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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 9, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 16, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…

Easter 2C April 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easter 2 Year CRCL April 3, 2016

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

Our readings today tell us a powerful story about the early Church. Chronologically, the gospel comes first, and it begins with a sense of fear. The doors are shut for fear of the authorities. The women have gone to the tomb and have found it empty. The angel has told them that Jesus has risen. They have gone back and told Peter. He has gone to look for himself.

They gather in the upper room. They are afraid. After what happened to Jesus, who wouldn’t be afraid? They think the same thing might happen to them.

Jesus comes into their midst, past the locked doors and the walls of fear. He gives them his peace, his vision of shalom. He takes all their terror and confusion and gives them faith and clarity and hope. He breathes the Spirit into them and gives them the ministry of healing and reconciliation.

Thomas is not with them. When they tell him that the risen Lord has come to them, he says that he just has to see for himself. Thomas just has to touch Jesus’ wounds.

A week later, Jesus comes among them once more. Again, he gives them his peace, that calm faith that is like bedrock, that serene spirit that remains steady under all kinds of pressure, and that vision of shalom. This time, Thomas is with them. Jesus has come especially to make it possible for Thomas to know that he is truly alive. Jesus invites Thomas to touch his wounds, but Thomas does not even have to do that. He bursts forth in a prayer of adoration: “My Lord and my God!”

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

Our reading from the Book of Acts happens a short time after Pentecost. The apostles have overcome their fear. They are out in Jerusalem teaching and preaching and healing. Their message is so powerful that people simply lay their loved ones out on mats or cots so that Peter’s shadow can fall on them and make them well.

More and more people are following the new faith, and the authorities are not pleased. They are trying to control this new faith. They have put Peter and the apostles in prison, but an angel has let them out and the Spirit has told them to go right back where they were and continue their ministry.

They are now being questioned by the high priest. They have been told to stop what they were doing, but Peter and the apostles answer, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” This is a far cry from their original fear. They are almost fearless now. The Spirit is with them, and they feel compelled to carry out their ministry. Nothing is going to stop them.

Our middle reading is from the Book of Revelation. This was written some fifty years after that first Easter. This book is a series of letters to seven Christian communities in what we would now call Turkey.  Herbert O’Driscoll points out that, in this short period of time, there are now seven churches one thousand miles from Jerusalem in a time when the major means of transportation was walking. This is a huge amount of growth.

These communities are suffering persecution under the Roman Emperor Domitian, who had commanded that everyone address him as “Lord and God.” Christians refused to do that, and they were either killed or exiled. These letters were written to strengthen their faith during this time of persecution and to let them know that, no matter what the Roman Empire might do, Christ is our King, and he far surpasses any earthly ruler.

In our readings for today, we see that the new community of faith began with a group of very scared people who had gathered behind locked doors. They knew what could happen to them.

And yet, a short time later, we see Peter and the apostles healing people and preaching the good news and gaining more and more followers. No human rulers were going to stop them from doing this. Then, fifty years later, John was writing letters to encourage seven communities a thousand miles away.

We were not there in that upper room. We have not literally seen the risen Christ. We have not touched his wounds. But, because of the faith and courage of the apostles and all the saints during the past two thousand years, we have been in his presence and we have experienced his healing and forgiveness.

From that fearful beginning, our risen Lord gave the apostles the courage and the faith to share his presence, his love and healing, with everyone they met, and the new faith grew and grew.

Here we are, two thousand years later, and we are about to celebrate Grace’s two hundredth birthday. Christ is alive in us and we in him.

May we continue to share his peace his healing, and his forgiveness.

Amen.

Easter 2C RCL April 7, 2013

 Acts 5:27-32

Psalm 150

Revelation 1:4-8

John 20:19-31

In our first reading, Peter and the other apostles are at work in Jerusalem spreading the Good News. They have been ordered by the authorities to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, but, of course, they have continued because, as Peter says, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

Herbert O’Driscoll points out that this encounter shows us a law of human affairs. He says, “ Any new force acting in a society or an institution will meet resistance from forces already entrenched.” The High Priest is trying to contain this threat.

The Book of Revelation was written thirty or forty years after our first scene from the Book of Acts. Already there are seven churches in Asia. The new faith is growing and spreading over a larger and larger geographical area. John writes that our Lord, who loves us has “made us a kingdom, priests  serving his God and Father.” We are called to offer ourselves to God in every way that we can so that God can use us in the work of spreading the Good News.

Now we move to the gospel for this day. It is the Day of Resurrection. It is that first Sunday. Jesus has just risen from the dead. The Church has not yet begun to spread.  Jesus’ followers are gathered in the house in Jerusalem where they had stayed whenever they were in the city. It is the evening of that first day of new life.  Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb and has seen the risen Lord, but the reality has not yet sunk in. John tells us that the doors were locked for fear. They are afraid. Terrible things have happened. Some of them have seen Jesus die on the cross. They are afraid of the authorities with good reason.Jesus moves right through the doors, the walls of fear. What does he say? “Peace be with you,” Shalom be with you, Shalom, the wholeness and harmony, the peace which passes all understanding, Shalom, the restoration of all the whole creation be with you.  Then he shows them his hands and his side, He shows the wounds so that they will know it is he. And they are so happy to see him and to recognize him.  He has come through it all. And he says again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And he breathes the Holy Spirit into them. When Jesus was here among us he told us that the Holy Spirit is within us.

And he gives them and us the ministry of reconciliation. Traditionally, this is the beginning of the ministry through which priests confer absolution when people make private confessions. Now, as we understand baptismal ministry and the ministry of all believers, we know that all of us as Christians are called to listen to the confessions of our brothers and sisters who share the things they have done which have hurt themselves and others and for which they seek God’s forgiveness. All of us hear confessions all the time and all of us can assure others of God’s mercy and forgiveness. There are some times when people are in great pain and remorse over their sins and should seek the sacrament of Reconciliation of a Penitent, or private confession to a priest. Oftentimes, folks can receive the assurance of God’s forgiveness from a lay person.

Thomas was not with them when the risen Christ appeared. They tell him that they have seen the Lord. But he has to see for himself. He cannot believe at a second or third hand level. Just imagine Jesus’ love. Two weeks later, they are there in the house and he comes back again. Our Lord does whatever it takes to help us to have faith. “Put your finger here and see my hands,” he tells Thomas. Thomas falls on his knees in pure adoration. “My Lord and my God!” he whispers in awe.

And then Jesus says something which is a blessing to you and to me. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have  come to believe.”

We weren’t there in that room with the apostles. We were not there on the Road to Emmaus or on the beach when Jesus welcomed them to a breakfast of fish and bread. We weren’t there on the Road to Damascus when Paul was blinded by the light. Yet we have seen the risen Christ. We have felt his presence. We have experienced his forgiveness and healing. And we believe in him. And we are blessed every day by his presence and power in our lives.

The Easter season lasts for fifty days, until the Feast of Pentecost. During this time, we will continue to hear about the work of the early Church in spreading the Good News and we will be with the disciples as our Risen Lord appears to them and to us.

If any of you speak a foreign language, please let me know so that we can use those languages in our Pentecost celebration. During the Great Fifty Days of Easter, our readings are all from the New Testament or Greek Scriptures. We are especially celebrating the presence of our Risen Lord and our mission to spread the Good news of his victory over death and brokenness.

May we share in his victory and in his ministry of healing and reconciliation.

Amen.