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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 12, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 19, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Easter Day April 4, 2021

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

It is very early. The sun has just begun to rise. We have no idea how we’re going to move that stone. We saw him die. It was horrible. That death is constantly and overwhelmingly in our thoughts.

When we arrive there, the stone is gone! An angel is sitting inside the tomb. He knows everything that has happened. He tells us that Jesus is risen. He is not in the tomb. We look in, and the tomb is empty except for the angel. 

The angel tells us to go and tell Peter and the others that Jesus is going ahead of us to Galilee. We look at the angel and at each other. We remember that Jesus had said something about rising from the dead. We run from the tomb, amazed and terrified at the same time. How can this be happening? We have seen so much death lately that it is difficult to believe in life. We tell Peter and the others that Jesus is alive. We head for Galilee. Then we hear stories.

Two people are walking to Emmaus and there he is, opening the scriptures to them. They don’t even realize who he is until he breaks bread with them. 

Peter and the others are fishing and there he is on the beach, cooking bread and fish. Making breakfast for them. More and people are seeing him and talking with him. He is alive! The word spreads. There is hope.

We here in 2021 have had a year filled with death and fear. So many people have died of Covid 19. So many people have lost their jobs. So many millions of people are hurting. Every day we watch the news and hear about these tragic deaths. Death is very real to us as it was to the followers of Jesus centuries ago. Maybe we can even imagine how they felt when they got to the tomb and found it empty. The text tells us that “terror and amazement had seized them.” The power of death was so real to them that they wondered whether he could have risen.

Paul tells us that he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and that encounter transformed him. Our lives have been transformed, too.

In the midst of all the death and darkness of this pandemic, the central truth of our faith rises like a new dawn. He is risen. He is alive. He is here with us right now, bringing hope, healing, faith, and his loving and energizing presence. His presence transforms us and changes everything. Beyond all the death and suffering, there is profound and unwavering hope. There is new life.

Thanks to him. we have known this all along, He has been with us, leading us and guiding us.  We have felt his presence in many ways: a word of encouragement, some wise direction, a healing touch. He has been with us, calling us each by name, leading us to the still water where we can sit down, take a break, and drink deeply of the living water which refreshes and renews us.   He has led us to the green pastures where we can nourish ourselves with his presence. 

We may not like Zoom very much, but, thanks to our tech ministers, Beth and jan, at least we have been able to worship virtually, stay in touch on some level, pray for each other, and support each other. Somehow, in ways that we will never be able to understand, he has been with us there, too, helping us over the times of discouragement, letting us know he is with us, encouraging us to keep the faith, run the race, and hang in there. He has also reminded us that we are not alone, We have him and that great cloud of witnesses, all the saints who have gone before us, are here now, and will be coming after us. God has a big family, and we are all encouraging each other.

Christ is alive! He is alive in us and we in him! Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Easter Day  April 12, 2020

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1=2. 14-24
Colossians 3:1-4
Matthew 28:11-10

It is dawn. We are going to the tomb together. We have to make sure to get his body to a safe place. It is always better to do these hard things together. 

Suddenly there is a great earthquake. An angel of the Lord catapults from heaven and rolls away that huge stone. We were wondering how we would ever move it. The angel pulsates with light and power. We are terrified.

The first thing he does is to tell us not to be afraid. And then he tells us that Jesus has risen and is going ahead of us to Galilee. We start to run back to tell the others. Never have I felt such fear and yet such deep joy.

Suddenly, right in front of us there he is! Of all things, he says, “Greetings!” as if we had met him on a Sunday stroll in the park. We hug him and tell him how much we love him.

And then he says the same thing the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” Then he tells us to go and tell the others to go to Galilee and we will see him

As we run to tell the others, we’re babbling away, “He’s alive! He was dead. We saw it. But now he is truly alive! We’re going to see him again in Galilee!” We keep saying it over and over until we get to the others. Then we tell them. And then we head to Galilee.

