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

Palm Sunday Choir Festival on March 20

Started more than 50 years ago by organist Katrina Munn and her musical group of friends throughout the Upper Valley, the annual Palm Sunday Choir Festival has become a favorite event in the Bradford area. This year’s festival will be on March 20, at 7 p.m. Many area church choirs, groups, individuals and musicians come to sing anthems. The choirs join together for a combined presentation. This year it will include Mozart’s “Ave Verum” and Gaul’s “They That Sow in Tears.” The high point of the festival are the hymns, lifted up in glorious voice by more than 200 gifted singers, always ending with “All Hail the Power of Jesus’Name.” The festival is now the last of the six Sunday evening Lenten services sponsored by the Bradford Inter Church Council. The culmination of the evening this year will again be Organist John Atwood at the console.

Winter Warmer Italian Dinner

On Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 6:00 pm we’re having a “Winter Warmer” dinner, hosted by the Board of Christian Education and the Sunday School children, who will use the proceeds generated from the dinner to purchase food for the Bradford Food Shelf.

Join us for this fun, relaxing, and cozy Italian-inspired meal. A $10 per person donation is suggested.

Please contact Angela Conrad-Schlager (222-9275) with any questions.

Sunshine Baskets 2016

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Above is a photo of just some of the LOVE CREW that assembled the scores of bags, totes, bins and baskets full of sweets and joys and handmade Valentines. All these Sunshine Baskets were blessed on Sunday, February 14 before being hand delivered to each person, group home, and family. 20+ individual bags, 20+ couple totes, a half dozen or so large baskets containing breads, cookies, candies, fruit, drinks, popcorn, and Valentines handmade by children. . . so much love! Our church has been sending out these Sunshine Baskets for many years now. (More photos of the assembly in progress below.)

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