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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:…
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Pentecost 21 Proper 24B October 17, 2021

Job 38:1-7, 34-41
Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37c
Hebrews 5:1-10
Mark 10:35-45

In our first reading for today, Job finally has the opportunity to talk with God. God speaks to Job out of a whirlwind, and God has some questions: “Where were you when when I laid the foundations of the earth?…Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are?’ Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind?”

Job is in the presence of the God who has called the creation into being, the God who has made each of us and has given us our minds and our ability to think. Job is encountering the almighty God, whose power makes us humans seem infinitesimally small and extraordinarily weak.

In this dramatic scene from the Bible, Job stands silent while God speaks out of the whirlwind. This is not a meeting of equals. Biblical scholar James D. Newsome writes, “This text offers a straightforward answer, as remarkable for what it omits as for what it contains: You, Job, simply do not possess the wisdom to contest God. Therefore, trust God and you will be at peace.” (Newsome, Texts for Preaching, p. 551.)

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that every high priest is able to deal with our human frailties and weaknesses because every high priest is human and has these human flaws just as much we we do. After our encounter with God in our first reading, this is reassuring.

Jesus is our great high priest. He is God walking the face of the earth. We believe that he is fully human and fully divine. In contrast to the almighty God who speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, our Lord knows what it is to be human. He is not above us; he is with us and among us. The life, ministry, death. and resurrection of Jesus show us how much God loves us. God has come to be among us. God has become one of us. This is an amazing gift.

In our gospel for today, James and John tell Jesus that they want him to do whatever they ask of him. This is a demand, not a request. He asks them what they want, and they say they want to sit, one on his right and one on his left, in his glory.

Their arrogance is surprising, even shocking. He is their teacher, their leader. We can imagine that Jesus was taken aback, perhaps even a bit irritated, even angry. What in the world are they thinking, after all this time watching him take care of people, listen to them, teach them, heal them, forgive them, love them? Have they missed the point entirely?

He asks them whether they can drink the cup that he will have to drink  and undergo the baptism that he will endure. We recall his prayer to God that this cup might pass from him, and we know that his love and servanthood were fully expressed in his death on the cross. James and John assure our Lord that they will be able to drink that cup and undergo that baptism. The path to glory leads through the experience of the cross.

The other disciples are angry with James and John. And Jesus says something that expresses so much of what he is calling us to do. He says, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Jesus is telling us so many important things in this encounter. In the world, so many people are trying to climb the so-called ladder of success. People lord it over each other, and this whole process often produces tyrants.  In the shalom of Christ, we are all called to be servants. Instead of a ladder to success, there is more of a circle. Each person is a beloved child of God, an alter Christus, an “other Christ.” As we look at each other, we are not looking at a competitor or an enemy to be pushed off the ladder so that we can succeed, but at a brother or sister, an “other Christ.” When we look at each other, we are looking into the face of God, the face of Christ.

Herbert O’Driscoll writes of the disciples,  “Jesus calls them and very deliberately tells them the great truth about authority in the kingdom of God. In the world around them the basis of authority is power. But in the kingdom, and in the community that claims to be questing for the kingdom, authority comes from servanthood….This has been the pattern of his own ministry among them. Now it must become the pattern of their ministry to each other and among others.” (O’Driscoll, The Word among Us Year B, p.135.

This is the pattern our Lord is calling us to follow, and thanks be to God, that is what happens here at Grace. Folks pray together, work together, love each other, help each other, and go out into the world to help others. Power is not the source of authority. Love and service are  the center of our life together. Thanks be to God.

With this in mind, We will be doing a book study on Zoom beginning in November. Our book will be “Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubled Times,” by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Please let me know if you would like to join us, and what days and times would be good for you. This winter, we will be reading together several books about walking the Way of Love. This will be an inspiring journey.

Almighty God, you created the universe, from galaxies and planets to tiny, delicate flowers, and butterflies and tigers and everything in between. You came among us to show us how to love and serve each other. Give us the grace to be aware of your power, which surpasses our understanding, and your love, which you have expressed in coming among us as one of us. Help us to love you with all our hearts and to love and serve others. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The Day of Pentecost Year B May 23, 2021

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35. 37B
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27 – 16:4b-15

Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told his followers to stay together and pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Earlier in chapter fifteen of John’s gospel, he told them and us that he is the vine and they and we are the branches, that we and our Lord have a bond and a relationship that is like a living organism. We depend on him and each other for life itself.