Vermont is a lot like Galilee. Out of the way. Small. Of little account. Away from the centers of power. Sensible. Independent. A place where good ideas can flourish. A place where people take care of each other as our food shelf volunteers are doing so faithfully.

Jesus’ ministry began in Galilee. Galilee was a relatively safe place for Jesus. And that is where he gathered his faithful followers after he had risen. He had a fish fry with them on the beach. He appeared to them here and there until they realized he had conquered death and every kind of brokenness, and that he was alive. He is alive. He called them and he calls us to be his living body here on earth. He calls us to share his love with everyone—his love, his hope, his forgiveness, his healing.

We’re still doing our social distancing and all the other things that our wise leaders and scientists are telling us to do. It’s the only way we can beat this pandemic. When people ask me how I feel in the midst of this, the only word that comes to me is that it is weird. I would love to be with you all and hug each and every one of you. I imagine each of you is feeling the same way.

That can’t happen today. It may take a long while before that can happen. We need to trust the science. Once again, I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine.

In spite of the pandemic, and social distancing, we are together. Beth and jan have taught us to Zoom, which has been a great help. Even without Zoom or Face Time, we are bound together by his love and his life. We are alive in him. He is alive in us. Nothing can get in the way of his love. Nothing can get in the way of the new life which he gives us every day. 

There are at least two major messages from our gospel today. The first one is, “Do not be afraid.” Both the angel and our Lord remind us of this crucial message. Faith is the other side of fear. Faith is fear that has said its prayers. Our Lord is calling us not to be afraid and to have faith. And the other message is the power of Easter, Nothing can or will ever change the meaning of Easter.  Our Lord has conquered death itself. We are following him We are an Easter people.

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

 

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!

Easter Day March 27, 2016

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

When the women walked to the tomb early on that first Easter morning, they had just witnessed one of the most horrifying events one could imagine. They had spent three years with Jesus, and, as they watched him and listened to him, they realized that he was different from anyone they had ever met.

They followed him, and the group of followers became larger and larger. He brought healing and hope to everyone he met. He would touch people and they would rise up from their mats where they had lain crippled for years, or he would make a poultice from mud and spit and put it on their eyes and they would see after a lifetime of blindness. He fed thousands at one time.

But what he really wanted to do was to give them and us another way to live, a way based entirely on love and service. He made this clear when he washed their feet at that last Passover and when he said that in this simple meal of bread and wine he would be with us forever.

As they walked to that tomb, their feet dragging with fatigue and  dashed hopes, those women may have thought that his vision for the world, his vision for our lives and our life together, had died.

Have you ever really believed in something or given your all to something or someone, and then realized it was over? Maybe that someone was not who they professed to be. Maybe the vision had some fatal flaws which had not been apparent at the outset. Most of us have had experiences like this. Someone or something we felt passionately about—a person or a dream or a project or a vision comes to an and, falls apart, dies.

And we feel as though it’s all over for us.

What’s the use of trying to go on, we wonder. There’s nothing to live for. These women walking to the tomb were suffering deep grief because they had lost a person whom they loved deeply, a person who had changed their lives and given them hope and a purpose in life. Jesus had died, and they may well have felt that all their hopes had died with him.

When they got to that tomb and found the stone rolled away, and went in, and found no body, they began to wonder. And then, when the two angels reminded them of what Jesus had said and told them that he had risen—they couldn’t get back to the others fast enough to tell them this good news.

Most of us have had experiences of profound loss and disappointment, something that has made our world fall apart, something that has made us lose hope. That is how those women felt, That is how all of Jesus’ close followers felt.

Most of us have also had our own experiences of Good Friday. Our Lord has wrestled with the forces of death and has lost the battle. We go back to the upper room and pray and wonder, what next?

But we have to go and prepare the body for burial. The Sabbath is over and we just have to give him a decent burial. And when we get there, the landscape of our lives is completely transformed.

He told us there was a different way to go  about things. He told us there was a different way to live. And he has just proved that that way leads to new life. It leads to his kingdom his shalom of peace, harmony, and wholeness.

