Sermon, March 13, 2016

“I Am About To Do a New Thing: Do You Not Perceive It?”  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
March 13, 2016   Fifth Sunday in Lent
Psalm 126; Isaiah 43:18-21; Philippians 3:4b-14; John 12:1-8

“I am about to do a new thing,” God says through Isaiah, and in the Book of Revelation God says through John of Patmos, “Behold, I make all things new.” God says to forget the former things, leave behind what was of old, and trust and praise.

God is about to do a new thing. That is what God does. God explodes a new universe into being, God takes the particles of the big bang and spins them into spheres and galaxies, God takes old stars that have burned out and makes new stars, God takes a 500 million year old lifeless earth and breathes life into it, God takes old things that have died and been composting all winter and raises spring gardens from them, God takes people who have grown old in heart and brings new love into their lives, God takes a community that has grown weary and discouraged from struggle or conflict, like the children of Israel captive in Babylon, and restores their fortunes so that their mouth is full of laughter and their tongue with shouts of joy.

God is always about to do a new thing, we can count on that, it happens every day, every moment. “Now it springs forth,” God says, “do you not perceive it?”

That is the question. “Do you not perceive it?” That is what makes all the difference. Continue reading Sermon, March 13, 2016

Maundy Thursday Service, March 24, 2016, 7:00 PM

The Maundy Thursday service is one of the most beautiful and moving of the entire year, right up there with Christmas Eve.

It is a joint service again this year in our sanctuary with our Grace United Methodist neighbors participating.

During the service we reflect on the last hours of Christ’s life with all its drama, emotion and meaning, and we partake in the Last Supper. We sing two beloved spirituals, “Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley” and “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” The highpoint of the service is the Tenebrae, with nine readers at a table with thirteen candles representing Jesus and the twelve disciples. We hear the story read in stages as the candles are snuffed out until Jesus is alone in the darkness. The service ends with the one Christ candle relit as we pray and then depart in silence. It is a powerful way to enter the darkness and grief of Good Friday and prepare for the joy and brilliant light of Easter.

Upcoming Service Notes, March 13, 2016

The Fifth Sunday of Lent brings us into the depths of the wilderness of transformation where the deepest sorrow and joy exist in tension. We will hear Psalm 126 say, “May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.” And in Isaiah 43:18-21 we hear God promise, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Change is often uncomfortable, even when it is for the best. Sometimes we cannot perceive it or perceive the good of it. All we know is that things do not feel the same as before and we are not happy about it. We read the familiar gospel story of Mary pouring expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and you and I know the poignant beauty of that act on the eve of Christ’s final days in Jerusalem. Others at the time did not know that Good Friday and Easter were coming, and could not perceive the goodness of what Mary did. Jesus tries to open their eyes and hearts (and ours) to see what really matters. (John 12:1-8)

Paul also is trying to get us to see what matters most in life and to press on toward it with our all. He wants us to get our perceptions and our priorities right. (Philippians 3:4b-14)

God is doing a new thing in our church right now. In fact many new things are happening thanks to the hard and faithful work of people in this congregation. If you can perceive it, you will want to celebrate it. (Don’t miss the youtube at the end of this post!) Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, March 13, 2016

Sermon, March 6, 2016

Becoming a New Creation  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
March 6, 2016   Fourth Sunday in Lent
Psalm 32; II Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

I assume we have no perfect people among us today. I assume we all fall short of the glory of God. I also assume we all aspire to do better. So I assume you are as encouraged as I am that today’s scriptures promise we can become a new creation, we can walk in God’s ways as purely as Jesus did, we can be transformed by the grace of God. God will not be done with us until that happens.
Continue reading Sermon, March 6, 2016

March 5th Healthy Communication Workshop

March 5th was the first of three workshops presented by Nancy Brown who specializes in helping beloved communities seeking to listen and communicate with intention and love. Folks came from 5 different worshiping bodies, 2 municipalities, several Associations, and the VT Conference!

The next workshop is April 2nd and the third is on April 23rd. Find out more information and register for either or both at http://bradforducc.org/calendar-page/healthy-communication-and-beloved-community-events/

Some photos from March 5th:2016-03-05 01.18.49 2016-03-04 23.20.582016-03-04 23.38.27 2016-03-04 23.18.40 2016-03-04 23.15.36 2016-03-04 23.14.54

Upcoming Service Notes, March 6, 2016

The Fourth Sunday of Lent is known as “Refreshment Sunday” or “Laetare Sunday,” laetare being Latin meaning “rejoice.” Traditionally things lightened up for this one Sunday of Lent and then went back into the lugubrious wilderness until Easter.

