Category Archives: Past Sermons

Sermon, June 12, 2016

Showing More Love  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont

June 12, 2016   Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 32; Galatians 2:19b-20; Luke 7:36-8:3

This church is in a time of transition, between settled pastors, but the fact is that all churches are in transition today as society goes through huge changes.

Transition times are often compared to Biblical journeys through the wilderness. We think of Moses leading the Israelites from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land, or Jesus in the wilderness between his baptism and ministry.   Transitions are challenging because they are always taking us through unfamiliar terrain toward an uncertain destination. Transitions also are exciting because gifts and transformations can come along the way and bring extraordinary blessings, if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and let it work within us.

The Apostle Paul described his own transformation this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Transitions are opportunities for us to let our old ways go and take on new ways of being that show more of Christ’s heart and mind within us, showing more love.

One of the blessings of wilderness journeys is that people can feel or see God’s presence more clearly. God is always present. God is not especially present in the wilderness, but when we are in a wilderness, we can become especially present to God.
Continue reading Sermon, June 12, 2016

Sermon, June 5, 2016

Taking Off Sackcloth and Clothing with Joy
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
June 5, 2016   Third Sunday after Pentecost,
Joint Service with the West Newbury Congregational Church
Psalm 104; Acts 2:1-17, 37-47; John 14:8-17

The 30th Psalm talks about terrible troubles—
enemies and illness, depression and grief,
about being as strong as a mountain one minute
and brought down into the pit the next.
But the Psalm says, “To you, O God, I cried…
O God, be my helper!” And as a result,
“You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy.”
The Psalm gives us the beautiful assurance,
“Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”
The Psalm ends saying that God
clothes us with joy for a purpose:
“So that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O God, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.”
 
What we have here is a spiritual formula.
The Psalm gives us a formula for the alchemy
of turning the lead of suffering into the gold of joy.
We see the same formula at work over and over,
in our own lives, in the world around us, in our churches,
and in scriptures like those we heard today.
  Continue reading Sermon, June 5, 2016

Sermon, May 15, 2016

Day by Day the Lord Added to Their Number
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
May 15, 2016   Pentecost
Psalm 104; Acts 2:1-17, 37-47; John 14:8-17

The Holy Spirit is like the wind, the Bible says. We cannot see the wind, and we cannot know what it will do next around us. The Holy Spirit is even more mysterious because when the leaves move we can say it was the breeze, but when something moves us, we cannot say for certain that it was the Holy Spirit.

So I can say only that I believe the Holy Spirit moved the members of this congregation to write our Identity and Aspiration Statement. We asked ourselves what God was calling us to do or become, and this was the answer that we found. I believe it was from the Holy Spirit. Continue reading Sermon, May 15, 2016

Sermon, May 8, 2016

Stay Here Until You Have Been Clothed with Power 
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
May 8, 2016   Seventh Sunday of Easter, Ascension Sunday
Revelation 22; Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

The Holy Spirit came upon the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at his baptism to drive him into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit filled Jesus with power for his ministry. The Holy Spirit was his final promise to his disciples. The Holy Spirit would come after he was gone to guide and empower them to be the body of Christ doing his works in the world.

Our task as followers of Christ is to wait for the Holy Spirit to act in, through and among us. “Stay here until you have been clothed with power,” Jesus tells us. Then we can be witnesses. Then the Spirit will guide and empower us to take Christ’s message out to the world through works of healing and mercy, justice and peace.

Wait, the scriptures tell us. Wait for the Spirit to come upon us with its power. Continue reading Sermon, May 8, 2016

Sermon, May 1, 2016

That They May All Be One 
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
May 1, 2016   Sixth Sunday of Easter
Psalm 133; I John 4:16b-21; John 17:20-26

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” That first verse of Psalm 133 has been cherished for three thousand years, but the second and third verses are less understood today. This is tragic, because they transform the Psalm from merely a fond dream into a moral, ethical and spiritual imperative that is essential to our survival. It has never been more important that we understand what this Psalm demands of us and find a way to fulfill it.
Continue reading Sermon, May 1, 2016

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