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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 and Rogation Sunday May 9, 2021

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

Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter, and it is also Rogation Sunday. On Rogation Sunday, we pray God’s blessing on those who work in agriculture and industry.

Our opening reading from the Book of Acts comes at the end of a chain of events that almost boggle the mind. In Chapter 9, Paul has his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, and he is transformed. Jesus asks him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and Saul feels the love of Jesus in a way that changes him forever.

Peter undergoes a similar transformation which results in today’s events. Several days before the events in today’s reading, a man named Cornelius has been praying. Cornelius is a centurion in the Roman army. A centurion commanded one hundred soldiers.

In addition to being a respected commander, Cornelius is a wonderful person. He is not a Jew, but he gives generously to the synagogue in town and also gives generously to the poor. He is well known as someone who cares about others and helps them.

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

Meanwhile, miles away in Joppa, Peter is up on the roof praying and falls into a trance. He has a vision of all kinds of unlawful foods coming down on a sheet and God telling him to eat these things. Peter tells God that he has never in his life eaten anything unclean, and God answers, “What God has made clean, you shall not call  profane.” God has just wiped out the dietary laws which Peter has followed all his life.

While Peter is trying to grasp this revolutionary thought sent from God, the messengers from Cornelius arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to welcome them and to go with them. So Peter welcomes the men in for the night and the next day they leave for Caesarea. Some of the followers of Jesus from Joppa go with Peter and  Cornelius’ messengers. 

Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered his household and many guests to hear what Peter has to say. When Peter, the messengers, and Peter’s friends reach the home of Cornelius, Cornelius falls on 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 large group of people in Cornelius’ house. He tells them, “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 Cornelius why he has summoned him. And Cornelius tells Peter that an angel instructed him to send for Peter and to listen to what Peter had to say.

Then Peter preaches his sermon which is the opening reading for Easter Sunday. It 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 he tells these people the story of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, and how all people receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ name.

This is where today’s reading begins. While Peter is still speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone in the crowd. Everyone begins praising God. And then Peter baptizes them, realizing that the gifts of the Spirit are available to everyone. God loves all people, and all are welcome to follow Jesus.

Peter was one of our Lord’s apostles, and now he is simply practicing what Jesus told his closest followers: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love…..This is my commandment, that you love one another.” Jesus also says to his apostles and to us, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” And he tells us that we are his friends, not servants but friends, and he has chosen us to bear much fruit, the fruit of the Spirit—love joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

As we contemplate these readings today, stirring passages that show us the power of God’s love to change people and situations, we can remember that in the early Church, some folks felt that all members of the Church should follow the dietary laws. As a result of his experience with God dissolving the boundaries, Peter was able to tell the assembly that the new faith was open to all people.

Governor Scott has told us that we are in the final laps of this race against Covid. Vermont is number one in the nation in vaccinations. We also rate highly in testing and contact tracing. Things are  beginning to open up. And, once again, I haven’t said it every Sunday, but I think we all have thought it: thank God for Governor Scott, Dr. Levine, and Dr. Kelso, and all our leaders for sticking with the science.

As you know, our country has been deeply divided for several years now. Tragically, we are even divided over whether to get vaccinated or not. Experts are saying that because of people’s hesitation and/or opposition to getting the vaccine, we may not reach herd immunity. 

Saul began as a persecutor of the Church and was so profoundly transformed that he got a new name—St. Paul, a Pharisee who became the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter thought it was absolutely necessary to follow the law, and God spoke to him and told him no food and no person was unclean. God’s love has the power to change lives. What would we have done without Saints Peter and Paul leading us to realize that God’s love breaks all barriers and makes us into the big family which is God’s vision for all of us? Let us pray that God’s healing love will touch the hearts of enough of us so that we can vaccinate enough people to protect all of God’s beloved children. May God surround us all with love and fill us with grace so that we can run these final laps. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Epiphany 1 The Baptism of Christ  January 12, 2020

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

Our opening reading is a glorious poem from the prophet we call the Second Isaiah. The people who have been in exile in Babylon are coming home. The new society of peace, compassion, and justice is described.  The passage also described God’s servant. We as Christians think of Jesus as that servant. But scholars tell us that this description of the servant can also apply to God’s people. 

