This Sunday the lectionary readings remind us to persevere in our struggle to make this world more like the realm of God’s mercy, justice and peace. We will hear the beautiful promises of Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep…
We will hear Jesus tell the story of the widow who would not stop knocking on the door of a cold-hearted, unjust judge until he relented. Jesus said, “Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?” (Luke 18:1-8)
We will be taking our annual Neighbors in Need offering, joining our small congregation’s contribution to a much greater united force that is knocking on the door of a cold-hearted world persisting in its pursuit of justice. The theme this year is: “This we believe…No child should go to bed hungry.” The Silent Meditation in the bulletin tells us that “Nearly one in five children…16 million…in America live in households that struggle to put food on the table.”
The Silent Meditation in the bulletin this Sunday is from our former neighbor in the Upper Valley, the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, who said, “Joy is the most essential Christian emotion. Duty calls only when gratitude fails to prompt.” We do not have to look far for sources of gratitude and joy. We are surrounded by a gloriously colorful fall steadily unfolding under deep blue October skies. We have a loving congregation full of people with diverse gifts and talents who are helping us worship and serve in a variety of ways. We have children in the church who are eager to participate, and not just in refreshments! (Please remember to bring colorful leaves for them this Sunday for the Burning Bush they will be creating in Sunday School!)
And yet we also have around us plenty of reasons to despair, plenty of opportunities for discouragement or resentment. We see people around us who are not grateful and not joyous. Sometimes we ourselves slip into negativity. The scriptures and hymns this Sunday remind us to have faith and to live our faith as a path to well-being, gratitude and joy. The question in a life of faith is, what does our gratitude or our joy prompt us to do now for God and for our neighbor? Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes for October 9, 2016→
President Abraham Lincoln said, “I care not for a man’s religion whose dog or cat is not the better for it.” Our religion is meant to change the way we live for the better both in the smallest of ways that would affect our dog or cat and in the biggest of ways that affect the lives of our family, our neighbors, our church, our community, our nation and our world. How we live this life matters.
How we respond to suffering especially matters, both our own suffering and the suffering of others. As Bishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho write in this Sunday’s Silent Meditation, “Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible…. We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. ”
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.