• Content

  • Pages

  • Upcoming Events

    • Sunday service - Holy Communion December 11, 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 December 18, 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 December 25, 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:…

Pentecost 4 Proper 8A June 28, 2020

Genesis 22:1-14
Psalm 13
Romans 5:12-23
Matthew 10:40-42

Our first reading is shocking. Why would something like this even appear in the Bible? Here Abraham is, one hundred years old. He finally has a son, and now God asks him to do something unthinkable, horrible—to sacrifice his beloved son. Why would God ask such a thing? This is a passage that causes more questions than answers.

As we have so often observed, when studying the Bible, context is crucial. This passage concerning Abraham and Isaac was written by the Elohist writer, who was working around 750 years before the birth of Christ. The story of Abraham goes back to 1,600 B.C.E., almost 900 years earlier. When Abraham settled in Canaan, and even later, the Canaanites and other peoples were practicing rituals of sacrificing their children to their gods.

Walter Russell Bowie of Virginia Theological Seminary writes of Abraham: “Here was a great soul living in a crude age. He saw people around him offering up their children to show their faith and their obedience to false gods. In spite of the torment to his human love he could not help hearing an inward voice asking him why he should not do as much; and because that thought seemed to press upon his  conscience he thought it was the voice of God.”

Abraham thinks God is calling him to sacrifice his son. He packs everything needed for the sacrifice. When he and Isaac have to leave the two young men waiting, Abraham tells them to wait, saying, “We will go and worship and then we will come back to you.” “We will come back.” On the way, Isaac asks where the lamb is for a burnt offering and his father says, “God will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.” Abraham instructs his two young man  and answers Isaac’s question with tender love love and deep faith. On some deep level, Abraham trusts that God will provide. God will take care of this. And at the moment when the knife is raised and we are holding our breath, the angel speaks and Abraham sees the ram caught in the thicket. Seeing is important here. We need to be alert and able to see God’s generous grace in operation. Abraham has shown the faith needed to offer everything, his whole future, to God. God has generously responded to Abraham’s faith.  God has also shown that God does not want people to sacrifice their children. 

Bowie writes, “The Old Testament is continually lifting the conception of God out of the irrationality and arbitrariness of pagan superstitions.” Bowie quotes the prophet Hosea, speaking for God, who tells us, “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”  (Bowie, The Interpreter’s Bible, pp. 642-644.) 

God loves us, and our loving God calls us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself. We are called to a journey of spiritual transformation.

In our epistle, Paul is talking about that process of transformation. We have been baptized into new life in Christ. There are many definitions of sin, but one of my favorites is that sin is separation from God, other people and our true selves. As followers of Jesus, we are growing closer to God. We are growing closer to each other, and we are growing into the true selves God calls us to be. We are following Jesus.

We are following our Good Shepherd, who knows our needs before we ask and who gives us all the gifts we need to carry out our ministry. We are following the Way of Love. We are following the way of life.

Our gospel for today is the end of Jesus’ teaching as he sends the disciples out into the world. Last week he talked about bringing not peace but a sword. In this passage, he is describing the strong bond between those who spread the message of God’s love and those who receive that message with open hearts and minds.

Biblical scholar Beverly Gaventa writes, “A new family is created of those who faithfully carry out the mission and those who openly receive the mission, and a fellowship is established that includes the divine presence.” (Gaventa, Texts for Preaching year A, p. 287.)

Jesus sends the disciples out to share the good news of his love. When people respond, that love grows by leaps and bounds. New communities are formed and the good news spreads over the entire world.

This is good news of love, healing, and wholeness not hate, division, and brokenness. This is good news that is shared when someone gives another person a drink of cold water on a hot day in the desert,  in a city where the concrete reflects the heat, or in a  small village in Vermont when the temperature has been above ninety degrees for six days in a row. This is good news given in the sharing of boxes of food that will last a family several days and then they can come back for more. This is good news of someone listening with love and care as a person shares a problem that is tying them in knots.

At the core of it all is the love of God, who does not want us to sacrifice lambs or even pigeons, and certainly not human beings and certainly not children. God loves children and calls us to love and care for children. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” In his day, children were considered as chattel, property, but he made it clear that children are precious, beloved human beings.

