus is with us, He and Isaiah and others have given us a vision, a vision based on living lives of faith, hope, and love, and honoring the dignity of every human being. We are already engaged in helping Jesus to build his shalom. We are already committed to walking the Way of Love. Jesus has made his home with us. We have made our home with him, and we are walking and working together. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

Easter 6C RCL May 5, 2013

Acts 16:9-15

Psalm 67

Revelation 21:10. 22-22:5

John 14:23-29

In our first reading from the Book of Acts, Paul is in the port city of Troas, very near the ancient city of Troy, in what we now call Turkey. This is considered the western edge of Asia. As he look across the Aegean Sea, he can see Europe, Macedonia.

During the night he has a vision. A man says,  Come over to Macedonia and help us.” They set sail. They go to Samothrace, then to Neapolis, and then to Philippi, a leading city in Macedonia and a Roman colony. Paul and the other early followers of Jesus were constantly on the move, looking for people who wanted to hear the good news.

On the Sabbath, Paul and his team go to a place of prayer by a river, and there are some women there. One of them is named Lydia. She has traditionally been described as a wealthy businesswoman who sells purple cloth to privileged people, who are the only ones who are allowed to wear the royal color of purple.

In 2007, Professor Arthur Sutherland of Loyola University in Baltimore published a book called I Was a Stranger: A Christian View of Hospitality. Professor Sutherland writes, “The popular conception of Lydia as a wealthy woman who dealt in expensive fabrics is misleading. A more accurate reading of purpurie [the word translated as “dealer”] is a person who works in the manufacturing and sale of dyed products. Although dye houses were often owner operated and often employed hired help, and both genders worked as dyers and dealers, textile production was still considered women’s work and was looked down upon by the general public. Lydia’s work was most likely a subsistence occupation for herself and her house.” (Text read online.)

Scholars tell us that dye houses had a terrible odor because the process of dying involved the use of animal urine. Dye houses were located outside the city gates. Since the dying was done by hand, Lydia carried a visible stigma. That is, her hands were purple. She was considered marginal and of a lower class. Scholars tell us that in those days women would gather with other women who were of the same trade.

Yet Lydia is a seeker, a worshipper of God. She wants to grow closer to God. She and her household are all baptized. Then Lydia invites Paul and his helpers to her home. This is rather unusual because, in that time and culture, women did not invite people they did not know into their homes. Paul apparently hesitated to accept her invitation because the text says that she prevailed upon them. She had to convince them to accept her invitation. Scholars tell us that this could have been because she was a woman or because she was considered of a lower class.  Eventually Paul, Timothy, and Luke go to her home, which becomes a center of operations for them in Philippi. Through Paul’s later letters, we know that the congregation in Philippi becomes one of his most beloved communities of faith.

So here is Lydia, a person of deep faith, but a marked woman with purple hands.  Yet she does not hesitate to invite Paul to her home.

Mary Donovan Turner of the Pacific School of Religion writes,  “Lydia is right to think that her authority to greet, to receive, and to protect the stranger comes from her baptism and relation with Christ. On the basis of her faith and her baptism, she challenges any cultural notion that her house or she herself, is not fit for visitors. Lydia is a worker, marginalized, strong, voiced, determined—one who challenges discrepancies or hypocrisies when she sees them.”

Professor Turner points out that we often discuss issues of race and ethnicity in the Church, but she says that we do not often examine issues of class. She poses some questions. What classes are welcomed and feel comfortable in our church community? Do our worship and hospitality reflect class bias?

Jesus says in our gospel that “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” What a thought. God will come to us and make God’s home with us, And Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything.

In our readings today, barriers are coming down. A woman can invite Paul and his team to her home. A worker who doesn’t make a lot of money can extend hospitality to Paul and Timothy and Luke. Loving as our Lord calls us to love means that we share generously what we have. We invite people into our homes, and those people accept our invitation. It doesn’t matter whether our homes are simple or fancy, cabins or castles.

Extending hospitality comes from the heart, and receiving hospitality is a response from the heart. We are called to welcome everyone, regardless of race, gender, and all the other things we use to divide ourselves against the loving will of God, including class.

These ideas are of special interest to Grace Church because we have a strong ministry if accessibility in every sense of the word, and we have a strong ministry of hospitality. I know that we all hope and pray that we will welcome anyone who comes here, no matter what their life circumstances, as we would welcome Christ.

Amen