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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 2C April 24, 2022

Acts 5:27-32
Psalm 150
Revelation 1:4-8
John 20:19-31

It is the evening of the first Easter. The disciples are gathered in the house where they have been meeting. The doors are locked for fear of the authorities who killed Jesus. The disciples have every reason to be afraid. The authorities see Jesus as a threat because crowds of people have been following him, and who knows what those crowds of people might do to undermine the power of those in charge? So the authorities attempted to annihilate that threat.

There is one thing on the minds of the disciples. They watched Jesus die, some standing right at the foot of the cross and others in the crowd. A few of them have seen him risen—Mary Magdalene and the other women. Peter and some others have seen the empty tomb.

Could it be possible? Could he have risen? Could he have conquered death itself? Will the authorities come and find us and kill us? For many good reasons, the doors are locked.

Through the walls of fear, he comes to them, he comes to us. “Peace be with you,” he says. “Shalom be with  you, that peace that passes all understanding. That peace that calms our fears.  He shows them his hands and his side. It really is Jesus. He really is alive! “Peace be with you,” he says. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

He breathes on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he says. Spirit is the Latin word for breath. To receive the Holy Spirit is to receive the breath of life itself. He gives them the power to forgive sins, to mend suffering hearts and lives. He gives them the ministry of reconciliation. He gives them the power to bring people together and to bring all of us into loving relationship with each other and with God.

One of them, Thomas, who is often called Doubting Thomas, was not there for this momentous encounter. They  tell him “We have seen the Lord.” And Thomas tells them he is going to have to see the marks of the nails in Jesus hands and even put his fingers in those marks and put his hand in Jesus’ side, or he will not believe. I wouldn’t say Thomas is a doubter as much as he is a scientific kind of person. He needs to see the facts, the evidence.

He is definitely a person of courage and deep faith, because when Jesus decided to go to Jerusalem, where he knew he would be killed, Thomas was the first to offer to go with him. But he felt he would really need proof before he could believe Jesus had risen.

Even when we’re not actually praying, Jesus hears our needs, knows what we need. And in his infinite love and kindness, he answers our needs. A week later, he comes to them again through the closed doors, moving through all the obstacles and reservations and questions and fears. “Peace be with you,” he says. Then he invites Thomas to touch the wounds, the scars of his battle with death and brokenness. But Thomas does not need to touch those wounds. He can see that it is Jesus. He bursts out in a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

And Jesus asks, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

We were not in that room all those centuries ago. We may not have seen him then. But we have seen him in our own ways all these centuries later. We have seen him in the eyes of a friend comforting us in a time of grief. We have seen him as we gaze in wonder at a newborn baby. 

We have felt his calming and healing presence in times of profound fear. We have felt his presence when we are gathered to celebrate Holy Eucharist. We have felt his strong arm guiding us over challenging terrain in our spiritual journeys. And we have felt him carrying us when the going got too tough for us.

He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. He` has given us his love. In our reading from the Book of Acts, which occurs some time after the resurrection, Peter and the apostles tell the authorities, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

They have been given the gift of sharing the good news about new life in Christ, and they are compelled to share that good news. 

We have seen him, too, and we have felt his presence. He is in our midst right now.

May we continue to share the good news. May we continue to share his love with everyone we meet. May we continue to walk the Way of Love. Amen.

Easter 3B April 18, 2021

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

This morning, we are going to look at our readings in chronological order so that we can trace the story and the meaning of our Lord’s resurrection. In terms of the events, the gospel reading is the earliest in time.

Today’s gospel follows the powerful story of the road to Emmaus.  It is later on the Day of Resurrection. That morning, at dawn, Mary Magdalene, Joanna,  Mary, the Mother of James, and some other women had gone to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away. They had gone into the tomb and found it empty. Two angels had told them that Jesus had risen. They had told the others about this, but their good news was dismissed as “idle talk.” Peter had listened carefully, had visited the tomb. and had seen that it was empty.

