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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 7C  June 2, 2019

Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

Paul, Silas, and presumably Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, are still in Philippi. They are going to the place of prayer, we may assume the same place where they had met Lydia and her community. Now they meet a slave girl who “has a spirit of divination.” Merriam-Webster defines divination as “The art or practice that seeks to  foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, usually by the interpretation of omens or by the use of supernatural powers.”

This young lady is a fortune teller. She has supernatural gifts. She is controlled by some owners who are making a great deal of money from her gifts. Herbert O’Driscoll calls these owners “pimps.” Today, we might call them human traffickers.

Right away, we know that this young lady is able to see through to the truth. She realizes that Paul and his team are, as she shouts out very loudly, “Slaves of the most high God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” The young woman follows Paul and his team for many days, shouting after them.

Paul finally becomes deeply annoyed, turns to her, and orders the spirit to come out of her in the name of Christ. The healing happens immediately. But now there is a big problem. The human traffickers who have been making a fortune from this young woman’s gift have suddenly lost their lucrative income.

The traffickers take hold of Paul and his team and drag them to the authorities. But they do not state their true feelings or thoughts. Instead of saying, “This man and his team just blew our whole financial scheme out of the water!” they present a high-minded argument, pretending to  be concerned about the safety of the city. Furthermore, they identify Paul and his team as Jews. In New Testament times, as now, there was a great deal of anti-semitism. Paul and Silas and Luke always tried to work quietly. They would move about unnoticed, encounter people, spread the good news, and move on. But these human traffickers have made Paul and his team Public Enemy Number One. Paul and his team are now in real danger.

The crowd attacks them; the authorities have them stripped of their clothing, and they are beaten. The jailer puts them in the innermost cell, the most secure place that is available. Then he fastens their feet in stocks.

Herbert O Driscoll reminds us of the great danger that people like Paul were in as they went out to spread the Good News. If they upset someone, false accusations could  be brought and they could be killed. (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us, Year C, vol. 2, pp. 91-93.)

This is why it is so moving and inspiring to read that Paul and Silas break into hymns and prayers around midnight. They are not afraid. They know that God is with them. The text also notes that the prisoners are listening to them. They are paying attention. They are being inspired by the love of God and the good news expressed in song and prayer.

Then an earthquake hits. The doors are opened and the chains drop from the prisoners. Paul and his team have freed the young woman from her bondage, and now God frees them from their chains.

The jailer wakes up and sees what has happened. If these prisoners have escaped, he can be killed. Paul and Silas know this. They have not fled. They care about the jailer. They know what could happen to him. So Paul calls out to him, “Don’t hurt yourself; we’re all right here.”

The jailer calls for lights, and people come running with torches. The jailer sees that the prisoners are all present. He is stunned. He falls to his knees and asks,”Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and his team share the good news with him. He takes them into his house and washes their wounds just as Jesus washed the feet of the apostles, just as the Good Samaritan washed the wounds of the man who had fallen among thieves. He has just heard about Jesus, and now he shows Paul and his team the love and compassion of Jesus. His entire household is baptized on the spot, and everyone shares in a feast.

This encounter is a powerful example of what our Lord is talking about in our gospel for today. This gospel reading is a part of what is known as our Lord’s Last Discourse, during which Jesus tries to communicate with the apostles the power of God’s love and the joy and energy of living together in community based on that love.

He asks that we all may be one. He asks, “As you Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus, God, and the Spirit are one, bound together in living love, and Jesus is asking that we may be enfolded in that love together with them. He is asking that we may abide with them and they with us.

In other words, Jesus is including us in the closeness of the life and love that is experienced among the Persons of the Trinity. It is a living, active love, the kind of love that enables Paul and Silas to sing and pray in chains and stocks in a prison cell. It is the kind of love that frees those enslaved in human trafficking. It is the kind of courageous love that  empowers ministries like Thistle Farms, which frees women from all kinds of slavery, including addiction and human trafficking.

Because of the love of Christ, you and I are as close as the members of the Trinity are. They are the first community created by God. We are part of the loving community created by God. We have only to reach out and touch God, Jesus, and the Spirit. They are here with us now, They have called us together.

