Category Archives: Past Sermons

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

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.
Continue reading Sermon, December 6, 2015

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.
Continue reading Sermon, November 29, 2015

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.
Continue reading Sermon, November 22, 2015

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?
Continue reading Sermon, November 8, 2015

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.
Continue reading Sermon, November 1, 2015