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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 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 February 12, 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 February 19, 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 7B May 16, 2021

Acts 1:15-17. 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John  5:9-13
John 17: 6-19

This past Thursday the Church celebrated the feast of the Ascension. Forty days after Easter, our Lord ascended into heaven. Our window at Grace portrays this scene, with the apostles looking up into heaven as Jesus ascends to be with God. This Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, carries echoes of the Ascension as we worship Jesus as our King.

In our reading from the Book of Acts, the apostles are facing a very important decision. Judas Iscariot had betrayed our Lord, pointing out Jesus so that the authorities could arrest him. This meant that there were only eleven apostles remaining. 

Peter now calls the gathered group of Jesus’ followers, about 120 people, to choose someone to complete the company of the apostles. Peter says, “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Peter calls the group to pray together for God’s guidance and to choose one of the men who have been with Jesus during his entire ministry on earth. They are going to choose someone who has been with Jesus through everything, who knows Jesus, who has eaten meals with our Lord, read the scriptures with him, learned from him, prayed with him, gathered with the others after the horror of the cross, and met the risen Lord after his resurrection. This person will join the apostles as a witness to the resurrection of our Lord.

They choose Justus and Matthias. And then they pray to God  to show them which of these men God has chosen. That man is Matthias.

As we read this wonderful story of the completion of the company of the apostles, the choosing of Matthias, I couldn’t help but think that his story is our story, too. We have not literally walked and talked with Jesus, Jesus has not literally  “gone in and out among us,” but he has been in our midst. He has led us and guided us as our Good Shepherd. We have read the scriptures together and prayed together. We have shared our struggles and supported each other. And always, always, he has been with us. And he has called us to follow him, just as he called Peter and James and John and Matthias.

The feast day of Matthias is celebrated on February 24. We know very little about this person except that he was called to serve with the other eleven as a “witness to the resurrection.” Once again, this is our story too. We did not literally stand at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and John, the beloved apostle. We were not physically there on the first Easter morning.

But we have faithfully walked the way of the cross with our Lord. We have all walked through our own dark nights of the soul and our own experiences of death and brokenness and hopelessness. And we have all gone to the tomb expecting more death and brokenness only to find him standing there, once we recognize him. And we recognize him when he calls our name. There is the beloved voice of our Good Shepherd calling us. Calling us into new life.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is praying to God before he goes to his death on the cross. He says that he has guarded his flock as a good and faithful shepherd does. He prays that his followers “might have my joy complete in themselves.” And then he prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

What would it mean for us to have the joy of Christ complete in ourselves? What would it mean for us to be wrapped in the holiness and wholeness of “the truth?” One meaning of Christ’s joy might be that he has guarded us and protected us. This does not mean that life is without its challenges, even tragedies. But through them all he has been there, by our side, or out in front leading us, or even carrying us when the going got really tough. His joy means that, as Paul said, “Death has no more dominion.” (Romans 6:9.) Life and love conquer death, brokenness, and hate.

What is God’s truth? If we reflect carefully on the gospels and the life of our Lord, God’s truth is Jesus walking the face of the earth. God’s truth is that God loves everyone and God calls us to do the same. God has a big family and God calls us to welcome everybody into that family and share that love. Love is stronger that any power on earth, stronger by far than hate or fear, or division.

If we have the joy of Jesus complete in us, it means, not that we deny the forces of death and brokenness in the world, but that we look those forces in the face and then we remember that Christ is with us; he has conquered all death and brokenness, and we are following him. Underneath the considerably depressing realities of this world, we have the presence of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the everlasting and loving arms of God.

If we are made holy and whole in the truth, we remember that God is love, that, as the old hymn says, “God is working his purpose out,” that God cares deeply about all people, and that God is a God of justice, and, again and always, God is a God of love.

We are in the last laps of our Covid journey. Hang in there. Keep the faith. We will gather next Sunday for the Feast of Pentecost. Please wear red to symbolize the flames of the Holy Spirit. 