Now he is going to leave them, and he tells them that, if he does not go to be with God, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, cannot come. And he tells them something else. He says that there are many tings he cannot tell us. And then he says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” That is one of our Lord’s statements that we can spend our whole lives thinking about and praying about. 

In a profound sense, the Holy Spirit is now, day by day, guiding us into the truth that Jesus was not able to share fully when he was here on earth.

After the Ascension of our Lord, the apostles are in deep grief. How will they get along without him? What will they do? How will they make their decisions? Who will guide them? They are very sad, but they do what he told them to do. They stay in Jerusalem, they remain together and they pray and wait for the Spirit to come.

The city is full of people who are there to observe the Feast of Weeks, the celebration of the spring harvest fifty days after the Passover. This is why there are people from all over the known world in Jerusalem at that time, from all the areas surrounding the Mediterranean sea.

The apostles are gathered there, too, saddened but faithful, missing Jesus but doing exactly what he said to do—waiting and praying.

Suddenly, there is a powerful wind shaking the house where they are staying. It is the ruach, the desert wind, the wind of the Spirit. Tongues of fire dance over their heads and they burst out speaking all the languages in the known world, sharing the good news about Jesus so that everyone can hear and understand.

People flock there from the surrounding area, and they hear these simple men from Galilee speaking their own languages, speaking God’s peace and love heart to heart.

Some people think that Jesus’ followers are drunk. Peter explains what is happening and preaches and teaches from the prophets about the coming of the Spirit and about the ministry of Jesus. As a result, three thousand people are baptized. This is the beginning of what we now call the Church. This is the birthday of the Church.

Ever since that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit has been guiding us. In our epistle for today, Paul tells us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”

Like Jesus’ followers two thousand years ago, we have stayed together, we have prayed together, and once again we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the divine energy coursing through the vine and the branches, enlivening the Body of Christ, the Church. The Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world, Wherever we see a spirit of love, caring, unity, and respect, the Spirit is at work.

This has not been an easy journey. Thanks be to God for the grace that has guided us to this day. Thanks to each and every one of you for your faithfulness, determination, grace, patience, flexibility, resourcefulness, humor, love, gentleness. and caring.

Today, after over two thousand years, the Church celebrates the bestowing of the gifts of the Spirit, gifts of love, gifts of healing, gifts of energy to extend God’s love to all we meet, gifts of expressing that love from one heart to another so that we and others can feel and know God’s love.

Our Lord told us that the Spirit would lead us into all truth, and each of us and all of us together are still learning more of that truth. One of the truths that Jesus was trying to tell us is that, because he has gone to be with God and because the Spirit has come to us, Jesus can be with everyone at once, all over the world, everywhere in the creation. Loving God, may your shalom touch every heart.

Come, Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Shalom of God. Amen. Alleluia!

The Day of Pentecost May 31, 2020

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

Last week, we read that Jesus ascended to heaven and the disciples returned to the upper room in Jerusalem to pray and wait expectantly for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Jewish tradition, Pentecost, or the feast of Weeks, came fifty days after the first day of Passover. James D. Newsome tells us that the Jewish feast of  Pentecost marked the end of the celebration of the spring harvest. This is why there were devout Jews gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world—to celebrate the feast of Pentecost or Weeks.

But this feast was also the beginning of another season, which lasted until the feast of booths or tabernacles. On that feast, the people offered the first fruits of the fields to God. 

Newsome writes, “Pentecost/Weeks is thus a pregnant moment in the life of the people of God and in the relationship between the people and God. Or to put the matter more graphically, but also more accurately, Pentecost is the moment when gestation ceases and birthing occurs. Thus, it is both an end and a beginning, the leaving behind of that which is past, the launching forth into that which is only now beginning to be. Pentecost therefore is not a time of completion. It is moving forward into new dimensions of being, whose basic forms are clear but whose fulfillment has yet to be realized.”  (Newsome, Texts for Preaching Year A, p. 329.

