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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 6C May 22, 2022

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Our opening reading today is from the Book of Acts. Paul is having a vision. A man from Macedonia is pleading with Paul saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Immediately, Paul and his team set sail from Troas, a city on the northwest tip of Asia Minor, which we now call Turkey. They land in Philippi, a city in northwestern Greece. They have just sailed from Asia to Europe.

Philippi is a major city in that area of the Roman Empire. Paul and his team stay in Philippi for several days and on the sabbath they go to what the text describes as a “place of prayer” by the river. Scholars tell us that this “place of prayer” by the river is probably a synagogue. 

There they find a group of women, and Paul and his team speak to them. Among these women is Lydia, a woman of means who deals in purple cloth. She is a business woman and the head of a household, which was very unusual in those days. After listening to Paul and his team, Lydia and her household are baptized.

Then Lydia invites Paul and his team to stay at her home. They make her house their base of operations  and later the community starts a house church in her home. Her entry in Lesser Feasts and Fasts says that Lydia is recognized as a saint“ in a wide range of Christian traditions, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and many Protestant traditions. In the Orthodox Church she is given the title ‘Equal to the Apostles’ for her role in spreading the Christian faith.” Lydia’s feast day was yesterday, May 21.

This is a very important moment in the history of the Church. The faith which began in Asia is now in Europe.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is telling his disciples and us that he will be going to be with God. He will no longer be here on earth. This Thursday the Church observes Ascension Day. The window above the altar at Grace beautifully and movingly depicts our Lord’s Ascension.

We can only begin to imagine how shocked and saddened the disciples were to hear that Jesus would be leaving them to return to the Father. Their leader, teacher, mentor, and friend would no longer be with them in the flesh.

With Jesus among them, they could always turn to him and ask a question or seek his guidance in a difficult situation. But now he would be gone There would be a terrible hole in their hearts, in their lives.

But Jesus says some things that answer their grief and fear. First, he says the most amazing thing. He says that he and God will come and make their home with us. If we love Jesus and God, they will come and make their home with us. Jesus and God will live in our hearts. And we know that is true. We all have had times when we were confused or grieving or at our wits’ end, and there God was, or Jesus, or the Spirit, comforting us. Now our Lord is telling us that he and God and the Spirit have made their home with us.

Then Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will “teach [us] everything, and remind [us] of all that [Jesus] has said to [us].” In another place, Jesus says that the Spirit is within us. and in another place, our Lord says that the Spirit will lead us into all truth. Nowadays, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation. The Holy Spirit is within us and will help us sort out the truth. And the truth is always about love.

And then Jesus says that wonderful thing: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Jesus is giving us his peace, his shalom. In her book, A Wing and a Prayer, retired Presiding Bishop  Katharine Jefferts  Schori writes, “Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.” (Jefferts Schori. A Wing and a Prayer, p. 33.)

Jesus is with us. Jesus, God, and the Spirit have made their home with us. And he tells us that we should not be afraid. So many things that are happening in our world are because people are afraid. Love casts out fear. Faith is fear that has said its prayers. Let us live lives of faith, not fear.

Bishop Schori continues, “Each one of us has the potential to be a partner in God’s government, to be a co-creator of a good and whole and peaceful community.” She goes on to say that we are called
“to use every resource at hand  to build the reign of God—to use the gifts we have, the ones we think we might have, and the ones we haven’t discovered yet, to be willing to speak about our vision of peace, whether in the newspaper or in the halls of Congress, and to dedicate our lives to making that vision come alive, to give our hearts to it, to believe in it, with every fiber of our being.”  

And she concludes, “Building the reign of God is a great and bold adventure, and it is the only route to being fully alive. If we don’t set out to change the world, who will?” (ibid., pp. 34-35.)

Jesus is with us, He and Isaiah and others have given us a vision, a vision based on living lives of faith, hope, and love, and honoring the dignity of every human being. We are already engaged in helping Jesus to build his shalom. We are already committed to walking the Way of Love. Jesus has made his home with us. We have made our home with him, and we are walking and working together. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!

