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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 5C May 15, 2022

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In our gospel for today, Jesus has gathered with his disciples for the last supper. He has washed their feet. He has told them that they and we are called to be servants. He has said that he will be going to be with God, and that one of them will betray him. At this point in the narrative, Judas has left, and Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Biblical scholar Charles B. Cousar writes, “A new and unparalleled model for love has been given the disciples….In Jesus the disciples have a concrete, living expression of what love is. Love can no longer be trivialized or reduced to an emotion or debated over as if it were a philosophical virtue under scrutiny. Jesus now becomes the distinctive definition of love.”

Cousar says that this “new commandment” of Jesus also means that eternal life is not something to be realized in the future. It begins now. He writes, “At the center of the new era is the community established by Jesus, the intimate though at times unfaithful family, whom he affectionately addresses as ‘little children.’ What holds the family together and makes it stand above all the rest is the love members have for one another—dramatic, persistent love like the love Jesus has for them.” (Cousar, Texts for preaching, p. 311.

A short time after Jesus has given this new commandment and sealed it with his death, resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we catch up with Peter. He has been called to meet with some believers in Jerusalem because they are upset that he is ministering to Gentiles.

And Peter tells his amazing story. He was in Joppa. He went up on the roof to pray, and he had a vision of all kinds of food, clean and unclean, being lowered from heaven as on a sheet. Then the voice of God said, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter objected strenuously. “Lord, I have always followed the dietary laws. I would never eat anything that was unclean!” The voice of God came a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 

God has just thrown the dietary laws out the window. This happens three times. We recall that the number three signifies completeness. The dietary laws are now gone. Peter has lived his life by these laws, and now they are erased.

But the Holy Spirit is not finished. Peter has no time to think this over. Three men from Caesarea arrive. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them without question and to make no distinction between himself and them. Walls are tumbling down all over the place. Six brothers are with him, and they accompany him to Caesarea. 

When they reach Caesarea, they go into the home of a man named Cornelius. He is a centurion in the Roman army, a devout man who loves God and gives generously to the people. An angel has told Cornelius to call Peter to come to see him.

As Peter begins to speak, the Holy Spirit falls on everyone gathered in Cornelius’ house, and Peter remembers how Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Peter concludes that the Holy Spirit can be given to everyone. He says, “If then God  gave the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” When the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem hear this, they are silenced.

Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he loves us has created a new community, and in the Book of Acts we see that community growing by leaps and bounds. Walls come down, barriers are broken, lives are transformed. Love is spreading faster than they can keep up with it. The Holy Spirit is at work.

Two thousand years later, we are that community. Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, is leading us in living and walking the Way of Love. He says “If it’s about love, it’s about God. If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”

To return to the story of Peter, once the Gentiles in Cornelius’ home have received the holy Spirit, Peter asks, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he orders the people to be baptized. Then he and the brothers with him stay at the home of Cornelius for several days. They will be spending time together sharing their faith and building a larger and stronger community of believers.

We are called to help God to create God’s Beloved Community, a community where all people are accepted as precious and equal. When Peter was having his vision of God up on the roof, walls came down and divisions between people were erased. When the people in Cornelius’ home received the Holy Spirit, Peter realized that they should be baptized. As Paul said so many years ago. “In Christ, there is no slave nor free, no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, help us to love each other and all others as you have loved us. In your holy Name. Amen. Alleluia!

Easter 5C May 19, 2019

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, which I like to call the newspaper of the Jesus Movement, Peter is meeting with the members of the new community of faith in Jerusalem. Those who are convinced that followers of Jesus must follow every letter of the law are upset that Peter is associating with Gentiles. 

This is a pivotal moment in the history of the new community of faith. Are they going to decide that they must stick to their honored traditions and admit only those who follow the law, or are they going to open up the doors to everyone? Are they going to be exclusive or inclusive?

Those who are questioning why Peter would associate with Gentiles are sincere and good people. Peter himself used to feel as they do, that this new faith is only for his own people. But the question for us in every age is: What is God calling us to do?

Peter shares the experience he had up on the roof when he was praying. God showed Peter that people can eat any foods they wish. The dietary laws have been transcended. And there is something else: God has called Peter to go and share the good news with Gentiles. He has just gone to the home of Cornelius the Centurion, and the Holy Spirit has fallen on the people gathered there. Peter and his team have baptized these people because God has given them the gifts of the Spirit.

God is doing a new thing. God is pouring out the Holy Spirit on all people. In this reading, God is showing the early disciples and us that God has a big family. It includes everyone. If those followers of Jesus had not listened to Peter and heard God’s message, we would not be here today. Thank God that Peter and the people gathered in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago listened for God’s voice. May we, too, listen carefully and hear the voice of God.

As we consider our reading from the Book of Revelation, we remember that this book was written in code to inspire and energize the followers of Jesus who were being persecuted. These visions of God and Jesus being worshipped by a great multitude of saints carried our ancestors in the faith through trials and tribulations that we could never imagine.

Just as he spoke to those faithful saints centuries ago, our Lord is telling us, “See, I am making all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” Our Lord will nourish us with living water. He will give us the food of everlasting life. He will help us to meet every challenge.

Our gospel for today is brief, but so powerful. Judas has just gone out to betray Jesus. Our Lord is telling us that by his going through the horror of the cross, God will be glorified. And that is what we Christians believe, that Our Lord has conquered all forms of brokenness, even death. The paradox of the cross is something we all meditate on our whole lives. Out of darkness and suffering and pain, and death, God brings wholeness and hope, and new life. We will never understand this entirely. It is the greatest mystery of our faith. We keep praying about it. Every Good Friday we contemplate the depths of this mystery. In our lives we experience how the presence of God and Jesus and the Spirit can lead us through challenges that we could never have endured without them, and that from these experiences of suffering, we become stronger and more compassionate. From these deathly experiences, we grow more completely into new life.