The servant and the servant society are here to bring peace. The servant is gentle. He does not break a bruised reed. The servant brings forth justice. With God’s grace, the servant nation is a light to the world. The servant nation opens the eyes of the blind and frees the prisoners.

Our gospel today is the baptism of our Lord as described by Matthew. This year, I have been thinking of Jesus and John the Baptist in this amazing encounter. We know that their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were relatives, and thus Jesus and John were also relatives, Back in the old days we used to think of them as cousins, but the truth is we are not sure of their exact relationship.

Soon after she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would become the mother of Jesus, Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, who had become pregnant even though she was way past childbearing age. At that time, the baby John the Baptist, who was in Elizabeth’s womb, jumped with joy at the presence of Jesus.

Now they meet again. John has been with the Essenes studying, and he is now called to offer people a baptism of repentance.  Jesus comes from Galilee to John at the river Jordan. Imagine how they felt. They had both studied the scriptures. They were aware that John the Baptist was the forerunner described by the prophets, and that Jesus was the Messiah. 

Imagine your relative who is the Messiah coming to you for baptism, This is why John tells Jesus that Jesus should be baptizing him.  But they accept what they need to do to fulfill the scriptures. John baptizes his relative. The Spirit of God descends like a dove and alights on Jesus. God speaks, “This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased.” This is the beginning of Jesus’ formal ministry. I wonder how John the Baptist felt at this moment. He has just baptized the Savior.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, we see the result of Jesus’ baptism and ministry. A centurion named Cornelius is described as “a devout man who feared God.” He is a faithful Gentile soldier, a commander of 100 men, who is generous and kind to all and who supports his local synagogue even though he is not Jewish. An angel of God has told Cornelius to send to Joppa, find a man named Peter, and ask Peter to come to his home. While the messengers from Cornelius are on their way to find Peter, Peter is having a vision.

Peter has been a faithful Jew all his life, He has kept the dietary laws and has been faithful in observing every part of the law. He goes up to the roof to pray and God gives him a vision of all kinds of food. Then God says, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter replies that he cannot  do that because he has never eaten anything that is unclean according to the law. God tells him that now everything has been made clean. There are no more barriers. Every barrier has been removed. Just then the messengers from Cornelius arrive, and Peter goes with them to Cornelius’ house.

When Peter arrives, Cornelius falls down before him and worships him. Peter tells him to get up, saying, “I am only a mortal.” Peter finds out that all of Cornelius’ family and friends have gathered at his house to listen to what Peter has to say, and he realizes why his vision of the foods is so important. He shares this with Cornelius and the people gathered, and he  tells them that, as a faithful Jew, he was not supposed to associate with Gentiles, but he has learned in the vision sent by God that nothing is profane or unclean. Peter says,” I truly understand that God shows no partiality but in every nation anyone who fears[God] and does what is right is acceptable to [God].” Then Peter describes the ministry and message of Jesus. It is the ministry of the servant described by Isaiah.

While Peter is sharing this message with the people at Cornelius’ home, the Holy Spirit falls on all the people, and Peter and his team realize that they should baptize these people. 

The message is that Jesus is the Savior of all people. This is the first baptism of Gentiles in the Book of Acts. This is the sign that the new faith is for everyone. God loves everyone.

The Epiphany season is the season of light, love and mission. With the baptism of the first Gentiles to join the new faith at the home of Cornelius, the new faith began to spread around the whole world. We are called to help to share this good news. God is a God of love. God has a big family. God is a lover, not a lawyer.

Each of us in our daily life shares the good news of God’s love. Some of us do that in words. Some of us share the good news through our actions. We don’t say a whole lot. We just show God’s love to others. Some of  us do both.

