Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon July 14, 2019

“Judgement as Consequence”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Amos 7: 7-17
July 14, 2019

 ‘the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’

– Amos 7:9 i

These words from Amos are not easy to hear. In a time when our nation is openly divided, when corruption in high places is ubiquitous, when people who are seeking an escape from the violence in Central America are now dealing with a nation that wants them gone, we hear from Amos of God’s preferential bias towards the poor and an unrelenting call to justice. In such times as these, Amos’s words are not easy to hear. Continue reading Sermon July 14, 2019

Sermon July 7, 2019

“’tis the Gift to be Simple”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
2 Kings 5: 1-14
July 7, 2019

 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage.   – 2 Kings 5:11-12i

I don’t know how many of you are professional basketball fans. Probably not many. I am and having lived in the Boston area for a total of 27 years, I root for the Boston Celtics. One day I was watching a NBA game. Can’t remember who the Antonio Spurs were playing at the time, but at halftime, the game was far too close to call. In case you don’t know, Gregg Popovich is the head coach of the Spurs and he shows an open disdain for being interviewed. When they put a microphone up to his face, you can see that all Popovich wants is for this to be over. Well, the job of the halftime reporters is to get some sort of insight from the opposing coaches, to learn of any adjustments they made during halftime to insure victory. So our intrepid reporter asks Popovich what his team would have to do to win. Continue reading Sermon July 7, 2019

Sermon June 30, 2019

“The Cost of Discipleship”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 9: 51-62
June 30, 2019

 “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62i

Remember last week’s sermon? It’s title was a little irreverent: “Asking Jesus to leave.” Well, Jesus isn’t helping His cause. After reading Luke 9:51-62, we are met with three different encounters with folks who either want to follow Jesus or who are called by Jesus. In none of them is there a warm feeling. And before these encounters there is Jesus trying to make an impression on the good folks in Samaria. That didn’t go so well. Jesus, like any good evangelist, had sent “messengers” ahead of His arrival. When they started to talk about Jesus and folks learned that “His face was set on Jerusalem,” the Samaritans wanted no part of Him. Indeed, so cold was the welcome Samaria gave to James and John that they wanted the authority to “call down fire from Heaven.” Continue reading Sermon June 30, 2019

Sermon June 23, 2019

“Asking Jesus to Leave”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 8: 26-39
June 23, 2019

Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. – Luke 8:37i

I am going to ask two questions this morning. The first is why did the Gerasenes ask Jesus to leave? The second question is why do we ask Jesus to leave? Of these two questions, the first is easier to answer. The second question – namely, why do we ask Jesus to leave – is perhaps harder to address but far more important. The first question is of historical interest. The second question is deeply disturbing and requires a reckoning with our wayward souls. Continue reading Sermon June 23, 2019

Sermon June 16, 2019

“Spirit, Stress and Strength”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Romans 5: 1-5
June 16, 2019

 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5i

Have you ever seen the Holy Spirit? Remember last week? It was Pentecost and the reading from Acts talked about tongues of fire coming to rest over the disciples. I’ve never seen it. Or what of Moses and the burning bush left unconsumed. I have never seen that, either. Remember the prophet Isaiah who heard God’s voice calling to him and Isaiah answered. I’ve never heard the voice of God. But while I may not have seen tongues of fire, a burning bush or heard a voice from heaven, I have seen the Holy Spirit of God Continue reading Sermon June 16, 2019

Sermon May 26, 2019

“Do You Want to be Made Well?”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 5:1-9
May 26, 2019

 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’

– John 5:6i

The hardest pastoral visits I have made are to nursing homes. Many are fine facilities with caring and competent staff. Still, it’s hard. Residents in wheelchairs incessantly calling out for help. The smell of urine. Minds that quit long before the person’s body did. I mention this because today, Jesus has gone to Jerusalem’s nursing home where the mentally impaired, the lame and the diseased have gone perhaps because there was no where else to go. In all my visits to the infirmed, I never once asked the question Jesus puts to this man, “Do you want to be made well?” If I had asked it, the answer would have been “Yes.” But Jesus puts it to this poor soul, a man who had been coming to this renowned pool of healing water for thirty-eight years. Continue reading Sermon May 26, 2019

Sermon May 19, 2019

“God’s New Thing for You”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Revelation 21:1-6
May 19, 2019

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5ai

Where we are today is perhaps not where we want to be. The history we confront is filled with challenges and some have come to doubt humanity’s ability to overcome the problems set before it.

A father and his eighteen your old daughter were talking one night in their home in Princeton, New Jersey. They had just watched the 11 o’clock news. Ralph Schoenstein, the father, reported the dialog with his daughter Lori in an article in the New York Times. ‘Don’t you think,’ Lori asked, ‘that this is the worst time there ever was?’

I don’t know,’ her father said, suddenly yearning for the days when Lori has asked why the sky was blue instead of why it was falling down. Continue reading Sermon May 19, 2019

Sermon May 12, 2019

“The Guiding Hand of God”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Psalm 23
May 12, 2019

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters. 
– Psalm23:2i

It is my sincere hope that the words we just read this morning are a reflection of your relationship with God. Led to still waters, your wounds and scratches soothed, your fear laid to rest as you feast on what your enemies would deny you, never having to fear the valleys of deep darkness because you knew and know that God is with you. How I hope that the 23rd Psalm reflects your faith.

But I lived in Chicago, outside Detroit, near Philadelphia and ouside of Boston. The rosy words of the 23rd Psalm do not express the harried reality of the daily commute most urbanites face. Instead of still water, they hear, “God out’a my way. I’m driving here!” Continue reading Sermon May 12, 2019

Sermon May 5, 2019

“To See Anew”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Acts 9:1-20
May 5, 2019

 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. – Acts 9:17 & 18i

Derek Black learned at a young age how to hate. Born into a white supremacist family he was taught that people of color were to be shunned, separated from a nation founded by and for whites. He was home schooled not only in the Three “R’s” but taught who God loved and who God rejected. He decided to run for public office and became gifted at spreading his message. He would not speak directly but roundabout in order to make an opening for his position. He commented on running for political office in Florida and how he would subtly win people over to his ideology. He writes about that effort and tells the reader what he used to say:

“‘Don’t you think all these Spanish signs on the highway are making everything worse? And don’t you think political correctness is just not letting you talk about things that are real?’ And getting people to agree on that would be the way forward.1

He was, like Saul, blind to love and the common humanity shared by us all.

But like Saul, his story does not end with blindness. Continue reading Sermon May 5, 2019

Sermon April 28, 2019

“Why the Wounds”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20:19-31
April 28, 2019

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. – John 20:20i

Jesus was dead. The room is locked. Jesus now comes and stands in front of them. Jesus, mind you. The text doesn’t speak about someone who appeared to be like Jesus. It doesn’t mention that Jesus, now resurrected, looked very different than He had prior to dying. No. The text says, “Jesus came and stood before them.” So here’s the question: Why is it only after Jesus shows them his hands and side do they rejoice when they saw Jesus. Continue reading Sermon April 28, 2019