Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon Aug 25 2019

“The Jesus Who Divides”
This is the second of a two-part sermon
(Part 1 was shared on August 18, 2019)
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 12: 49-56
August 25, 2019

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” Luke 12:51i

Forgive me. This opening section is going to be very boring to those who were in worship last week. So you don’t have to listen for about the first five minutes. But if you’re like me, you have already forgotten last week’s sermon! So most of what I am about to say will sound new!

Remember in the first sermon I argued that Jesus is, indeed, a savior who does not bring unity but division. I argued that Jesus sets up a stark contrast between the “way of the world” and the “way of God.” Simply put, the “Silver Rule: Do it unto others before they have a chance to do it unto you,” will always be in conflict when compared to the “Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have it done unto you.” Division takes place where the cross of Christ is formed—at the intersection between the world’s way and God’s way. Continue reading Sermon Aug 25 2019

Sermon Aug 18 2019

“The Jesus Who Divides”
This is the first of a two-part sermon
(Part 2 will be shared on August 25, 2019)
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 12: 49-56
August 18, 2019

“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!”  — Luke 12:51i

Things you don’t talk about on a first date: Money, Sex, Politics, and Religion.1 That leaves the weather which I suppose is a safe enough topic. The object, of course, is to avoid discord…And then there’s Jesus! Money, sex, politics and religion were about all He talked about. Though we may not like to admit it, our text puts these words on the lips of Jesus: “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Continue reading Sermon Aug 18 2019

Sermon August 11, 2019

“Shall We Mute the Voice of God?”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Isaiah 1
August 11, 2019

 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. – Isaiah 1:16 & 17i

The United Church of Christ has a slogan that it published on banners and quoted on mastheads: “God is still speaking” You just heard the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken between 750 and 700 B.C. — a long time ago in a place far away. Maybe they mean nothing. Perhaps they speak of a time so unlike our own that this Word from God is not God’s Word for today. If that describes your reaction to our reading this morning, then you are not troubled by the reality of the world we live in because Isaiah’s vision is outdated and out of place. I, unfortunately, cannot share your optimism. When I come to scripture I look for what I call the “Holy intersection.” It is the place where the will of God, expressed long ago, intersects with the world I live in. It is there, at this “Holy intersection” that God’s word comes alive for today. So I share with you this morning a deep feeling of discomfort and look for ways to respond to the calling of God. Continue reading Sermon August 11, 2019

Sermon July 28, 2019

“God’s Open Door Policy”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 11:1-13
July 28, 2019

 So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to 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 11:9 & 10i

The scientific method — it has brought us everything from roach repellent to rockets. It is the method that makes the modern world go around and the method is relatively simple: observe, ask a question, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis though experimentation, report the findings and formulate new theories. Simple. But in order for one’s findings to have any scientific merit, they must be replicatable. If the boiling point of water is 211.3°F then it holds true at the parsonage and at your home. We could replicate an experiment and test this hypothesis that water always boils at 211.3°F. But it isn’t always true. Go to the top of Mount Everest (29,029 feet) and water will boil at 160°F a much lower temperature. How do we know? We observed the phenomenon over and over again.1

And today the promise made by Jesus can be likened to the scientific method! Continue reading Sermon July 28, 2019

Sermon July 21, 2019

“You Are Invited…”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 10:38-42
July 28, 2019

But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

– Luke 10:41 & 42i

I think there are at least three different ways to interpret this encounter between Jesus, Martha and Mary. For the first two, I will make use of art and by looking at how these two paintings were interpreted, gain a sense of how this story has served as a gateway into God’s truth. The third approach is to see the words of Jesus not so much as a rebuke of Martha but an insight into the mission of Christ. Continue reading Sermon July 21, 2019

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