Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon, April 5, 2020

A Sermon
by
The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ
April 5, 2020
Stop Pointing Fingers

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”  Matthew 27:24i

In these days of Corona-virus, the shouts of “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Mark 11:10 NRSV) echo in our ears as a hopeful affirmation of the power of God. How we long for the justice and peace that the reign of God would bring. No more deception, our greed checked by our sense of Divine justice, our destruction of the earth on which we live gone as a distant memory. When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem, hope ran high.

The conquering generals of His day would ride into the city on a war horse. The people would lay their garments along the path lest the general walked on dirt. They would shout Hosanna “…an expression of adoration, praise or joy.”

Jesus could have walked into Jerusalem. Instead, He is mounted not on a grand steed of war, but a donkey. Jesus could have incited a riot when the first thing He did in Jerusalem is overturn the table of the money changers. Jesus could have led a rebellion. The city was waiting, hoping. How they shouted that day, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

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guided worship 3/22/2020

PREPARING FOR WORSHIP

  • Take a deep breath, exhaling it slowly and let the breath that escapes your body be a cleansing moment when all the anxiety that besets you is expelled.
  • Do this breathing exercise again.
  • Do it again.
  • Now remember a time of comfort and joy.
  • Focus on God’s hand in creating, sustaining and guiding you to this place of peace.
  • Finally, give thanks for what God has done in your life and say outloud “O GOD I GIVE YOUR NAME PRAISE AND I AM READY TO ENTER INTO THIS TIME OF WORSHIP.”

OPENING PRAYER

For Your abiding presence, O God, hear our thanks. You have guided us through war, sustained in times of want, and brought forth food from the fields. In all of life, your hand has sustained us. Hear us now as we pray for:

  • Those who have fallen ill (provide the names of those you know whose health is compromised)
  • Those who live in isolation from those they love (provide names of those you know who are isolated or in quarantine)
  • Those who provide health care in midst of this pandemic (provide names of those you know who are members of the health care team)
  • For troubled parents who have yet another worry on their hands.
  • For those in positions of leadership and government.
  • For those involved in research who are seeking a treatment and a vaccine.
  • For your own personal health — both physical and mental.
  • For the nourishing of your soul that trust and hope might remain strong.

For all this we pray. Amen.

SCRIPTURE — PSALM 23 (NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION)

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

A Sermon by The Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ March 22, 2020
The Still Waters of Faith: An Exploration of the 23rd Psalm

“…he leads me beside still waters…” Psalm 23:2i

His job was on the line and his face carried the weight of uncertainty. He did not know how long his job would last. Like all of us, the present moment was all he knew, all he could trust.

Ellen and I had gone out to eat while in New Orleans celebrating the wedding of our friends’ daughter. We had gone to one of the myriads of hotels and sat at the bar — in large part because they had a television tuned to CNN. Louisiana had zero cases of Covid-19 when we left the state of Vermont on Wednesday. It was now four days later and the number of cases had grown to 77 by Sunday. The hotel had an eerie feeling of winding down, of becoming a mere shell of unused capacity.

As one is want to do, we talked with the barkeeper. There was no smile on his face. He told us that he didn’t think the hotel would be open by the end of the week. He would be without a job.

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Sermon March 8, 2020

“The Truth of the Lie”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Psalm 121
March 8, 2020

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
Psalm 121:7i

If you were to ask me if I believed the words found in the 121st Psalm to be true, I would answer with an unequivocal “yes.” God has been with me and sustained me through the dark times of my life. I have never doubted God’s presence, never feared God’s abandonment, never wondered “why me” when life went sour. Oh, I am wise enough to know that others have not been so blessed. Life has knocked them down. From where they are writhing on the ground, they do not think of the benevolence of God but only of their own despair and disappointment.

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Sermon March 1, 2020

“Struggling With Temptations”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Matthew 4:1-11
March 1, 2020

Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him. Matthew 4:10i

Have we made Jesus so holy He cannot speak to us? Have we made Jesus so divine that He cannot touch us? If so, if Jesus is so high and lifted up that He remains beyond our reach, then we need not fret His message. It is beyond us, out of our reach. Jesus and His kingdom are not of this world.

