Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon, February 28, 2016

Metanoia: Choosing Higher Thoughts and Higher Ways  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
February 28, 2016   Third Sunday in Lent
Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke 13:1-9

The Prophet Isaiah delivered a beautiful message to the people of Israel. All who were hungry or thirsty would have an abundance of food and drink better than money could buy. God’s love was steadfast and sure, and God would raise them as a light to the nations. All they had to do was turn to God’s higher thoughts and ways, and they would have richness of life and abundant joy.

If we were seeing this as a movie, the camera would be focused on Isaiah’s face full of passionate urgency and exuberant hope. Then the camera would draw back and show the people listening. We would see that they were dressed in stained and tattered robes. They had looks of weary disbelief or stone cold resistance. They were exiles in Babylon. None believed they would ever see their homeland, and besides, it had been utterly destroyed decades ago. What Isaiah was saying was absurd. They were as far from a condition of glory that could inspire the nations as they could possibly be.

Yet Isaiah’s prophecy came true. As Psalm 126 says,

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;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced. Continue reading Sermon, February 28, 2016

Sermon, February 21, 2016

Seeing the Goodness of God in the Land of the Living    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
February 21, 2016   Second Sunday in Lent
Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Jesus said, “You will not see me until…you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” and Paul invited people to “observe” the example of those who lived like citizens of God’s realm.

The 27th Psalm said, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of God in the land of the living.”

These passages are about looking, observing and seeing a whole different realm of reality within and around us. More than that, they are about our making that reality our own, being citizens and participants and models of it for others.

But practically, how can we see the goodness of God in the land of the living, and how can we be the goodness of God—we as individuals and we as a people? Continue reading Sermon, February 21, 2016

Sermon, February 14, 2016

“In Every Change, He Faithful Will Remain”
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
February 14, 2016 First Sunday in Lent
Psalm 91; Deuteronomy 26:1-9; Luke 4:1-14

The passage we heard in Deuteronomy took place before the children of Israel reached the Promised Land. Many times in the wilderness they forgot to be thankful for how God rescued them from slavery or provided food or water or guided them. God wanted them to emerge from the wilderness a changed people, more faithful and more grateful. The whole purpose of the wilderness journey was to transform them and prepare them to live more like children of God.

The passage we heard from Luke shows us the transformation of Jesus through trials and temptations. He was reduced to being as weak as a human can be through forty days and nights of fasting and exposure to the harsh elements of the wilderness. He was as tempted as a human can be by pleasure and comfort, wealth and control. He followed the only path that can lead safely through such a trackless and treacherous wilderness—he turned to God over and over, and emerged a changed man, full of the Spirit’s power, with authority in his voice and healing in his touch.
Continue reading Sermon, February 14, 2016

Sermon, February 7, 2016

For Darkness Is As Light with You
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
February 7, 2016   Last Sunday after Epiphany,
Transfiguration Sunday
Psalm 139; Luke 9:28-43a

Psalm 139 is a breathtakingly beautiful testament to God’s constant, intimate presence in our lives. “If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.”

God is with us even in our darkness, even when we plunge into an abyss of doubt or depression or despair, even when we do wrong. Even our darkest darkness is as light with God. God turns our darkness into light. God turns our messy, wounded, flawed selves into healed and redeemed lives, and then God’s light shines through our stained glass into the world as pure love. Continue reading Sermon, February 7, 2016

Sermon, January 24, 2016

Here is the sermon by guest preacher, our own Dan Perry, Deacon and acting Moderator:

TITHING VERSUS GIVING

During High School the music director Evelyn Springstead (Mary and Martina you remember her), asked me to direct part of the concert. As I began directing the piece with the auditorium full of spectators, I remembered during practice someone pointed out that my fly was open so I got the chorus attention by checking my fly first. The song went great. Later I learned a joke was the way to start a speech rather than with apology.

The Webster Dictionary description of the word tithe means simply a TENTH. It was the original way of spelling which was later changed to    T E N T H. The accepted definition for tithe is=“ a tenth of one’s income paid to the Church”. It has always been my understanding that you were expected to give a tenth of your income to support your church. How could anyone afford to give this much? I never could!! Doesn’t make any difference whether before or after all other expenses. Continue reading Sermon, January 24, 2016

Sermon, January 17, 2016

The Spirit of God Is Upon Me    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 17, 2016   Second Sunday after Epiphany,
Martin Luther King Jr. Sunday
Isaiah 49; I Corinthians 12; Luke 4:14-21

Last Sunday we celebrated the baptism of Christ when God called Jesus beloved and sent the Holy Spirit down in the form of a dove. The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where he was tempted, tried and transformed into the purest expression of God’s love that anyone had ever seen.

