Category Archives: Past Sermons

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

Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

“Going Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 24:1-12
April 21, 2019

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. — Luke 24:12i

“Then he went home?” At first, this shocked me. I would have thought that the folks who had staked their lives on this would-be-Messiah would have been the first folks Peter told the news to. Didn’t they have the most to lose on Friday and the most to rejoice over this Sunday morning? He had been with them through thick and thin – the days of triumph and miraculous healing, the days of rejection and misunderstanding. But Peter? He went home. Continue reading Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

Easter Sunrise message

“Reflection”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
April 21, 2019

 Let us place this day in the context of scripture. From Luke 24:1-11

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

 

We stand on a racing piece of earth. At the equator our rate of spin is about 1,000 miles per hour. Another rotation. Another day. And when enough days are done, we will have circled the Sun. Racing through space at 167,000 miles an hour.

These are the facts of science yet all feels still. Careening through space, we are unaware of the clip of time. We have come to label the mystery of our own existence as normal and think that the mystery is solved in the facts of science. Continue reading Easter Sunrise message

Sermon Palm Sunday 2019

“May Hosannas Still Ring”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 23:1-49
April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ — Luke 23:47i

We know the sordid details. It started with “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” By Friday they will be shouting, “Crucify him.” Long ago and far away the tide of public opinion turned against Jesus. What began as a day filled with Messianic hope became a week of unrealized expectations. They had greeted Jesus as a conquering hero. They would send Him away defeated, despised and a criminal who had been convicted of thinking himself to be a king.

Why this shift in the crowds mood? Continue reading Sermon Palm Sunday 2019

Sermon, April 7 2019

“The New Thing Is God’s Thing”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Ecclesiastes 1:1-9
Isaiah 43:16-21
April 7, 2019

Fifth Sunday of Lent

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?    Isaiah 43:19i

Either Ecclesiastes is right and nothing ever changes or these words from Isaiah are to be our guide. I don’t think it is possible to hold both views. Since this is a Congregational Church deeply embedded in the “free church” tradition, I can tell you what I believe, but I can’t tell you what you have to believe. I do have one question, however, for anyone who thinks that there is nothing new under the Sun. If there is nothing new under the Sun, then the linchpin to our Christian faith is null and void. The most monumental event in human history – the incarnation of God – is simply not possible because if the coming of Christ is anything at all, it’s new. I contend, therefore, that people of faith are tasked with perceiving the new thing God is doing. Continue reading Sermon, April 7 2019

Sermon March 31 2019

“Stone Soup”
Deacon Marcia Tomlinson
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
March 31, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Lent

“The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:12)

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  2Corinthians 5:17

We refer to Lent as a journey.

It’s a time of cross over.

If we were to hear today’s Old Testament story of Joshua and the people’s arrival in the Promised Land without knowing the whole story of the journey to get there, its importance would be meaningless. Continue reading Sermon March 31 2019

Sermon March 24 2019

“Staying the Saw”
Rev. Jeff Long-Middletoton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 13:1-9
March 24, 2019

Third Sunday of Lent

If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down. – Luke 13:9i

My friends, today’s lesson must be put in a much larger context. Simply put, by itself, it’s dangerous. There is no mention of grace. No mention of unconditional love. No mention of forgiveness. If this were all one had to go on, Christianity would look rather dour. This is not my favorite reading. I would prefer to focus on the forgiving nature of God, a forgiveness so great the Second Person of the Trinity dies on a cross outside the city’s wall to insure that the forces of darkness are defeated. That is the Good News Christ’s church proclaims. Continue reading Sermon March 24 2019

Sermon March 17 2019

“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose
Rev. Jeff Long-Middletoton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 13:31-35
March 17, 2019

Second Sunday of Lent

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! – Luke 13:34i

One of our favorite television shows was Friday Night Lights. It told the story of Dillon, a fictional town in rural Texas. It centered around the East Dillon high school football team and the team’s coach. We followed the ups and downs of the team, the town, the struggle of adolescents, the political intrigue of the school committee and the daily decisions that make up our lives and move us closer to virtue or nearer to vice. Before every game, Coach Taylor would address his team that ended with two things – a prayer and the teams motto: “Clear eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.” Behind the saying was the conviction that no matter what happened that night – whether the Dillon Panthers should win or lose on the field, with clear eyes and full hearts they had already won. Continue reading Sermon March 17 2019