Thanks be to God for the gift of this love. We will never be able to understand it or fathom its depths. All we are asked to do is to share it. Amen.

Easter 7B RCL May 13, 2018

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

Before our opening reading, Jesus has ascended to be with God. We have this scene on our beautiful window here over the altar. The apostles look on as Jesus rises to heaven. We can imagine all the feelings they must have had.  Their beloved leader is no longer physically with them. He has promised that he will send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but they must have felt a bit lost and sad.

Peter assumes leadership and calls the believers together. There are about one hundred and twenty of them.  Judas has betrayed Jesus, and the community must choose someone to take his place. This must be someone who has been with Jesus from the time he was baptized by John until the Ascension. Two men are chosen, Joseph called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias.

This is the only time we hear of these two men in the Bible, but the scriptures tell us that they were with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry until he went to be with God. The group prays together that this may be God’s choice. Then they cast lots, and Matthias is chosen.

Although we never hear of Justus or Matthias again, we can assume that, because they were such faithful followers of Jesus, each of them carried out his ministry all the days of his life, one as an apostle, the other as an ordinary faithful follower of Jesus. This reminds us that most of the followers of our Lord are not famous. They are people who love Jesus and who go about their lives quietly sharing his love in the best way they can, with the help of his grace. They are people you meet in shops or at tea, people like you and like me.

And so, quietly, without fanfare, the community of the faithful asks God to call forth the person who will complete the company of the apostles. Two thousand years later, we in Vermont have already begun the process of discerning the person God is calling to be the next Bishop of Vermont. We will continue to pray for God’s guidance in that process.

Our gospel for today is the continuation of Jesus’ statement that he is the vine and we are the branches. The portion we are reading today is really a prayer to God. As we read and meditate on this passage,  we realize again how much our Lord loves us. Jesus tells God that everything God has given to Jesus, Jesus has given to his followers.

Jesus tells us that we are not his servants but his friends. He calls us to a shared ministry with him and with each other.

Throughout his time with his disciples, Jesus has tried in every way to convey the profound truth about the depth of God’s love for us humans and for the whole creation. Now Jesus asks God to protect the community of faith, what we now call the Church.

We can see God protecting the community of faith as we watch Peter, whom Jesus appointed to be the leader, calling the faithful together to enter a process of prayer and discernment to choose a new apostle. Over the centuries, the Church has gone through all kinds of challenges, including times of persecution, and even that has not stopped people from making the choice to follow Jesus.

Even in recent times, we can recall various controversies. Through all of these, God has protected the Church. Over all these centuries, millions of folks like us have responded to the call of our Lord to help him spread his shalom.

Our Lord prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name…so that they may be one as we are one.” Jesus is praying for God to protect us so that we may be one as he and the Father are one. 

It goes back to the way Jesus describes our life together. He is the vine. We are the branches. His love is the oxygen, the energy, the life-spirit that courses through his body, the Vine. We all share that energy. We are all part of him, and we are all part of each other. Part of God’s protection of us is that we realize that we are one as Jesus and the Father are one. That is a very strong bond, a profoundly deep and close love.

And once again our Lord prays that we may have his joy complete in ourselves. Once again, he reminds us that following him brings great joy.

This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to experience and share the depth and breadth of God’s love. Please wear red to symbolize the flames dancing over the heads of the apostles. If anyone can translate a couple of sentences of the gospel into a foreign language, please let me know. I also have a text in French if anyone would like to read a portion of that.

Meanwhile, like Matthias and Justus, whose names we hear only once; and like all the other followers of Christ whose names we do not know but whose faith and example we cherish; may we faithfully seek and do God’s will. May we live in the reality of Christ’s presence and love, and share his presence and love with others.  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.

Easter 7 C RCL May 8, 2016

Acts 16: 16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

This past Thursday, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Jesus has gone to be with God. A week from now we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which will complete the Easter season.

In our first reading this morning, Paul and his companions meet a slave girl who has a spirit of divination. Some men have enslaved her, and they are making a large amount of money from her gift. She is calling out in a loud voice that Paul and his team are followers of God who are showing people the path to salvation.

