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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 3C May 1, 2022

Acts 9:1-6, 7-20
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

During the Easter season, all of our readings come from the New Testament, the Greek scriptures. Chronologically our gospel comes first. The disciples have gone to Galilee. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, the sons of Zebedee are at the Sea of Galilee, together with some others.

Peter decides to go fishing and the others go with him. They fish all night and catch nothing. At dawn, Jesus is on the bank. They do not recognize him. Jesus advises them to cast their net to the right of the boat. They follow his guidance, and the net is full to the breaking point, but it holds.

John tells Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter throws on some clothes and swims to shore. The others follow with the huge catch. When they arrive, there is a charcoal fire with fish on it, and bread. They have breakfast, a kind of eucharistic meal.

When they have finished, Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John. do you love me more than these?” And Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” Three times Jesus asks Peter this question, and Jesus tells him, “Feed my sheep. Tend my sheep.”  The number three signifies completeness. Peter betrayed Jesus three times. Jesus asks the question three times, “Do you love me?” And Peter answers three times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

Complete betrayal by Peter. Complete forgiveness by our Lord. And Jesus commissions Peter to take care of the flock that God has given them.  Jesus predicts Peter’s martyrdom. And then he says, “Follow me.” And Peter does just that.

This is such a powerful and moving scene. Jesus forgives Peter for his betrayal and makes him the leader of the apostles.

A little over thirty years later, the events in our reading from the Book of Acts take place. Saul has witnessed the killing of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He asks the high priest for authority to go to Damascus and find followers of Jesus so that he can arrest them, tie them up, and bring them to Jerusalem to put them in jail.

On the road to Damascus, he has an encounter that changes his life. A light from heaven flashes around him. He falls to the ground and hears a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Saul asks, “Who are you Lord?” And the answer comes, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Go into the city and you will be told what to do.” The men who are with Saul are speechless. They heard the voice but they didn’t see anything. Saul gets up from the ground. His eyes are open, but he cannot see. So they lead him by the hand into Damascus. 

For three days Saul cannot see, and he eats and drinks nothing. There is a follower of Jesus in Damascus named Ananias. He has a vision in which our Lord calls him to go and find Saul in a certain place. But Ananias argues with Jesus, “Lord, you can’t call this man to serve you. He has done very bad things to your saints in Jerusalem.”And our Lord says to Ananias, “Yes I know, but this is the person I have chosen to take the good news to the Gentiles.” 

Ananias goes to the house where Saul is, lays his hands on him and says, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me to you so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes. He gets up, is baptized, eats some food, begins to regain his strength, stays with them for a while, and begins to proclaim the good news.

Jesus takes a man who betrayed him three times and makes him the leader of the apostles. Jesus takes a man who watched with glee while Stephen was stoned to death and makes him the apostle to the Gentiles. 

Peter made a mistake. Three big mistakes. Yet, after Jesus was crucified, he was there with the others. He went into the tomb and found it empty. He stayed with the others and they went back to Galilee. There, he expressed his love for Jesus and Jesus forgave him.

Saul was out to arrest followers of Jesus and put them in prison. He witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen. He saw Jesus and his followers as a threat to his faith. And then he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. In spite of all that had happened, Jesus knew that Saul was the one to spread the good news to people who were totally unlike Saul, who was a Pharisee, an expert on the law. Saul became a new person, Paul. He realized that, for him, the law was bondage, and Christ had set him free to live life in a new and deeper and more joyful way. Christ transformed Saul, and Saul got a new name: Paul. Paul would later write, “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20.)

Easter is a season of newness of life. It’s a season when we realize that God can turn death into life. God can free us from any kind of bondage. God can make old things new. God takes a persecutor of the church and makes him into a gifted theologian and evangelist. Jesus takes someone who has betrayed him in a time of terror, and, knowing that Peter truly loves him and can be a great leader, forgives Peter and places his trust in Peter.

None of us is perfect. We have all made mistakes. The stories of Peter and Paul make very clear that God can see beyond our errors and flaws. God sees our gifts and our strengths. Jesus calls us each by name. The Spirit gives us the strength and power to answer Yes to that call to love and serve God and to love and serve others in God’s Name. Alleluia! Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen. 

Pentecost 4 Proper 9C RCL July 7, 2019

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6: (1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

Our opening reading introduces us to Naaman, a military commander, a man of great courage who has earned military victories for his king. Naaman has everything he could want, success, fame, and fortune, but there is one problem. He has leprosy.