Isaac asked his father where the lamb for the burnt offering was. His father listened carefully and lovingly to the question and offered his own best answer, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Isaac has complete trust in his father Abraham. Abraham has complete trust in God. May we have complete trust in God as we make our way through this stage of our journey in this pandemic. Like Abraham, may we look for signs of God’s grace and presence. And may we grow even stronger together as God’s beloved community as we respond in loving and creative ways. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Pentecost 2 Proper 6A   June 14, 2020

Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8

In our opening reading, Abraham is taking a siesta in his tent under the oaks of Mamre, near Hebron. It is a very hot day. As he rests and perhaps dozes a little, three men appear. This is not unusual. Travelers often came by.

In the Middle East, a desert culture, the rules of hospitality dictate that you should welcome strangers, feed them, give them water, and offer lodging if they need it. So Abraham jumps up, has his servants wash the visitors’ feet, gives them a snack of bread, and prepares a feast.

But these visitors are no ordinary people, They are God and two assistants. When they are eating the meal that has been prepared, they do a very unusual thing. They ask Abraham how his wife Sarah is doing. There is no way that a traveler would know the name of Abraham’s wife.

Now, we need to stop and remind ourselves of a few things about Abraham and Sarah. Abraham is now one hundred years old. When he was a mere seventy-five, God called him and Sarah to go from their comfortable home and life in Ur of the Chaldees, pack up everything they had, and begin a journey to a land they did not know. Ur was a town in what we would call southern Iraq. By this point in the story,  Abraham and Sarah have traveled hundreds and hundreds of miles.

Abraham is one hundred years old and Sarah is not far behind.

When God called them to make this journey, God told them that they would have descendants as numerous as the stars or as the number of grains on the beach. So far, there are no descendants.

Sarah is listening in on Abraham’s conversation with God and the two assistants. And God says to Abraham, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.”

At last? After twenty-five years of wandering and enduring one challenge after another and and no word of good news, no hope? After all this, God is going to give us a son? Sarah, listening behind the tent flap, bursts into laughter. She howls with mirth. Oh, how she laughs.  She rolls on the ground. 

Later on she tries to deny it. But she did laugh. And once the divine visitors leave, Abraham has a good long laugh, too. And, in due course, Isaac is born. We can imagine the joy of Abraham and Sarah. After all their journeying, all their suffering along the way, they have a son. The name Isaac, means “laughter.”

Abraham and Sarah are the great icons of faith. Along the way they would sometimes remind God, “Lord, you know that promise about all those descendants? It hasn’t happened yet.” And God replies, “Be patient, It will happen.”

When we have a hope or a dream that means a great deal to us, sometimes when it happens, we laugh. The joy just spills over. We have wondered whether it would ever happen, and, when it finally does, we burst out in good deep, joyful laughter. Maybe quite a bit of it is relief, too, that we did not hope in vain and that God’s grace finally prevailed.

So, this week, I hope we will all think of Sarah, listening inside the tent and bursting out in laughter. I hope we will think of how she and Abraham kept the faith, never stopped hoping. And I hope that we may actually have a few moments of laughter over something this week. This laughter scene is like a precious gem in the Scriptures, something we can carry with us forever,

Another gem is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Like Abraham and Sarah, we have faith. And because of the love of God and the reconciling work of our Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, we have peace, through everything. These are challenging times. But Paul tells us that we can “Boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” 

When we suffer through difficult times, and keep the faith, that builds our endurance, so that we can remain strong through other challenging times. And that endurance produces character. It strengthens our ability to follow Christ, to be the kind of person he calls us to be. And character produces hope. As we grow stronger and stronger in Christ and become more like him. we are more and more open to the hope that he gives us every day, every moment, together with his gifts of faith and love. Individually and together, we are a people of hope. 

And a third gem in our gospel for today: Our Lord is sending his apostles out to spread the good news. He is sending us, too. And he says, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Because he is with them, his kingdom has come near. Other scholars say that the translation is also, “The kingdom of God is within you.” We have been created with the divine spark of God within each of us, We are children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. We are co- builders, with Christ, of his kingdom, His shalom.

Three gems from Scripture. Abraham and Sarah burst out into joyful laughter! God does keep God’s promises! 

