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Sermon April 15, 2018

“The Disappearing Christ”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 24: 13-49
April 15, 2018

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.” – Luke 24:31i

This is what we know. Two men are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus – about 7 miles or a 2½-hour walk. Jesus joins them but the two men do not recognize Him. They continue talking about what transpired in Jerusalem over the last few days and they are specific regarding the details. They thought Jesus was the promised Messiah only to have their hopes crushed by His crucifixion. We know Jesus reframed the situation and told them the Messiah had to endure all this pain and shame. We know that it was getting late. They arrived at where they were staying. The stranger appeared to be journeying on. They beseeched Him to stay with them because it was growing dark. Continue reading Sermon April 15, 2018

Sermon April 8, 2018

“Seeing the Wounds of Jesus”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20: 19-31
April 8, 2018

” …  Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” – John 20:28i

Something happened on the way to this sermon. I changed my mind. I was going to preach a sermon no one needed to hear. So I decided to preach one I needed to hear. Continue reading Sermon April 8, 2018

The Introit … then and now

(Our original church community worshiped in a small meeting house built in 1793 by a special town meeting vote. That first one was the town church and was supported by the taxpayers for the next 17 years. That co-mingled church and state existence will be the subject of another Back Story in the future.)

introitThe Introit … then and now

In 1810 a small Bradford group banded together and organized the Calvinistic Congregational Church of Christ. The name would change a couple of times but we have always carried the title of Congregational Church.

That first name, however, indicated the theological seriousness with which the society took its faith. The showy “high church” traditions were not what they wanted. John Calvin, a great conservative theologian, maintained that only what is found in the Word of God may be introduced into the worship of God.

The Introit now sung by our choir every Sunday to start our worship service would not have been a part of the worship in our original Calvinistic Congregational Church. Such a song would have been considered “Lutheran” because Lutherans believed that what is not strictly forbidden in the Word of God may be allowed in the worship of God.

*A careful yet very important distinction to our church’s theologically-conservative founders*

“Introit” comes from the Latin Introitus meaning entrance and was the musical introduction to the liturgical (scripted) celebration of the Catholic Mass and was retained by the Lutherans after the protestant reformation sparked by the priest Martin Luther.

Introits were also retained by the Anglicans and were common in the time of Elizabeth I. Our Puritan ancestors (called Separatists in England) dropped the Introit and any rituals not explicitly defined as pure and genuine and permitted.

It would take another 100 years before our faith family relaxed enough to let in the beauty and spiritualism of the ancient Introit.


Sermon April 1, 2018 Easter

“Why Go Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20: 1-18
April 1, 2018

Then the disciples returned to their homes. – John 20:10i

What a strange thing to do. Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter and the other disciple come to believe that Jesus lives. Instead of running back to tell the other disciples, they “returned to their homes.” They have come to an existential awakening. The world has been turned upside down and the defeat of Jesus and their cause has become the greatest victory in history. They go home? Continue reading Sermon April 1, 2018 Easter

When Easter Wasn’t Our Thing

Due to our Puritan roots, New England-based Congregational churches have traditionally been much more reserved in their Easter traditions and expressions than other more liturgically based denominations. For them Easter was the joyous culmination of a series of elaborate rituals and observances: Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Passion Week, Grand Processions, and Great Vigils. And here’s why Bradford Congregational Church didn’t always celebrate in kind. Continue reading When Easter Wasn’t Our Thing

2018 Holy Week worship

HolyWeekEasterScheduleSunday, March 25
Palm Sunday morning worship, we receive our palms, 10 a.m.

Thursday, March 29
Maundy Thursday evening Tenebrae, the Last Supper, 7 p.m.

Friday, March 30
Good Friday prayer vigil, sanctuary open noon to 3 p.m.
(Evening worship at Grace UMC, time to be announced)

Sunday, April 1
Easter Sunrise Service, at village gazebo, 6:30  a.m.
Easter Family Worship, 10 a.m.

Palm Sunday Fesitival

2018 Annual Palm Sunday Choir Festival
March 25th
7pm at the Bradford Congregational Church

Alto Bass

Festival Combined Chorus alto/bass section 2016

For more than 50 years Bradford has hosted this annual service of musical praise featuring the choirs of surrounding town churches, instrumental musicians (organists, pianists, guitarists, flutist), the Tabor Valley Singers, the Jeremiah Ingalls Singers, and the annual Festival Combined Chorus.

Many traditions have endured over the years, such as the singing of five hymns with descants and organ embellishments. Also, the final hymn is always the great “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name.” This year’s exciting new thing is that professional videographer Tim Swaan of Haverhill will be making a video of the festival!

Please come, join us, sing with us!

Sermon, March 18 2018

“We Wish to See Jesus”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 12: 20-33
March 18, 2018

They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  – John 12:21 i

Where were you on February 16th? Did you hop a plane and go to China? I didn’t. They were celebrating the Chinese New Year but that has nothing to do with me. I don’t even know why it’s held on the sixteenth of February. Me going to China makes about as much sense as these Gentiles trekking to Jerusalem for Passover. I mean, really. Do these Greeks even know what Passover commemorates? I suppose they could have been “Greeks considering Judaism.” The text is silent on that point. The one thing we know is that they wished to see Jesus. Continue reading Sermon, March 18 2018

Palm Sunday here and world-wide

The tradition of handing out and waving palm fronds is relatively new for mainstream Protestant churches. It grew in popularity after Word War II when access to palm trees expanded. In our church, the fronds are ordered well in advance and usually originate from points south of the border.

ourkidspalms2017Sometimes we have the children march in ceremoniously waving the palms. Sometimes we have handed out the palms to congregants as they entered the sanctuary. A few times the palms were strewn on the front of the altar platform and congregants came forward to get them. Continue reading Palm Sunday here and world-wide