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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 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. 

Easter 4C May 12, 2019

Acts 9:36-43
Psalm 23
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10: 22-30

In our lectionary, whether in Year A, B, or C, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. The psalm is always number 23, and the gospel readings always come from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel.

We begin with this wonderful reading from the Book of Acts. In Joppa, there is a woman who helps people whenever she can, and she loves people. That’s what we, as followers of Jesus, are called to do. Love people and help people. This woman’s name is Tabitha in Aramaic and Dorcas in Greek. Her name means “gazelle.”

A tragedy has struck. Tabitha has died. The followers of Jesus in Joppa have heard that Peter is ministering nearby. They wash Tabitha’s body and lay her out in an upstairs room. Then they send for Peter. Peter gets there as fast as he can and they take him to the upstairs room.

The widows are there, and they have clothing which Tabitha has made. This means that Tabitha had a ministry of giving people clothing which she made herself. The widows are a group of women who also engaged in servant ministry. They were close to Tabitha, and they are devastated. They are weeping.

Peter leads them all outside so that there can be quiet in the room. And then, what does he do? He kneels down and prays. He links himself to God. He opens the channel of communication with God. He becomes a channel of God’s peace and healing. He lets the grace of God flow into him. He allows God to fill him with faith.

And then Peter turns to Tabitha’s body and says, “Tabitha, get up.” We think of so many healings. Elijah raises the son of the widow of Zarephath. Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Tabitha opens her eyes, sees Peter, and sits up. He helps her to her feet. The news of this healing spreads all around Joppa, and many believe in Jesus because of it.

And then, Peter goes to stay with Simon, a tanner. The work of a tanner involves touching the hides of dead animals, which according to the law was considered unclean. Peter is staying in the home of a ritually unclean person. The good news is breaking the old boundaries and expanding to include everyone.

This theme of inclusiveness is emphasized in our passage from the Book of Revelation. A great multitude is worshiping God. The new faith is for everyone. God is sheltering and  loving all of them.

Our gospel today is the last part of Jesus’ description of himself as the Good Shepherd. In the earlier parts, he tells us that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him, and his sheep follow him when he calls. He also says that he will die for his sheep. In those days, there were still wild animals in Palestine, and shepherds did indeed die protecting their flocks from wolves and even lions and bears.

It is winter, and Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of the Dedication of the temple. This is what we call Hanukkah. The religious authorities ask Jesus how long he will keep them waiting. Why won’t he tell them that he is the messiah? The main reason why he does not tell them is that they do not believe anything he is saying. They have no idea what he is talking about. He is calling us to undergo a complete transformation from earthly concerns to the values of his kingdom. They are so focused on their own limited human ideas about preserving their power that they are totally closed to Jesus and to anything he might say.

Jesus puts this in terms that his followers in the crowd will understand. He tells the authorities, “You do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep.” Our Lord is saying that the authorities have fought him every step of the way, but his true followers have been with him. They have listened to him, eaten with him, walked with him, learned from him. They know his voice. When he calls, they follow. And he knows us. He loves us. We love him. There is a relationship between him and us that is so close nothing can break it, not even death.

My sheep hear my voice,” he says, “and I know them, and they follow me,” He knows each of us. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, our foibles, our flaws, our sins, our gifts, everything about us. And he loves us, foibles, flaws, and all. He loves us. He’s not trying to protect his turf or get power as the religious authorities are. He simply loves us.

“I give them eternal life,” Jesus says. This means that he gives us life in an entirely new and joyful and deep dimension. Life that’s really worth living. A life in which we are transformed into his likeness so that we can accept his love and share that love with everyone.

And then he says, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.” He will protect us. This does not mean that nothing bad will happen to us. Following Jesus does not mean that we are immune from tragedies, illnesses, loss of dear ones. We live in a fallen creation. The shalom of God has not yet come. But he will be with us. He will be out in front of us, leading us to the green pastures and the still waters, helping us to find safety in the midst of it all. And he will be walking beside us every step of the way. And sometimes, when the challenges are beyond us, he will carry us in his arms. He says, “What the Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.” We are in God’s hands. The entire creation is in God’s hands.

And then, “The Father and I are one.” Jesus and the Father are one. Or, as I like to say, Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. If we want to see who and what God is calling us to be, we can look at the life of Jesus in the gospels and see a blueprint for living a human life. That’s what we mean when we say that Jesus is the Word of God, the logos, the model, the blueprint for human living. He is here with us now, He is with us whoever we gather. He is leading and guiding us.

Let us listen to his voice. Let us follow him. Amen.