Paul’s wise teaching: suffering builds endurance builds character. builds hope.

And our Lord’s assurance: the kingdom of God is near you; the kingdom of God is within you. Our loving God gives us the faith and the strength and the grace we need to get through challenging times. Our Good Shepherd is leading us. God is as close as our breath. God is within us. Amen.

Lent 3 Year A March 19, 2017

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

In his meditation for the first week in Lent, Brother Mark Brown described the forty days of Lent as an opportunity for Jesus to absorb God’s love. In the gospel of Mark, God says to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.”

Lent is also a time for each of us to absorb God’s love for us. This Lent, I am inviting us to focus on the gospel for each Sunday because each of these gospel accounts shows us Jesus meeting someone, and each of these encounters shows Jesus’ love for the people he meets.

This Sunday, we have an extraordinary story of Jesus’ understanding and love for us. Our Lord is in Samaria. As we know from the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, the people of Samaria were viewed as inferior. They did not worship in the right way or in the right place. Yet Jesus is going into their territory because he loves everyone and he wants to reach out to everyone.

Jesus comes to Jacob’s well. He is tired. He sits down to rest. A Samaritan woman comes to the well to draw water. Jews did not share  things in common with Samaritans. Rabbis did not speak with women. Yet Jesus asks this woman for a drink.

The woman asks Jesus how he can think of asking her for a drink? Doesn’t he know about proper customs and manners? And then Jesus does the same thing he did with Nicodemus. He throws her a mystery. If you knew how much God loves you and who I am, you would ask me for living water.

Now the woman is really interested. Living water? Maybe I would’t have to come to this well every day and lower this bucket and lug it back home and do the same thing several times a day.

But then she wonders, “You don’t even have a bucket. Where do you get this living water?”  She is beginning to wonder if this man is either crazy or greater than even Jacob. Then Jesus makes another quantum leap of the mind and spirit. “When we drink this water, we get thirsty again. But the living water that I give gushes up to eternal life.”

The woman wants that living water. Jesus asks her to call her husband and come back. This touches upon a very delicate issue, The woman has had five husbands and she is living with a man to whom she is not married. In the eyes of the average person, she is looked down upon. She is not considered very respectable. Jesus knows all this, but these outward things are not important to him. He loves this woman. In his actions to her and to all of us, he is saying, “You are my beloved child.”

I think the woman senses this. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. He has reached across so many barriers to talk with this woman, barriers of race and religion and custom. She can sense the love in all these actions. When we know that God loves us, we can be honest about even the most painful things in our lives. She tells the truth, “I have no husband.” Jesus tells her that he knows her situation.

Now this woman is thinking that Jesus must be a prophet. She asks him about a burning theological issue. The proper place to worship is the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans do not worship there. So she asks this prophet, this highly respected expert, “Where should we worship?” Jesus says that we should worship in spirit and in truth. Where we worship is not the important thing. Are we worshipping the spiritual reality of God and God’s love?

Now the woman makes a quantum leap. Maybe this man is more than a prophet. She begins to talk about the messiah. He says that is who he is. He tells her she is speaking face to face with the messiah.

This wonderful courageous woman who has just had a conversation with the Savior drops her bucket, runs into the city, and proclaims the Good News. She becomes the first preacher of the gospel.

And what does she tell the people? Come and see a man who told me everything I have done.” Come and meet with our God who comes down to our level, who knows all our strengths and weaknesses, knows all the secrets we are afraid to share, knows all the things that make us the most ashamed, and loves us with a love that nothing can stop, nothing can change.

Back in those days, a woman was supposed to be married, That is how she achieved an identity in the society—as a wife and a mother. She was not supposed to live with a man who was not her husband. Many people of that time would consider her a terrible sinner. God does not see her in that way.  When God calls Samuel to go to the home of Jesse and anoint the next king, God reminds Samuel that God does not see as humans see. God looks at each of us and says exactly what God said to Jesus at his baptism, “You are my beloved. I delight in you.”

In her dialogue with Jesus, this woman did a self-examination and made a confession to Jesus. She was honest. I think she was able to be honest because she sensed the love and respect of our Lord. As we do our work of self-examination, repentance, and metanoia, transformation, this Lent, our awareness of God’s love helps us to know that whatever we need to confess to God and work on with God’s help is going to be received with caring and forgiveness and encouragement, not condemnation.