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 6C May 26, 2019

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Our first reading, from the Book of Acts, is dramatic. Paul and his team are in Troas, a port city in what was then called Asia Minor. Today we call this country Turkey. Herbert O’Driscoll tells us that, if he had looked across the Aegean Sea, Paul would have been able to see Europe.

That night, Paul has a vision. A man from Macedonia is calling to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul immediately realizes that this is a call from God to go and proclaim the good news to the people of Macedonia. The writer of Acts even describes the course they took.

They end up in Philippi, a leading city in the area and a Roman colony. On the sabbath day, they go to an area outside the city gate where, the text says, “we supposed there was a place of prayer.” Scholars think there was no actual synagogue there, but Paul and his team find a group of women gathered. The good news is about to be preached on European soil for the first time. The new faith is leaping from Asia to Europe.

Lydia is described as a “worshiper of God.” This wording indicates that she is a Gentile who is interested in the Jewish faith; she is drawn to a God of justice and mercy. She has her own business. She sells purple fabric to the wealthy and powerful in the area. She also has her own house. She is a woman of means who is accustomed to dealing with the upper classes. God has opened her heart to listen eagerly to what Paul has to say.

We have no record of what Paul said, but it must have touched the minds and hearts of his listeners. Lydia and the entire group are baptized.  Then Lydia invites Paul and his team to stay at her house. Later on, when Paul returns to stay with Lydia and her household, there is a house church in her home. This is how the new faith spread. The good news was preached; people felt the call to follow Jesus; they gathered in the homes of folks who could afford to have homes, and the word spread.

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, we are in a vision looking down from a mountain onto the holy city of Jerusalem. The light and love of God are shining forth.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is telling the disciples that he will be going to be with God. He will be leaving them. This Thursday, the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension. As the disciples look on, our Lord rises to heaven to be with the Father. This glorious window depicts that scene.

We can only imagine how sad those faithful followers of Jesus were to see him move away from them. They would never see him again.

And yet, here in our gospel, he is telling them and us, “Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” He is telling us that if we love him, our actions will show that love. What we say and do will express his love. True love is not only a feeling. It is actions which respect the dignity of every human being. And Jesus says that, if we live lives centered in him, he will make his home with us. God will make God’s home with us. If we follow Jesus, he will be with us always. He will make his home with us.

Then Jesus tells the disciples and us that he will send his Spirit. Jesus says that the Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has taught us. And our Lord gives us his peace, his shalom, his vision of how human life is to be lived

Retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori writes,”That word ‘shalom’ is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but it’s a far richer understanding of peace than we usually recognize. It’s not just a 1970s era hippie holding up two fingers to greet a friend—‘Peace, Bro.’ It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences. Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the divine gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.” (Schori, A Wing and a Prayer,” p. 33.)

As Jesus gives us his vision of Shalom, he also offers us one more paradox. He says, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.”He is going to be with God, but he will also be with us and he will be giving us his grace so that we can help him bring in his kingdom, his shalom across the whole wide earth.

Love is at the root of it all, his love that we know so well—the love that will seek out every lost sheep. strengthen our weak knees, buoy up our spirits, and welcome everyone into his big family. Nothing ca get in the way of his love. Nothing can stop his love.

This week, especially on Thursday, Ascension Day, we meditate on that paradox: Our Lord has gone to be with God and yet he has made his home with us. He is with us, with that unfailing love and grace, leading us and guiding us into his Shalom.  Amen. 

Easter 6C RCL Year C May 1, 2016

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
John 14:23-29

Once again, our opening lesson places us in the midst of an important scene in the course of history. Paul and his ministry team are in Troas, a city near ancient Troy in what we would call Turkey. Paul has a vision. A man from Macedonia is calling him to “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” We do not know who the man in the vision is, but it is clear that Paul takes this to be a call from God.