On the same day, Cleopas and another of Jesus’ followers were walking to Emmaus. The text tells us it was a distance of seven miles. They are talking with each other about how Jesus died on the cross and what a horror it was and how very sad they are.

Suddenly a stranger is walking with them. He asks then what they are talking about, and they tell him about what happened to Jesus. They even tell the stranger about what the women had seen and heard at the empty tomb. But they have no idea who the stranger is. It is only when they extend hospitality to the man walking with them and share a meal with him that he becomes known to them in the breaking of bread. 

He disappears, and they return to Jerusalem, marveling about how he had opened the scriptures to them. 

They join the others, bursting with their good news. But the word is already going around that the risen Lord has appeared to Peter.

Suddenly, quietly, Jesus is standing in the midst of them.saying, “Peace be with you!” They can’t believe he is real, so he invites them to touch him. They are still wondering when he asks, Have you something to eat?”

Ghosts do not eat. They realize he has risen. And then, just as he did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he goes over the scriptures to prove to them that he is the Messiah, that he suffered as the scriptures said he would and that he is risen.

Then he gives them a commission. They are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name.

Chronologically, our reading from the Book of Acts is the next event in historical time. In the part of the chapter preceding our reading for today. Peter and John were walking into the temple around three o’clock in the afternoon, the time of prayer, when they saw a man who had been lame from birth. Every day people would carry him to a place by the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask folks to donate money  so that he could support himself.

The man saw Peter and John walking into the temple and asked for help, Peter said that he did not have any money, but he healed the man in the name of Jesus. The man jumped up and began to walk and leap and praise God. This drew a big crowd. Our reading for today is Peter’s sermon to that crowd. Peter asks the people why they are staring as if he and John have healed this man, and he tells the people that God has glorified Jesus, the crucified Jesus. Jesus has risen from the dead, and the name of Jesus has made this formerly lame man strong. Then he tells the people that he knows they acted in ignorance. He calls upon them to repent and turn to God. All of this is happening shortly after Pentecost. The apostles are preaching and teaching about the healing and reconciling power of the risen Christ.

The epistle, from the First Letter of John, is the last writing in chronological order. Scholars tell us that it was probably written around 70 years after the death and resurrection of Christ by a disciple of John who was part of a community founded by John. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.” Our passage today is about the central theme of the good news—love.  

Our readings today offer a reflection of our own spiritual journeys. We question; sometimes we doubt; Jesus walks with us and teaches us; suddenly we realize that he is alive and here to lead us and guide us along the way.

In these three readings, we follow the journey of his original community of disciples. They were understandably horrified by the crucifixion. Many of them lost hope. He walked through walls of fear and oppression to be with them. They realized he had risen, and they spread that good news all around the Mediterranean Basin in a very short time, given that they had no modern modes of transportation or communication.

Every Sunday in this Easter season we will be reflecting on the fact that Jesus has risen and is here with us. How do we sense the presence of our risen Lord? How do we sense the power of his healing Spirit? How do we feel him leading us as a good shepherd leads the flock or guides a lost sheep back to the fold?

When hope seems gone, do we ever feel a loving presence reassuring us that there is hope, that hope is real, that good things can be achieved no matter how many challenges lie ahead? When we are sad and grieving, almost paralyzed by a huge loss, do we ever feel him there, standing beside us, letting us know we are not alone?

In this time of pandemic, Lord, thank you for holding us together, reminding us that “This, too, shall pass,” that we are not alone, that you are in our midst, leading and guiding us. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.

Good Friday April 2, 3021

Toward the end of the Good Friday gospel which we have just read, after hours and hours of suffering, Jesus sees his mother, Mary, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, and John, the Beloved Disciple standing at the foot of the cross.

Although he has gone through this horrible agony, Jesus does one more thing that expresses his love so profoundly.   He says to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And to John.”Here is your mother.” He creates a new family. He takes care of his mother. He takes care of his beloved friend. From that hour, John takes Mary, the mother of our Lord, into his home.