This woman brought many people to meet Jesus. Her encounter with our loving and healing God welcomed many others to experience God’s love and forgiveness. May we, too, experience and share God’s love. Amen.

Lent 1 Year A March 5, 2017

 

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

In our Five Marks of Love Lenten series, Brother Mark Brown of the Society of St. John the Evangelist has a meditation called, “You Are My Beloved.” Brother Mark reminds us that, according to Mark’s gospel, when Jesus was baptized, God spoke to him, saying, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.” Brother Mark goes on to say that Jesus’ journey of forty days in the wilderness gave him time to absorb the reality of God’s love for him.

I was happy to read this meditation because I had been having similar thoughts. During those forty days, Jesus was absorbing the depth and breadth of God’s love for him. His entire ministry was rooted and grounded in God’s love. Every word and action of Jesus during his entire ministry poured out God’s unconditional love.

We know that Lent is a time of self-examination. We take an honest look at our lives. We confess our sins. Sins are those things that get between us and God, between us and others, and between us and our true selves. We humbly confess our sins. And we ask God to give us grace so that we can grow, so that we can become more like our Lord Jesus. And we thank God for the areas of grace and love in our lives, times when we have followed the Ten Commandments, and the cardinal and theological virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and love.

Lent is a time for growth, a time to allow God to give us the grace to take our next steps in our spiritual growth.

In order to do this, we need to accept and absorb God’s love. God loves you. God loves me. Not because of anything we have done, but simply because God loves us. God is saying to us what God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you”

For many of us, perhaps most of us, accepting the sheer fact of God’s unconditional love is extremely difficult. How can God, who knows all our faults, all our frailties, all our mistakes and weaknesses, love us unconditionally? If we are parents or grandparents, or loving aunts and uncles, or if we have a beloved pet, we can begin to understand this. God knows we are far from perfect, and God loves us with the wild abandon of a mom or dad, a grandparent, or a devoted owner of a pet. God loves us without reservation. God loves you and me with all God’s infinitely big heart. Each of us is and all of us are the apple of God’s eye.

Yes, but—Lent is a time for penitence, a time to look at our sins in their stark reality, confess them, express our sincere sorrow about them, and ask God’s grace to grow closer to God.

That is true. Lent is a time for growth and transformation. But our journey of transformation becomes much easier and much more joyful the more we are able, with God’s grace, to accept the fact that God loves us, sins and all, warts and all, with a love that will forever boggle our minds. God is here right now to help us blundering, bumbling humans to grow into the fullness of the persons God calls us to be.  So, I am encouraging us to spend some time this Lent accepting and absorbing the fact that God loves you no matter what. God will never stop loving you, and God is here to help you.

As we accept God’s love, we are of course called to share that love. The Five Marks of Love tell us what we are called to be doing and are already doing, with God’s help.

 

  • Proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom (Tell);
  • Teach, baptize, and nurture new believers (Teach);
  • Respond to human need by loving service (Tend);
  • Transform unjust structures, challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation (Transform);
  • Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth (Treasure).

Yes, we are frail and fallible humans, and it is important for us to take stock of our lives and, with God’s help, do any course corrections which may be needed. But, as Brother Mark reminds us, we are also members of the risen body of Christ, called to share his love, healing, and forgiveness in a broken world. Each of us is beloved by God.

May we accept his love. May we absorb his love. May we share his love with others.  Amen.

Trinity Sunday Year C RCL May 22, 2016

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

Our opening lesson on this Trinity Sunday is about Wisdom. The concept of Wisdom is found in the Hebrew Scriptures and also in the literature of ancient lands near Israel. She is seen as feminine, and she was the first thing created by God. She assisted God in the creation of the world. She was “beside him, as master worker.”

In this ancient text, the idea of the  Christian Trinity had not yet been thought of, but Wisdom is often associated with Jesus because John’s gospel describes Jesus as the logos, the word, who called the creation into being, and that is very similar to Wisdom, who was “beside God as a master worker.” Wisdom, or Sophia, is also associated with the Holy Spirit, who is often seen as feminine. Commentator Douglas M. Donley writes, “Wisdom is the Holy Spirit personified.” Wisdom tells us how delighted she and God were during the process of creation. The creation was and is an action of joy.

