We will hear one of the most fascinating and puzzling passages in the gospel this Sunday (Luke 16:1-13). Jesus tells a story about a dishonest manager who cheats the rich man he works for, who then praises the manager for his shrewdness. Jesus shocks us by telling us to be as shrewd ourselves. It seems to make no sense until we delve into it and find practical wisdom that we desperately need right now in our church and world. We will hear two other passages about the kind of wisdom Christ calls us to have, one from Proverbs 8 and the other from Matthew, Chapter 10, verses 16-20.
It was a privilege to host the Jeremiah Ingalls Singers from Newbury, VT during our service on August 28, 2016. The Rev. Donald Towle led the singers and gave a very thought-provoking sermon. Below are a few photos and a video of the singers.
The Apostle Paul had a slogan in his churches, “For freedom Christ has set us free!” Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I have been inviting the congregation in my Epistle articles to think about the positive difference our church makes in our lives throughout the week. Clearly one difference church is meant to make is to lead us to the freedom to have life and have it abundantly. Jesus does not want anything to hold us back. This Sunday in worship we will think about what this means for our lives as individuals and as a congregation. The scripture readings helping us do that will include Psalm 1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Luke 14:25-33. We will celebrate some of the ways in which we are not holding back from a life rich in meaning, love and joy.
We will celebrate the baptism of Arabella DiLorenzo this Sunday during worship, the daughter of Nicholas and Valerie DiLorenzo and the granddaughter of Lynda and Frank DiLorenzo and Daniel and Anita Perry. Arabella’s great-grandfather, Deacon Dan Perry, will assist in the baptism.
The music will be fitting for such a celebration. We will sing two hymns from the New Century Hymnal that are deeply moving and modern favorites: Child of Blessing, Child of Promise, and I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry, as well as two cherished hymns from the Pilgrim Hymnal, Take My Life and Let it Be and Jesus Calls Us, O’er the Tumult. Organist John Atwood will play “Take my Life and let it Be” by W. Verburg, “Trio” by F. Couperin and “Fantaisie” L. Couperin.
The lectionary scriptures are not so fitting for a baptism, at least at first glance: Psalm 49, Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23, and Luke 12:13-21. They are all about the apparent meaninglessness of this life that becomes clear to us at the moment of our death. And yet they do not intend to leave us despairing–they lift our vision to a higher meaning, a way of living on earth that has lasting value that no one and nothing can take from us, not even death. We each have the ability to live that life in our own unique way. The church can help us find our path, and we all can help Arabella find hers as she lives and grows among us.
Here are the two hymns we will sing from the New Century Hymnal. Have your hankies ready–these go straight to the heart!
Before describing the service: “WARNING: A Congregational Meeting will take place immediately following the worship service on July 24, 2016 to consider the following question posed by the Diaconate: “Shall the Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, Bradford, Vermont engage in a series of education and discussion sessions about issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in the context of the Bible, the church, our society and our circles of family and friends as the first step in a process that could result in the congregation declaring itself Open and Affirming?”
Jesus says in the lectionary gospel passage this week, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Luke 11:1-13)
As much as we love to hear that, do we believe it? Do we believe Jesus means us? Do we believe Jesus means everyone when he says everyone? This saying comes in the context of his teaching his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. If we do not know the answers to these big questions, he is saying, ask God in prayer. The 138th Psalm that we will read responsively says, “On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” I hope that we all will open our hearts to be guided and strengthened by God as we address one of today’s most controversial issues in the warned meeting. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, July 24, 2016, and Congregational Meeting→
We will take in four new members this Sunday and celebrate them with special refreshments following worship. The lectionary gospel passage is the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), and the sermon will be based on it, “A Church of Contemplation and Action.” We will read responsively from Psalms 130 and 131 that speak of hoping and waiting for God with a calm and quiet soul, and we will hear selections from Romans 8 that talk about how “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit,” and “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”
This Sunday we will hear what may be the most important parable Jesus ever told, one that only Luke chose to include in his gospel, perhaps because it was so shocking (Luke 10:25-37). A lawyer tested Jesus by asking first what to do to inherit eternal life. The answer Jesus affirmed was to love God and love our neighbor as our self. Then the lawyer tried to test him again, asking who is our neighbor. Jesus replied with the scandalous story of the Good Samaritan, defining neighbor solely on the basis of the love and mercy and kindness a person needs or a person gives, and showing that no one is excluded from being the neighbor we are called to love.
The world-wide lectionary comes into alignment with the national calendar on this Independence Day weekend. Paul is talking about freedom and the Spirit, and both Jesus and Paul give rules and laws by which disciples and communities of Christ should govern themselves. (Galatians Chapters 5 and 6; Luke 10:1-11) We will read Psalm 1 that talks about those who follow the law of God becoming like trees planted by streams of living water and bringing forth fruit. The scriptures and the day beg the question: how do politics and religion relate? Does Christ have anything to say about how we govern our lives, our church, our communities and our nation in the United States of American in 2016?
We will celebrate the spirit of freedom with wonderful music, starting with the exuberant American spiritual “I Woke Up This Morning” led by members of our Diverse Traditions music team. We will also sing “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies,” and the stirring hymn, “God Send Us Men Whose Aim ’Twill Be” as well as the beloved communion spiritual, “Let Us Break Bread Together.”
Organist John Atwood will play a Prelude, Offertory and Postlude all by American composers who were born before the Revolutionary War, including: “A Fuge or Voluntary” by William Selby; “Simple Gifts” by John Carter; and “The Battle of Trenton” by James Hewitt. He will also play the ethereal “Hear My Prayer, O God” [Ave Maria] by Jacob Arcadelt, arranged for piano by Franz Liszt.
Here are two very different YouTube treats. The first is a classic recording of “The Battle of Trenton” that will greatly enhance your appreciation when you hear it Sunday morning. Do not be fooled by the YouTube frame that talks about grief. Think John Phillips Sousa…
And the second selection will help you unwind after the battle.
This Sunday and next we will be looking at how central freedom is to life in the Holy Spirit and the Way of Christ. There are all kinds of ways in which we are not free, and the scriptures consistently call us to liberate ourselves and everyone else. God wants and needs us to be free to follow the Spirit where it leads, which is often in a direction that we could not foresee and which goes against our limited rational and self-oriented perspective. God wants and needs our love to be unshackled so we can love as unconditionally and universally as the heart of Christ, loving God with everything we are and loving our neighbor as our very own self. God wants and needs us to be free from things like fear and the tyranny of shoulds and unnecessary rules as well as from oppressive governments and social norms and unjust law–free to love and free to use our gifts to serve in ways that give our lives ultimate meaning and purpose. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 26, 2016, Freedom & Spirit, Part One→
We will be worshipping this Sunday after the worst mass shooting in American history. By the grace of God the scriptures in the world wide lectionary for this week remind us that Christ gives us the way out of violence and hatred and fear. Christ heals us of the demonic madness that divides us (Luke 8:26-39) and he brings us together as one (Galatians 3:26-28). He leads us to the God of Psalm 46: “God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear and burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still and know that I am God!'” Christ leads us to the sheer silence, the still, small voice, the calm beyond the hurricane, earthquake and fire of our world. (I Kings 19:1-15) Christ opens us to the Holy Spirit, the greatest force in the universe, the force of Christlike love that has overcome empires and time and again has revealed hope where there seemed to be no hope. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 19, 2016→