The disciples are gathered. Jesus has told them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. A rushing wind sweeps in, the desert wind, the ruach, symbolizing the power of the Spirit. Flames of fire dance over the heads of the disciples, and they speak in all the languages of the known world. They are filled with the gifts of the Spirit.

We say that the feast of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The Spirit comes upon the disciples to shower gifts upon them and set their hearts on fire, and from that point, the new faith spreads over the known world.

In our reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we read his stirring description of the Church as the Body of Christ, with each member given different gifts, all of the gifts empowered by the same Spirit. All the members of the body are one, as Jesus and the  Father and the Spirit are one. We have all been baptized in the Spirit—everyone, no matter what our nationality or previous religion or gender or status in life, or race, or any of the other things we use to divide ourselves. All these distinctions are  gone—we are all one in Christ. Each person is precious in the sight of God. All members are equal as the Body builds itself up in love.

Newsome’s comment that Pentecost is a moment of birthing, a leaving behind of what is past, and a launching forth into something new which is just beginning, rings forth with the truth of the Holy Spirit.

“Peace be with you,” our Lord says in that first evening of the first Easter day. Shalom is the word he uses. He walks through walls of fear to say that word.

Here are some glimpses of shalom. Isaiah 11:6-8a “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, ad the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

Walter Brueggemann: “That persistent vision of joy, well being, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible, and a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness…It bears tremendous freight, the freight of a dream of God that resists all our tendencies to division, hostility, fear, … and misery. Shalom is the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation.  (Brueggemann,  Living Toward a Vision, p. 16.)

Retired Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori: “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.)

This past Friday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and other faith leaders called us to a service of lament and mourning for the more than 100,000. Americans who have died of Covid 19. We will also be mourning the death of George Floyd, who was killed this past Monday by a police officer in Minneapolis.  On May 24, Dr. Matthew W. Hughey, a member of the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, had an article in the Hartford Courant entitled “There’s another pandemic besides the corona virus that we must fight: racism.”  Ever since white people brought African people to America in 1619 to sell them as slaves, we have unsuccessfully grappled with what Jim Wallis of the Sojourners community calls “America’s Original Sin.” The full title of his 2017 book is “America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.” 

There is much to mourn and lament, so many lives lost to both pandemics. Dr. Martin Luther King has said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

If James Newsome is right about Pentecost being a time for birth,—and I think he is right—maybe, just maybe, with God’s grace, we can all come together and begin to listen to each other and learn from each other and find that bridge, or those many bridges, that Wallis is talking about. I pray that we can. I pray that we can live in peace as brothers and sisters. Because that is the vision our loving and healing God is calling us to fulfill. May we lean on the everlasting arms of God. May we trust in the power of God. May we bring all of God’s gifts of love and wisdom to heal both these pandemics.

May we now pray the Prayer for the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost 22 Proper 24B RCL October 21 2018

Job 38: 1-7, (34-41)
Psalm 104: 1-9, 25, 37c
Hebrews 5: 1-10
Mark 10: 35-45

In our opening reading last Sunday, Job was trying to find God but could not. Job had wanted to plead his case before God.

This Sunday, God speaks to Job out of a great whirlwind and asks Job questions. Where was Job when God created the earth? Can Job cause rain and lightning to come from the skies? Can Job provide food for lions? Can Job create humans and give them minds?

Like Job, we are human beings, and we know that the answer to all these questions is No. God has created the world and everything in it.  God has created the universe, galaxies, stars, and planets. The power and majesty of God shine through this passage. Like Job, we feel quite small and insignificant after reading these words. The transcendence of God is made clear in this passage from Job. God is far more powerful than we are. The majesty of God is almost frightening in this passage.

And yet, God is immanent. God is close to us. In Jesus, God has come to be among us as one of us. To think that the creator of the world cares enough to do this is mind-boggling, but it is true.

