Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon November 3, 2019

“Trying to See Jesus”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 19:1-10
November 3, 2019

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

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. Had he known what he would find or rather, who would find him, he may have reconsidered his desire. By the end of the encounter, this rich man would be far poorer than when the day had begun. The things of this world would be lost but Zacchaeus will have seen Jesus in the whole, come to know Him in full, and found his life restored. He will have been made rich in the things of heaven.

Continue reading Sermon November 3, 2019

Sermon September 29, 2019

“Living in Hope”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Jeremiah 32:1-3a,6-15
September 29, 2019

 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.
Jeremiah 32:15i

In the 1994 film, Shawshank Redemption, the protagonist, Andy Dufresne, is convicted of killing his wife and her lover — a crime he did not commit. He is sentenced to two consecutive life sentences and sent to Shawshank prison. There he meets “Red” a fellow prisoner who is skilled in smuggling contraband into the prison. Andy’s life appears to be without hope. He becomes instrumental in the prison warden’s money laundering scheme and although his life becomes more tolerable, after 20 some years of incarceration, the audience sees Andy sitting on the edge of his bed with a rope in his hands. You’re left with the sense that Andy will indeed escape this hellish existence by suicide. Instead, Andy ends up using the rope to assist in his escape. The day of his escape he tells his friend, Red, “Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Continue reading Sermon September 29, 2019

Sermon September 22, 2019

“Stupid Stuff”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 16:1-13
September 22, 2019

No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”   — Luke 16:1-13i

Did you come here this morning thinking Jesus would encourage you to defraud your employer? I doubt it. So, we have an immediate problem. We have to square this saying from Jesus with the Jesus we expected. That’s our first task but the second is more important and touches us where we live — we need to find a way to love God in the midst of material wealth. This is an issue that touches us all. Even those who have little can be obsessed with getting more, and perhaps there is a natural tendency to avoid this conversation. As Paul David Tripp humorously put it: “The minute you hear a sermon on materialism, you’re glad somebody else is there to hear it.” Continue reading Sermon September 22, 2019

Sermon Sept 8, 2019

“Finding Life’s Proper Limits”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Deuteronomy 30:15-20
September 8, 2019

 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,Deuteronomy 30:19i

There are moments in one’s life when following the rules is critical to one’s safety. I drove a car the other day that had features new to me. I have no idea how it worked but if the car drifted either over the center line or over the solid white line on the shoulder, the steering wheel would move and correct for the mistake. There are moments when staying within prescribed limits is critical to one’s safety.

I hated that car. Continue reading Sermon Sept 8, 2019

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