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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion April 2, 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 April 9, 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 April 16, 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:…

Easter 4C May 12, 2019

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10: 22-30

In our lectionary, whether in Year A, B, or C, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. The psalm is always number 23, and the gospel readings always come from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel.

We begin with this wonderful reading from the Book of Acts. In Joppa, there is a woman who helps people whenever she can, and she loves people. That’s what we, as followers of Jesus, are called to do. Love people and help people. This woman’s name is Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek. Her name means “gazelle.”

A tragedy has struck. Tabitha has died. The followers of Jesus in Joppa have heard that Peter is ministering nearby. They wash Tabitha’s body and lay her out in an upstairs room. Then they send for Peter. Peter gets there as fast as he can and they take him to the upstairs room.

The widows are there, and they have clothing which Tabitha has made. This means that Tabitha had a ministry of giving people clothing which she made herself. The widows are a group of women who also engaged in servant ministry. They were close to Tabitha, and they are devastated. They are weeping.

Peter leads them all outside so that there can be quiet in the room. And then, what does he do? He kneels down and prays. He links himself to God. He opens the channel of communication with God. He becomes a channel of God’s peace and healing. He lets the grace of God flow into him. He allows God to fill him with faith.

And then Peter turns to Tabitha’s body and says, “Tabitha, get up.” We think of so many healings. Elijah raises the son of the widow of Zarephath. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Tabitha opens her eyes, sees Peter, and sits up. He helps her to her feet. The news of this healing spreads all around Joppa, and many believe in Jesus because of it.

And then, Peter goes to stay with Simon, a tanner. The work of a tanner involves touching the hides of dead animals, which according to the law was considered unclean. Peter is staying in the home of a ritually unclean person. The good news is breaking the old boundaries and expanding to include everyone.

This theme of inclusiveness is emphasized in our passage from the Book of Revelation. A great multitude is worshiping God. The new faith is for everyone. God is sheltering and  loving all of them.

Our gospel today is the last part of Jesus’ description of himself as the Good Shepherd. In the earlier parts, he tells us that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him, and his sheep follow him when he calls. He also says that he will die for his sheep. In those days, there were still wild animals in Palestine, and shepherds did indeed die protecting their flocks from wolves and even lions and bears.

It is winter, and Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication of the temple. This is what we call Hanukkah. The religious authorities ask Jesus how long he will keep them waiting. Why won’t he tell them that he is the messiah? The main reason why he does not tell them is that they do not believe anything he is saying. They have no idea what he is talking about. He is calling us to undergo a complete transformation from earthly concerns to the values of his kingdom. They are so focused on their own limited human ideas about preserving their power that they are totally closed to Jesus and to anything he might say.

Jesus puts this in terms that his followers in the crowd will understand. He tells the authorities, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.” Our Lord is saying that the authorities have fought him every step of the way, but his true followers have been with him. They have listened to him, eaten with him, walked with him, learned from him. They know his voice. When he calls, they follow. And he knows us. He loves us. We love him. There is a relationship between him and us that is so close nothing can break it, not even death.

My sheep hear my voice,” he says, “and I know them, and they follow me,” He knows each of us. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, our foibles, our flaws, our sins, our gifts, everything about us. And he loves us, foibles, flaws, and all. He loves us. He’s not trying to protect his turf or get power as the religious authorities are. He simply loves us.

“I give them eternal life,” Jesus says. This means that he gives us life in an entirely new and joyful and deep dimension. Life that’s really worth living. A life in which we are transformed into his likeness so that we can accept his love and share that love with everyone.

And then he says, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” He will protect us. This does not mean that nothing bad will happen to us. Following Jesus does not mean that we are immune from tragedies, illnesses, loss of dear ones. We live in a fallen creation. The shalom of God has not yet come. But he will be with us. He will be out in front of us, leading us to the green pastures and the still waters, helping us to find safety in the midst of it all. And he will be walking beside us every step of the way. And sometimes, when the challenges are beyond us, he will carry us in his arms. He says, “What the Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.” We are in God’s hands. The entire creation is in God’s hands.