In our gospel for today, James and John, two of our Lord’s closest followers, are asking a favor from Jesus. They want to sit beside him in places of honor in his kingdom. Jesus asks them whether they will be able to drink the cup that he will have to drink—that is, his crucifixion. They have no idea what he is talking about and they say that, yes, they can drink that cup, and Jesus tells them that, yes they will suffer. We know that the new faith did undergo persecution.

But then the other ten apostles become angry that James and John have asked for this place of privilege, and Jesus tries to make clear the contrast between his kingdom and the kinds of kingdoms we humans tend to think about.

Jesus says that in the usual way of things, human rulers lord it over their subjects. Leaders are usually tyrants. But in the shalom of Jesus, this is not how it is going to be. In the shalom of Jesus, those who want to be leaders must be servants. The one who is called to be first of all must be the most loyal servant of all.

And our Lord says, “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Our Lord gave his life to free us from many forms of slavery.

What a profound difference this is from the question James and John were asking. They were asking for the places of honor and glory in an earthly kingdom  and Jesus was saying: the kingdom I am calling you to help build is not like that.

Our epistle also emphasizes this point. The writer of Hebrews begins by talking about the high priest in the temple in Jerusalem. This was someone who in that society had great power. Yet the writer talks about the weakness and frailty of the high priest, who must offer sacrifices for his own sins. The writer says that the high priest must be humble, not presuming to take the office but must be called by God, as Aaron was.

And then the writer talks about Jesus as our great high priest. In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul writes that our Lord “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant….”

Jesus was creating a new community based on love and servanthood. This is such a far cry from the way the world does things that it is difficult to get our minds around it. Even James and John fell back into the usual way of thinking about leadership. Jesus had to remind all his followers that leaders often lord it over their subjects and become tyrants over them.

But then our Lord says, “It is not so among you.” He tells us that serving others and serving each other is the mark of leadership in his community, his Body. People take care of each other and work together to get the job done. There is no vying for honor or power. There is a great deal of love for God and for each other and for all others. There is a desire to help and serve others. Those are the marks of our Lord’s community.

You and God have built such a community here.  No one is vying for honors. Everyone respects the dignity of every other person. Faithfulness, love, servanthood and service are to be found in abundance. Folks work efficiently and in good humor to get the job done, whatever it might be.

Somehow I find it extraordinarily difficult to imagine any member of Grace Church asking our Lord for the place of honor. And I think that is a greet blessing. Well done, good and faithful servants.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost  May 20, 2018

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Today we are celebrating the Feast of Pentecost. The followers of Jesus are waiting and praying. Their community has survived the betrayal of Judas. Under God’s guidance, they have chosen Matthias to complete the company of the apostles. They are all together in the house where they have been gathering, and suddenly there is a sound like the rushing wind as the Holy Spirit fills the house and flames of fire dance over their heads and they burst forth in all the languages of the known world the world around the Mediterranean Sea.

God is bringing forth a new thing, God is giving birth to a new community, God’s big family, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu puts it. The apostles are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of God’s love so that each person there hears this wonderful news in his or her native tongue.

And just to make sure that everyone understands, Peter completes this extraordinary event with a sermon. God is fulfilling the prophecy of Joel, that the people will see visions and dream dreams, and God will pour out God’s Spirit on all people.

In our gospel for today, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit will come, and will lead us into all truth. The Spirit is still leading us into the truth about the depth of God’s love for us and the call of our Lord to help him to build his shalom of peace and love.

In our epistle for today, Paul talks about this birth process of a new thing, a new vision for life, the vision rooted and grounded in God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.

God’s love is so great that when we cannot find words to pray, the Spirit prays for us “with sighs too deep for words.” When we become wordless, God hears our prayer and voices it for us.

We say that the Day of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. The apostles could have become swamped by sorrow and anger at the betrayal by Judas, but they did not. They asked God’s guidance and, with prayer and care they chose Matthias to complete God’s team called to spread the good news.

Today, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, giving the followers of Jesus the gift to be able to share the truth about Jesus. He came among us to share his love, healing, and forgiveness, his vision of peace and harmony and wholeness for all people and for the creation. And on Pentecost, the apostles received the gift to share that Good News with everyone who had come to Jerusalem from all over the world—to share that good news heart to heart—not just on an intellectual level, but in a way that could be received by the heart, the center of will and intention as well as thought, emotion, and intuition.