Here we must stop and realize that this does not mean that he has the terrible Hansen’s disease, the affliction we know as leprosy. In biblical times, any disease of the skin was called leprosy. Still, though it wasn’t fatal, this malady was a source of great distress to Naaman.

As it happens, the army of Naaman has taken captive a young woman from the land of Israel. This perceptive young woman has become the maid to Naaman’s wife, and she tells her mistress that the great general should go to see the prophet in Samaria. The young woman assures Naaman’s wife that this prophet, who is none other than Elisha, can cure Naaman’s illness.

Naaman gets a letter of introduction from the king, packs up a great deal of money, and a wardrobe full of clothes, and goes to the king of Israel. The king is confused by the letter, since he is not able to heal people, and he thinks Naaman is trying to start a war with him.

Elisha, the prophet, hears that the king of Israel has torn his clothes in distress and sends him a message indicating that he can offer help. Naaman shows up at Elisha’s house with all his horses and chariots, but he is deeply offended because Elisha does not come out and meet him. Instead, Elisha sends a message telling Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan seven times and he will be healed.

But poor Naaman has been slighted, and he works himself up into a rage. Once again, the little people, the servants, bring wisdom and compassion into the situation. If the prophet had told the hero to do something very difficult, they reason, something that demanded a great deal of courage, Naaman would have done it in an instant. So why not just try this simple thing? Naaman washes in the Jordan and is healed. In two instances, it is the simple, everyday ordinary people, the servants, who offer wisdom to the great commander.

So often, it is ordinary good folks who are the heroes. I think of our remembrance this year of the 75th anniversary of D Day and of our gratitude to the people Tom Brokaw has called  The Greatest Generation. They saved us from the horror of Nazism.

In our gospel, Jesus sends out seventy disciples to teach and heal and preach the good news. They go out into a hostile world, like lambs among wolves. They travel light. They go to the first house where they are welcomed and eat what is offered them. They share God’s shalom with the people. They spread the Kingdom of God. 

This is the model for how we share the shalom of Christ. We go out two by two, We minister in community. We support each other.

In our reading from Galatians, Paul tells us how to restore someone who has gone astray.  He tells us to be gentle and to bear each other’s burdens. We do this all the time when we share problems and ask each other to pray for us. This means that we never have to deal with any burden alone. We help each other to carry burdens. There is great power and love in this one truth.

Then Paul goes on to say that what goes around comes around. If we spread love and joy and healing, those things will come back to us. When a community is centered in the fruits and gifts of the Spirit, those gifts grow in the community and they are there to share with others outside the community.

Paul also addresses a problem that is plaguing the community. Some people are still saying that, in order to be a Christian, people have to be circumcised. Paul is reminding them and us that becoming one with Christ is a spiritual matter, not a physical matter. If people want to join the new faith, they do not have to follow the dietary laws, nor do they have to be circumcised. We are called to follow the law of love.  Love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor is everyone, because everyone is a child of God.

What are our readings telling us today? First, the story of Naaman reminds us of the importance of everyday people. I think most of us feel that we are ordinary folks. We aren’t kings or queens or generals. God loves ordinary folks like us every bit as much as God loves people like Queen Elizabeth, Colin Powell, or Pope Francis. In the story of Naaman, the little people save the day.

Secondly, we do ministry together. Community is everything. We go out two by two or in a group. That way we can support each other in ministry.

Thirdly, how important is the quality of gentleness, gentleness with each other when we stumble or when someone makes an error. And what a great gift it is to bear each others’ burdens. By sharing and praying and helping each other, we can lead and guide each other through things that would swamp us individually.

There are many other things to glean from these readings, but a fourth one is that, as Paul says, our Lord has brought in a “new creation,” and the key to that creation is love. No one is beyond God’s love. God has created a big family, a family in which we respect the dignity of every person. These readings remind us that any person can be a source of healing and wisdom.  Amen. 

Easter 3C RCL April 10, 2016

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
Psalm 30
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

During the fifty days of the Easter season, all of our readings are from the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures. This morning, our readings tell powerful stories of how God works with us human beings. God can see in us potential that we don’t always see in ourselves.

