All posts by marcia

march 29, 2020

5th Sunday of Lent: The Still Waters of Faith

Dear Church Family,

This is the second week that I am putting together what I call “Guided Worship.” Some helpful changes are in place. Instead of having to pause and seek a second, third, fourth and fifth video, you’re now able to watch the entire presentation as a whole. That’s good news. I also have changed the format of my presentation. It is my hope that it’s an improvement.

If you remember what I said last week, you know that this Sunday, March 29th, I’m finishing up my reflections on the 23rd Psalm. We were able to get through the third verse last week, so we will be starting at verse 4 and going to the end (verse 6). I think I mentioned last week that it was fortuitous that in this time of uncertainty, the 23rd Psalm was one of our readings. It is one of the most often quoted pieces of scripture and is usually referenced during times of stress, so it fits nicely in this time when our nation and our world move through this time of anxiety. I invite you, therefore, to view this “Guided Worship.” I do ask you, however, to remember that worship is not a spectator sport but an act of participation. One gets out of worship what one’s soul brings to it. With all that said, here’s a copy from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible:

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; 3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Faithfully, Pastor Jeff

Worship March 22, 2020

We bring anxious hearts with us to this time of worship. Our world is changing and the rules of social engagement are in flux. We meet today in isolation and attempt to bridge the physical divide by employing a technological fix for the distance between us. Yet the words of Jesus remind us of the communal nature of faith: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) That statement has within it the implication that faith is more than sheer personal belief or action. Both our belief and our action are done in partnership with the gathered body of Christ. So to be called into “social distancing” is a true obstacle to the expression of genuine faith. And yet.

In these times when public safety trumps short-term inconvenience, we find ourselves as Christians trying to think of new ways to stay connected. It is to that end that I am providing this “guided worship.” Is it enough? No. What is required is our care and concern for those within our church, community, and world. What may yet link us together is prayer. Prayer knows no borders or boundaries. Prayer makes no distinction between rich and poor, sexual orientation, black or white, even Christian and non-Christian. It may yet prove to be that mystical force that keeps us connected in our care for each other and our service to God.

With that said, let us begin.

The Still Waters of Faith: An Exploration of the 23rd Psalm
“…he leads me beside still waters…” (verse 2)

Sunday, March 22, 2020 — Video 1

Sunday, March 22, 2020 — Video 2

Sunday, March 22, 2020 — Video 3

Sunday, March 22, 2020 — Video 4

Sunday, March 22, 2020 — Video 5

(The complete printed copy of Pastor Jeff’s sermons will be uploaded to the Past Sermons page)

guided worship 3/22/2020

PREPARING FOR WORSHIP

  • Take a deep breath, exhaling it slowly and let the breath that escapes your body be a cleansing moment when all the anxiety that besets you is expelled.
  • Do this breathing exercise again.
  • Do it again.
  • Now remember a time of comfort and joy.
  • Focus on God’s hand in creating, sustaining and guiding you to this place of peace.
  • Finally, give thanks for what God has done in your life and say outloud “O GOD I GIVE YOUR NAME PRAISE AND I AM READY TO ENTER INTO THIS TIME OF WORSHIP.”

OPENING PRAYER

For Your abiding presence, O God, hear our thanks. You have guided us through war, sustained in times of want, and brought forth food from the fields. In all of life, your hand has sustained us. Hear us now as we pray for:

  • Those who have fallen ill (provide the names of those you know whose health is compromised)
  • Those who live in isolation from those they love (provide names of those you know who are isolated or in quarantine)
  • Those who provide health care in midst of this pandemic (provide names of those you know who are members of the health care team)
  • For troubled parents who have yet another worry on their hands.
  • For those in positions of leadership and government.
  • For those involved in research who are seeking a treatment and a vaccine.
  • For your own personal health — both physical and mental.
  • For the nourishing of your soul that trust and hope might remain strong.

For all this we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE — PSALM 23 (NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION)

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

A Sermon by The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ March 22, 2020
The Still Waters of Faith: An Exploration of the 23rd Psalm

“…he leads me beside still waters…” Psalm 23:2i

His job was on the line and his face carried the weight of uncertainty. He did not know how long his job would last. Like all of us, the present moment was all he knew, all he could trust.

Ellen and I had gone out to eat while in New Orleans celebrating the wedding of our friends’ daughter. We had gone to one of the myriads of hotels and sat at the bar — in large part because they had a television tuned to CNN. Louisiana had zero cases of Covid-19 when we left the state of Vermont on Wednesday. It was now four days later and the number of cases had grown to 77 by Sunday. The hotel had an eerie feeling of winding down, of becoming a mere shell of unused capacity.

As one is want to do, we talked with the barkeeper. There was no smile on his face. He told us that he didn’t think the hotel would be open by the end of the week. He would be without a job.

Continue reading guided worship 3/22/2020

staying connected during this anxious time

A message from Pastor Jeff for us to read each week when we enter into virtual worship. Each week Pastor Jeff is giving us a Guided Worship to read and videos of his service to watch.

We bring anxious hearts with us to this time of worship. Our world is changing and the rules of social engagement are in flux. We meet today in isolation and attempt to bridge the physical divide by employing a technological fix for the distance between us. Yet the words of Jesus remind us of the communal nature of faith: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) That statement has within it the implication that faith is more than sheer personal belief or action. Both our belief and our action are done in partnership with the gathered body of Christ. So to be called into “social distancing” is a true obstacle to the expression of genuine faith. And yet.

In these times when public safety trumps short-term inconvenience, we find ourselves as Christians trying to think of new ways to stay connected. It is to that end that I am providing this “guided worship.” Is it enough? No. What is required is our care and concern for those within our church, community, and world. What may yet link us together is prayer. Prayer knows no borders or boundaries. Prayer makes no distinction between rich and poor, sexual orientation, black or white, even Christian and non-Christian. It may yet prove to be that mystical force that keeps us connected in our care for each other and our service to God.

With that said, let us begin.

Continue reading staying connected during this anxious time