The Spirit continues to lead us into all the truth. Not just emotionally, not just intellectually, but on every level. What did our Lord mean when he called us to love each other as he and God love each other? As we answer this question for ourselves and walk that journey, we find that  barriers come down and we move closer and closer to his shalom, God’s deep peace and harmony over the whole wide earth and the entire creation.

As we go out into the world today, let us remember that the Holy Spirit has touched our minds and hearts and will and intention and understanding on every level and has called us to share God’s love on a deep level—heart to heart. Often we will share God’s love by actions rather than by words.  To paraphrase an old saying, “Share the good news of God’s love. Use words if necessary.” Amen.

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.

The Day of Pentecost Year C RCL May 15, 2016

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, (25-27)

On that first Pentecost, people were gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world. It was the Jewish feast of Pentecost, a festival much like our Thanksgiving. But scholars tell us that there were many Gentiles there as well.

Jesus had gone to be with God. He had told the apostles that he would not leave them comfortless, that he would send the Holy Spirit. They stayed together and prayed. They chose Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot so that the company of the apostles would be whole and ready to do ministry.

They were together in a house somewhere in Jerusalem when it happened. There was a sound like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the house. Tongues of fire rested over each of their heads. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in all of the known languages of that time.

Some people thought they were drunk, but Peter explained that the prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled, that God would pour out God’s spirit on everyone.

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. From this moment on, the apostles will be traveling around the Mediterranean basin planting communities of followers of Jesus wherever they go.

Our epistle for today is brief but powerful. We have received a spirit of adoption. We are children of God. Because of the life and ministry of our Lord, we have been brought so close to God that we can call God Daddy or Dad or Mama or Mom. Because of our Lord, we have an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe.

Our gospel is part of Jesus’ last teaching session with the apostles. Philip says to Jesus, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied,” And Jesus tells Philip and us that, in seeing him, we have seen God. Jesus is God living a human life. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. The almost unbelievable quality of love which Jesus shows to all people is God’s love. Jesus and God are one.

Then Jesus tells us that “the one who believes in me will do the works that I do.” In other words, the fact that we bier in Jesus means that we are called to carry on his ministry here on earth. We are called to reach out in love to others; we are called to feed the hungry and to give clothes and shelter to those who need them. We are called to follow Jesus as our model, to live as he lived.

Jesus tells the apostles that he will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with us, to lead and guide and energize us .

After this teaching time with the apostles, called his Last Discourse, Jesus was crucified. We know that one of the apostles, John, was there at the foot of the cross. We do not know where the others were. It was the saddest day in the history of the world.

But then people began seeing the risen Christ. Two of them walking to Emmaus saw him. He appeared to Peter and the others on the beach. He came through the locked doors of the upper room. Gradually they realized that he was alive. And they gathered as he had told them to do, and they waited together, and they prayed.

It must have been very strange for them to realize that he was alive. More and more people had encounters with him. And then he ascended to be with God. He told them that he had to do this so that the Spirit could come to them.

It is one of the mysteries of our faith that, because of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is alive in every corner of the creation at all times. Jesus is here with us now, and he is with people all over the world.

When the Holy Spirit filled the apostles, they were able to share the Good News in every language. They were able to speak of God’s love in such a way that their message reached deep into the hearts of all the people gathered there.

That message has come down to us over the centuries. God loves us so much that God has adopted us as God’s children. God loves the whole big human family.

I would like to ask you to help me end this sermon by singing together an ancient chant. The words date back to a Latin text from the 9th century. The tune was written by John Henry Hopkins Jr. and was published in 1865. John Henry Hopkins Jr was the son of our first Bishop, John Henry Hopkins. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont in 1839 and his master’s degree from UVM in 1845. He taught music at General Theological Seminary from 1855-57, was rector of Trinity Church in Plattsburgh, New York from 1872-1876 and of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania from 1876 to 1887. He delivered the eulogy at the funeral of President Ulysses S, Grant in 1845.