This Sunday we will certainly have refreshment and rejoicing, if you love beautiful scriptures and hymns. We have an all-star lineup. We begin with one of the most uplifting and reassuring Psalms, number 32, which has one great line after another. Read it slowly, pausing after each verse, and you will feel the power of it. We will follow that by singing the great poet John Greenleaf Whittier’s beloved hymn that starts, “Dear Lord and Father of mankind,/ Forgive our foolish ways./ Reclothe us in our rightful mind;/ In purer lives thy service find,/ In deeper reverence praise.”

That is the theme of the day: God forgiving our former ways, restoring us to our rightful mind and accepting us in the beloved community of the church to serve and worship. It starts in the Psalm and continues in the other two scriptures, the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, and that great passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (5:16-21)

We will sing the classic response to being saved and transformed by God, Amazing Grace. We will also sing a communion hymn that deserves to be better known, Bread of the World, in Mercy Broken, set to a tune attributed to the same composer who wrote our Doxology, Louis Bourgeois, who is an extremely important figure in protestant hymn history. Listen to the youtube recording of the hymn below.

The choir will sing “If I Have Been the Source of Pain, O God,” from the New Century Hymnal, and Ralph Vaughan Williams communion classic, “O Taste and See.” John Atwood will play organ pieces by Frescobaldi, J.L. Krebs (a pupil of J.S. Bach) and Paulus Hofhaymer.

Here is the recording of the communion hymn we will be singing. It is clearest when she plays it the second time through, so be sure to listen at least that far.

Sermon, February 28, 2016

Metanoia: Choosing Higher Thoughts and Higher Ways  
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
February 28, 2016   Third Sunday in Lent
Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke 13:1-9

The Prophet Isaiah delivered a beautiful message to the people of Israel. All who were hungry or thirsty would have an abundance of food and drink better than money could buy. God’s love was steadfast and sure, and God would raise them as a light to the nations. All they had to do was turn to God’s higher thoughts and ways, and they would have richness of life and abundant joy.

If we were seeing this as a movie, the camera would be focused on Isaiah’s face full of passionate urgency and exuberant hope. Then the camera would draw back and show the people listening. We would see that they were dressed in stained and tattered robes. They had looks of weary disbelief or stone cold resistance. They were exiles in Babylon. None believed they would ever see their homeland, and besides, it had been utterly destroyed decades ago. What Isaiah was saying was absurd. They were as far from a condition of glory that could inspire the nations as they could possibly be.

Yet Isaiah’s prophecy came true. As Psalm 126 says,

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced. Continue reading Sermon, February 28, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, February 28, 2016

This will be the Third Sunday in Lent.  Repentance appears in the Lectionary readings for the day.  That is a traditional Lenten theme, but one that has been widely misunderstood.  Repentance brings up images that focus on guilt, shame and suffering for our sins.  That could not be farther from what Jesus and Isaiah are calling us to experience!  (Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke13:1-9)  The word translated as repentance is metanoia in the Greek, which means to change our heart, mind and soul, to turn them in another direction.  As Isaiah puts it, it is to choose God’s higher thoughts and higher ways.

We cannot move higher if we are wallowing lower in our wretchedness!  Lent is hard, but not because we need to inflict self-denial and deprivation on ourselves.  It is hard because breaking our old habitual thoughts and ways and turning to God’s is hard.  Even admitting that we need to change challenges us to our core.  That is what happens in the Lenten wilderness, but the progression of the church year reminds us that after the wilderness and cross , after the letting go of our old thoughts and ways of life, comes the resurrection into new and greater life.  Lent is about transformation into our true self, which is God’s Spirit of love and life and light flowing through us as it flowed through Jesus.

This Sunday we will explore more about making this joyous transformation.  We will sing the hymn “They Did Not Build in Vain” set to the tune of “The God of Abraham Praise.”  We will also sing two old favorites, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” and  “I Would Be True.”  The choir will sing an Introit from the New Century Hymnal, “Each Winter as the Year Grows Older” with these words: “But I believe beyond believing, that life can spring from death;/That growth can flower from our grieving;/that we can catch our breath and turn transformed by faith.”  They will sing the Anthem, “Hear Thou My Prayer, O Lord,” by Jacques Arcadelt. John Atwood will play organ pieces by Pachelbel, J.C. Bach (J.S. Bach’s uncle) and Palestrina.

Sermon, February 21, 2016

Seeing the Goodness of God in the Land of the Living    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
February 21, 2016   Second Sunday in Lent
Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Jesus said, “You will not see me until…you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” and Paul invited people to “observe” the example of those who lived like citizens of God’s realm.

The 27th Psalm said, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of God in the land of the living.”

These passages are about looking, observing and seeing a whole different realm of reality within and around us. More than that, they are about our making that reality our own, being citizens and participants and models of it for others.

But practically, how can we see the goodness of God in the land of the living, and how can we be the goodness of God—we as individuals and we as a people? Continue reading Sermon, February 21, 2016