In his great love, our Lord has made us into a family, a family bonded together by his love and his presence. We have been in a long fast—over a year. We have not been able to be together; we have not been able to share Holy Eucharist; we have not been able to share the Peace, or hug each other, or talk face to face.

When this all began, I thought maybe it would be a few weeks or maybe months. But it has been much longer. During that time, more of our members have been called to volunteer at our food shelf. This ministry is a clear and powerful expression of God’s love for everyone. As Archbishop Tutu says, “God has a big family.”

Although we have been in this long, lonely, tragic fast and have lost so many brothers and sisters to Covid 19, I believe we have grown more deeply aware of this family God is creating and of the love God has for all of God’s children, our brothers and sisters. I think we have realized on deeper levels the power of God’s love.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “By entering into the experience of the cross, God took the man-made wreckage of the world inside himself and labored with it—a long labor, almost three days—and he did not let go of it until he could transform it and return it to us as life. This is the power of a suffering God, not to prevent pain but to redeem it, by going through it with us.” (Taylor, God in Pain: Sermons on Suffering, p. 118.)

God has made us a part of God’s big family, and God has been pouring out God’s love and grace and healing so that we can move through this exile, this fast, this desert experience of loneliness and lostness, this wandering, this grief, this frustration and anger, and grow stronger for it, as individuals and as a family rooted and grounded in Christ, a family linked together by the love of Christ. A family nurtured and guided by our Good Shepherd, who hears us when we call and knows each of us by name.

He has taken all the brokenness, all the sin, all that hurts and destroys and, as Taylor says, “returned it to us as life.” He has done all of this because he loves us with a love that is so deep and wide that we will never be able to understand it, but we can accept that love, and we can share it with others as we have been doing.

Just before he died, he created that new family, We are a part of that. We are a family in Him, and we are a part of his big family. May we accept his boundless love and may we continue to share his love with our brothers and sisters. Amen.

First Sunday after Christmas December 27, 2020

Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 147
Galatians 3:23-25, 4:4-7
John 1:1-18

“Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your  incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus  Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” This is our powerful collect for today, the First Sunday after Christmas.

And then, our reading from John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” We can picture in our minds the creation of the world. Christ ,the eternal Word, was there with God, and as God brought forth God’s vision of the creation, Christ, the Word, called the creation into being. Christ, the Word, the Logos, the plan for creation, the model for human life.

And then, in the next phrases of this amazing and inspiring gospel, the light is coming into the world. John the Baptist is testifying to the light. And then the true light, which enlightens everyone, is coming into the world. Jesus, the light of the world, brings light and hope to everyone in the world. We can envision a world of darkness lighting up with the light and love of Christ, We can understand that the light of Christ, the love and hope of Christ, can turn our lives from darkness and despair to light and hope. We can almost picture the whole dark world illuminated by the light of Christ, the dawn of a new day a new year, a new life for everyone.

But then,  our gospel says, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him,” That led ultimately to the Cross. And yet, even out of that, he brought new life.  But to all who were open to him and welcomed him into their lives, “he gave power to become children of God.” When we open our lives to his love, he brings us as close to God as children are to their own loving parents.

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.” God loves us so much that God came among us as one of us, born as a little baby, just as we were born.

He did not come as a conquering warrior, though he could have. He did not come among us as an earthly king, though he could have done that too. He came into human life just as we do,  He was born in a little place called Bethlehem, in a cave used as a stable. He was born before Mary and Joseph were married, so some tongues wagged, and some folks considered him to be an illegitimate child. And then, King Herod, who  had heard from the wise men about the new king, killed all the baby boys to stamp out that  threat. Joseph, a very protective and courageous foster father, and Mary, as protective and courageous as her husband, had to take Jesus into Egypt. This meant that they were refugees, migrants. seeking asylum. Jesus knows what it is to be human and he also knows what it is to be persecuted, marginalized, and demeaned. 