This beautiful hymn calls on the Holy Spirit to come to us and fill us with the gifts of the spirit.

May the Holy Spirit fill us this day and always.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost  Year B RCL May 24, 2015

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104:25-35, 37b
Romans 8:22-27
John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15

Today is the end of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. This is the Feast of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, giving them the gift to share the good news about Jesus in a way that could be understood by people from all over the known world. The power of this event is almost overwhelming. So, let us take a look backward and approach it with prayer and thought.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is talking with the apostles. He is trying to tell them everything they will ever need to know in order to carry on his mission. He has told them that he is the Vine and they are the branches,  and that his commandment is that they love one another. He has also talked about how he and they will be persecuted. Now he is telling them that he is going to the Father, and that he will send the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that the Spirit “will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” Charles Cousar writes of this passage,”The world has its own judgments of sin, justice, and judgment. It constantly rewards those who measure up to its standards and norms and punishes those who transgress them. Jesus defied the reigning structures and ended up as one of those punished. The Spirit will expose the world’s ways of doing things.”

Jesus tells us that the Spirit will lead us into all truth. This is not a black-and-white truth, but a truth deeply rooted in God’s compassion and justice. As Christians, we seek to know God’s truth in the context of community, prayer, and responsible scholarship.

Jesus tells the disciples and us that he has to go away in order that the Spirit may come to us. When he ascends to be with the Father, the disciples feel abandoned and confused. He has told them to stay together and to pray, and they faithfully follow his direction. But that time was a crisis for the Church. If they had not kept the faith and remained together in prayer in the face of Jesus’ departure, we would not be here.

This is something that is important for us to remember in this post-Christendom era. Christianity is not the center of people’s lives at this point in history. Attendance is dwindling in all the major denominations. In the past, we would look for programs to bring people in. Now we are called to be missional, to go out into the world to do mission, to meet people where they are. Like the original disciples, we are called to be faithful in our time.

In our brief passage from his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains up to this point and that everyone who is trying to follow Christ has also been struggling to give birth to something new. We and the creation are struggling toward the time when we will reach our full identity in Christ and the time when our Lord’s shalom will be complete.

Meanwhile, we gather as the disciples did so many years ago, and we try to “Pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ.” We try to live as our Lord wants us to live. This takes a great deal of prayer, and it requires grace from God. And here, St. Paul gives us one of the greatest gifts in the Bible.

Have you ever gotten to the point where you could not find the words to pray? The point where you did not know what to pray for? I certainly have.  St. Paul tells us that, when we get to that point, the Spirit prays for us. He says, “The Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”  So, when we reach those points when we just can’t find words to pray, we can let the Spirit take over and pray for us.

Now we arrive at Pentecost. All the people are gathered in Jerusalem because this is fifty days after Passover. It is the feast of weeks, the end of the celebration of the spring harvest. The followers of Jesus are all together in one place. They have hung together. They are praying. They have no idea what will happen. Jesus said that he would send the Spirit, but the disciples are not at all sure what that means. Some of them are still in profound grief because Jesus has left them. I think that some of them had their doubts about what would happen next. The important thing is that they were doing what he had asked them to do, no matter how they felt, no matter how grief-stricken they were, no matter how much fear they were feeling about the future. They were together, and they were praying.

What happens is far beyond anything they could have imagined.  There is a violent wind. Tongues of fire dance over their heads. They are filled with the Spirit and they speak in all the known languages of the world. Something new is coming to birth in the world. They had been gathered in that house, probably with quite a bit of fear and apprehension. Now, they are empowered by the Spirit and sent out into the world to tell everyone about Jesus.

Some people think the disciples are drunk. But Peter tells them, No, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is a new dawn. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

We call this the birthday of the Church because the Spirit has come to give the followers of Jesus the power to speak of Jesus’ love and healing in a way that can be deeply understood, heart to heart, by every person on earth.

Jesus is not physically present in the way that he was when he was walking the face of the earth with his followers. Because he has sent the Holy Spirit, he can now be everywhere in the creation. All around the world, faithful people are his hands reaching out to heal, his lips speaking forgiveness, his eyes seeing into the depths of people’s needs. We are his Body, and we are empowered by the Spirit just as his disciples were two thousand years ago.