Jesus is leaving his followers. He will die. They will be without him. They will miss him terribly. But then, as we know, he will appear in a room with locked doors; he will suddenly be there with two followers walking to Emmaus and they will finally realize who he is when they share the bread; he will be there on the beach with a fish and bread breakfast when Peter and the others have been out all night fishing and have caught nothing.

And what is his message to them as he prepares to leave them? What is his message to us, as he hosts this meal for us, as he leads us on the journey of faith?

It’s the message we heard on Maundy Thursday as he washed our feet. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God is doing a new thing. God is dissolving boundaries. The new faith is for everyone. We have a powerful message: God loves everyone.

Yesterday, delegates from all over Vermont gathered in Burlington to elect a new bishop to be a servant leader for the Episcopal Church in Vermont. We have been praying about this for weeks. Our committees have done an excellent job in expressing who we are and in helping us to meet and get to know three wonderful, faithful priests who have felt a call to be the eleventh Bishop of Vermont.

As you may know, we gathered in prayer, and, with God’s help, we called the Rev. Dr. Shannon McVean-Brown to be our Bishop-Elect.                                                                         

Please keep Shannon and her family in your prayers.

On a sturdy foundation of scripture, tradition, and reason, God is doing a new thing. And our Lord is calling us to love one another and to extend his love to everyone.  Amen.

The Fifth Sunday of EasterYear C RCL April 28, 2013

Acts 11:1-18

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-6

John 13:31-35

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, we are given the gift of being present at one of the pivotal moments in the history of the Church.

Peter has had his powerful vision of a sheet coming down from heaven with all kinds of animals on it. The voice of God says, “Get up. Peter. Kill and eat.”  But Peter refuses. He says that he has always followed the dietary laws. Then God tells him that all foods are made clean by God. This happens three times.

Peter is still pondering these things when three men arrive where Peter is staying in Joppa. The Spirit tells Peter to go with them. Just think how differently things would have been if Peter and Mary and Joseph and Paul and so many others had not been paying attention and being open to the voice of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Peter and the men arrive at the home of Cornelius the Centurion, a military man, a Roman and commander of a body of a hundred soldiers.  When Peter and the men arrive, the Holy Spirit falls upon Cornelius and all his household. Peter shares a meal with the people there.

Then we fast forward to the beginning of our reading. Peter is in Jerusalem.  He is being questioned as to why he shared a meal with Gentiles. He does not try to explain his actions logically.  He shares his experience of the vision in which God tells him that the new faith is for everyone. As Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have said, “God has a big family, the whole human family.”

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, we see the vision of the new heaven and the new earth, where the creation is restored to wholeness. This is the vision we are working for.  God is making all things new.

Today’s gospel takes us back to a crucial moment. This is before the crucifixion, Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet. He has said that one of them will betray him, and Judas has just left. Think of this. Jesus has just performed his act of  servanthood, a tender, gentle, intimate act of washing their feet. Judas has gone off into the night to do his awful deed. Jesus knows his time has come. The terrible chain of events is now under way. “Little children,” he says, I am with you only a little while longer.”

Jesus knew he had very little time to be with them. I suspect that the disciples did not realize all of what was going to happen. They were probably shocked and deeply moved by his washing of their feet. But now he is saying that there is very little time left. The words he is about to speak are some of the most important words in the gospels. These are the thoughts he wanted us to remember forever. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this, everyone shall know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

The commandment to love one another is not new. The Hebrew scriptures call us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But Jesus is calling us to love each other as he has loved us. This is what is new about the call to love—that Jesus has showed us how to love in all the words and actions of his life among us. In Christ, we have a living example of how to be loving people. This is not an intellectual exercise or a point for debate or discussion. He is our example.’ And he is the source of the love we are called to live and to share.

Thomas Troeger of Yale University writes, “The newness is the source that feeds this love: the humility of the Almighty as revealed through Christ’s death, the transformation of the meaning of glory from worldly renown to Godly compassion. We are not simply to use words to tell people about the meaning of the cross and resurrection.

“When we allow the love of Christ to take deep root in us, so that it flourishes in all that we do and say to one another, it is the first step in helping the world to understand how Christ has transformed glory. We give witness to what no purely verbal argument can ever accomplish: the glory of God breathing through the life of a Christ-centered community.”

How does our Lord love us? He loves us as a Good Shepherd. He knows each of us intimately, our gifts and strengths, our flaws and weaknesses, and he loves us infinitely.  He gives his life for us and to us. He loves us in a way that calls forth the best that is in us. He loves us in a way that enables us to grow and accept new truths as Peter did and to love and serve others in ways we would not be able to do without his grace. He calls us to be open to new levels of love and service. And he calls us to love each other as he has loved us. He calls us to be a community that lives that kind of love.

He does not call us to offer complex theologies. He does not call us to argue over the words of the Creeds, as we have done for centuries, or to fuss over the fine points of liturgy, as we sometimes have done in the Church.

He calls us to love one another as he has loved us. It may sound simple, but it isn’t easy. Yet, day in and day out, I see you living into this commandment. With his grace and love to empower and guide us, I believe Grace Church is answering our Lord’s call to be a loving community. We know each other, we support each other, we love each other.  We do this because he has called us to be a community of love and inclusiveness, and we know that our life together is possible only because of the amazing gift of his love for us.

Risen Lord, thank you for your love and grace. Lead us and guide us as we follow you and share your love.   Amen