Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon, April 17, 2016

Laying Down Our Lives for One Another
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
April 17, 2016 Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
Psalm 23; I John 3:14-18; Matthew 18:12-14; John 10:14-30

The scriptures today have a life or death urgency about them. They are trying to save our lives.

The 23rd Psalm says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” The shepherd will lead us in the paths of righteousness and restore our soul, if we will follow.

The book of First John says, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death.” First John says that murderers, who take life from others, do not have eternal life in them. The sign that we have eternal life in us is that we lay down our own lives for others. We give life, not take it.

Yet someone who has committed murder is capable of turning back to the unconditional life-giving love of God. The worst of criminals can pray the 23rd Psalm, in the faith that the Good Shepherd can restore any sheep to the flock, no matter how lost. Continue reading Sermon, April 17, 2016

Sermon, April 10, 2016

Second Acts   Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
April 10, 2016   Third Sunday of Easter
Psalm 30; Acts 9:1-20; John 21:1-19

My April Epistle newsletter article says,

In the coming months, I hope you will understand what it means when you hear me say:
“Hooray! We have a disagreement!”
“Hooray! We have hurt feelings!”
“Hooray! We’ve got ourselves a conflict!”
It does not mean that I am really glad for disharmony or pain. You know me better than that by now, I hope.
I am just so eager to practice using the new skills we are learning together that can transform disagreements, hurt feelings and conflicts into a stronger, closer, more beloved community through a process of healthy communication!

I wanted you to laugh when I said those three “Hoorays,” but I was serious, too. We have been blessed with three opportunities in the past month to practice these new healthy communication skills outside of the workshops, and the result has been not only a satisfactory resolution of the conflict but also a strengthening of our relationships. Something truly amazing and transformational is happening as we learn how to be more Christ-like in our ways of being together.

There is still one more workshop on April 23rd if you have missed the first two. The Diaconate and Board of Mission and Social Action urge everyone to attend. People have been coming out of the workshops filled with joy. You have to witness it yourself to understand it! (To register go to: http://bradforducc.org/calendar-page/healthy-communication-and-beloved-community-events/)

The scriptures teach us we can always say “Hooray,” when we have struggles or hurt feelings or make mistakes, either as a church or as individuals.
Continue reading Sermon, April 10, 2016

Sermon, April 3, 2016

Holding On and Letting Go, Part III
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
April 3, 2016 Second Sunday of Easter
Galatians 5 & 6; John 20:19-31

This is the third in a series of sermons
on the theme of Holding On and Letting Go.
On Palm and Passion Sunday we heard
the Apostle Paul say, “Let the same mind be in you
that was in Christ Jesus, who…emptied himself….”

We let go of one thing
so another can take hold of us.
We empty of selfishness and fill with Spirit,
we empty of fear and fill with love.
We let go of the old contents
of our lungs with each outbreath,
but we hold onto the process of breathing—
letting go, and refilling,
and letting go, and filling again.

On Easter we heard how Christ comes to us
as a father comes to his little daughter
who has climbed into an apple tree
and now clings to the low branches in fear,
not knowing how to get down.
The father says to the little girl, Continue reading Sermon, April 3, 2016

Sermon, March 27, 2016

Holding On and Letting Go, Part II
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
March 27, 2016 Easter
Psalm 118; John 20:1-18

Mary Magdalene could not sleep.
She left the house when it was still dark.
She walked the hard, deserted Jerusalem streets
and went out the city gate to the garden
of tombs down in the valley.
She went to be with the one
who had changed her life, her beloved teacher,
even though she knew she could not really
be with him. He was dead, and a heavy stone
kept even his cold body from her.
She went thinking she could not feel
emptier than she did,
only to find the stone rolled away, the tomb
empty, and the one thing she had left
to hold onto taken from her.
She ran back to the house
half-crazed with fear and grief
and told the others,
and then returned to the garden.
Where else could Mary go?
He was everything to her.
It felt as if she had reached
the end of all roads, as if
there were no road she could take
that could possibly lead out of that place.
It felt like the end of her life.
All that remained was the grieving love
pouring out of the empty tomb of her heart.

Mary Magdalene stood weeping
by the rolled away stone
as the day dawned,
and Christ came to her there. Continue reading Sermon, March 27, 2016

Sermon, March 20, 2016

Holding On and Letting Go, Part I
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
March 20, 2016 Sixth Sunday in Lent, Palm/Passion Sunday
Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 19:29-42, 21:37 – 23:56

The story we heard today
forced the people in it to choose
what to hold onto and what to let go.
It asks us to do the same.
*
The men said, “The Lord needs it,”
so we let them untie the colt
and lead it away.
The colt was unbroken,
not much invested in it,
not much risk to letting it go.
And then there was the power
of their self-assurance,
the hold they had on things,
the faith, you could say, that swayed us.
We knew somehow it would all be all right.
We held on to that feeling
and let go.
*
I will never forget the day
I dropped my basket of bread
right there in the street.
I took a palm frond someone handed me
and waved it like a sword over my head,
shouting “Hosanna” at the top of my lungs.
Imagine a married woman of my age
doing such things! Continue reading Sermon, March 20, 2016

Sermon, March 13, 2016

“I Am About To Do a New Thing: Do You Not Perceive It?”  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
March 13, 2016   Fifth Sunday in Lent
Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:18-21; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8

“I am about to do a new thing,” God says through Isaiah, and in the Book of Revelation God says through John of Patmos, “Behold, I make all things new.” God says to forget the former things, leave behind what was of old, and trust and praise.

God is about to do a new thing. That is what God does. God explodes a new universe into being, God takes the particles of the big bang and spins them into spheres and galaxies, God takes old stars that have burned out and makes new stars, God takes a 500 million year old lifeless earth and breathes life into it, God takes old things that have died and been composting all winter and raises spring gardens from them, God takes people who have grown old in heart and brings new love into their lives, God takes a community that has grown weary and discouraged from struggle or conflict, like the children of Israel captive in Babylon, and restores their fortunes so that their mouth is full of laughter and their tongue with shouts of joy.

God is always about to do a new thing, we can count on that, it happens every day, every moment. “Now it springs forth,” God says, “do you not perceive it?”

That is the question. “Do you not perceive it?” That is what makes all the difference. Continue reading Sermon, March 13, 2016

Sermon, March 6, 2016

Becoming a New Creation  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
March 6, 2016   Fourth Sunday in Lent
Psalm 32; II Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

I assume we have no perfect people among us today. I assume we all fall short of the glory of God. I also assume we all aspire to do better. So I assume you are as encouraged as I am that today’s scriptures promise we can become a new creation, we can walk in God’s ways as purely as Jesus did, we can be transformed by the grace of God. God will not be done with us until that happens.
Continue reading Sermon, March 6, 2016

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