May we go forth in the power of the Spirit to share Christ’s love, healing, and forgiveness with the people we meet every day, and to build the shalom of Christ.  Amen.

Day of Pentecost Year A RCL June 8. 2014

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

In our gospel for this amazing day, it is the evening of the first Easter.  Jesus’ followers are terrified. They have watched him die an agonizing and humiliating death.  Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb and found it empty. The risen Jesus has appeared to her.  Peter and John have gone to the empty tomb.

They do not know what to think, so they have instinctively turned to prayer. They have gathered in the room where they have met so many times before. The doors are locked for fear of the authorities. Jesus comes right through all those walls. He gives them and us his peace, his shalom. Then he breathes the Holy Spirit into them. He had told them that he would have to leave them but that he would give them the Spirit.

Forty days after this time, Jesus ascends into heaven to be with God. Again he tells them that he will send the Hoy Spirit, Again, they wait and pray, probably in the same house where they have gathered.  The Spirit comes to them in tongues of fire dancing over their heads and as the desert ruach, the wind that shapes and molds the desert landscape, Suddenly, these simple Galileans, who have never taken a foreign language course at Middlebury and have never heard of Rosetta Stone, burst forth in all the know, in languages of the world, meaning all the languages of the Mediterranean basin. My way of expressing this is that the followers of Jesus are given the gift to speak heart to heart to all these people who have come to Jerusalem for the  Feast of Pentecost.

Their message is the love and healing and new life that Jesus brings to all of us.

Some people think the apostles are drunk, but Peter explains that this event has been foretold by the prophet Joel.

We speak of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church. This is the day on which the Spirit descended with many gifts as Jesus had promised.

In our epistle for today, Paul tells us why these gifts of the Spirit have been given to us. They are given to us in order that we may be one. Paul reminds us that we are members of the Body of Christ.  We are members in the sense of being arms and legs and hands and feet. Each of us depends on all the others. None of us can do ministry alone. No gift is better than another. No person is better than another. Every gift and every person is essential to the health of the body.

Paul talks about the gifts—gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, and we can add playing the organ, doing the books, paying the bills, mowing the lawn, cleaning, keeping the building in shape, teaching, mentoring, insuring accessibility, preserving our beautiful earth, raising children, being grandparents, serving our communities, helping people in all kinds of ways, gardening, community organizing, being good neighbors. The list of gifts goes on and on. Every good thing that happens in this world and in our lives is a gift from God.

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.

Why are we here?

First, we are here in order to spread good news, the good news that there is always hope. That life has a meaning. That God is real and loving and present. That Jesus has faced every challenge, even death, and has come through it stronger, and that we can face every challenge with his help. That, sadly, we live in a fallen creation full of brokenness of all kinds, disease, famine, war and suffering, and we are called to help our brothers and sisters who are enduring these things. And, most importantly, God will bring in God’s shalom and make the creation whole, and that we are called to help in that work,

Secondly, we have received the gifts of the Spirit, and that means that, as the Body of Christ, we are called to be one with each other. Yes, we have many differences. There are many gifts, but we are never to lord it over each other. We are called to cherish each other as God cherishes us. No matter what differences we may have, we are one in Christ. We can always look to him to call us together.

Thirdly, we are called to do mission. We are called to reach out, to go out into the world and be there for people as Christ would be there. Our diocese is about to embark on a year of discernment of what we are called to do to serve Christ. There will be a meeting in Rutland on June 29 to begin this work. I hope that many of us will be able to attend. There will also be a meeting for Wardens and Treasurers to be announced at a later date.

The Holy Spirit is God at work in us, in the Church, and in the world. As I said earlier, every time a good thing happens anywhere, the Spirit is at work.

May we be one as Jesus and God are one. May we celebrate the gifts of the Spirit among us. May we spread the good news of Jesus as we go about our daily lives, in actions and attitudes as well as in words.  Amen.