Pentecost 4 Proper 6C RCL June 12, 2016

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14). 15-21a
Psalm 5:1-8
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

Our opening reading tells one of the most disgraceful stories in the Bible. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel do not worship God. They worship the fertility god Baal. They are completely corrupt, accumulating money and power and possessions beyond any reasonable measure, and doing it at the expense of the peasants who do not even have the necessities of life.

King Ahab decides that he wants to own the vineyard of Naboth.  He wants to turn this priceless vineyard into a vegetable garden. That is an insulting thought. This is one of the finest vineyards in Jezreel, an area known for its excellent vineyards.  To take this land and turn it into a vegetable garden would be an affront to Naboth and his family and an example of terrible stewardship. Furthermore, scholars tell us that Leviticus prohibits selling family land to anyone outside the family, so now Ahab is actually asking Naboth to break the law. Naboth refuses to sell the vineyard.

Aha goes home and has a major pout. Naboth will not do Ahab’s will. Naboth is trying to do God’s will. But Ahab is so far beyond any morality or consideration for others that he lies down on his bed and won’t eat. The king is behaving like a two year of having a tantrum.

Jezebel rushes in to fix this situation. Using all the power of the monarchy, she sends a letter with instructions to have two scoundrels bring charges against Naboth so that he can be killed. Naboth is an honest and respected man, but the men of the city and the elders and the nobles fall right in line. Any ethical principles they may have had fly right out of the window. They join in this plot, which is such a misuse of power by those who are supposed to be leading and serving the people, and Naboth is killed.

Jezebel tells Ahab that he can now take possession of the vineyard, so Ahab sets out for Jezreel. And now, poor Elijah, the last prophet of God in Israel, has the unfortunate task of telling Ahab that his violent, selfish, unlawful and unethical behavior is the exact opposite of what God would be calling him to do and that such behavior has dire consequences.

King Ahab and Queen Jezebel are people who have lost any concept of a moral compass. They use their power to take what they want and they have no regard for their subjects. This is not what God expects of people in leadership positions.

In our gospel, Jesus is invited to eat with a Pharisee named Simon. Simon is at the top of the social ladder. He is supposedly a shining example of one who follows the law. Yet, when a woman, who is labeled, a “sinner,” comes in and anoints the feet of Jesus, Simon begins to question Jesus. If Jesus were truly a prophet, Simon thinks to himself, he would realize that this woman is beyond the pale, unacceptable, not someone we would associate with. But here is Jesus, letting her anoint his feet and kiss his feet and cry and dry his feet with her hair. So I am concluding, thinks Simon, that Jesus is not a prophet after all. I’ll have to remember never to invite him again; he is just not the genuine article.

Jesus senses exactly what Simon is thinking, and he tries to explain. I think Jesus has met this woman before, and she has shared some things, and he has healed her. When we come to a point in our lives where we realize how broken we are and how much we need help, and how much we need healing, not only physical healing bur spiritual healing, and we turn to God, and God gathers us in to God’s loving arms, and we tell God what is going on with us, and, of course God already knows but it is good for us to lay it out in so many words, and God forgives us and gives us words of wisdom and encouragement and touches us deep in our heart and soul and fills us with strength and wholeness and sets us on a new path with a new life, we are grateful beyond measure, and we just want to go to God and say, “Thank you, God, for your love, and I love you back with my whole heart.” That’s what this woman is doing.

But Simon will never understand this because Simon has no sense of his brokenness or his sin, because Simon feels he is as near to perfection as anyone could possibly be, thank you very much. He follows the letter of the law and that’s it. Simon does not need God. He does not understand God’s love and forgiveness because he has never acknowledged his need for forgiveness.

We are here because we do understand this. We have gone through times when we would not have made it through without God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and our friends in the Body of Christ. This is what St. Paul is talking about when he writes, I have been crucified in Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Christ has come into our lives, and he is living in us, and for that, we are so grateful that it is difficult to find words to express that gratitude. Thank God that we have hymns and psalms and music to try to say thank you to God.

Being reserved Vermonters, we probably would not kneel at Jesus’ feet and anoint his feet with oil and dry his feet with our hair. We would probably also be tongue-tied if we happened to meet Jesus at a dinner. But we can understand why she did it.

Our Lord has done so much for us, and even now he is with us and leads us like a Good Shepherd. We are thankful for all his gifts. He sets a table before us in the presence of those who trouble us. He anoints our heads with oil. Our cup runs over with blessings.

The attitude of gratitude is a powerful thing. May we thank God this day and every day for all the gifts God has bestowed on us, most especially, the gifts of love, grace, healing, and forgiveness. Amen.