Upcoming Service Notes, July 17, 2016, New Members Sunday

We will take in four new members this Sunday and celebrate them with special refreshments following worship.  The lectionary gospel passage is the story of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42), and the sermon will be based on it, “A Church of Contemplation and Action.”  We will read responsively from Psalms 130 and 131 that speak of hoping and waiting for God with a calm and quiet soul, and we will hear selections from Romans 8 that talk about  how “those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit,” and “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”

Our Diverse Traditions Music Team will be here again to lead us for two of the four hymns we will sing, the beautiful South African freedom song, “Thuma Mina (Send Me, Lord)” and the old time favorite “I Come to the Garden” (or “In the Garden”).   Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, July 17, 2016, New Members Sunday

Sermon, July 10, 2016

Who Is the Neighbor I Am to Love as Myself?
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
July 10, 2016   Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Psalm 25; Luke 10:25-37

Today we read the version of our Identity and Aspiration Statement that was edited to be a unison reading. Many of us prefer the sound of it to the original, but there is one thing that bothers me, even though I helped write it. It leaves out one small part of the original statement that seems crucial.

Here is what got left out: “We aspire to grow in numbers as we make this an increasingly welcoming, loving, helpful congregation.”

I feel fine leaving out our aspiration to grow, because if we fulfill our other dreams growth will naturally happen, and “welcoming, loving, and helpful congregation” is already in the unison reading. That leaves only one word missing. Listen again, to see if you catch it. “We aspire to grow in numbers as we make this an increasingly welcoming, loving, helpful congregation.”

The crucial word is “increasingly.”

Increasingly is the key to fulfilling our aspirations. Increasingly is the secret to growing as a congregation. Increasingly is our only hope in the struggle against the violent forces of fear and hate that are tearing our world apart. Christ dreamed that his followers would establish the God’s realm of justice, mercy and peace on earth for all people, and the fulfillment of that dream depends completely on increasingly.

We lose as a church if all we try to do is stand our ground and continue being what we have been, because there are forces at work pushing hard against us.

Senator Bill Bradley was a former star basketball player for the New York Nicks. He was famous in college for how hard he worked to improve his game. He explained his philosophy saying, “When you are not practicing, remember, someone, somewhere else is practicing, and when you meet him he will win.”
Continue reading Sermon, July 10, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, July 10, 2016

This Sunday we will hear what may be the most important parable Jesus ever told, one that only Luke chose to include in his gospel, perhaps because it was so shocking (Luke 10:25-37).  A lawyer tested Jesus by asking first what to do to inherit eternal life.  The answer Jesus affirmed was to love God and love our neighbor as our self.  Then the lawyer tried to test him again, asking who is our neighbor.  Jesus replied with the scandalous story of the Good Samaritan, defining neighbor solely on the basis of the love and mercy and kindness a person needs or a person gives, and showing that no one is excluded from being the neighbor we are called to love.

The other scriptures we will read are about being humble enough and faithful enough to listen to the word of God and let it teach us and change us.   Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, July 10, 2016

Sermon, July 3, 2016

The Spirit of Freedom  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
July 3, 2016   Seventh Sunday after Pentecost,
Independence Day Sunday
Psalm 1; Galatians 5-6; Luke 10:1-11

Politics have no place in church.

Polls show that many people no longer consider themselves Christian because they are repulsed by the politics of the religious right, while some here have been uncomfortable with left leaning politics preached in the past. I have heard appreciation that I refrain from talking politics.

Politics have no place in church.

I agree with that when we think of the politics in today’s political landscape. There is no place in church for uncivil, polarized, partisan, suspicious, dehumanizing, closed-minded, hard-hearted political wars between enemy camps. There is no place for the politics of hate in a church that follows Christ who commanded us to love God and love our neighbor and love our enemy and love the least of these. There is no place for the politics of fear in a church where Christ said over and over, “Do not be afraid.” There is no place for judging others because of their political views in a church where Christ tells us, “Do not judge.”

Politics have no place in church when they go against the Spirit of freedom that Paul talks about in Galatians, or the love that Christ commands us to have for those who seem most different from us.

And yet, much as we might wish it otherwise, politics are inescapable in a church. Continue reading Sermon, July 3, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, July 3, 2016, Freedom & Spirit, Part Two

The world-wide lectionary comes into alignment with the national calendar on this Independence Day weekend.  Paul is talking about freedom and the Spirit, and both Jesus and Paul give rules and laws by which disciples and communities of Christ should govern themselves.  (Galatians Chapters 5 and 6; Luke 10:1-11)  We will read Psalm 1 that talks about those who follow the law of God becoming like trees planted by streams of living water and bringing forth fruit.  The scriptures and the day beg the question: how do politics and religion relate?  Does Christ have anything to say about how we govern our lives, our church, our communities and our nation in the United States of American in 2016?

We will celebrate the spirit of freedom with wonderful music, starting with the exuberant American spiritual “I Woke Up This Morning” led by members of our Diverse Traditions music team.  We will also sing “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies,” and the stirring hymn, “God Send Us Men Whose Aim ’Twill Be” as well as the beloved communion spiritual, “Let Us Break Bread Together.”

Organist John Atwood will play a Prelude, Offertory and Postlude all by American composers who were born before the Revolutionary War, including: “A Fuge or Voluntary”  by William Selby; “Simple Gifts”  by John Carter; and “The Battle of Trenton” by James Hewitt.  He will also play the ethereal “Hear My Prayer, O God” [Ave Maria] by Jacob Arcadelt, arranged for piano by Franz Liszt.

Here are two very different YouTube treats.  The first is a classic recording of “The Battle of Trenton” that will greatly enhance your appreciation when you hear it Sunday morning.  Do not be fooled by the YouTube frame that talks about grief.  Think John Phillips Sousa…

And the second selection will help you unwind after the battle.