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Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

“Going Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 24:1-12
April 21, 2019

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. — Luke 24:12i

“Then he went home?” At first, this shocked me. I would have thought that the folks who had staked their lives on this would-be-Messiah would have been the first folks Peter told the news to. Didn’t they have the most to lose on Friday and the most to rejoice over this Sunday morning? He had been with them through thick and thin – the days of triumph and miraculous healing, the days of rejection and misunderstanding. But Peter? He went home. Continue reading Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

Easter Sunrise message

“Reflection”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
April 21, 2019

 Let us place this day in the context of scripture. From Luke 24:1-11

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

 

We stand on a racing piece of earth. At the equator our rate of spin is about 1,000 miles per hour. Another rotation. Another day. And when enough days are done, we will have circled the Sun. Racing through space at 167,000 miles an hour.

These are the facts of science yet all feels still. Careening through space, we are unaware of the clip of time. We have come to label the mystery of our own existence as normal and think that the mystery is solved in the facts of science. Continue reading Easter Sunrise message

Upcoming Easter services

Easter April 21st
Dear Church Family, for the week of April 21st

Pastor Jeff says: Read Luke 24:1-12
The resurrection of Jesus is the most monumental event in human history. It is, truly, earth shattering because it turns the world upside down. Suddenly, evil is vanquished and while the victory may not yet be complete, it is assured. For every defeat suffered in life we are given ultimate assurance that “all things work to the good.” Simply put, on Good Friday Satan thought the victory to be his. On Easter Satan awakens to a world made new. The victory Satan thought he had won in the crucifixion has been transformed into the means of his defeat. Christ, who Satan thought he had silenced, is risen and what Satan may have seen as weakness becomes a force that not even Hell can prevail against.

That is the power of this day. But here’s the thing that also surprises me. Peter, the one who had denied Jesus, comes to the tomb and realizing what has taken place – that Christ has risen from the dead – does not seek out the disciples or shout victory from the rooftops of Jerusalem. Luke 24:12 tells us he went home. That surprises me. I would have thought he would have rushed to tell the other disciples what had transpired. Instead, home he goes.

We’ll explore what that might mean for us today; for like Peter, we, too, must return home.

Organist John Atwood tells us: the hymns selected are well loved standards for Easter, and are nice, bright endings to Lent. The anthem, “Now the green blade rises,” proclaims life’s renewal in spring. The Prelude announces a period of light with trumpets blazing. As with so many pieces published by Attaignant the composer is long forgotten. The postlude is a highly spiritual, outer-worldly choral prelude by J. S. Bach concluding the service. (Soli Deo Gratia!)

Lectionary readings for this coming week: (Year C) April 21-27 Acts 10:34-43 (Peter recounts his transformation)
1 Corinthians 15:19-26 (All who belong will also rise)
John 20:1-18 (the truth about the empty tomb)
Psalm 118:1-2,14-24 (the cornerstone)
theme hymn: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Pastoral Concerns: Pastor Jeff Long-Middleton 978-273-6399 pastorjeffuccbradford@gmail.com

Emergency Assistance: Care Coordinator Carole Taylor 802-222-4590

Easter April 21st
Sunrise Service
at Button home on Summer Street, 6:30 am
Easter Breakfast at Grace UMC, 7:00 am
Easter Family worship, 10:00 am

Reminder: if you wish to have a flowering plant on the altar Easter morning, let Janice Larabee know now and bring it to the church kitchen on or before April 20th

Pastor Jeff’s office hours
Sunday afternoons and all day Mondays
978-273-6399 is his recommended number to use at any time;
calls to 802-222-4610 are only answered when he is in the parsonage, but you may leave a message

Around Town:
April 19th
in our vestry … Red Cross Blood Drive

May 4th in our sanctuary, the North Country Chorus spring concert, Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Ravel’s “Requiem” plus the St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltones.

May 17th in the vestry … our annual meeting. If you haven’t yet forwarded your annual report to Penny Perryman it needs to be sent now. This year’s Annual Report will be posted online (not mailed in paper form) with only a few copies printed for those who cannot access it online.