And then, “The Father and I are one.” Jesus and the Father are one. Or, as I like to say, Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. If we want to see who and what God is calling us to be, we can look at the life of Jesus in the gospels and see a blueprint for living a human life. That’s what we mean when we say that Jesus is the Word of God, the logos, the model, the blueprint for human living. He is here with us now, He is with us whoever we gather. He is leading and guiding us.

Let us listen to his voice. Let us follow him. Amen.

Easter 4C RCL April 17, 2016

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:22-30

In our readings for the Easter season, the apostles are freed from prison to share the Good News, Jesus appears to his followers to assure them that he has conquered death of all kinds and is truly alive, many people are healed and forgiven; many decide to follow Jesus, and the new faith spreads far and wide.

In our opening reading, we meet Tabitha, a faithful disciple who sews clothing for widows, who were often very poor in those days. Her ministry has expanded to a group of widows who also make clothes for others and support them in many ways. Tabitha has died, and the community of faith calls Peter to come right away.

Peter goes to the  upstairs room where Tabitha is lying on the bed with all her fellow ministers weeping around her. Peter asks them to leave, not because he is trying to be unkind but because he wants to have quiet to let the Holy Spirit work.

He kneels down and prays. By this time, Peter has learned the power of healing that comes from the risen Lord and from the power of the Holy Spirit. He says, “Tabitha, get up.”  She opens her eyes and gets up. Peter calls the members of the community to come and see that Tabitha is alive.

Even today, our Lord rescues us from many kinds of death. I have been privileged to see situations which physicians have called “miracles.” Someone with kidney failure is prayed over and recovers. A tumor is there but it fades away on a subsequent cat scan or X ray. Millions of people have recovered from various kinds of addictions, and they consider that they have been saved from certain death and are walking miracles.

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, we have a vision of heaven, where people “Will hunger no more, and thirst no more,” and the “Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

In our gospel, the religious authorities are asking Jesus whether he is the messiah. Jesus has just been talking about how he is the Good Shepherd, that he knows his sheep and they know him and they follow his voice. But these people are trying to find out whether Jesus fits their definition of the messiah.

And our Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus is speaking of a relationship between himself and us. This is not an intellectual concept or something to be defined. It is a close relationship which is based on his infinite love for us.

Each of us hears his voice, that loving voice calling us to follow him, to do the caring thing, to be people of compassion, to do what is ethical, to be honest, to work for the growth of his shalom.

Each of us has been called by him. Each of us knows him. Each of us has been led to the green pastures and the still waters where we can eat and drink and be renewed.

Each of us has been saved from deaths of various kinds and from dangerous thickets that could have caught us. Each of us has been rescued from following paths that would not have been right for us. We know his voice. We know him. We trust him.

He is always with us, even in the valley of the shadow of death. In situations that terrify us, in circumstances where we become lost and confused, he leads us.

When we are surrounded by those who would do us harm, he sets up a safe space and a banquet table. He anoints our heads with oil. He extends hospitality to us and he gives his healing to us. He protects us. He gives us abundance beyond measure.

He is the true bread from heaven. He is the way and the truth and the life. He is the vine and we are the branches. He is the living water.

But most of all, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, he is our Good Shepherd. If we listen to his voice, he will lead us. If we ask for his help, he is right beside us lending a hand.

There is no way to put him into a category. Our relationship with him goes beyond logic, beyond categories. He is our God who cares so much for us that he has come among us and he has triumphed over all the things that we fear most.

He is our Savior. He is our brother. He is our Good Shepherd. May we listen to his voice and follow him into newness of life.   Amen.

Easter 3C RCL April 10, 2016

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

During the fifty days of the Easter season, all of our readings are from the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures. This morning, our readings tell powerful stories of how God works with us human beings. God can see in us potential that we don’t always see in ourselves.

