Sermon June 23, 2019

“Asking Jesus to Leave”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 8: 26-39
June 23, 2019

Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. – Luke 8:37i

I am going to ask two questions this morning. The first is why did the Gerasenes ask Jesus to leave? The second question is why do we ask Jesus to leave? Of these two questions, the first is easier to answer. The second question – namely, why do we ask Jesus to leave – is perhaps harder to address but far more important. The first question is of historical interest. The second question is deeply disturbing and requires a reckoning with our wayward souls. Continue reading Sermon June 23, 2019

Sermon June 16, 2019

“Spirit, Stress and Strength”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Romans 5: 1-5
June 16, 2019

 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5i

Have you ever seen the Holy Spirit? Remember last week? It was Pentecost and the reading from Acts talked about tongues of fire coming to rest over the disciples. I’ve never seen it. Or what of Moses and the burning bush left unconsumed. I have never seen that, either. Remember the prophet Isaiah who heard God’s voice calling to him and Isaiah answered. I’ve never heard the voice of God. But while I may not have seen tongues of fire, a burning bush or heard a voice from heaven, I have seen the Holy Spirit of God Continue reading Sermon June 16, 2019

Sermon May 26, 2019

“Do You Want to be Made Well?”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 5:1-9
May 26, 2019

 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’

– John 5:6i

The hardest pastoral visits I have made are to nursing homes. Many are fine facilities with caring and competent staff. Still, it’s hard. Residents in wheelchairs incessantly calling out for help. The smell of urine. Minds that quit long before the person’s body did. I mention this because today, Jesus has gone to Jerusalem’s nursing home where the mentally impaired, the lame and the diseased have gone perhaps because there was no where else to go. In all my visits to the infirmed, I never once asked the question Jesus puts to this man, “Do you want to be made well?” If I had asked it, the answer would have been “Yes.” But Jesus puts it to this poor soul, a man who had been coming to this renowned pool of healing water for thirty-eight years. Continue reading Sermon May 26, 2019

Sermon May 19, 2019

“God’s New Thing for You”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Revelation 21:1-6
May 19, 2019

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5ai

Where we are today is perhaps not where we want to be. The history we confront is filled with challenges and some have come to doubt humanity’s ability to overcome the problems set before it.

A father and his eighteen your old daughter were talking one night in their home in Princeton, New Jersey. They had just watched the 11 o’clock news. Ralph Schoenstein, the father, reported the dialog with his daughter Lori in an article in the New York Times. ‘Don’t you think,’ Lori asked, ‘that this is the worst time there ever was?’

I don’t know,’ her father said, suddenly yearning for the days when Lori has asked why the sky was blue instead of why it was falling down. Continue reading Sermon May 19, 2019

Sermon May 12, 2019

“The Guiding Hand of God”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Psalm 23
May 12, 2019

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters. 
– Psalm23:2i

It is my sincere hope that the words we just read this morning are a reflection of your relationship with God. Led to still waters, your wounds and scratches soothed, your fear laid to rest as you feast on what your enemies would deny you, never having to fear the valleys of deep darkness because you knew and know that God is with you. How I hope that the 23rd Psalm reflects your faith.

But I lived in Chicago, outside Detroit, near Philadelphia and ouside of Boston. The rosy words of the 23rd Psalm do not express the harried reality of the daily commute most urbanites face. Instead of still water, they hear, “God out’a my way. I’m driving here!” Continue reading Sermon May 12, 2019

Sermon May 5, 2019

“To See Anew”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Acts 9:1-20
May 5, 2019

 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’  And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. – Acts 9:17 & 18i

Derek Black learned at a young age how to hate. Born into a white supremacist family he was taught that people of color were to be shunned, separated from a nation founded by and for whites. He was home schooled not only in the Three “R’s” but taught who God loved and who God rejected. He decided to run for public office and became gifted at spreading his message. He would not speak directly but roundabout in order to make an opening for his position. He commented on running for political office in Florida and how he would subtly win people over to his ideology. He writes about that effort and tells the reader what he used to say:

“‘Don’t you think all these Spanish signs on the highway are making everything worse? And don’t you think political correctness is just not letting you talk about things that are real?’ And getting people to agree on that would be the way forward.1

He was, like Saul, blind to love and the common humanity shared by us all.

But like Saul, his story does not end with blindness. Continue reading Sermon May 5, 2019

Sermon April 28, 2019

“Why the Wounds”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20:19-31
April 28, 2019

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. – John 20:20i

Jesus was dead. The room is locked. Jesus now comes and stands in front of them. Jesus, mind you. The text doesn’t speak about someone who appeared to be like Jesus. It doesn’t mention that Jesus, now resurrected, looked very different than He had prior to dying. No. The text says, “Jesus came and stood before them.” So here’s the question: Why is it only after Jesus shows them his hands and side do they rejoice when they saw Jesus. Continue reading Sermon April 28, 2019

Concert May 4 2019

North Country Chorus2019_p001We hope you will come on May 4th to hear this incredible North Country Chorus concert:

Chichester Psalms is a choral work in three movements by Leonard Bernstein.  The text was arranged by the composer from the Book of Psalms in the original Hebrew. Part 1 uses Psalms 100 and 108, Part 2 uses 2 and 23, and Part 3 uses 131 and 133.

Fauré wrote of the work, “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.”

Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

“Going Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 24:1-12
April 21, 2019

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. — Luke 24:12i

“Then he went home?” At first, this shocked me. I would have thought that the folks who had staked their lives on this would-be-Messiah would have been the first folks Peter told the news to. Didn’t they have the most to lose on Friday and the most to rejoice over this Sunday morning? He had been with them through thick and thin – the days of triumph and miraculous healing, the days of rejection and misunderstanding. But Peter? He went home. Continue reading Sermon, Easter April 21, 2019

Easter Sunrise message

“Reflection”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
April 21, 2019

 Let us place this day in the context of scripture. From Luke 24:1-11

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

 

We stand on a racing piece of earth. At the equator our rate of spin is about 1,000 miles per hour. Another rotation. Another day. And when enough days are done, we will have circled the Sun. Racing through space at 167,000 miles an hour.

These are the facts of science yet all feels still. Careening through space, we are unaware of the clip of time. We have come to label the mystery of our own existence as normal and think that the mystery is solved in the facts of science. Continue reading Easter Sunrise message