As members of the body of Christ, reaching out to share his love, healing, and  forgiveness with others, we are part of the servant nation spreading the love of God in the world. May we be the eyes of Christ, looking at others with compassion. May we be the hands of Christ, reaching our to others to meet their needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. We are his living body here on earth, sharing his love with all the people we meet. Amen,

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 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!

Easter 5C RCL April 24, 2016

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

There are certain events which change the course of history. This is true of the story we read today in our opening lesson. Peter is a faithful Jew. He has followed the Law every day of his life. He has never eaten anything that the Law declares to be unclean.

One day, he goes up to the roof to pray. He is hungry and a meal is being prepared. He has a vision. A large sheet comes down from heaven. On it there are all kinds of foods, some of them forbidden by the dietary laws. A voice, which he takes to be the voice of God, tells him to “Kill and eat.” Three times he refuses, saying that nothing unclean has ever entered his mouth. This happens three times, and Peter refuses three times. But then God tells him that all these foods have been made clean. The sheet is pulled up into heaven.

Then three men come from Caesarea. They have been sent by an angel to go to Joppa, get Peter, and bring him to the home of Cornelius, a Roman citizen and an officer in the Roman army, a centurion, who is a man of faith, not Jewish, but a supporter of the synagogue in his city and a compassionate person who cares about his neighbors.

Cornelius had been praying and an angel came to him and told him to send to Joppa and have Peter come to his house, so Cornelius has sent messengers to fetch Peter. As Peter is finishing his time of prayer, and has just had this vision, the messengers arrive from Cornelius. Meanwhile, Cornelius has gathered all the members of his household, plus many neighbors, to hear Peter’s message.

The next day, Peter and his ministry team go with the messengers to Cornelius’ house. Peter begins to speak about his vision and how he has realized that God shows no partiality. God loves everyone. As he is preaching and teaching, the Holy Spirit falls on these Gentiles. They begin speaking in tongues and praising God, and they are baptized.

The news that these Gentiles have accepted Jesus, have received the Holy Spirit, and have been baptized, reaches the apostles and the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem.

The followers of Jesus up to this point have always assumed that they would continue to be a part of the Jewish faith. They would follow the law and all the observances of their faith but they would also be following Jesus. They assumed that this new faith was open only to Jews.

But now the Holy Spirit has filled these Gentiles and they have been baptized. The apostles and followers of Jesus in Jerusalem want to know how this could have happened. So, Peter is telling the story of how God opened the horizons of his faith. Peter is sharing how God has convinced him that God loves everyone and that faith in God is for everyone. And he says,”If God gave then the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” And the Jerusalem community responds, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

A couple of chapters ago, in Chapter Nine of the Book of Acts, we have the story of Saul, meeting the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. He gets a new name, Paul, and a new identity. From persecuting the followers of Jesus, he is called to preach the Good News to the Gentiles.

God spoke to Peter and to Saul, and expanded their vision. If they had not responded as they did, the course of history would have been very different.

In our gospel for today, Judas has just left the room to go and betray Jesus. This is a tragic moment in history. Jesus must have had many feelings as he contemplated Judas going to the authorities and promising to lead them to our Lord. Jesus knows that he is going to the cross. What a horrible reality to face. And yet, he uses this moment to give the apostles and us the great commandment, that we love one another as he has loved us.

The encounters that Peter and Saul had with the Lord called them to love everyone as Jesus has loved us, and they responded faithfully to that call.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “For us, moving year by year into an increasingly multi-racial and multi-cultural society, this passage is eloquent. I would suggest that it asks us to live in this society as a Christian but to remain open to the ability of the Holy Spirit to work through men and women who do not share this tradition with us.”

God loves everyone. God showers gifts of the Spirit on everyone. When Pope Francis took several Muslim families home with him to the Vatican to embark on a new life, he was expressing that love.

May we do the same.  Amen.