When things became safer, the holy family moved back to Nazareth, where Joseph was a carpenter. Jesus grew up learning the carpenter’s trade and studied the scriptures and eventually began his earthly ministry by being baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River.

After that, he spent somewhere between one and three years, depending on whose account we read, going from place to place telling people how much God loves us and how much God wants us to love each other. In a patriarchal culture, he had high respect for women; in a culture that saw children and women as chattel, possessions, he instructed his disciples to let the children come to him so that he could hold them in his arms. He made it crystal clear that God’s love knows no barriers. This was a threat to people who wanted to preserve their power, and he ended up dying on that horrible instrument of torture called the cross. 

And then, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found that it was empty. He was not there. She saw a man and thought he was the gardener, but he called her name, and she knew that it was Jesus. He had risen. She ran to tell the others. And then people began seeing him. He appeared to two of them on the road to Emmaus, but they didn’t even recognize him until they invited him in for supper and he interpreted the scriptures in a way that set their hearts on fire. Peter and the disciples were out fishing and, when they came ashore there he was, cooking fish and bread over a fire. He appeared to the disciples in the locked upper room and said, “Peace be with you.” And he called us to build his peace, his shalom, over the whole earth. And that’s what we are trying to do, with his grace. 

He is alive, He is in our midst, and he is calling us to walk the Way of Love. Let us follow him, our Emmanuel, God with us. Amen.

Easter 2A April 19, 2020

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

This is the Second Sunday of Easter. The Easter season goes from Easter Sunday until the Day of Pentecost. We often call this period the Great Fifty Days of Easter, to remind ourselves that this is a long season full of joy and culminating in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

During the Easter season, all  of our readings are from the Greek Scriptures, the New Testament. This is another way to remind ourselves that we are an Easter people. And we say Alleluia! often during this season.

Our first reading today is Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost. Peter proclaims the Good News of Jesus to the crowd which has just witnessed the flames dancing over the heads of the apostles as they share the love of Jesus in all the known languages of the world. Our  second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, is a song of praise to God, “who has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter writes, “Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

And then we have our gospel. Every year, on the Second Sunday of Easter, we read this wonderful lesson from the gospel of John. The disciples have not yet left for Galilee. They are in the room where they had been staying. Only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” have actually seen Jesus. Peter and John have gone to the empty tomb, but they have not seen the risen Lord.

It is the evening of that first Easter. They have locked the doors for fear of the authorities. We can understand why they have done this, They are terrified. They remember the rigged trial, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the taunts, the mob yelling for him to be crucified, and the horror of the crucifixion itself. Only Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” have actually seen the risen Jesus. The disciples know what the Roman Empire can do, They know what the religious authorities can do. They have heard that Jesus is risen, but only two of them have actually seen him. There is every reason to fear.

Suddenly, silently, he is in their midst. He walks through the walls and locks that fear has put in place. “Peace be with you,” he says. He brings them his shalom, the peace of his kingdom. He shows them his wounds. Jesus lovingly moves through all the barriers we humans create. Now he appears in this room filled with terrified disciples and fills the space with his peace, his love, his healing, his forgiveness. And he gives his followers the ministry of reconciliation. Peace, shalom, he says, and calls us to build his kingdom of love and harmony. He fills their hearts and minds with his presence, Now they realize what has happened. He is alive!

Thomas is not there that first time. The disciples tell him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas needs to see the risen Lord for himself. As Herbert O’Driscoll points out, Thomas has given his heart and life to Jesus, and now all he knows is that Jesus is dead. 

A week later, Jesus comes a second time to convince Thomas of the truth. Thomas does not even have to touch our Lord’s wounds. He bursts out in a hymn of praise, “My Lord and my God!”

