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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 7C May 29

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

Our first reading today continues the story of Paul and his team. They are on the way to the place of prayer when they meet a young woman who is a slave. She is possessed by a spirit of divination, and her owners make a great deal of money by owning her and using this gift of hers.

This young woman follows Paul and his team crying out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” The text tells us that she did this for many days.

Paul becomes annoyed with this, and he orders the spirit to come out of her, It comes out. The healing is complete. The spirit is gone. The young woman no longer has the gift which produced a good income for her owners. Mary Donovan Turner notes that the young woman’s owners were what we would call human traffickers. (New Proclamation Year C 2013, p. 53.) 

In those days, the law said that people could own other people. The woman’s owners take hold of Paul and Silas and drag them to the authorities. The owners say that Paul and his team are “advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd agrees with the owners. Paul and Silas are stripped bare and beaten with rods. This passage certainly makes it clear that spreading the good news isn’t always easy!

Then Paul and Silas are given a severe flogging and put in prison. The jailer puts them in the innermost cell and fastens their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners are listening to them. Can we imagine this? Paul and Silas are as bare as the day they were born. They have been beaten at least twice. Their feet are fastened in the stocks and they are singing! And the other prisoners are listening!

Suddenly there is an earthquake. The foundations of the prison are shaking.The doors are open; the chains are unfastened. The jailer wakes up. He sees that the prison doors are open. He thinks that all of the prisoners have escaped, so he takes out his sword to kill himself because he is quite certain that his career, and his life are over.

But Paul cries out in a loud voice. “Don’t hurt yourself. We’re all right here.” The jailer calls for torches, and, sure enough, the prisoners are there. The jailer falls on his knees and asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” In addressing Paul and Silas as “sirs,” I think the jailer is concluding that these prisoners are closely associated with a higher power.

Paul and Silas tell him that he needs to believe in the Lord Jesus and they teach him and his household about what that means. And this jailer whose world has just been turned upside down follows the Way of Love, and washes their wounds. He and his family are baptized. He brings them up into his house and sets a meal before them. He extends the gift of hospitality to his new brothers in Christ.

What a beautiful and powerful story! Paul and Silas, prisoners for Christ, set a jailer free to live a new life.

In our gospel for today, Jesus is giving last instructions to his disciples. Much of his Last Discourse is a prayer. “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they (meaning the disciples and us, followers of Jesus) also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me….so that  they may be one as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you loved me. And Jesus goes on to say that his whole purpose in his prayer is to ask that “…the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus is in us and we are in him. He is the vine, we are the branches. We are so close with him and with each other that we are one.

This story about Paul and Silas is so inspiring! it lets us know that sometimes God calls us to do hard things, challenging things, things we think we cannot do. Paul and Silas have been beaten and stripped to the status of nothing. They are totally vulnerable. Yet, when God sends the miracles and everyone is free, they stay in their cells and wait to extend God’s love to the jailer and free him and his family from their bondage and lead them into newness of life.

The faith and love of Paul and Silas speaks so powerfully to the jailer that his life and the lives of his family members are transformed. The foundations of the jail are shaken, the doors are open, and Paul and Silas just sit there and wait.They save the jailer from being fired and probably executed. They save the jailer from suicide.

Jesus is in us. and we are in him, He is that close. We are that close to him and to each other, as close as the members of a body. As close and as strongly connected as the vine and the branch.

Paul and Silas taught that truth to the jailer through their actions. They invited the jailer into the closeness and safety of God’s love by showing God’s love to this poor jailer whose prisoners had been freed by an earthquake.

May we follow the example of Paul and Silas. May we share God’s love with others, even when it is difficult. If we are called to do something, and if it’s about love, God will give us the grace to do what ever ministry God is calling us to do, even if it is to sit there and wait for the jailer after the prison foundations have shaken and the doors are open and all the other prisoners have left. God will always remind us that the jailer is going to need the grace of Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 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