Our epistle tells us that we have been justified by faith. Justified means that we have been placed in right relationship with God. Our Lord Jesus Christ has done this for us. He has come to be one of us and he has made it possible for us to be as close to God as a child is to his or her beloved parent. We receive the gift of faith and the gift of grace, and through these gifts our suffering leads to endurance. We are actually strengthened through our sufferings. We are able to persevere through hardships because of God’s love and grace. That endurance produces character. We become stronger, and our faith and our awareness of God’s grace grow. And that character, that strength, that ability to hang in there, that growing awareness of God’s love and God’s gifts of faith and grace, all work together to give us hope, and that hope lasts and lasts and never ends because God’s love is pouring into us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In our gospel for today, we are with Jesus during his Farewell Discourse, his last teaching time with the apostles. He says something that is so poignant and so bittersweet. He says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Oh, these words take our breath away.

He can’t tell them what is going to happen. He is going to be arrested; he will go through a mock trial; he will be beaten; he will be crucified; he will rise again. If he tried to tell them about these things, they would not believe him. They are going to have to live through these events.

And then Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Think of what the disciples went through. Jesus was crucified. Some of them ran away. They were devastated. But then he began to appear to them. Here and there. They realized he was alive. But then he ascended to be with God. And there they were, without him.

He had promised to send the Holy Spirit, and, on Pentecost the Spirit arrived like a nighty wind, like the desert ruach, like flames dancing over their heads. And they were able to communicate with people from all over the known world in the languages of those people.

And then, as they went out to spread the Good News, we read in the Book of Acts about how the Spirit guided them to choose Matthias to join them and how the Spirit led them to meet with this person and to go to that town. The Spirit has continued to guide God’s people down to this very day.

“God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” the beloved hymn says. God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, or Sustainer. John Macquarie says that the Trinity involves vision, plan, and realization of the plan. God has the vision of creation. Jesus is the Word, the logos, the plan, the pattern for creation and for human life. Jesus, the Word, calls the creation into being. And the Holy Spirit brings forth and energizes the creation. God at work in us and in the world.

In her sermon, “Three Hands Clapping, “Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “Robert Farrar Capon says that when human beings try to describe God we are like a bunch of oysters trying to describe a ballerina. We simply do not have the equipment to understand something so utterly beyond us, but that has never stopped us from trying.”  (Taylor, Home by Another Way, p. 153.)

God comes to us in so many ways.

Each of us knows God as Creator. We go out at night and look at the sky, or we gaze on a meadow filled with wildflowers, or we watch the first light and then the sunrise, and  we marvel and give thanks.

Each of us knows Jesus, the Christ, our Redeemer. Every year, we sink more deeply into the unfathomable mystery of what he has done for us and how he leads us into new life. So often, some aspect of his life and ministry teaches us something new about sharing his love and healing. Every day. something he said or did gives direction to our lives. Every day, we meet the risen Christ or we see him out in front, leading us.

Each of us senses and knows the power of the Spirit, God at work in us and in our world. A skilled surgeon restores sight to an eye. Compassionate listening heals a broken heart. After much prayer, a direction becomes clear. A wise person sits down with nations that have been at war and helps them to walk the path to a lasting peace.

The concept of mysterium, mystery, something that is far beyond our ability to comprehend, is a wonderful thing. We may never understand the doctrine of the Trinity, and yet we can walk closely with God every minute of our lives.

“God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”  Amen.

Lent 3A RCL March 23, 2014

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

One of the themes of Lent is that we are journeying with God’s people.We are on our own journey from slavery in Egypt to a new life in the promised land. Our slavery might not have involved making bricks for the pharaoh, but it might have involved thinking that nothing we do is ever good enough, or it might involve thinking that we don’t deserve God’s love or the love of other people, or that we have not succeeded in our lives; we have not achieved enough or we have not made enough money or we have not done the right kind of work or made the right decisions. Possibly we have suffered the slavery of some kind of addiction. There are so many forms of slavery.