Now, over two thousand years later, we are gathered, not in a room or a church building, but in our own homes and on Zoom. Last Sunday, Andy rang the bell at Grace Church, and Deb Peloubet let us know that indeed the bell had rung to proclaim our Easter joy. Now, we have gathered again. As the old song says, “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.”

During this pandemic, we are no strangers to fear. Fear is all around us. Death and disease are all around us. In a profound way, this pandemic is almost more scary than the Roman Empire. It has moved across the earth in only a few months, infected 2.25 million people and killed 158,000 people.

It would not take much for us to be filled with fear in the way that Jesus’ followers were as they locked themselves in that room. We can understand Thomas. He wanted the facts. So do we. We want to follow the science. We want to be sure to develop adequate testing both for the presence of this powerful virus and for the antibodies which it leaves once a person recovers. And we want to find treatments. And we want to discover a vaccine that will protect people against this New Corona Virus, Covid 19. We are very much like Thomas.

We know we cannot give way to fear. We also know that we cannot take this virus lightly. We have seen too many people congregate on the beaches during Spring Break and carry the virus all over the country. We have seen what happens in states that wait too long to “Stay Home, Stay Safe.” So, we respect this virus. 

And we grieve. We grieve over the deaths of courageous and dedicated doctors, nurses, and other health workers who have given their lives to save others. And we grieve over the deaths of elderly folks in nursing homes and senior housing facilities where the virus has spread so quickly and taken so many lives. We grieve for all who have lost their lives in this pandemic.

We remember the angel who told Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, “Do not be afraid.” And we remember that Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid.” And we look at the risen Jesus through the eyes of Thomas, who would not believe it from others but had to see for himself, and we say, “My Lord and my God!” 

And we remember the words of Peter, the leader of the apostles, the man Jesus named as the rock on whom he would build his Church, the faithful follower of Christ who wrote a letter to inspire the followers of our Lord in the midst of persecution: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Although you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him.”

And finally, we remember the words of our Lord, “Peace be with you.”

A peace so deep and so strong that it goes to the roots of our souls and draws up his living water to sustain us and to make the world new. For the peace which he is giving us is his shalom, his kingdom, his reign of love and wholeness and harmony over the whole wide earth. His kingdom will come. And we are helping him to build that kingdom. Amen.

Easter Day  April 21, 2019

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
Luke 24:1-12

“Jesus Christ is risen today,” the joyous hymn proclaims. For the next fifty days of the Easter season, all our readings will come from the New Testament, the Greek scriptures, proclaiming that we are an Easter people.

It all begins with the women going to the tomb. They have brought the spices so that they can give Jesus a decent burial. They find the stone rolled away from the tomb. Two angels tell them he is risen. These heavenly beings remind the women that Jesus had said this would happen, and, with this prompt they recall what he had said. They go back and tell the other disciples. The others do not believe them. But Peter gets up and runs to the tomb. He sees that it is empty, and he also sees the linen cloths lying there. Jesus’ body had been there, but was there no longer. The text says that Peter went home, amazed at what had happened.

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the women go to the tomb. In Mark it is Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome. In Matthew, it is Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” Here, in Luke, it is Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James and “the other women.” In John’s gospel, of course, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone, while it is still dark, and has a dramatic and life-changing encounter with the risen Christ. According to John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene is the first person to meet the risen Lord. According to the other gospels, Mary Magdalene is one of the first witnesses to the resurrection.

To borrow a phrase from Fulton Oursler, this is “The Greatest Story Ever Told,”and at first it was passed on by word of mouth. Different people were struck by different aspects of the story. But always, these women are the first to see that empty tomb, these women from Galilee who followed Jesus every step of the way.

Peter was a fisherman from Galilee, that out of the way and free- thinking area north of the big city. Jesus asked him to follow him and become a fisher of people, and Peter left everything and followed our Lord. Jesus chose Peter to be the leader of the apostles. Peter denied Jesus three times, something he deeply regretted. The Risen Lord met Peter on the beach. Jesus asked him three times, “Peter, do you love me?’ and Peter responded, “Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.” That was a forgiveness and a commissioning of Peter to spread the word. Jesus is asking us to do that, too, feed his sheep.