We are given the exact route that they follow. They are going from the continent of Asia to Europe. They are going to make history. They are going to proclaim the Good News on a new continent.

They land in Philippi, an important Roman city.  They remain there for several days. When the Sabbath comes they go outside the city gate to a place of prayer by the river. They are hoping to find a synagogue where Paul, a Rabbi, would have the right to teach.

But they find no building. Instead they find a group of women gathered for worship. Paul and his team sit down and talk with the women. There are two striking things going on here. In the ancient world, it would be highly unusual to find a group of women worshiping together, and it also would be unusual for a rabbi to sit down with these women. God is dong a new thing. Barriers are coming down.

Among these women is an extraordinary person named Lydia. She is a dealer in purple cloth. Most scholars see her as a prosperous business woman. Since only the Roman nobility were allowed to wear purple cloth because purple symbolizes royalty, scholars tell us that we can assume that Lydia is accustomed to dealing with the noble class.

Lydia is a seeker. She is a Gentile who is interested in learning about God.  The Lord opens her heart to listen eagerly to Paul, and she and her household are baptized. This is another unusual thing. Lydia is the head of a household.

She takes her faith so seriously that she immediately invites Paul and his team to stay in her house. After some persuasion, they accept, Later, after Paul and Silas are released from prison, they go to stay with her again. By that time, services are being held on a regular basis in her house. It has become a house church.

Lydia and her community of women who are engaged in the cloth trade are the first converts in Europe. The church in Philippi was the first Christian community in Europe, and it was a loving and faithful group of people. Paul loved them very much.

Here we have the story of how our faith spread from Asia to Europe, People meet beside the river to learn more about God and a new faith community is born.

Our reading from the Book of Revelation describes the glorious and eternal worship of Christ, the Lamb of God.

In our gospel, Jesus is continuing his teaching of the apostles in preparation for the ascension. He is going to leave them, and he is trying to give them everything they will need to carry on faithfully when he is no longer here on earth.

He is telling them and us that, even though he will not be here in a physical sense, the Holy Spirit will be with us, and the Spirit is the presence of Christ with us. The Spirit leads us and guides us as it did Paul and his team in our first lesson.

Jesus tells us several very important things in this reading. First, the heart of our life with him and in him is love, and the quality of our love for him will be demonstrated in our actions.

Secondly, we will always have his peace, his shalom. This means that, no matter what happens to us, his presence and his stillness and faith will always be within us. In addition, the vision of his shalom, his reign of peace and harmony for the whole world, will always be our vision.

He has taught us to respect the dignity of every human being, and in our opening reading we see Paul and his helpers sitting and praying with a group of women to whom they would not have been allowed to speak if they had been following the customs and laws of that time.

He has called us to create a world of peace in which everyone has enough to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live, good and useful work to do, adequate medical care, a world in which all people can feel safe. He has called us to  help him to extend his shalom to the whole creation.

Perhaps most of all he has assured us that he will be with us wherever we are. He will be with us in the sharing of bread and wine which is the food of his love and presence and energy. He will be with us as we pray for healing for our brothers and sisters, and our beloved pets. He will be with us in times of joy and in times of loss. He will be with us in every moment. He will abide in us and we in him.

When Paul and his helpers landed in Philippi, and then rested, and then went to the river to find the praying community they brought with them the presence of Christ. Lydia was waiting for that moment. It changed her life. The Church began in Philippi, and countless others were able to experience the presence of Christ in a community of deep faith.

Thanks be to God for two hundred years of that experience of the presence of Christ here at Grace, and thanks be to God for all the saints who, like Lydia, accepted our Lord with all their hearts and spread the Good News.

May we follow in their footsteps.  Amen

Easter 6C RCL May 5, 2013

Acts 16:9-15

Psalm 67

Revelation 21:10. 22-22:5

John 14:23-29

In our first reading from the Book of Acts, Paul is in the port city of Troas, very near the ancient city of Troy, in what we now call Turkey. This is considered the western edge of Asia. As he look across the Aegean Sea, he can see Europe, Macedonia.