The Day of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21
Psalm 104: 24-34, 35b
Romans 8: 14-17
John 14: 8-17 (25-27)

Jesus has told the disciples that he will send an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to lead them jnto all truth. They are in Jerusalem. It is the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover. People are gathered from all around the Mediterranean Sea, from all the known world.

The disciples are waiting, praying, open, expectant. The Spirit comes to them as a mighty wind, like the desert ruach, which molds and shapes the sand. Flames dance over the disciples’ heads That is why we wear red today. Suddenly these Galileans burst out with all the languages of the world, speaking heart to heart, dissolving all differences, sharing the Good News about Jesus in languages each member of the multitude gathered for the feast can understand.

Some people are deeply touched. Others are dubious. They think the disciples are drunk. Peter preaches an amazing sermon, telling them that God is pouring out God’s spirit on all flesh, as the prophet Joel foretold.

This year, we have been focusing on God’s family, the whole human family—how God breaks through humanly constructed barriers and makes us one. The Feast of Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, and we are all called to extend God’s love to all the world.

In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul writes, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” So many religious systems have presented God as someone very scary, someone who is keeping track of all our sins and errors, who is, as David Brown says, “out to gunch us.”

This is not the God we worship. We are beloved children of God. We can call God “Abba,” Daddy, or Mommy, Papa or Mom. Remember how our gospel for last week told us how God loves us as much as  God loves God’s son, Jesus? God is a God of love, not a God of fear or hatred. Let us hope and pray that religious leaders will stop preaching fear of a God who is out to punish us. God’s family includes everyone. That’s what the Feast of Pentecost is all about.

In our gospel, we are privileged to be with the disciples and Jesus in the Upper Room. Jesus has washed their feet. Judas has left to carry out the betrayal. Time is growing short.

Perhaps Philip senses this. Sometimes when we are looking into the face of God, we sense that we are confronting a great mystery, something that we can never hope to fully understand, because it is so big and so deep and so complex, and our minds are not large enough to grasp some things. Which one of us can grasp the depth and breadth of God’s love? This may be what Philip is feeling. He’s trying to get Jesus to boil everything down to something simple and clear. So he says,  “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus says, “If you have seen me, you have seen God. God is with you now. Look at my life, all the things I have done while we have been together.” And I imagine they reflect on this, his teaching, and healing, and preaching—the love, the patience, the gentleness, the courage, everything.  I think they and we can see that Jesus is God walking the face of the earth, living a human life. And now Jesus is saying that he wants us to do the same things that he has done. He is saying to us and them, “Live as I live, do as I do.” And he says that the disciples and we will do even greater things than he has done because he is going to send the Spirit to help us.  And then Jesus gives us his peace, not the fleeting peace that the world can sometimes give, but his shalom, his vision of the wholeness and the healing of creation, the shalom that he is calling us to build. Where everyone has enough food and water, has decent shelter, clothing, medical care and good work to do, the shalom in which we honor and heal the creation that God has entrusted to our care.

God’s Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts and tools we need to share God’s love with the world, to speak God’s love heart to heart, and remember, the heart in Judeo-Christian thought is not only the emotions, but the will, the mind, the ethical center in each of us.

As wonderful as it was to have Jesus here on earth as a human being, he had to leave and send us the Spirit. When he was on earth, he traveled around a very small area. True, he touched hearts and lives everywhere he went. But the Feast Of Pentecost tells us that now he is everywhere. Wherever two or three gather in his name, he is there. Sometimes sharing God’s love doesn’t mean speaking in verbal languages, as happened on the first Pentecost. Sometimes sharing God’s love means listening. Sometimes it means tending to someone’s wounds, either physical or emotional or spiritual. Sometimes it’s planting a garden or building a school or helping a group of women turn their weaving into a business. Whatever it may be that we are called to do, today is the day we celebrate God’s giving us all the gifts we need to do it.

Pentecost didn’t happen just once, It’s happening all the time, as we realize that we have gifts we didn’t even know we had, and as we use those gifts.

On this wonderful feast day, may we thank God for all the love and all the gifts which God is constantly pouring out. Thank you, Lord, for making us your Body here on earth and for giving us the gifts to share your love, healing, and forgiveness.

Amen.