Meanwhile, let us remember that, like Matthias, we are called to be witnesses of the resurrection. We are called to be people of love, people of hope, people of healing. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter 7A, May 24, 2020

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

Our opening reading today describes what happened on the feast day the Church celebrated this past Thursday, the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. He has been telling the disciples that he has to go to the Father and that he will send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. 

There he is with them on Mount Olivet. They ask him if he is going to bring in his kingdom. He tells them that it is not for them to know the timing, but then he assures them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they will be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth.”

Let us take a few moments and think about this. Jesus has been telling them that he will go to be with God and will send the Holy Spirit, but there is a huge difference between hearing him say these things and standing there watching him rise into heaven, leaving them alone and grief-stricken. 

We can imagine that the apostles felt completely lost as they watched him ascend. He said he would not leave them comfortless, but I think they felt sad and lost as they gazed up into the heavens and saw him disappear behind that cloud.

Two angels appear and ask them why they are staring up to heaven. These angels obviously are not very sympathetic. Then the angels tell them that Jesus will come to them again. This seems to help. They recall that he had told them that he would come again.

Sometimes the Bible leaves things out. We can imagine what a shock it was for the apostles to see Jesus disappear. They had spent every waking moment with him for somewhere between eighteen months and three years, depending on which gospel we are reading. In any case, it was a long time. They had shared meals; they had prayed together; he had taught them; when they had questions, there he was to answer those questions. When they wondered what was the best course of action,  he was there to guide them. Now, he was gone. What would they do? Who would be their leader? We can imagine that perhaps they wept. Perhaps they felt abandoned. They could have felt a whole flood of emotions.

But the scripture does not address that. It simply says, “Then they returned to Jerusalem.” When they got there, they went to that familiar upper room. And Luke tells us who was there—Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. Also Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the other women who had been there through it all. And Jesus’ brothers. And we are told that they constantly devoted themselves to prayer. He had told them to wait and pray, and the Spirit would come to them, and that is what they did.

We were not physically there when all of this happened, but this story is our story. We did not have the great joy of spending several years with Jesus in a literal sense, but we do have the privilege of knowing him because we have spent time in community together with each other and with him. We have felt his love. He has taught us as we have read the scriptures together. He has led us as we have sought his guidance in prayer together and individually. We have shared the Eucharist, the meal at which he is our host. We have talked to him and listened to him, individually and corporately.

We have not literally stood and watched him ascend, yet we have gazed in awe at the beautiful window over the altar at Grace. As we have looked at that window, we have joined the apostles in watching Jesus ascend, and we have tried to figure out which apostle is whom.

We have not experienced in a literal sense the shock of watching our beloved Lord ascend into heaven, which may be a great blessing, because we have not experienced the sense of loss they must have felt. But we have experienced his presence with us.

That is the important thing. We have experienced his presence. We are his sheep. He is our good shepherd.

Our gospel for today is our Lord’s prayer to God for us.  Jesus says to God, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine.” At other times he has said that he and God are one. I have no doubt that the apostles felt that, as they were walking and talking with Jesus, they were walking and talking with their loving God. As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

At the end of our gospel, Jesus prays, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they ( meaning his followers, us) are in the world.”  And then Jesus prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.”

As we stand and watch out Lord ascend to be with the Father, and as we realize on deeper and deeper levels that Jesus is God walking the face of the earth, and as we think of all the time we have spent with our Lord, sharing Eucharist with him and learning from him, and as we realize more and more profoundly that Jesus, God, and the Spirit are one, and as we pray, we may be able to get a sense of what was happening with the apostles all those years ago as they stayed together and prayed, as he had told them to do, and waited actively, expectantly, faithfully, for the coming of the Spirit just as we will do this week as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost.

Jesus asked God to protect us, his followers, so that we may be one as Jesus and God are one. Our Lord was praying in a world where a ruthless empire could kill you for no reason, just as Covid-19 can snuff us out. Our Lord prayed for protection for his followers, and I am hoping and praying that each of us can feel that protection coming from God so that we can feel as close to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Jesus did to his heavenly Father. And I hope and pray that this sense of closeness with and protection by our Loving God will bring you a deep peace, even in the midst of this most distressing pandemic. Our loving God is as close as our breath. Our loving Shepherd. Jesus, is leading us. May we wait and pray for the gifts of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

May we pray together the Collect for Ascension Day, p. 226.