Today’s passage took place just after Jesus emerged from the wilderness “filled with the power of the Spirit.” He went back to his home synagogue and chose to read Isaiah where it says, “The Spirit of God is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” The story goes on after today’s passage to say that all his neighbors were amazed by his gracious words.

The Holy Spirit had sent Jesus into a difficult place in the wilderness, but that was nothing compared to what it did next. Continue reading Sermon, January 17, 2016

Sermon, January 10, 2016

You Are Mine…I Will Be With You…I Love You
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 10, 2016   First Sunday after Epiphany, Baptism of Christ,
Dedication of the Pastoral Search Committee
Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

This congregation’s Identity and Aspiration Statement
describes very specifically what we feel
God is calling us to be and do.
Today’s passage in Isaiah is also an Identity Statement,
a more general one that applies to all God’s creation.
It includes us. It includes you.
Listen to what God is saying to you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you!”
That means you have nothing to be afraid of,
nothing to worry about, you do not have to carry
the burden of past faults and flaws,
you can let go of concerns about your future,
because God redeems you, God returns you
to mercy and grace each time you stray.
“I have called you by name,” God says.
“You are mine.” That is your identity.

The voice of God thundered over the River Jordan
saying, “You are my child, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.” Isaiah allows us
to hear God saying that to each one of us.
God says, “You—you!—are my beloved child;
with you I am well pleased.” Can you rest into that love?
Continue reading Sermon, January 10, 2016

Sermon, January 3, 2016

We Observed His Star at Its Rising    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 3, 2016   Second Sunday after Christmas, Epiphany Sunday
Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12

The Wise Men were Magi, priests of Zoroastrianism in ancient Persia. Zoroastrians sought wisdom and truth to help the world progress toward its perfection. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Magi studied stars and dreams to guide them.

That may or may not have been true for Zoroastrian priests, but it certainly is true in the Christian story about the Wise Men. Dreams, visions and signs play a huge role in the life of Jesus and the early church. Christian wisdom involves guidance from a higher power that speaks in ways that analytic reasoning cannot comprehend, requiring intuitive interpretation.

To be wise in Christianity is to know things in our spiritual heart, or literally our gut. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit that guides us to all truth wells up like rivers of living water flowing from the believer’s belly. (John 7:38 KJV)

Jesus talked about those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. For those who have the eyes and ears of wisdom, the world is full of burning bushes like the one Moses saw and heard. God speaks through nature and through the written word and music and works of art, and through our experiences every day.
Continue reading Sermon, January 3, 2016

Sermon, December 20, 2015

Love: The Blessed Vulnerable Mary
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 20, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Love, Christmas Sunday
Luke 1:26-56; Matthew 1:18-25

Mary is the model for all Christians, not just Catholics, not just women, but for all of us.

A central doctrine of our faith, far more important than the virgin birth, is the belief that Christ lives within every one of us. Jesus prayed that we would recognize this truth. (John 17:23) Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Every time we take communion we ritually renew Christ’s body and blood living within our body and blood. Every one of us at our baptism receives affirmation that the same Spirit that made Christ Christ is present in us.

Our calling as a church is to be the body of Christ. Our calling as individuals is to do our part as members of Christ’s body. (I Corinthians 12) Jesus sends his followers to bear into the world his power for healing and reconciliation with God, so that the world may turn from its selfish ways to the ways of God’s realm of mercy, justice and peace. Most of all, we are called to bring Christ’s love into the world by loving God and loving our neighbor—neighbor meaning everyone in the world who is in need of love, especially the stranger or wrongdoer or enemy.

Like Mary, we have something of Christ to bring to birth that the world desperately needs. The scriptures and the news headlines tell us this as clearly as if the angel Gabriel were standing in front of us announcing it. And like Mary, we have to decide how to respond. Continue reading Sermon, December 20, 2015

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.”
Continue reading Sermon, December 13, 2015