Most of us have had our Good Fridays and most of us have had our Easter mornings. We go to the tomb to prepare the body and it is not there. He is risen.

Yes, the world is full of violence. There has been a terrorist attack in Brussels. Refugees are streaming out of Syria and Afghanistan trying to save their children from the ravages of war. There is violence in our own country as well. Here, and all over the world, people are hungry. They need shelter; they need clothing; they need medical care; they need hope.

We can look around us and think there is no hope. that we can do nothing. But that is not what our Lord is doing. He is risen. He is calling us to follow the commandment he gave us at the Last Supper—to love and serve others as he loves and serves us.

On this Easter morning, March 27, 2016, we are deeply aware that there is much brokenness and violence in this world. At the same time, we must remember that he is risen and he is in our midst. He has a vision, and he is calling us to help him bring in his shalom.

I quote our Presiding Bishop retired, Katherine Jeffers Schori: “The word ‘shalom’ is usually translated as ‘peace,’ but it’s a far richer and deeper understanding of peace than we usually recognize. It’s not just a 1970s era hippie holding up two fingers to greet a friend—‘Peace, bro.’ It isn’t just telling two arguers to get over their differences. Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished, where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.

“…Building the reign of God is a great and bold adventure, and it is the only route to being fully alive. If we don’t set out to change the world, who will?” (Jefferts Schori, A Wing and A Prayer, pp. 33 and 35.)

Christ is risen. Christ is alive. He lives in us and we in him. Let us help him build his kingdom, his shalom.   Amen.

Easter Day April 5, 2015

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

We were so happy to see the crowd welcome him. Then we shared the meal, and when he took the bread and wine and said the blessings over them, he told us this was his body and blood and that we should do this in remembrance of him. He had been saying that he would die. Our hearts sank.

Then we went to the garden, and he struggled. We fell asleep. Judas betrayed him. Jesus was arrested. Peter denied him three times. He felt so terrible about that. But when he and Jesus met later on, that was all forgiven.

And then the trial. Pilate wanted to let him go, but the crowd wanted Pilate to free Barabbas. And then the horror of the cross. And his mother right there. How she did it I will never know.

And then he was dead. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling Council, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He took a huge risk. He could have been killed on the spot. Once Pilate made sure that Jesus was actually dead, he let Joseph take that beloved body and put it into Joseph’s own tomb. There were some people in high places who were secret followers of Jesus, but Joseph was the only one who stepped forward to help. Everyone was scared. If they could kill Jesus, they could kill any one of us.

We spent the night in the room where we had gathered. We prayed and cried. His kingdom would have been so different. How could this awful thing have happened, we wondered. He could have raised up an army, but he refused to do it. Through his own power he could have killed them all. But that is not his way. That night, as we mourned, many of us were so angry we almost wished he had killed them all. But we know that he would never have done that. As he hung in agony on that cross, he forgave the people who were killing him.

We had had such high hopes for a different kind of future, a different kind of world. Now those hopes were gone.

We got up early in the morning to go to the tomb and anoint his body. We had no idea how we were going to move that huge stone. We really didn’t want to get there and see his beloved body dead. It took all our strength and prayers to put one foot in front of the other and drag ourselves there. But when we arrived, that enormous stone was rolled away, and there was a young man there—I think he might have been an angel—and he told us that Jesus had risen and we should go to Galilee and find him.

We couldn’t believe it. We had been filled with hopelessness, but the tomb was empty. As we talked about it later, we remembered that, as we got near the tomb and saw the stone rolled away, we began to feel his presence. We knew that it wasn’t just us. We knew that he was with us. Jesus was alive. Jesus is alive.

People began meeting him—on the road to Emmaus, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He came right through the walls of the upper room where we kept gathering to pray. Thomas had had his doubts, but, when he saw Jesus, those doubts evaporated.

Centuries have passed. Millions upon millions of people have chosen to follow Jesus. You are among those people. You gather just as we did all those centuries ago. Because he is risen and he is alive in you and you are alive in him, he is just as close to you as he was to us. He is with you every moment.