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he  fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in gory everlasting.  Amen.

Easter 7A RCL May 28, 2017

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, it is forty days after the first Easter. Jesus has died on the cross; his followers have gone to the tomb and found it empty; word has spread that Jesus has risen, During these forty days, many of his followers have seen the risen Lord.

Imagine how they are feeling. He has died. He is risen. What is going to happen now? He has told them that he will have to return to the Father, but that he will send the Holy Spirit to be with them. They have no understanding of the Holy Spirit. What they do know is that they have spent every waking hour with Jesus for a long period of time, They have shared meals with him. He has taught them. When they have had questions or needed guidance, they have gone to him and he has helped them. He has been there, like a light in the darkness. He has been the wisest of guides when they needed advice. Now, he is going to leave them.

The apostles are gathered at the Mount of Olives, a short distance outside of Jerusalem. They ask him if the kingdom of David, our Lord’s ancestor, is going to be restored. He does not answer them directly, but he tells them and us that we humans do not always understand or know God’s timing. What we can do is to be ready at all times to do God’s will. Looking back over two thousand years, we know that the Kingdom of God has been growing all that time. They have no way of knowing that, on the Feast of Pentecost in a few short days, the growth of that Kingdom, God’s shalom, will leap forward with the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

At the Mount of Olives, our Lord tells the apostles and us, “….You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Here they are, grieving and a bit afraid, wondering what they are going to do without him, and he gives them and us this commission. We are his witnesses to the ends of the earth. He is counting on us to continue his work. Then he is lifted up into heaven. And this beautiful window depicts that scene.

I think they felt many things. I think they felt lost and very sad. But they did not lose faith or give up. They did not run for the hills. The text tells us that they went back to Jerusalem. And what did they do? They did exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do. They gathered together, the first community of followers of our Lord, and they prayed. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, tells us that there were certain women with these first followers, including Mary, the mother of Jesus and, most certainly Mary Magdalene, and others. They waited together and they prayed together.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is praying for the apostles and for us. In this prayer, Jesus tells us that he and God are one. He says that he has completed the work that he came to do. He has taught the apostles and us how much God loves us. He has shared with us the powerful truth and the healing power of God’s love for us and for everyone. And now, he is depending on the apostles and on us to share that love to the ends of the earth.

Jesus is going to return to heaven, but before he does that, he prays for God’s protection for the apostles and for us. Think of that, Our Lord prays for God’s protection for us.

In our reading from the First Letter of Peter, written to slaves and aliens in Asia Minor who are undergoing persecution, we hear some advice that can help us as we face challenges. Peter tells us that God’s Spirit is resting on us. He advises us to cast all our anxiety on God, because God cares for us. He tells us to discipline ourselves and stay alert. He counsels us to remain steadfast in our faith.

And then Peter concludes with this inspiring prayer,”…the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” Peter echoes Jesus’ prayer for us. God is protecting us even now.

God is always with us; Jesus is with us; the Holy Spirit is with us, to restore, support, and strengthen us. Challenges will come along, but we are not alone. God’s power and love are with us.

We are looking forward to the Feast of Pentecost this coming Sunday. We know that the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and gave them the amazing gift to speak heart to heart to every person gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost.

The apostles and the others gathered with them did not know that, They knew that Jesus had told them to stay together and pray and to be ready for the power of the Spirit to come to them. But they had no idea what this meant until it happened to them and they began to use the gifts of the Spirit to spread the good news of God’s love and forgiveness and healing to a world ruled by a vast and powerful and ruthless empire. But they had faith. They gathered and prayed.

That is what we are called to do. We are called to take some time this week to prepare for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit still comes and touches people’s hearts and lives in this day and age. If you have something red, feel free to wear it to symbolize the flames that danced over the heads of the apostles.

Let us again pray the Collect for this day on page 226:

O God, the King of Glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.