After several days of this, Paul becomes annoyed and tells the spirit to come out of her. Her owners, whom Herbert O’Driscoll calls “pimps,” are so upset at the loss of their profitable business that they bring charges against Paul and his team. Their accusations are expressed in the most lofty terms. They present Paul and his helpers as enemies of the public good.

Paul and the team are given a severe flogging and placed in the most secure cell.   An earthquake comes, destroys the building and frees them. The jailer is afraid that they have escaped. This could cost him his life. Paul reassures him that his prisoners are present and accounted for. The jailer realizes that Paul and his team are representatives of God. The jailer and his entire household are baptized.

This reading is so timely. We know that human trafficking, prostitution, and other firms of exploitation are rampant in our world.

At our Diocesan Convention this year, we are going to be discussing these issues, and we are going to meet an extraordinary person. Her name is Becca Stevens, and she is the founder of a ministry called Thistle Farms.  According to information on their website, Thistle Farms is “the largest social enterprise in the United States run by survivors.”

Becca writes, When I first began working with women on the streets of Nashville I had one child and was pregnant with my second. The idea of opening a two year free sanctuary for women survivors had been simmering for years. But with the demands of work and a growing family that idea was just sitting on the back burner. Then one afternoon late in 1994 I was leaving work and putting my four year old son in the car when he looked up at me and asked, “Momma, why is that lady smiling?”

The billboard he could see was a huge image of a stripper in a cat suit smiling. The question broke my heart because I knew one day he wouldn’t ask it. The sign would just fade into the landscape where women are bought and sold without notice. On that day, I felt I had a fire burning in my chest and knew I needed to open the first home for women who have survived lives of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution. The woman in the cat suit was a sign. What I would also learn later is that because I have a history of child sex abuse in my background… I had a deep connection to the women I was serving in shelters and in ministry on the streets at that time. My son was a living prayer, and by the grace of God that day I could see the sign and hear the prayer.

I quote from Thistle Farm literature: “In 1997, Episcopal priest Becca Stevens opened one home for four women survivors of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution under the name Magdalene. Today,  the residential program of Thistle Farms serves over 700 women yearly with advocacy and referral services as well as managing a two-year residential program and an inmate program, Magdalene on the Inside. The residential program offers housing, medical care, therapy, education and job training without charging women or receiving government funding. No staff member lives with residents. Instead the community is guided by 24 spiritual principles. We believe that in the end, love is the post powerful force for change in the world.”

Here are the 24 Spiritual Principles and again I quote: “1) Come Together; 2) Proclaim Original Grace; 3) Cry with Your Creator; 4) Find Your Place in the Circle; 5) Think of the Stranger as God; 6) Take the longer path; 7) Make a Small Change and See the Big Difference; 8) Let God Sort It Out; 9) Stand on New Ground and Believe You Are Not Lost; 10) Forgive and Feel Freedom;  11) Unite Your Sexuality and Spirituality; 12) Show Hospitality to All; 13) Laugh at Yourself; 14) Consider the Thistle;  15) Listen to a New Idea; 16) Lose Gracefully; 17) Remember You Have Been in the Ditch; 18) Walk Behind; 19) Live in Gratitude; 20) Love Without Judgment; 21) Stay on Point; 22) Pray for Courage; 23) Find Your Way Home;  24) Leave Thankfully.”

One more quotation: “Why the Thistle? Thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Thistle Farms have walked. Considered weeds, thistles have a deep root that can shoot through concrete and survive drought. In spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower. Being a Thistle Farmer means the world is our farm and that we choose to love all creation.”

Paul and his team freed a woman from slavery. Our epistle prays that the grace of the Lord Jesus may be with all the saints. In our gospel for today, Jesus prays that we all may be made one, and that the love which God has given him may be in us, and that we may be in Christ and he in us.

The theme of Thistle Farms is “Love heals.” The ministry of Thistle Farms is a wonderful response to the call and challenge of today’s readings. You can learn much more at thistlefarms.org.

