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.”
Our Diverse Traditions Music Team will be here again to lead us for two of the four hymns we will sing, the beautiful South African freedom song, “Thuma Mina (Send Me, Lord)” and the old time favorite “I Come to the Garden” (or “In the Garden”). Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, July 17, 2016, New Members Sunday
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 other scriptures we will read are about being humble enough and faithful enough to listen to the word of God and let it teach us and change us. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, July 10, 2016
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
This Fourth Sunday after Pentecost we will celebrate the good news that the scriptures teach: we experience an increase in our capacity to love and serve when we have suffered and been healed or when we have done wrong and been forgiven. Paul put it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20) This is great news for anyone who has ever suffered or struggled or been lost and turned to God. We will celebrate it with joy!
Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 12, 2016
North Country Chorus Poster of Events
On Saturday, April 30th at 7:30 pm, the North Country Chorus is returning to our sanctuary for its Spring Concert. They will be joined by the St. Johnsbury Academy Hilltones. The featured pieces will be Franz Schubert’s Mass in G and Requiem for the Living by Dan Forrest. Choruses, soloists and orchestra will be under the direction of Alan Rowe.
Open link above for more on their performances.
Here are two recordings of the Alto Aria Erbarme dich from J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, followed by a recording of the entire Passion, which in turn is followed by a recording of Bach’s St. John Passion. No words of description are needed. Just start listening, and you will be swept up in the Passion. The Aria in the first two recordings takes place as the cock has just crowed and Peter realizes that he has denied Jesus three times, as Jesus foretold.
Started more than 50 years ago by organist Katrina Munn and her musical group of friends throughout the Upper Valley, the annual Palm Sunday Choir Festival has become a favorite event in the Bradford area. This year’s festival will be on March 20, at 7 p.m. Many area church choirs, groups, individuals and musicians come to sing anthems. The choirs join together for a combined presentation. This year it will include Mozart’s “Ave Verum” and Gaul’s “They That Sow in Tears.” The high point of the festival are the hymns, lifted up in glorious voice by more than 200 gifted singers, always ending with “All Hail the Power of Jesus’Name.” The festival is now the last of the six Sunday evening Lenten services sponsored by the Bradford Inter Church Council. The culmination of the evening this year will again be Organist John Atwood at the console.