The good news about Jesus spread, and new converts flocked into the new community. Peter had followed the law and thought everybody else should do the same until he had that vision while he was praying on the roof. All kinds of animals came down on a big sheet, and God said, “Kill and eat.” It was no longer necessary to follow the dietary laws. And in our opening reading he is telling a crowd of people gathered at the home of Cornelius, all Gentiles, that everyone is included in God’s family.

Paul, the writer of our second reading, did not have the opportunity to  be with Jesus during our Lord’s earthly ministry. Paul was a Roman citizen, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a Pharisee, and a persecutor of the followers of Jesus. After witnessing a crowd stoning Stephen to death, Saul of Tarsus, soon to be Paul, was rushing to Damascus to encourage further persecution when the risen Christ confronted him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul was blinded by the light of Christ. He was transformed. He began planting communities of faith around the Mediterranean Sea.

He founded the church in Corinth, and he is telling his beloved Corinthians and all of us that our Lord has conquered every force of brokenness and darkness and death, He has risen and we will rise with him. He will transform our lives.

On Tuesday, April 30, we will be traveling to the United Church in Newport to meet Shannon, Hilary, and Hillary, three women who, like us, have been to the empty tomb this morning. We will meet these three followers of Jesus who feel called to be our Bishop. The Holy Spirit will guide us in discerning which of these three faithful servants of Christ will serve as Bishop of Vermont.

We all are part of the current generation of folks who have heard this wonderful story, who have met our risen Lord at various times in our lives, and have allowed him to lead us into the light of his love, the joy of new life in Him.

The story goes on. The story of newness of life. The story of his infinite love, The story of his endless and eternal healing.

And he asks, “Will you follow me?” And we say, Yes, Lord, we will.”

Amen. Alleluia.

Easter Day  Year B April 1, 2018

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus said this to his closest followers shortly before he died, and it is the theme of our sequence hymn.

John’s gospel takes us back to that first Easter morning. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, sees that the stone has been removed, and runs back to Peter and John. Although he denied Jesus three times, Peter is back with the twelve. He denied that he knew Jesus because he was afraid that the authorities would kill him, too.

We can imagine Peter rejoining the disciples, confessing his denial, which he deeply regretted, and then waiting with the others to see what would happen next.

He and John literally race to the tomb, Peter goes in first and sees the cloth that had wrapped Jesus’ head rolled up neatly. One has a vision of Jesus rising and very considerately folding the head cloth before he leaves. Peter and John then go home. They have not grasped the fact that Jesus is risen.

But Mary stays. She can’t leave. And she weeps. They are all shattered by grief, but she is the one who expresses it. She looks into the tomb and sees the two angels. They ask her why she is weeping, and when she says she does not know where Jesus has been taken, there he is. He asks her the same question, “Why are you weeping?”

In all of these post-resurrection encounters, people do not recognize Jesus, and this is true for Mary Magdalene. She thinks he is the gardener.  She asks him to tell her where the body of Jesus is so that she can take it away.

And then he says her name—“Mary!” And she realizes that it is Jesus.

He gives her the profound honor of being the first one to see him risen. Just as she is going to hug him, he tells her that he has to go to be with the Father. She cannot hold onto him. But he gives her another high honor. He asks her to be the one to tell the apostles that he has risen. Immediately, she goes and tells his followers that he is alive.

In all the gospel accounts, those who loved Jesus so deeply and watched his torture on the cross have an extremely difficult time realizing that he has risen. Yet God has brought good out of this horrible event.

When we go through something terrible, when we lose a dear one, or go through a disaster of one kind or another, or receive a serious or even terminal diagnosis, it seems impossible that any good or anything like new life could come out of it.

And yet, “Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain.” A little green shoot rises out of the earth in spring. The grain of wheat has been buried in the earth and now comes to life.

