All posts by marcia

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

Congregational Half-Way Covenant

The Half-Way Covenant  Image result for halfway covenant

Our early New England Congregational forebears became members of the church by experiencing a conversion. Their children were baptized as infants, just as we do now. When these children grew up they of course wanted full church membership and to partake of the Lord’s Supper. But, in order to be granted that membership and communion they were expected to give evidence that they, too, had experienced a conversion.

Many couldn’t report such a conversion and were therefore considered quasi-members: permitted to be baptized only because they had had parents who had experienced a conversion. The membership was partial; they did not partake of the Lord’s Supper, could not vote, and could not hold office. Continue reading Congregational Half-Way Covenant

Sermon, March 11 2018

“Loving the Light”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 3: 14-21
March 11, 2018

…those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” – John 3:21i

It travels at 186,000 mi/s. As a phenomenon it has the nature of being both a particle and a wave. We arise in the morning and we behold its presence. We rest at night and the stars and Moon abide. It is with us at the dawn of day and in the contrasting darkness of night. It sustains life on earth. It illuminates our way. The psalmist would have us sing:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it. Continue reading Sermon, March 11 2018

Sermon March 4, 2018

“A Holy Place for Anger”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 2: 13-22
March 4, 2018

Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.– John 2:15i

My brother was punched in the eye. He had taken me to his high school’s football game. Our father was going to pick us up after the game. I was around ten at the time. I don’t remember the game. I do have a vivid memory of a chain link fence, three or four guys approaching and the punch Doug took in the eye. I remember him crying and having no clue what I was supposed to do. I just watched.

Our Dad arrived to find my brother cupping his eye and crying. My Dad was livid. He wanted to know who had done this. It was impossible to know. So many people. So much confusion. Our Dad didn’t care. Someone had injured his son and that someone wasn’t going to get away with it. There was a police officer was folks cross the street safely. So my Dad marched over to him, told the officer what had happened and demanded that justice be done.The officer listened politely and told my Dad that at that time, he could do nothing to help. That is not what my Dad wanted to hear and let the officer know it. Walking away, his eyes still darting back and forth, I was just glad he never found out who had done this!

I tell you all this because I have a question. Was my father’s anger a sin? That is the question before us this morning. Is anger sinful? Continue reading Sermon March 4, 2018

Sermon Feb 25, 2018

“Satan Finds An Opportune Time”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Mark 8: 31-38
February 25, 2018

“But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  – Mark 8:33i

Right after Jesus was baptized He was driven by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. How many temptations did Jesus face? And do you remember how it ended? The Gospel of Mark doesn’t say much about the whole thing. It doesn’t mention how Jesus was tempted – what He had to face – and it moves from those forty days spent in the wilderness to tell us that after enduring temptations Jesus goes to Galilee. So, if you are looking only at Mark, you wouldn’t even know that Jesus faced three temptations. Matthew gives a much more detailed description of each of the three temptations faced by Jesus. In Matthew Jesus overcomes each temptation and then tells the Devil to be gone and that’s the end of it. But Luke is different. Luke tells us about the three temptations faced by Jesus – turning stones into bread to assuage His hunger; trusting God to suspend the law of gravity and protect Him if He were to jump off the pinnacle of the Temple; becoming the ruler of the world. But it is how the section ends in Luke that fascinated me. Here is how the evangelist puts it: “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” For Luke, the temptations in the wilderness are not the last time Jesus is going to face Satan. Continue reading Sermon Feb 25, 2018

Congregational – it’s our heritage

church 2017Coming into town from any direction one knows this must be a Congregational church. It’s white, it’s in the center of Main Street, and its steeple points to heaven. This can be said of the vast majority of Congregational churches throughout all of New England. And, this is no coincidence. We are “descended” from the Puritans and the color and location of our houses of worship reflect that relationship.

Today, most people think of the word “puritanism” as something negative, restrictive, forbidding. H. L. Mencken once famously quipped, “Puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Continue reading Congregational – it’s our heritage

Sermon Feb 18, 2018

“The Inconvenient Timing of God”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Mark 1: 9-15
February 18, 2018

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Mark 1:14-15i

The timing seems all wrong. Jesus, right after He is baptized, is led by the Spirit (by the Spirit, mind you) into the wilderness. Most of us would have gone with our families to a nice restaurant to mark this passage into adulthood. Then there’s this. John has just been arrested and Jesus goes out and says, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” The tone seems all wrong. The kingdom of God has come near? John was just arrested. Isn’t that proof that God is distant and aloof? Continue reading Sermon Feb 18, 2018

Sermon Feb 11, 2018

“Seeing Jesus Only”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Mark 9: 2-9
February 11, 2018

“Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.”   Mark 9:8i

The disciples had seen one miracle after another. From the first chapter of Mark through the eighth chapter they had seen a man with a withered hand, a man who could neither speak nor hear, the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, a paralytic lowered through a roof by his friends, a blind man, a woman who could not stop hemorrhaging, and many others who were afflicted all healed. But it is not until this ninth chapter of Mark that their view of Jesus is transfigured. Continue reading Sermon Feb 11, 2018