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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 5C May 15, 2022

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In our gospel for today, Jesus has gathered with his disciples for the last supper. He has washed their feet. He has told them that they and we are called to be servants. He has said that he will be going to be with God, and that one of them will betray him. At this point in the narrative, Judas has left, and Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Biblical scholar Charles B. Cousar writes, “A new and unparalleled model for love has been given the disciples….In Jesus the disciples have a concrete, living expression of what love is. Love can no longer be trivialized or reduced to an emotion or debated over as if it were a philosophical virtue under scrutiny. Jesus now becomes the distinctive definition of love.”

Cousar says that this “new commandment” of Jesus also means that eternal life is not something to be realized in the future. It begins now. He writes, “At the center of the new era is the community established by Jesus, the intimate though at times unfaithful family, whom he affectionately addresses as ‘little children.’ What holds the family together and makes it stand above all the rest is the love members have for one another—dramatic, persistent love like the love Jesus has for them.” (Cousar, Texts for preaching, p. 311.

A short time after Jesus has given this new commandment and sealed it with his death, resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we catch up with Peter. He has been called to meet with some believers in Jerusalem because they are upset that he is ministering to Gentiles.

And Peter tells his amazing story. He was in Joppa. He went up on the roof to pray, and he had a vision of all kinds of food, clean and unclean, being lowered from heaven as on a sheet. Then the voice of God said, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter objected strenuously. “Lord, I have always followed the dietary laws. I would never eat anything that was unclean!” The voice of God came a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 

God has just thrown the dietary laws out the window. This happens three times. We recall that the number three signifies completeness. The dietary laws are now gone. Peter has lived his life by these laws, and now they are erased.

But the Holy Spirit is not finished. Peter has no time to think this over. Three men from Caesarea arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them without question and to make no distinction between himself and them. Walls are tumbling down all over the place. Six brothers are with him, and they accompany him to Caesarea. 

When they reach Caesarea, they go into the home of a man named Cornelius. He is a centurion in the Roman army, a devout man who loves God and gives generously to the people. An angel has told Cornelius to call Peter to come to see him.

As Peter begins to speak, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone gathered in Cornelius’ house, and Peter remembers how Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Peter concludes that the Holy Spirit can be given to everyone. He says, “If then God  gave the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem hear this, they are silenced.

Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he loves us has created a new community, and in the Book of Acts we see that community growing by leaps and bounds. Walls come down, barriers are broken, lives are transformed. Love is spreading faster than they can keep up with it. The Holy Spirit is at work.

Two thousand years later, we are that community. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is leading us in living and walking the Way of Love. He says “If it’s about love, it’s about God. If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”

To return to the story of Peter, once the Gentiles in Cornelius’ home have received the holy Spirit, Peter asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he orders the people to be baptized. Then he and the brothers with him stay at the home of Cornelius for several days. They will be spending time together sharing their faith and building a larger and stronger community of believers.

We are called to help God to create God’s Beloved Community, a community where all people are accepted as precious and equal. When Peter was having his vision of God up on the roof, walls came down and divisions between people were erased. When the people in Cornelius’ home received the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that they should be baptized. As Paul said so many years ago. “In Christ, there is no slave nor free, no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, help us to love each other and all others as you have loved us. In your holy Name. 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.