We lift up in our prayers all who struggle, all who hurt, all who grieve, all who suffer, at home, across town, and around the world. The thought of Notre Dame cathedral of Paris is a reminder of how connected all of God’s creation is, and how much we can accomplish when we come together.

Sermon Palm Sunday 2019

“May Hosannas Still Ring”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 23:1-49
April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ — Luke 23:47i

We know the sordid details. It started with “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” By Friday they will be shouting, “Crucify him.” Long ago and far away the tide of public opinion turned against Jesus. What began as a day filled with Messianic hope became a week of unrealized expectations. They had greeted Jesus as a conquering hero. They would send Him away defeated, despised and a criminal who had been convicted of thinking himself to be a king.

Why this shift in the crowds mood? Continue reading Sermon Palm Sunday 2019

Palm Sunday Choir Festival 2019

PS2019-1
 Our annual

Palm Sunday Choir Festival

participating musicians: organist John Atwood, GUMC handbell choir, Susan Cole, Irene Drew, pianist Linda Duxbury

participating choirs:  Topsham United Presbyterian, Wells River Congregational, Newbury Congregational, Bradford Congregational, Tabor Valley Singers, Haverhill First Congregational, Pike Congregational, East Corinth Congregational, Our Lady Of Perpetual Help, Palm Sunday Combined Chorus

Soloists and Trio: Cynthia Bazanno, Bridget Peters, Betsy Alexander, Marcia Tomlinson

Sermon, April 7 2019

“The New Thing Is God’s Thing”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Ecclesiastes 1:1-9
Isaiah 43:16-21
April 7, 2019

Fifth Sunday of Lent

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?    Isaiah 43:19i

Either Ecclesiastes is right and nothing ever changes or these words from Isaiah are to be our guide. I don’t think it is possible to hold both views. Since this is a Congregational Church deeply embedded in the “free church” tradition, I can tell you what I believe, but I can’t tell you what you have to believe. I do have one question, however, for anyone who thinks that there is nothing new under the Sun. If there is nothing new under the Sun, then the linchpin to our Christian faith is null and void. The most monumental event in human history – the incarnation of God – is simply not possible because if the coming of Christ is anything at all, it’s new. I contend, therefore, that people of faith are tasked with perceiving the new thing God is doing. Continue reading Sermon, April 7 2019

Sermon March 31 2019

“Stone Soup”
Deacon Marcia Tomlinson
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
March 31, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Lent

“The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:12)

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  2Corinthians 5:17

We refer to Lent as a journey.

It’s a time of cross over.

If we were to hear today’s Old Testament story of Joshua and the people’s arrival in the Promised Land without knowing the whole story of the journey to get there, its importance would be meaningless. Continue reading Sermon March 31 2019

Sermon March 24 2019

“Staying the Saw”
Rev. Jeff Long-Middletoton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 13:1-9
March 24, 2019

Third Sunday of Lent

If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down. – Luke 13:9i

My friends, today’s lesson must be put in a much larger context. Simply put, by itself, it’s dangerous. There is no mention of grace. No mention of unconditional love. No mention of forgiveness. If this were all one had to go on, Christianity would look rather dour. This is not my favorite reading. I would prefer to focus on the forgiving nature of God, a forgiveness so great the Second Person of the Trinity dies on a cross outside the city’s wall to insure that the forces of darkness are defeated. That is the Good News Christ’s church proclaims. Continue reading Sermon March 24 2019

Sermon March 17 2019

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose
Rev. Jeff Long-Middletoton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 13:31-35
March 17, 2019

Second Sunday of Lent

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! – Luke 13:34i

One of our favorite television shows was Friday Night Lights. It told the story of Dillon, a fictional town in rural Texas. It centered around the East Dillon high school football team and the team’s coach. We followed the ups and downs of the team, the town, the struggle of adolescents, the political intrigue of the school committee and the daily decisions that make up our lives and move us closer to virtue or nearer to vice. Before every game, Coach Taylor would address his team that ended with two things – a prayer and the teams motto: “Clear eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” Behind the saying was the conviction that no matter what happened that night – whether the Dillon Panthers should win or lose on the field, with clear eyes and full hearts they had already won. Continue reading Sermon March 17 2019