Upcoming Service Notes, June 19, 2016

We will be worshipping this Sunday after the worst mass shooting in American history. By the grace of God the scriptures in the world wide lectionary for this week remind us that Christ gives us the way out of violence and hatred and fear. Christ heals us of the demonic madness that divides us (Luke 8:26-39) and he brings us together as one (Galatians 3:26-28). He leads us to the God of Psalm 46: “God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear and burns the shields with fire. ‘Be still and know that I am God!'”  Christ leads us to the sheer silence, the still, small voice, the calm beyond the hurricane, earthquake and fire of our world. (I Kings 19:1-15) Christ opens us to the Holy Spirit, the greatest force in the universe, the force of Christlike love that has overcome empires and time and again has revealed hope where there seemed to be no hope. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 19, 2016

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

Upcoming Service Notes, June 12, 2016

This Fourth Sunday after Pentecost we will celebrate the good news that the scriptures teach: we experience an increase in our capacity to love and serve when we have suffered and been healed or when we have done wrong and been forgiven. Paul put it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:19b-20)    This is great news for anyone who has ever suffered or struggled or been lost and turned to God.  We will celebrate it with joy!

Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, 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

Upcoming Service Notes, June 5, 11:00 AM Special Time, Special Service

Jesus said that his purpose in life was to increase our joy, and make our joy complete.  This will be a Sunday of pure, all out, wall to wall joy!  We have been advertising three of those joys: hosting the West Newbury Congregational Church, UCC in a joint service starting at 11:00 AM; bringing back the wildly popular old time church music of Bruce and Caleb Freeberg; and sharing a potluck lunch after the service.

There will be other joys as well: the warm, loving presence of the Rev. Cindy Batten as she co-leads worship; the voices of some of West Newbury’s lay leaders as well as ours; a dramatic reading/skit for the Children’s Time with actors from West Newbury and Bradford; reading the covenants of both congregations together; and taking communion, which is never more joyful than when we share it with people from outside our congregation.

The Freebergs will lead us singing Go Down, Moses, and Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and Welcome Table, and I’ll Fly Away, as well as joining in on the chorus of Just a Closer Walk with Thee.  In addition, they will play Celtic airs and reels before the service starts, Oh Glory, How Happy I Am as the Offertory and Farewell to Erin as the Postlude.  We will be hearing some beautiful scripture passages: I Kings 17:8-24; Psalm 30; Galatians 1:11-24 and Luke 7:11-17.  The sermon will borrow its title from the Psalm, “Taking Off Sackcloth and Clothing with Joy.”

Please feel free to invite guests. The more, the more joyous!  Thank you!

What Children Gain by Being Part of a Church

What Children Gain by Being Part of a Church

Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

Bradford Congregational Church, UCC, Bradford, Vermont

Here is a partial, random list of benefits that children gain (and therefore their families and communities and the world gain) by their growing up as part of a church. Please feel free to share this list with others. Please add to this list by sending suggestions of other benefits to bradfordvtucc@gmail.com. Children gain in church:

  • appreciation for the beauty, power and joy of singing and music;
  • practice public speaking and performing;
  • spiritual literacy, scriptural familiarity and an introduction to ethical, moral and religious values and virtues;
  • the knowledge of why and how to pray;
  • the experience of what faith communities and worship services are like, so wherever they go in life they will be able to walk into a house of worship with comfort and confidence;
  • the knowledge that anytime in their lives when they need comfort, guidance, strength, inspiration, community, a way to serve or a new life, church is a place to turn;
  • the desire to give their children all the gifts that church gave them when they were children;
  • a group of peers who share qualities like kindness, fairness, respect, compassion and service;
  • the feeling of being an important part of a multigenerational community where they are loved and respected and affirmed;
  • a sense of belonging to a greater whole—including all other people of faith and all God’s creation;
  • the love of a beautiful, spirit-filled church building, and the knowledge of how to be stewards of it and share it with others;
  • the good feeling of working together leading and serving the community in Christ-like ways;
  • awareness of the Biblical commitment to take care of those in need and to work for justice and peace.

Below are a few photos taken on Children’s Sunday, May 22, 2016.

Aiden & Morgen
Aiden & Morgen

 

Shane & Micah lighting the candles
Shane & Micah lighting the candles

 

Praying over the offering
Praying over the offering

 

Singing "Jesus Loves Me" to the congregation
Singing “Jesus Loves Me” to the congregation

 

Rev. Tom Kinder presenting Bibles to the older children
Rev. Tom Kinder presenting Bibles to the older children

 

 

Upcoming Service Notes, March 22, 2016, Children’s Sunday

We are bringing back the tradition of Children’s Sunday this week. The children will be a part of the entire service, helping lead it and being celebrated in it.

We have an extraordinary Board of Christian Education at the moment–not only has it done amazing work this year and created a loving, light-filled space and program for the children, but also every one of the four either grew up in the church or had ancestors who did or both, and now they are bringing their own children here.  It is quite moving! While in generations past this might have been the norm, today it is rare to find a church with a Christian Ed team with roots this deep.  It is also rare to find a church that has as many children as we do–16 are listed in the bulletin! I know of much larger churches with far fewer children today.  We have an abundance to celebrate!

We will hear two gospel passages about children, Matthew 18:1-5 and Mark 10:13-16, and we will sing In the Bulb There Is a Flower (Hymn of Promise) and All Things Bright and Beautiful, and the children will sing Jesus Loves Me.  We will present Bibles to children in 3rd Grade and older, and bedtime Bible story books to the younger school age children.

Please plan to stay for special refreshments, and go out of your way to tell the children and their parents how much you appreciate them!  Thank you!

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

Upcoming Service Notes, May 15, 2016, Pentecost!

Anything is possible!  That is what Pentecost tells us.  We have the greatest force in the universe within and among us, a power that can transform our lives in unimaginable ways if we open to it and work with it.  That force gave birth to the first church, changing the weak disciples who had denied and deserted Jesus into miracle-working, empire-defying leaders.  The same Holy Spirit wants to work through our lives and our church today, transforming us so that we can help transform the world around us.

The Pentecost service is full of music and words that remind us that anything is possible.  They convey some of the joy and enthusiastic energy that has filled the church whenever it has opened wide to the Spirit’s power.  We will hear the story of the first Pentecost from Acts 2, and hear Jesus promise the Holy Spirit to all his followers in John 14:8-17.  We will read responsively from the beautiful Psalm of creation, #104.  Our hymns will include two classic favorites, I Sing the Mighty Power of God and Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise, as well as the melodic and moving more recent favorite hymn, Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, May 15, 2016, Pentecost!

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