For how many generations have we been gathering at dawn on Summer Street to watch the sun rise over the Whites on Easter? But this year we’re gathering to watch the sun rise on Lake Champlain!
Click this link to join Pastor Jeff as we greet the new Easter Dawn and in our hearts sing Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.
Following the Sunrise Service is the Family guided worship from Pastor Jeff, organ selections from John Atwood, and the Children’s Story.
Our church bells will peel throughout the Village at 11 am! Every church in the VT Conference with bells is going to be ringing them. Everyone is encouraged to ring a bell at 11 am at your front door …
Here’s something surprising. We are all staying at home — you know, “social distancing” — and I haven’t heard anyone say they have extra time. That strike you as odd? It’s like folks who are retired telling you they are so busy now that they are retired they don’t know how they had time to work!
Well, I’m throwing all that to the wind. I am sending you something to fill your time. You say you don’t have time to read it? Okay. You don’t have to. But if you want some form of devotional material in this time of social distancing, this may help.
What is it? I’ll tell you. Well, I won’t. I’ll the experts inform us.
The Revised Common Lectionary is a three-year cycle of weekly lections used to varying degrees by the vast majority of mainline Protestant churches in Canada and the United States. The RCL is built around the seasons of the Church Year, and includes four lections for each Sunday, as well as additional readings for major feast days. During most of the year, the lections are: a reading from the Hebrew Bible, a Psalm, a reading from the Epistles, and a Gospel reading. During the season of Easter, the Hebrew Bible lection is usually replaced with one from the Acts of the Apostles. The lections from the Hebrew Bible are sometimes chosen from the Apocrypha.
I thought folks might want to read one of the assigned readings each day. I know, there aren’t enough to cover all the days in a week, but it’s better than nothing. I also know that some of you are already reading the lectionary readings for each given Sunday. So, I threw in something extra. In red lettering I have included my reflections on each of the readings. Don’t worry. I don’t get all scholarly on you. I’m not sure I could if I wanted to! These are just my first impressions and I offer them to stimulate your own thinking.
So, here’s the bottom line. Use this as you see fit. To the extent that it serves to deepen your spiritual life, well and good, and it might be fun to see if the sermon has anything to do with what either you or I were thinking.
Be safe and stay well,
April 12, 2020
Below are all the assigned lectionary readings for Easter Day. I encourage you to read them as a devotional exercise and if you like, read my notes which contain my thoughts about the various readings. The text that is in “red” are my reflections. I hope you are all well and that in this time of social disconnection we might yet stay connected by the Spirit we share one with another.
The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ
April 5, 2020
“Stop Pointing Fingers”
So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:24i
In these days of Corona-virus, the shouts of “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:10 NRSV) echo in our ears as a hopeful affirmation of the power of God. How we long for the justice and peace that the reign of God would bring. No more deception, our greed checked by our sense of Divine justice, our destruction of the earth on which we live gone as a distant memory. When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem, hope ran high.
The conquering generals of His day would ride into the city on a war horse. The people would lay their garments along the path lest the general walked on dirt. They would shout Hosanna “…an expression of adoration, praise or joy.”
Jesus could have walked into Jerusalem. Instead, He is mounted not on a grand steed of war, but a donkey. Jesus could have incited a riot when the first thing He did in Jerusalem is overturn the table of the money changers. Jesus could have led a rebellion. The city was waiting, hoping. How they shouted that day, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
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:
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
Family Worship by Pastor Jeff
Children’s Story by Christian Ed
Organ Selections by John Atwood
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)
(The complete printed copy of Pastor Jeff’s sermons will be uploaded to the Past Sermons page)
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.”
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