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Sermon February 16, 2020

“The Jesus Who Makes Jesus Necessary”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Matthew 5: 21-37
February 16, 2020

“He was trying to see who Jesus was…”  — Luke 19:3ai

And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:30i

That won’t be happening. There is no one here this morning who is going to cut off his or her hand or pluck out an eye thinking that by doing so he or she can avoid the fires of hell. If we put aside the obvious pain that would ensue from such actions, I would suggest that such actions don’t make sense. Right? It’s not one’s hand or eye that leads one astray. It’s one’s brain that is the guilty party. The perversions Jesus is suggesting – lust, theft, violence, or what have you — are caused by wrongful thinking. Do we really think that if I was blind I would never have known lust, that if I was bereft of hands I would not ever have been tempted to steal? So, if Jesus isn’t making literal sense, what sense is Jesus making?

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Sermon February 9, 2020

“When Silence Is Betrayal”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Isaiah 58:1-12
February 9, 2020

“He was trying to see who Jesus was…”  — Luke 19:3ai

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6i

While the war in Vietnam was raging, Dr. King was waging a battle of his own here in America. The old order was giving way to a breath of freedom and the cause King championed was bearing fruit. The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The disenfranchisement of millions of African Americans was seen as morally reprehensible and Jim Crow was on the run. But Vietnam was awash in blood. American dead would come to stand at 58,220, 1and civilian casualties for both sides is placed at 2 million. At some point, Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, came to realize that the war was unwinnable but continued to tell the American people that the tide was turning, and more young men were sent to a conflict he knew was futile.

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Sermon January 26, 2020

“Called To Be You”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Matthew 4:12-23
January 26, 2020

“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Matthew 4:19i

My Dad remembered sitting in Church one Sunday and hearing the voice of God. Now before you go thinking that my Dad was some sort of religious freak, let me dissuade you — a more rational mind I have never met. He was grounded in the realities of the twentieth century. Yet that voice, heard long ago, called him into parish ministry.

How I envied my father’s experience. No voice called to me. No parting of the heavens. No blinding light. Indeed, my father’s excellence made me feel less than adequate to the task. I was not him so how could I possibly walk where he had trod?

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Sermon January 12, 2020

“God may be Impartial, but God is not Indifferent”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Acts 10:34-43
January 12, 2020

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10:34 & 35i

There are times when the meaning of particular Bible verses is frighteningly clear. When Jesus talks about turning the other check, I don’t think this is simply metaphorical. It is a direct warning against using violence to counter violence. I ignore this warning and my soul is in jeopardy. Other passages may need a little unpacking to get at their meaning. I think our reading from the tenth chapter of Acts falls in this category of needing to be unpacked.

Our task today, then, is to discover two things. First, why it was important when it was written, and second, what it has to say to us today. So, let’s begin.

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Sermon December 22, 2019

“Living in the Midst of the Wait: We Wait Not Alone”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Matthew 1:18-25
December 22, 2019

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’  Matthew 1:23i

I didn’t say much. I didn’t do much. I was there. I sat and waited with the family of a man who was in a life and death battle. He was in the operating room. We were in the waiting room. I didn’t say much. I didn’t do much. I was there.

The gratitude expressed by the family was both overwhelming and humbling. I was flattered, of course. Don’t we all want to be appreciated? But I knew that this was more than gratitude expressed for Jeff Long-Middleton. It was the office I represented, the church, the body of Christ. In their hour of crisis, they had not been forgotten. I didn’t say much. I didn’t do much. I was there.

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Sermon December 15, 2019

“Living in the Midst of the Wait: Finding Patience for the Wait”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
James 5:7-10
December 15, 2019

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7i

With what sort of patience does one wait for the Lord? I do not know at what door God will knock. I do not know when the Lord of heaven will come. I do not know the gender or nationality. Yet I am being called by James to be patient for the coming of the Lord.

I think Joseph and Mary knew something about having to be patient — not only for the day of Mary’s deliverance, but each day following Jesus’ birth. They would have to flee for their lives due to Herod’s treachery, they know the panic of losing their child in a crowd, when he had matured into a man they would fear for their son’s life and urge Him to come home. They must have known a great deal about patience. Oh, it is true they had to find the patience to wait for the day of delivery. But I am suggesting their wait did not end when Jesus was born. It began in earnest.

Continue reading Sermon December 15, 2019