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, we meet Saul of Tarsus, a devout Pharisee and Roman citizen who is totally consumed with the idea of killing followers of the Way. The beginning of the passage describes Saul as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” He has gone to the high priest to get permission to go to Damascus and capture and tie up any followers of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem to be punished. He has already witnessed the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

But on the way to Damascus, something happens which transforms Saul. A light from heaven flashes around him and he falls to the ground. Jesus asks him that haunting question, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus tells Saul to go into the city and he will receive further instructions. The men who are with Saul have heard the voice but they could not see Jesus. Saul gets up. His eyes are open but he cannot see. So they lead him by the hand into Damascus. What an image—this man who is destined to be a great saint being led by the hand into Damascus. There are times when we need to be led by the hand, too, times when we need the help of God and others to find the way.

Jesus calls a disciple named Ananias to go and lay hands upon Saul to help him regain his sight and to receive the Holy Spirit. Saul has been blinded by the light of Christ. When Ananias lays hands upon him, the text says that “something like scales fell from his eyes.” Saul is baptized. He stays and studies with the disciples in Damascus, and then he goes on his mission to the Gentiles. Later his name becomes Paul.

Some lines from “Amazing Grace” fit this situation. “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” Jesus took someone who hated him and was trying to kill his disciples and made him into a great theologian and evangelist. So often we see, but we do not see. Jesus can give us vision to see and understand things that we did not see before.

In our gospel for today, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others go fishing. They catch nothing. Just before daybreak, Jesus is standing on the shore, but they do not recognize him. He asks if they have caught any fish. They have caught nothing. So he tells them to cast the net to the right side of the boat, and there are so many fish they can hardly haul in the net. That’s how our Lord is, Just when we think there is no hope, he comes along and shows us the way.

Suddenly, John says that it is Jesus on the shore. Peter quickly puts on some clothes, jumps into the water, and swims to shore. He can’t get there fast enough. The rest of them row the boat, laden with fish. Jesus gives them a breakfast of bread and fish.

Then comes the amazing scene of forgiveness and healing. Peter has denied Jesus three times. The number three is a symbol of completeness. Peter has denied Jesus completely. This is terrible. But Jesus asks him, “Peter, do you love me more than these?”And Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asks a second time, and Peter answers that he loves the Lord. And Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus asks a third time, and Peter is hurt, He says, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” Peter has done a complete denial of Jesus. But now, Jesus is granting Peter complete forgiveness and commissioning him to go out into the world and feed his people. Peter, who denied Jesus three time, becomes the leader of the apostles.

When we have done things we should not have done or not done things we should have done. In other words, when we have sinned, we usually feel terrible about it. But our Lord is calling us to accept his forgiveness and to do the ministries he calls us to do. Peter was well aware that he had denied Jesus at a crucial moment because he was afraid. He felt awful about this failure on his part. I think Peter confessed this to God in many times of prayer following the crucifixion, and I am sure that Jesus was well aware of Peter’s sincere regret and his determination to be as faithful a disciple as he could possibly be. This is how our Lord is with us. After this powerful dialogue and exchange of love and forgiveness, Jesus says to Peter and to us, “Follow me.”

As our psalm so beautifully reminds us, “Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

At the center of our lessons is our reading from the Book of Revelation, the prayer of adoration to our Lord, who reigns in heaven. God takes the most unlikely people and calls them to ministry. Because of the experience he had in his own life, Paul could share the powerful story of how he had met Christ and how the risen Lord showed him that he needed to change his whole attitude and purpose in life. Peter was heartbroken about his denial of Jesus. But when he realized that it was the risen Lord standing on the beach preparing breakfast for them, he jumped into the water and swam ashore, so eager was he to clasp Jesus in a bear hug full of love, faith, true repentance, and courage to do whatever he was called to do in order to serve Christ.

Jesus has the power to give us courage we didn’t know we had. Jesus has the power to help us to see the world and other people in new ways. Jesus has the power to show us gifts we never knew we had. Jesus has the power to transform us so that we can transform the world.

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