May we respect the dignity of every human being. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Easter 7B RCL May 17, 2015

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

Our first reading is from the Book of Acts, which is the history of what happened in the early Church just after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. Jesus has just ascended into heaven. We have a beautiful window dedicated to that scene just above our altar. Jesus has told the apostles that he has to go to be with the Father, but that he will send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.

Between the Ascension of our Lord and the Feast of Pentecost, the apostles gathered in one place and prayed, as Jesus had directed them to do. In our reading for today, Peter calls the apostles to deal with an extremely painful reality, the reality of Judas’ betrayal of our Lord. It is time to seek God’s guidance in choosing someone to complete the number of the Twelve. The apostles must choose someone who has been with Jesus from the very beginning of his ministry, when he was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Someone who has been with Jesus and with the apostles, day in and day out, through all the challenges and joys of their ministry together. Someone who has watched in horror as Jesus was crucified and then cried in joyous surprise to see him risen. Someone who has stood with the group and watched him ascend to the Father. Two men are chosen—Joseph, called Barsabbas, known as Justus, and Matthias. They pray; they cast lots, and Matthias is chosen. Tradition tells us that Matthias served faithfully, just as he had followed Jesus during his ministry, but, like so many followers of our Lord, he went about his whole ministry quietly, without fanfare.

Jesus told his apostles and us that he is the Vine, and we are the branches, and he told us that the whole point of his ministry and our ministry is to share God’s love.

Yet today we deal with something terrible that happened just before Jesus endured his mock trial and was crucified. One of the people Jesus had called to be among his closest followers betrayed him. There is evidence in the scriptures that Judas regretted this act almost as soon as he did it. The Book of Acts tells us that he literally spilled his guts in a field he had bought with the thirty pieces of silver, and Matthew’s gospel tells us that he hanged himself.

Just imagine how it must have felt to be one of the twelve closest followers of Jesus and to know that a member of that group had betrayed our Lord. Sadness, anger, and many other feelings must have surged through the group.

Yet, by the grace of God, they held together. And here they are in our reading today choosing Matthias to join them.

Our gospel for today is from Jesus’ prayer for his followers. He has taught us about God, and he asks God to protect us as we live in a world that is full of violence and competitiveness and darkness and brokenness, a world that is so far from the shalom that our Lord has called us to build. And yet, quietly, steadily, the Spirit is at work, and that shalom grows.

We can see God’s protection at work as the apostles gather in prayer to call Matthias to join them. And we can be aware of God’s protection for them as they waited and prayed for our Lord to send the Holy Spirit. Our Lord also asks God to give us the gift of joy.

In our epistle for today from the First Letter of John,we read, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” Because we are part of the Body of Christ, we have the gift of life that is deeper and more meaningful because we are part of our Lord and he lives in us. We know what the purpose of life is. We know that he is with us. He is the Vine and we are the branches. Our life is not about just our human needs and wants. It is about allowing him to live in us. It is about our being a part of him. That is what we mean when we say that he is alive in us and we are alive in him. Much more alive than if we were just going about life on our own human terms.

Jesus has ascended to heaven. We are gathered in prayer. We are waiting with joy for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, which is this coming Sunday. God has brought this community through many challenges. A few decades ago, the church building was condemned, and a faithful group worked to restore the building to a stable condition.  Very soon, at the Mark Sustic concert, Grace Church will be full to capacity, bursting with joyful music, and standing up to the challenge of stomping and dancing feet.

God still guides and protects the Church, and the gift of joy is still very real. Each and every one of you is much like Matthias—faithful  servants who go about your ministries quietly but with great love and care.

Fortunately, we do not have among us one who has betrayed the Lord, But we do have a beloved member who cannot be with us because of her ministry in the world, and that is our sister in Christ, jan. We also have Nick, who cannot be with us because of a demanding work schedule and family obligations. Please keep them especially in your prayers and, if you get a chance, please send  an email or two to let them know you are thinking of them.

Let us take time this week to think about the coming of the Holy Spirit among us, and let us prepare with joy to receive the gifts of the Spirit.