This morning, as we read our opening lesson, we are reminded that change is not easy and that the journey to the promised land is fraught with conflict. God’s people are complaining to Moses, “There isn’t any water.” At other times on the journey they complain that there isn’t any food, They think back to the wonderful leeks and melons and other foods that they had in Egypt and they forget that they were making bricks. But today, the issue is water. The people are desperate and they are angry, and Moses is not exactly serene in the midst of this. He calls out to God. He is probably groaning. “What shall I do with this people?” He thinks they are ready to kill him. They are so frustrated. God tells Moses to go ahead of the people. But God does not tell Moses to go alone. God advises Moses to take some of the elders with him.

Theologian Urban Holmes talks about spiritual leaders as trail guides, people who know all the good water holes out in the desert, people who know the best routes, in other words, people who have made the journey many times and can save us from falling into all the potholes. They go out in front, not in an arrogant way or a showy way. They go out in front the way Jesus did and the way all good shepherds do, to lead the sheep in the right path. There is something reassuring about having the leader out in front. But the leader does not go alone. The leader goes with a team. The elders. And the leader takes the staff, the symbol of leadership, and, at God’s command, strikes the rock and the water comes out.

In our gospel, we have an extraordinary encounter. Jesus goes into Samaria, an area usually avoided by Jewish travelers. He is tired. It is so important for us to keep in mind that Jesus was fully human. He got tired. He asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans. Rabbis didn’t talk to women. Jesus is reaching over centuries of barriers in this encounter.

Jesus asks for a drink. He doesn’t even have a bucket to draw with. Then he begins to talk about living water, and the woman thinks how wonderful it would be to have a water supply that never ran out so that she wouldn’t have to come to this well every day.

Then Jesus asks her to call her husband, and she tells a truth which was shameful in those days. She has no husband. Jesus knows this already. He tells her that she has had five husbands and she is not married to the man she is with now. Some prophets or teachers would think that’s a disgrace. Not Jesus. He does not shrink away from her in disgust. He looks into her eyes with acceptance, love, and forgiveness. That is exactly how Jesus looks at you and me.

The woman senses something about Jesus and she asks a theological question. Should we worship in the temple in Jerusalem, as the Jews say we should, or on Mt. Gerizim, as the Samaritans say we should? Jesus tells us that it is not the place that is important; it’s the attitude with which we worship.

I think the woman has an intuitive sense of who Jesus is, and that prompts her to ask about the messiah. And Jesus gives her a great gift: he tells her who he is. He entrusts that truth to this woman who is living in what some people would call sinful circumstances, this woman who is also a seeker after truth.

The woman becomes the first preacher of the good news. She goes into the city and tells people about Jesus, and they come to see for themselves. The text tells us that “many believed because of her testimony.”

In our epistle, Paul writes something so profound that we could meditate on it for years: “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” We have all known people who have suffered and gained endurance through that suffering, people whose characters have been shaped and strengthened by that endurance until all of their experience is tempered by fire and ice into hope. I think Jesus saw that process in this Samaritan woman, and I think that is why he entrusted the gospel to her.

What does all of this mean to us today? We are on a journey, and when we hear God’s people complaining and see Moses getting frustrated, it reminds us that we are not alone. Even God’s chosen people had difficulty. The journey is not easy.

Here at Grace, we don’t have one leader; we are a leadership team. Everyone offers his or her gifts. Jesus is our leader.

Our Lord went places that others did not go, and he reached out to people others would look down on. He saw the potential in this woman. He saw her as what she was, a precious and gifted child of God. He told her the truth about himself, and she shared that truth in a way that was convincing enough that many people came out from the city and followed Jesus.

Our Lord sees the gifts of the most unlikely people and gives them the grace to use those gifts. He can and does use us to share the good news every day.

This is our model—team ministry and compassionate ministry which sees the potential of every person. And, as we walk the Way of the Cross, we remember Paul’s profound progression: suffering leads to endurance; endurance leads to character; character leads to hope, and all because of God’s love poured out for us.

May we continue to walk the Way of the Cross, remembering God’s unfailing love for each of us and for all of us. Amen.

Trinity Sunday Year C RCL May 26, 2013

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalm 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

Today we celebrate the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or in gender neutral language, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Theologian John Macquarrie has a wonderful concept of the Trinity. He says that whenever we are going to create something, there is a vision of that creation, a plan for how to create it, and  then there is the realization of that plan.