You are part of his risen body, You have been given the gift of new life in him. Keep sharing that life and hope and love with others. Keep up the good work!

Alleluia! The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.

 

Easter Year A RCL April 20, 2014

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

They said I had seven demons. All I know is that I was very ill. I met Jesus and he gave me my life back. I had to follow him.

It was amazing to watch him. He truly loved people, and they knew it. He met them as they were, rich and poor, young and old. He taught them, healed them, treasured every one of them. People flocked to him. But his love was a threat to the people in power.

We went with him to Jerusalem. Judas betrayed him. Peter denied him. Peter felt awful about that, but later he and Jesus had that wonderful reconciliation on the beach. There was the questioning by Pilate and then one horror after another.

We stood at the foot of the cross. I don’t know how his mother endured it. She is so courageous. And, at last, he died. Two members of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, had been secret followers of Jesus. They risked their lives and asked permission to take his body down off the cross and place it in Joseph’s new tomb.

We all gathered to cry and pray. Now it was really over. All our hopes were gone. We would never see him again. I cried most of the night.

Then I realized I just had to go to the tomb. I could not stay away any longer. I had watched him die. I couldn’t do anything then and I couldn’t do anything now, but I just had to go.

When I got there, the stone was rolled away. I ran and got Peter and John. Jesus’ body was gone. We were devastated. Peter and John went back to where we were staying.

I stayed and the tears flowed. It broke my heart to think that some thing had happened to his body. Two angels asked me why I was crying. I suppose they were trying to comfort me. I tried to put it into words.

And then I saw someone I thought was the gardener. I thought maybe he had taken Jesus’ body away. But then he called my name. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize him until that moment. Anyway, I finally realized that it was Jesus. He was alive! There he was, standing right in front of me!

I wanted to hug him. But he asked me not to hold onto him. Oh, that hurt! I was so shocked I could hardly breathe.

Much later, I realized that, now that he is risen, he is with all of us all over the world. I couldn’t hold onto him. We couldn’t keep him in Jerusalem or even in Galilee.

Then, I went to Peter and John to tell them, “I have seen the Lord!” He had journeyed all the way through the hatred and brokenness and darkness and transformed it into love, wholeness, light, and new life.

He is with you. He is with me. He is with each of us and all of us in a powerful way that can transform our lives. I have spent my life absorbing that reality, and I imagine that you have done the same.

When darkness surrounds us; when hope flickers and fades; when all seems lost, let us remember that moment when we are standing in front of that empty tomb and Jesus calls our name and we know that he is risen; he is with us; the light is showing over the horizon, and he is here among us.

We have seen the Lord. He is risen! Amen.

Palm Sunday—April 13, 2014

Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Philippians 2:5-11
Matthew 26:14-27:66

Our reading from Isaiah is the Third Servant Song. The servant is called to “sustain the weary with a word.” He is encouraging the exiles in Babylon to have hope, to know that God is with them. Isaiah tells the people that God is more powerful than any empire. As Christians we see our Lord as the suffering servant.

Paul writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Paul is calling us to think like Jesus, to model our attitudes and behavior after Jesus’ life.

And then, in the gospel reading, we are with Jesus in the garden, Judas betrays him, Peter denies him. Pilate interrogates him, Barabbas is released, and one horror leads to another. At the end of it all, our Lord is dead.

The Roman Empire used crucifixion to terrify people and keep them under control. Our Lord, who spent his entire life helping people, healing them, teaching them, giving many words to the weary, giving people hope, so terrified the authorities of his time, both secular and religious, that they had to kill him. They had to destroy him because he opened up new ways of thinking, new possibilities that would have threatened their power and domination.

Jesus came to offer a whole new way of living, a way, not of domination, but of compassion and caring. To paraphrase Paul, “Let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.” This Holy Week, may we focus on the power of Christ’s love. May we follow his example of servanthood. May we help and support others. May we focus on sharing his love, his hope, his encouragement. We are here today because his love is stronger than any earthly power. Amen.