If you have something red to wear for Pentecost, please feel free to do that.  Please also think of all the translations of the word “Peace” that you know, and we will use them during the exchange of the Peace.

Let us thank God for God’s protection, and let us reflect on the joy we have in being members of the Body of Christ and members of this community of faith.  Amen.

Easter 7A RCL June 1, 2014

Acts 1:6-14

Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

This past Thursday, forty days after Easter, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. Our first reading today describes that event.

Jesus takes the apostles to Mount Olivet, a short distance outside Jerusalem.  They ask him whether he is now going to bring in his kingdom. He tells them it is not for them to know the timing of that. It will happen in God’s timing.We can image that they might have felt embarrassed, or scolded. They probably wished they had not asked that question.

I don’t think Jesus is trying to scold them. He is asking them to trust God for the timing of things, and he is letting them know the amazing things that are going to happen. He tells them that they are going to receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. That is going to happen very soon. This coming Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. He tells them and us that they and we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. And indeed the Spirit did come upon them, dancing like flames of fire over their heads, blowing like the desert wind–ruach and giving them the gift to speak in all the known languages of the world.

At this point, standing on Mount Olivet with Jesus, they had no idea that this was going to happen. But somehow we can imagine that they realized that he was conferring upon them something very important. In fact, he was passing on his ministry to them. He was telling them that they would receive power from God so that they could go forth and share the good news about Jesus.

Abruptly, he is lifted into the heavens. They gaze up as he disappears into the clouds. Two men in white robes appear and ask the apostles why they are staring. Imagine how the apostles felt, Jesus, who has been with them for so long, day in and day out, eating meals with them, teaching them about the scriptures, giving them such a powerful example of healing and forgiving people. He has been their leader, their mentor, their friend, and suddenly he is gone.

The apostles go back to Jerusalem, back to the room where they have been gathering. And they focus on praying. Waiting and praying. Waiting for Jesus to come again. Waiting for the Spirit. Not a passive kind of waiting, but an active, alive, faithful kind of waiting, .Jesus had gone to the Father. There was an ending, But there was also a new beginning.

In our epistle for today, the theme of persecution and suffering is continued. They and we are actually called to rejoice in our suffering because, when we suffer, we are sharing our Lord’s suffering. We are called to cast all our anxiety on God because God cares for us so much. What a thought, to give all our fears and anxieties to God, knowing that God loves us so much and God will carry them for us. We are also called to discipline ourselves, to be alert, to resist evil, to hang on to our faith, and to remember that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, our brothers and sisters in the faith all over the world, and their faith sustains us. God will “restore, support, strengthen, and establish us.” What a powerful promise.

Our gospel is from Jesus’ final prayer for his followers before he goes out and is arrested in the garden. Jesus says, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.” Jesus has made God’s name known to us. Jesus has made God known to us. We can now call God Daddy or Papa or Dad or Mom or Mama. Jesus has allowed us to realize how much God loves us. Jesus calls us to abide in God’s love.

And then Jesus asks God to protect this little flock, his apostles, and us, so that we may be one as Jesus and God are one. Jesus asks God’s protection for us, Think of what that means. We do not need to be afraid, No matter what may happen, God is with us, Jesus is with us, and the Holy Spirit is with us.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles went back to the upper room where they had been gathering.  Mary and some of the other women were with them.  He had just left them but the two men told them that Jesus would return. He had left, but he had assured them that they would receive the power of the Spirit.

They knew what to do. They gathered and they prayed without ceasing. And they waited patiently with great discipline and focus until God would take the next action. And, as they prayed, I think Jesus, though physically absent, became more and more present to them. He was in their midst. They remembered things he had said and done. They felt his love, his faith, his grace. They were strengthened. So that, when Pentecost came, they were ready. In the power of the Spirit, they burst forth speaking the love and grace of Christ and touching people’s hearts.

This week, let us pray for the gifts of the Spirit. Let us think of our Lord and his love. Let us prepare ourselves for the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. If you have something red, please wear it. Let us open our minds and hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit and the presence of our Lord. Amen.