John Macleod Campbell Crum was an Anglican theologian, poet, and hymn writer who lived from 1872-1958. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1900 and served several parishes.He was a canon of Canterbury Cathedral from 1928-1943.

On Easter we know that love is come again like wheat that springeth green. Christ is love. God is love. Love is the strongest force in the world.

“Now the green blade riseth like the buried grain,  wheat that in dark earth many days has lain; love lives again that with the dead has been:  Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

Because of God’s unconditional love, we can always have hope. Because God loves us so much that nothing can stop that love, even the greatest brokenness, even the darkest hour, even the most profound and painful suffering, can and often does lead to light and life.

God cannot protect us from suffering, but, in some way that we will never understand, because God has gone though the worst suffering that anyone can endure, because God has taken all that darkness and hatred and brokenness and wrestled with it and worked with it and labored with it, and transformed it into life, we can experience that newness of life. John Macleod Campbell Crum has captured all of that meaning in his wonderful hymn:

“In the grave they laid him, love whom hate had slain, thinking that never he would wake again. Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen, love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

“When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain, thy touch can call us back to life again, fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”

Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

 

Day of Pentecost Year A June 4, 2017

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

Today is the Day of Pentecost, a very special day in the Church calendar. This day is sometimes called the Birthday of the Church because, on that day, two two thousand years ago, the gifts of the Holy Spirit energized and transformed the first followers of Jesus into an effective mission team spreading the Good News all over the known world at that time.

Our readings for today are among the most important and inspiring lessons in our entire lectionary. Chronologically, they are in a rather unusual order. The gospel reading comes first in time; the reading from Acts is the second; and the amazing text from the First Letter to the Corinthians is the third reading in chronological order.

Let’s take them in order so that we can re-trace our spiritual history. Our gospel for today is the same gospel which we read every year on the Second Sunday of Easter. It is the evening of the first Easter. The followers of Jesus know that he is risen. Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb and found it empty. She has called Peter and John, and they, too, have examined the empty tomb. Then the risen Jesus has appeared to Mary and has told her to let the disciples know that he is going to the Father.

Jesus’ closest followers are gathered in the home where they had been staying. They are terrified. They have locked the doors because they are afraid of the authorities, both religious and secular. Jesus walks right through the walls of their fear and says those words we will never forget: “Peace be with you.” God’s shalom be with all of us. God’s vision of peace at every level— total absence of hostility.  God’s harmony filling the whole creation. Everyone has enough to eat, clothes to wear, a place to live, good work to do, medical care, the basic things needed for life. God’s shalom. We are all one. The creation is one. All is moving toward wholeness and fullness of life. The followers of Jesus all know of God’s vision of shalom. They have read about it in Isaiah and  the other prophets.

But now Jesus does something else. He breathes the Holy Spirit into them. He is giving them the ability to forgive sins, to exercise the ministry of reconciliation. After this,  the risen Lord begins appearing to people so that they can see that he is alive.  He appears to Thomas, to the two disciples walking to Emmaus, to Peter and the others on the beach where they share a meal of bread and fish, and to others. And he tells them to stay together and pray.

That is what they have been doing when we meet them again in our first reading today. They have been gathered at the house in Jerusalem praying and preparing for the coming of the Spirit. Devout Jews from all over the known world are also in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover. This is a harvest festival something like our Thanksgiving.

A violent wind hits the house, the ruach, the wind that molds and shapes the desert sands, the wind of the Spirit. And flames dance over the apostles’ heads. Then they begin to speak in all the languages of the known world, and the writer of Acts takes the time to mention all these many countries. These simple Galileans, who have never taken a course in foreign languages, are somehow able to speak all of these languages so that all of these worldwide visitors can understand them.

Some people think the apostles are drunk, but Peter reassures them that this is not the case. The vision of the prophet Joel is happening. God is pouring out God’s Spirit on everyone. All people, old and young, will dream dreams and have visions of God’s shalom, God’s kingdom of peace and harmony.