In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, we meet Saul of Tarsus, a devout Pharisee and Roman citizen who is totally consumed with the idea of killing followers of the Way. The beginning of the passage describes Saul as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” He has gone to the high priest to get permission to go to Damascus and capture and tie up any followers of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem to be punished. He has already witnessed the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

But on the way to Damascus, something happens which transforms Saul. A light from heaven flashes around him and he falls to the ground. Jesus asks him that haunting question, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus tells Saul to go into the city and he will receive further instructions. The men who are with Saul have heard the voice but they could not see Jesus. Saul gets up. His eyes are open but he cannot see. So they lead him by the hand into Damascus. What an image—this man who is destined to be a great saint being led by the hand into Damascus. There are times when we need to be led by the hand, too, times when we need the help of God and others to find the way.

Jesus calls a disciple named Ananias to go and lay hands upon Saul to help him regain his sight and to receive the Holy Spirit. Saul has been blinded by the light of Christ. When Ananias lays hands upon him, the text says that “something like scales fell from his eyes.” Saul is baptized. He stays and studies with the disciples in Damascus, and then he goes on his mission to the Gentiles. Later his name becomes Paul.

Some lines from “Amazing Grace” fit this situation. “I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.” Jesus took someone who hated him and was trying to kill his disciples and made him into a great theologian and evangelist. So often we see, but we do not see. Jesus can give us vision to see and understand things that we did not see before.

In our gospel for today, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others go fishing. They catch nothing. Just before daybreak, Jesus is standing on the shore, but they do not recognize him. He asks if they have caught any fish. They have caught nothing. So he tells them to cast the net to the right side of the boat, and there are so many fish they can hardly haul in the net. That’s how our Lord is, Just when we think there is no hope, he comes along and shows us the way.

Suddenly, John says that it is Jesus on the shore. Peter quickly puts on some clothes, jumps into the water, and swims to shore. He can’t get there fast enough. The rest of them row the boat, laden with fish. Jesus gives them a breakfast of bread and fish.

Then comes the amazing scene of forgiveness and healing. Peter has denied Jesus three times. The number three is a symbol of completeness. Peter has denied Jesus completely. This is terrible. But Jesus asks him, “Peter, do you love me more than these?”And Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asks a second time, and Peter answers that he loves the Lord. And Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus asks a third time, and Peter is hurt, He says, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” Peter has done a complete denial of Jesus. But now, Jesus is granting Peter complete forgiveness and commissioning him to go out into the world and feed his people. Peter, who denied Jesus three time, becomes the leader of the apostles.

When we have done things we should not have done or not done things we should have done. In other words, when we have sinned, we usually feel terrible about it. But our Lord is calling us to accept his forgiveness and to do the ministries he calls us to do. Peter was well aware that he had denied Jesus at a crucial moment because he was afraid. He felt awful about this failure on his part. I think Peter confessed this to God in many times of prayer following the crucifixion, and I am sure that Jesus was well aware of Peter’s sincere regret and his determination to be as faithful a disciple as he could possibly be. This is how our Lord is with us. After this powerful dialogue and exchange of love and forgiveness, Jesus says to Peter and to us, “Follow me.”

As our psalm so beautifully reminds us, “Weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

At the center of our lessons is our reading from the Book of Revelation, the prayer of adoration to our Lord, who reigns in heaven. God takes the most unlikely people and calls them to ministry. Because of the experience he had in his own life, Paul could share the powerful story of how he had met Christ and how the risen Lord showed him that he needed to change his whole attitude and purpose in life. Peter was heartbroken about his denial of Jesus. But when he realized that it was the risen Lord standing on the beach preparing breakfast for them, he jumped into the water and swam ashore, so eager was he to clasp Jesus in a bear hug full of love, faith, true repentance, and courage to do whatever he was called to do in order to serve Christ.

Jesus has the power to give us courage we didn’t know we had. Jesus has the power to help us to see the world and other people in new ways. Jesus has the power to show us gifts we never knew we had. Jesus has the power to transform us so that we can transform the world.

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

Epiphany 6B RCL February 12, 2012

2 Kings 5: 1-14
Psalm 30
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1 40-43

 In our opening reading, we have the wonderful story of Naaman, a powerful general who has leprosy. Scholars tell us that the word “leprosy” in the Bible does not necessarily mean the horribly disfiguring  ailment which we call leprosy, Hansen’s Disease.  In biblical times, many different kinds of skin ailments were called leprosy.  These diseases all caused great distress for their victims. In Jewish law, anyone with such a disease was considered unclean. More on this later.