During the night he has a vision. A man says,  Come over to Macedonia and help us.” They set sail. They go to Samothrace, then to Neapolis, and then to Philippi, a leading city in Macedonia and a Roman colony. Paul and the other early followers of Jesus were constantly on the move, looking for people who wanted to hear the good news.

On the Sabbath, Paul and his team go to a place of prayer by a river, and there are some women there. One of them is named Lydia. She has traditionally been described as a wealthy businesswoman who sells purple cloth to privileged people, who are the only ones who are allowed to wear the royal color of purple.

In 2007, Professor Arthur Sutherland of Loyola University in Baltimore published a book called I Was a Stranger: A Christian View of Hospitality. Professor Sutherland writes, “The popular conception of Lydia as a wealthy woman who dealt in expensive fabrics is misleading. A more accurate reading of purpurie [the word translated as “dealer”] is a person who works in the manufacturing and sale of dyed products. Although dye houses were often owner operated and often employed hired help, and both genders worked as dyers and dealers, textile production was still considered women’s work and was looked down upon by the general public. Lydia’s work was most likely a subsistence occupation for herself and her house.” (Text read online.)

Scholars tell us that dye houses had a terrible odor because the process of dying involved the use of animal urine. Dye houses were located outside the city gates. Since the dying was done by hand, Lydia carried a visible stigma. That is, her hands were purple. She was considered marginal and of a lower class. Scholars tell us that in those days women would gather with other women who were of the same trade.

Yet Lydia is a seeker, a worshipper of God. She wants to grow closer to God. She and her household are all baptized. Then Lydia invites Paul and his helpers to her home. This is rather unusual because, in that time and culture, women did not invite people they did not know into their homes. Paul apparently hesitated to accept her invitation because the text says that she prevailed upon them. She had to convince them to accept her invitation. Scholars tell us that this could have been because she was a woman or because she was considered of a lower class.  Eventually Paul, Timothy, and Luke go to her home, which becomes a center of operations for them in Philippi. Through Paul’s later letters, we know that the congregation in Philippi becomes one of his most beloved communities of faith.

So here is Lydia, a person of deep faith, but a marked woman with purple hands.  Yet she does not hesitate to invite Paul to her home.

Mary Donovan Turner of the Pacific School of Religion writes,  “Lydia is right to think that her authority to greet, to receive, and to protect the stranger comes from her baptism and relation with Christ. On the basis of her faith and her baptism, she challenges any cultural notion that her house or she herself, is not fit for visitors. Lydia is a worker, marginalized, strong, voiced, determined—one who challenges discrepancies or hypocrisies when she sees them.”

Professor Turner points out that we often discuss issues of race and ethnicity in the Church, but she says that we do not often examine issues of class. She poses some questions. What classes are welcomed and feel comfortable in our church community? Do our worship and hospitality reflect class bias?

Jesus says in our gospel that “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” What a thought. God will come to us and make God’s home with us, And Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything.

In our readings today, barriers are coming down. A woman can invite Paul and his team to her home. A worker who doesn’t make a lot of money can extend hospitality to Paul and Timothy and Luke. Loving as our Lord calls us to love means that we share generously what we have. We invite people into our homes, and those people accept our invitation. It doesn’t matter whether our homes are simple or fancy, cabins or castles.

Extending hospitality comes from the heart, and receiving hospitality is a response from the heart. We are called to welcome everyone, regardless of race, gender, and all the other things we use to divide ourselves against the loving will of God, including class.

These ideas are of special interest to Grace Church because we have a strong ministry if accessibility in every sense of the word, and we have a strong ministry of hospitality. I know that we all hope and pray that we will welcome anyone who comes here, no matter what their life circumstances, as we would welcome Christ.

Amen