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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 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 2A RCL April 27, 2014

Acts 2:14a. 22-32

Psalm 16

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

Our lessons this morning are not in chronological order. In our opening reading from the Book of Acts, it is the feast of Pentecost. People are gathered in Jerusalem from all over the known world. It is fifty days after Passover, about fifty days after the first Easter.

Flames of fire dance over the heads of the apostles. The wind of the Spirit blows. And the apostles tell the Good News in all the languages of the world.

Standing with the eleven because Judas has died, Peter preaches about Jesus. He links Jesus with Jewish history and with the reign and promises of the great King David. Peter proclaims that Jesus has been crucified and has risen. At that point, Peter probably thinks that the followers of Jesus will form a sect of Judaism.

Our epistle comes from years later in Peter’s life and ministry. He writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his grace he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

By this time, the new faith has spread all around the Mediterranean Sea, giving hope to people living under the yoke of the Roman Empire, When Peter writes that Jesus has given us “a new birth into a living hope,” he is comforting and strengthening many followers of Jesus who are undergoing persecution.

The followers of Jesus were peacemakers. They did not fight in the Roman army. They were therefore seen as subversives who should be punished and persecuted. They were also noted for the love and care which they showed to each other. An author of the time wrote, “See these Christians, how they love one another.” The promise of a new reality, a new hope, and a new way of living attracted thousands of people to the new faith. The love within each community sustained its members and welcomed new folks to join in the fellowship.

In our gospel, it is the evening of the first Easter. The followers of Jesus are in hiding. They are afraid of the authorities. They have heard that Jesus has risen, but only Mary Magdalene has actually seen the risen Lord.

Jesus walks right through the walls of fear. The first thing he says to them is, “Peace be with you.” Shalom be with you. The vision of shalom, the kingdom of God, where there is peace, where there is love and compassion, everyone has enough to eat and drink; everyone has shelter; basic needs are met; everyone has constructive work to do and the chance to lead a healthy and productive life.

Then Jesus breathes the Spirit of shalom into them and us. That first time, Thomas is not there. He tells the others that he will not be able to believe until he touches the wounds of Jesus.

A week later, Jesus comes again. All Thomas has to do is take one look at Jesus.  Thomas knows that it is the Lord, and that he has come through it all and is here to lead us on a new path. On the spot, Thomas believes.

What does it mean to believe? It is important to keep in mind that belief is not a matter of intellectual assent to a proposition. In other words, when we say we believe, we are not saying, “I believe this on an intellectual level.” Belief involves what Jewish thought calls the heart, but the heart is more than just feeling. The heart is the core of the person, It involves the emotions, and it also involves the mind and the will and the intentions.

Once we see Jesus and we get to spend time with him in loving community the way the early Christians did, it is irresistible. We want to be with him. We want to follow him. We want to live the way he calls us to live, We want to help him build his shalom of peace, healing, and harmony. Other people truly become our brothers and sisters.

Like Thomas, we probably won’t have to touch the wounds of Jesus in a literal sense. We know they are real. We know that he went through all that horror. And we know that he came through it stronger than ever. And that tells us that we can meet challenges. We can endure, and not only endure, but flourish.

This morning, we meet our risen Lord. He breathes the Spirit into us to give us the power to carry out his ministry of reconciliation and to bring in his shalom. He calls us to be peacemakers. He calls us to see every other human being as our brother or sister.

Blessed Lord, be known to us in the breaking of the bread, in the beauty of your creation, in the faces of our brothers and sisters. Give us grace to help build your shalom.  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.