 Naaman is an excellent general and a very successful and wealthy  man. Except for this one problem, his life is perfect. The great preacher and theologian Herbert O’Driscoll says that he wonders why someone in the nineteenth century didn’t make an opera out of the story of Naaman’s healing.After many ups and downs, he finally does wash himself seven times in the Jordan river and is immediately healed, but it is entirely through the efforts of servants and other little people that he finally sees reason and follows Elisha’s simple directions.

 Naaman is a foreigner and is not a Jew, yet God still heals him. His money and his power have nothing to do with this happy outcome. It is purely the gift of a loving God.

 In our gospel for today, we have another healing of a leper. If you had a skin condition in Jesus’ time, as we noted earlier, you were considered ritually unclean.  Biblical scholar Paul Galbreath tells us that anyone with such a condition  had to go to the priests who would determine how serious his condition was and would make a treatment plan. If the disease was in an acute stage, the person would be quarantined to determines the severity and infectious nature of the condition. Galbreath says that if the person showed no signs of healing, he could be banished. Herbert O’Driscoll writes that a person with such a skin condition had to stay 150 yards away from any other human being, except another leper. In addition to the physical suffering inflicted by the disease, the isolation and stigma and loneliness were horrendous.

 I share this information to allow us to get a sense of the desperation of this man. We wonder how many times this person had tried to approach Jesus. We think what it must have taken for him to get to this point. He calls out to Jesus, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Of course Jesus chooses to make this man whole, He reaches out, touches him, and says, “I do choose. Be made clean!”

 It is almost impossible for us to understand all the levels of meaning in this. In those days, to be ritually unclean was almost worse than being dead. This is why the priest and the Levite walk by on the other side rather than touching the man who has fallen among thieves in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In order to obey the law, they have to choose allowing someone to die rather than risking becoming ritually unclean.

When Jesus reaches out and touches this leper, he not only takes the risk of getting the man’s disease, he becomes ritually unclean. He tells the man to go to the priest and make the offering required in order for them to declare him clean. That’s what you had to do. The priest had to say that you were well now and you could return to your family and friends, associate with people, talk with people, and generally become human again.

But Jesus can’t go to the priest and be declared clean. From now on, he is going to be fighting this system of ritual purity and impurity. Paul Galbreath writes, “ Thus the point of the healing is to press the issue of injustice with religious leaders who uphold laws in ways that violate God’s mercy for those who are sick and weak. Jesus sends the man to the priest in order that he may provide witness over and against a system that has isolated him from contact with members of his community.” (Galbreath, New Proclamation, Year B 2012, p.94.)

Jesus transcended the purity code. He reached out and touched everyone you weren’t supposed to associate with. We can ask ourselves, what kinds of folks do we consider impure or not quite up to snuff? People with HIV/Aids, drug addicts, alcoholics, those who have served time in prison, migrant workers, all these groups come to mind. We still have this tendency to say these people are in, but those people are out. As we run the spiritual race, as we develop our askesis, our athletic training of the spirit which Paul described so eloquently, it’s so important for us to remember that, in our Lord’s kingdom, everyone is sitting at the table.  Everyone is at the feast.

This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of meeting the Rev. Kim Erno, a native of Swanton who has spent the past ten years in Mexico doing all kinds of creative ministries which we will be hearing more about in coming months. For some time now, Kim has felt a call to return home and work with our Mexican migrant workers here in Franklin County.

Beth and Jan will have the opportunity to meet with Kim on February 16 at a gathering of folks from churches around this area and they will be discussing this new ministry.

This new ministry, called FARM (Franklin Alliance for Rural Ministries) is a wonderful response to today’s gospel. Kim is now working in the areas of Mexico from which most of our farm workers come. He speaks Spanish fluently and, when he returns and begins this ministry, he will be able to make personal connections between our brothers working here and their families in Mexico. He told me that the men working here do not have Spanish as their native language. Their native tongue is Mayan. Their roots go way back. Kim is also creating a network in Canada with people who help migrant workers north of the border, so we have all kinds of borders being crossed, barriers being broken, brothers and sisters becoming part of God’s loving family.

At the end of our visit, Kim and I came up and knelt at the altar rail and prayed together. I would ask that we pray together now.

Loving and gracious God, thank you for making us one in You. We pray for Kim as he prepares to come back home. Fill him with your grace, lead him in your light and guide him in your Spirit. We pray for those who will meeting on February 16, that your Spirit will be with them. And we pray for our migrant workers and those who are ministering and will be ministering to them. May they be surrounded by your love and filled with your grace. In Jesus’ name.