Macquarrie says that God has a vision for the creation, Jesus is the plan for creation, he is the Word, the logos, the blueprint, pattern for human life. He is the One who calls the creation into being, and that the Holy Spirit brings about the realization of the plan. The Holy Spirit is God at work in us and in the world.

In the back of our Prayer Book, there is a Catechism. On page 846, there is the section on God the Father. It’s in a question and answer format. I will read the questions, Please respond with the answers.

Q. What do we learn about God as Creator from the revelation to Israel?
A. We learn that there is one God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

Q. What does this mean?
A. This means that the universe is good, that it is the work of a single loving God who creates, sustains, and directs it.

Q. What does this mean about our place in the universe?
A. It means that the world belongs to its creator; and that we are called   to enjoy it and to care for it in accordance with God’s purposes.

Q. What does this mean about human life?
A. It means that all people are worthy of respect and honor, because all are created in the image of God, and all can respond to the love of God.

Q. How was this revelation handed down to us?
A. This revelation was handed down to us through a community created  by a covenant with God.

On page 849, we have the section on God the Son,.

Q. What do we mean when we say that Jesus is the only Son of God?
A. We mean that Jesus is the only perfect image of the Father, and shows us the nature of God.

Q.  What is the nature of God revealed in Jesus?
A. God is love.

Q. What do we mean when we say that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and became incarnate from the Virgin Mary?
A. We mean that by God’s own act, his divine Son received our human nature from the Virgin Mary, his mother.

Q. Why did he take our human nature?
A. The divine Son became human, so that in him, human beings might be adopted as children of God, and be made heirs of God’s kingdom.

Q. What is the great importance of Jesus’ suffering and death?
A. By his obedience, even to suffering and death, Jesus made the offering which we could not make; in him we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God.

Q.  What is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection?
A.  By his resurrection, Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way to eternal life.

Q. What do we mean when we say that he descended to the dead?
A.  We mean that he went to the departed and offered them the benefits of redemption.

Q.  What do we mean when we say that he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
A.  We mean that Jesus took our human nature into heaven where he now reigns with the Father and intercedes for us.

Q. How can we share in his victory over sin, suffering, and death?
A.  We share in his victory when we are baptized into the New Covenant and become living members of Christ.

On page 852, we have the section on the Holy Spirit.

Q. Who is the Holy Spirit?
A. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, God at work in the world and in the Church even now.

Q. How is the Holy Spirit revealed in the Old Covenant?
A. The Holy Spirit is revealed as the giver of life, the One who spoke through the prophets.

Q. How is the Holy Spirit revealed in the New Covenant?
A. The Holy Spirit is revealed as the Lord who leads us into all truth and enables us to grow in the likeness of Christ.

Q. How do we recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
A. We recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as Lord and are brought into love and harmony with God, with ourselves, with our neighbors, and with all creation.

–That is God’s shalom. When the whole creation is in harmony, God’s vision will be fully realized. That is what we are working for.

God in three persons—blessed Trinity. We experience God in these three ways, when we look at the beauty of creation, from a vast galaxy to the smallest little flower. When we write a poem or sing, or play an instrument, or do anything creative—build a cabinet, scrub a floor, take out a splinter, balance the books, listen to someone who is hurting, then we are experiencing God the Creator and we are being co-creators with God.

God the Son, our Redeemer, the One who frees us, who rescues us from sin. We are going around and around on our little hamster wheel, stuck in a never-ending circle of pride or wrath or envy or greed or lust or gluttony or sloth or addiction or fear or any of the things that can ensnare us and make us feel hopeless. And then he is there, reaching out with love and forgiveness, showing us the way out, freeing us to be the persons he calls us to be. That is Jesus, our Savior.

And the Holy Spirit. You can’t see the Spirit, but you can see the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control. The Spirit is the One who is with us as Jesus reaches out in love and healing and gives us the energy to have hope once again, to get back on the journey. The Spirit is God at work within us and in the world. God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, are working mightily in Moore, Oklahoma right now, and all over our world, and right here, in us and among us.

God in three persons, blessed Trinity. May God’s Name be praised forever and ever.                Amen.