Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon, December 13, 2015

Rejoice Always: Christ Is Near    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 13, 2015   Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Joy, Pageant Sunday
Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-9

Last Sunday I talked about how refuge is at the heart of our religion. Refuge is a place where we are free from the pursuit of danger or trouble and can live in peace.  Mary and Joseph were refugees the night Jesus was born. Today there are Syrian refugees and many others, including neighbors in Bradford seeking refuge from the ravages of war, addiction and poverty. The truth is, we all are refugees. We all seek peace from whatever threat or trouble pursues us. To feel we have found refuge is to feel deep joy.

Brother Lawrence was the 17th Century working class Frenchman who developed the practice of the presence of God. Here is one of his Spiritual Maxims: “The greater the perfection a soul seeks, the more dependent it is on grace, and the help of God is more necessary for it each moment for without it the soul can do nothing; the world, human nature and the devil together wage a war so fierce and so continual that without this actual help and this humble and necessary dependence, they will carry the soul away in spite of itself; this seems hard on human nature but grace makes it acceptable and a refuge.”
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Sermon, December 6, 2015

Refuge: By the Tender Mercy of Our God   
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 6, 2015
Second Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Peace
Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:68-79

Peace requires certain conditions
in order for us to experience it.
We long to feel peace inwardly,
we long to live in peace outwardly,
and when the conditions are not right
and we cannot find peace,
we suffer. When we suffer long enough
and deeply enough, we will feel moved
to go searching for those conditions
that will make for peace,
and we will do whatever it takes to find them.

A place that has the conditions
that make for peace is called a refuge.
A person who is searching for that place
is called a refugee.
Refuge and refugees are at the heart
of all three Abrahamic religions.
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Sermon, November 29, 2015

Hope: The Refiner’s Fire     Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
November 29, 2015   First Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Hope
Baruch 5:1-9; Malachi 3:1-4; Luke 3:7-18

The Book of Malachi has some mysteries about it. The word Malachi means “messenger” but we do not know if that was the name of the author or if the book’s title comes from the verse that says, “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.”

Nor can we be sure whom the prophet had in mind as the messenger. The Gospels link the passage to John the Baptist. It is easy to see why.
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Sermon, November 22, 2015

And All These Things Will Be Given to You As Well    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont, November 22, 2015  
Twenty-sixth and Last Sunday after Pentecost,
Reign of Christ Sunday,
Thanksgiving Sunday, Neighbors in Need Sunday
Psalm 95; Matthew 6:25-33

Jesus appeared on earth in an anxious time and place. The leaders of the Jews were anxious about the Roman Empire whose army and colonial government imposed their might whenever they stepped out of line. The Romans were anxious, too, ever vigilant for Jewish revolutionaries stirring up the people. The people were most anxious, oppressed by both Jewish and Roman leaders alike.

Jesus appeared in the midst of all this anxiety saying over and over, do not worry! Be at peace. Trust in God, trust in the Spirit, trust in me. Jesus’ followers responded with thanksgiving to that message and to the power of God that showed through him. They saw how God rewarded Jesus’ trust with miraculous words and healings. They felt the peace flowing through him, and it filled them to overflowing, and then others caught it from them. The first church became a powerhouse of peace and joy and works of love, and it grew and grew.
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Sermon, November 8, 2015

What Are We Waiting For?     Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
November 8, 2015   Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost,
         Advent Preparation Sunday
Selected Texts from Isaiah 60, Mark 1, Luke 1; Mark 13:24-37

The word Advent comes from a Latin root meaning that something is coming. The three things coming during Advent are the birth of Christ at Christmas and the coming of Christ at the end of the world and the coming of Christ into our hearts in any moment. Advent is a time of preparing for those three things. In the old days it required fasting and increased spiritual activity with no parties or singing of Christmas carols allowed. The purpose was to open our hearts as wide as possible for the burst of joy on Christmas when the glorious light arrived.

That is the theory behind Advent, but what does it really mean? What are we really preparing and waiting for? And is it worth what Advent asks of us?
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Sermon, November 1, 2015

A Feast for All Peoples     Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
November 1, 2015   Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost,
All Saints Day
Psalms 23 & 84; Isaiah 25:6-9; Mark 12:28-34

At the end of this sermon we will be singing a hymn based on Psalm 84. Here are the words of the hymn written by the poet Jean Janzen:

How lovely is your dwelling,
O God, my hope and strength,
My spirit longs for shelter,
my flesh cries out for home,
where even swallows nesting
beside your altar resting
are ever praising you.
How blessed are those whose travels
are strengthened by your hand,
who pass through shadowed valleys
and find refreshing springs.
Your rain falls soft as kindness
on all your faithful pilgrims
until they come to you.
Look on me, God of goodness,
you are my sun and shield.
One day within your household
is what I most desire.
O guide me in your mercy
along my lonely pathway;
O bring me safely home.

All Saints Day is a day of celebration, but also of longing and missing, as we think of people we have loved who have died or left home or left our church.

Sometimes I have dreams about my boyhood home in Ohio. My parents are both alive in the dream, and my brothers are all there. Often it is Christmas, or another family feast. It feels so warm and secure, a lovely dwelling, and when I wake I miss it so much. My flesh cries out for home, as the hymn says. I feel like a pilgrim passing through shadowed valleys. One day within that household is what I most desire, but no matter how far I travel on my lonely pathway, I will never again arrive in that beloved home.

The sadness of all that passes away can feel almost unbearable, and it would be, if not for the other part of the hymn that answers our lonely longing by singing of our home in God.
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Sermon, October 25, 2015

“Take Heart; Get Up, He Is Calling You.”
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
October 25, 2015   Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, Reformation Sunday
Psalm 126; Jeremiah 31:7-9; Mark 10:46-52

There is so much joy in today’s scriptures, and in each case the joy comes out of sorrow, when God restores or saves or heals people who have suffered.

We, too, can have the joy of the Psalm: “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy!”
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Sermon, October 18, 2015

Becoming Great
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ, 
Bradford, Vermont
October 18, 2015    Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 91; Isaiah 53:4-12; Mark 10:35-45

Today’s scriptures present a difficult problem to untangle.

Psalm 91 says, “Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you.”  And, “When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them and show them my salvation.”

That is comforting, but Isaiah says of God’s servant, “We accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.”  And, “It was the will of God to crush him with pain.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  And he said, “The cup that I drink you will drink.”

Here is the problem: Jesus made God his refuge and dwelling place, yet evil befell him.  He called to God on the cross, and God did not answer.  God did not rescue him.
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Sermon, October 11, 2015

Through the Needle’s Eye
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
October 11, 2015 Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 90; Mark 10:17-31

Several years ago a Gallup poll asked people why they attended church. The leading answers were for spiritual growth and guidance, and to feel grounded and inspired. Some answered simply, “to worship God.” A small and declining number said they were just brought up that way—they went to church because it was what their family had always done. If we went around the sanctuary some of us might give answers like these, and others say we are here for the music or for our children or to be a part of a loving community or to serve.
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