Our epistle for today, from chapter 12 of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, is the latest of our readings in chronological time. Scholars tell us that Paul wrote this inspiring passage in 53 or 54 A.D., approximately twenty years after the resurrection of our Lord. Chapter 12 of this letter is one of the most important and essential statements of the theology of the Body of Christ. Paul says, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” We each do different ministries, but God activates all of these ministries. Paul mentions some of the gifts, “the utterance of wisdom”, “the utterance of knowledge,” “faith,” “gifts of healing,” and we could add, playing the organ, paying the bills, keeping the building in shape, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, helping young people, visiting elders, caring for animals, helping people recover from addiction, working for sustainability and accessibility, mentoring, gardening, and on and on the list goes. All of these are gifts of the Spirit.

No gift is superior to another. No person is superior to another. We are all one in Christ. As St. Paul says, “We are all baptized into one Body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free.” In other words, the Body of Christ is inclusive. People of all races and nations, male and female, gay and straight, tall and short, old and young, “and in-between”, as Al Smith used to say, people of all colors, all classes, all levels of education, all kinds of jobs, from CEOs to janitors, we are all included. We are one, as Jesus and the Father are one.

Like the apostles, so many years ago at that first Pentecost, we are called to spread the Good News of God’s love and healing and forgiveness. To carry out that mission, we receive the gifts of the Spirit just as they did.

Following in the footsteps of those first faithful followers of Jesus so many centuries ago, may we, here in the Vermont branch of the Jesus Movement, go forth in the power of the Spirit, and may we share God’s love, healing, and forgiveness with everyone we meet. Amen.

Easter Day Year A April 16, 2017

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-18

Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

During the fifty days of the Easter season, all three of our readings will be from the Greek scriptures, or the New Testament. Christ is risen, and we take time during this special festive season to devote all three readings to events that happened during and after his ministry here on earth.

Our first reading is from the Book of Acts, which traces the very early history of the new faith. Peter had always believed that followers of the new faith in Jesus would have to follow the Jewish dietary laws and other parts of the law. But he had a vision of all kinds of food which were forbidden by the law and he heard the voice of God telling him it was all right to eat these foods. Peter also got to know some Gentiles, among them Cornelius the Centurion, and God still caused the Holy Spirit to fill these people.

Our opening reading is Peter’s proclamation that God does not show partiality. God loves everyone, and God gives the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “God has a big family,” and it includes everyone.

Our reading from the Letter to the Colossians reminds us that we have been welcomed into new life in Christ, and we are called to live in him and allow him to live in us.

In our gospel, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb while it is still dark.  As she walks to that tomb, she is expecting to find the dead body of Jesus. Instead, she finds the tomb empty. She runs to tell Peter and John what has happened, and, after they leave, she goes in and sees the two angels guarding the place where Jesus’ body had been placed. She thinks someone has taken Jesus’ dead body away.

Even when she turns around and sees the risen Lord, she still does not recognize him. She is still thinking of him as dead. She thinks he is the gardener. It is only when he calls her name that she realizes who he is. She is then able to go and tell the others that she has seen the risen Lord.

Jesus takes death, brokenness, and suffering and transforms it into life wholeness, and joy. Jesus takes death and transforms it into newness of life, life in a deeper dimension for everyone. That is the meaning of Easter. After he appears to Mary, two of his disciples see him on the road to Emmaus. Peter meets him on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Three times, Jesus asks him, “Peter, do you love me?” and three times Peter answers, “Yes, Lord. I love you. And Jesus says, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”

As Jesus called Mary Magdalene and Peter and so many others, our risen Lord is calling us. Centuries after Jesus walked with us here on earth, one of his most faithful followers wrote a prayer which describes what Jesus is calling us to do and to be. It is the Prayer of St. Francis, found on page 833 of the prayer book. Let us pray this together.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

Alleluia. Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!