Sermon, January 10, 2016

You Are Mine…I Will Be With You…I Love You
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 10, 2016   First Sunday after Epiphany, Baptism of Christ,
Dedication of the Pastoral Search Committee
Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

This congregation’s Identity and Aspiration Statement
describes very specifically what we feel
God is calling us to be and do.
Today’s passage in Isaiah is also an Identity Statement,
a more general one that applies to all God’s creation.
It includes us. It includes you.
Listen to what God is saying to you:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you!”
That means you have nothing to be afraid of,
nothing to worry about, you do not have to carry
the burden of past faults and flaws,
you can let go of concerns about your future,
because God redeems you, God returns you
to mercy and grace each time you stray.
“I have called you by name,” God says.
“You are mine.” That is your identity.

The voice of God thundered over the River Jordan
saying, “You are my child, the Beloved;
with you I am well pleased.” Isaiah allows us
to hear God saying that to each one of us.
God says, “You—you!—are my beloved child;
with you I am well pleased.” Can you rest into that love?
Continue reading Sermon, January 10, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, January 10, 2016, Search Committee Dedication

This First Sunday after Epiphany and Baptism of Christ Sunday will also include a service of Dedication of the Pastoral Search Committee. Associate Conference Minister Pam Lucas will be with us and the Search Committee will meet for the first time after worship.

The Epiphany Season is full of light and hope and excitement. Epiphany directs us to look for the manifestation of God present in Jesus Christ, in our lives and in the world. The launching of this Search Committee comes after a long journey like the Magi following the star to Bethlehem. A year ago the congregation was nowhere near ready to do this. We still have a long journey ahead, but we have much to celebrate in reaching this moment of light, hope and excitement that sometimes felt as if it might never arrive.

We will celebrate with a special litany written by Rev. Pam Lucas and read by five members of the church, and with one of the most affirming and uplifting messages from God through the prophet Isaiah, and with the story of the Baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. It was the beginning of his ministry, just as this is the beginning of the Search Committee’s. For Jesus it began with gifts from God of love and the Spirit, and we will pray and reflect and do all we can to give the Search Committee those same gifts.

Music is one of the most powerful ways to convey the feeling of love or the power of the Spirit’s presence, and the hymns and choral and organ pieces are designed to do that. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, January 10, 2016, Search Committee Dedication

Sermon, January 3, 2016

We Observed His Star at Its Rising    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
January 3, 2016   Second Sunday after Christmas, Epiphany Sunday
Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12

The Wise Men were Magi, priests of Zoroastrianism in ancient Persia. Zoroastrians sought wisdom and truth to help the world progress toward its perfection. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Magi studied stars and dreams to guide them.

That may or may not have been true for Zoroastrian priests, but it certainly is true in the Christian story about the Wise Men. Dreams, visions and signs play a huge role in the life of Jesus and the early church. Christian wisdom involves guidance from a higher power that speaks in ways that analytic reasoning cannot comprehend, requiring intuitive interpretation.

To be wise in Christianity is to know things in our spiritual heart, or literally our gut. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit that guides us to all truth wells up like rivers of living water flowing from the believer’s belly. (John 7:38 KJV)

Jesus talked about those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. For those who have the eyes and ears of wisdom, the world is full of burning bushes like the one Moses saw and heard. God speaks through nature and through the written word and music and works of art, and through our experiences every day.
Continue reading Sermon, January 3, 2016

Upcoming Service Notes, January 3, 2016 and Epiphany Season

Epiphany is always a season of beginnings and increasing light.  This year it will be especially hopeful and exciting with the launch of our Search Committee for a settled pastor.  Sunday the 10th will be the official service of dedication, and this week we will be reflecting on the journey ahead.

This Sunday is a transition day.  It is the Second Sunday of Christmas when we sing our last Christmas carols.  It is also Epiphany Sunday when we start this beautiful, light-filled season. The word Epiphany comes from a Greek root meaning manifestation or appearance.  This Sunday we will celebrate the wise men’s recognition of God’s manifestation in the Christ child.  We will read Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the wise men) and Isaiah 60:1-6 (some of the most uplifting lines of poetry in the Bible).  The sermon will explore how we can follow the guidance of the Spirit in our daily lives and in our search for a new pastor, as the Magi followed the star.  To read about and listen to the music for this Sunday,  Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, January 3, 2016 and Epiphany Season

Sermon, December 20, 2015

Love: The Blessed Vulnerable Mary
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 20, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Love, Christmas Sunday
Luke 1:26-56; Matthew 1:18-25

Mary is the model for all Christians, not just Catholics, not just women, but for all of us.

A central doctrine of our faith, far more important than the virgin birth, is the belief that Christ lives within every one of us. Jesus prayed that we would recognize this truth. (John 17:23) Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Every time we take communion we ritually renew Christ’s body and blood living within our body and blood. Every one of us at our baptism receives affirmation that the same Spirit that made Christ Christ is present in us.

Our calling as a church is to be the body of Christ. Our calling as individuals is to do our part as members of Christ’s body. (I Corinthians 12) Jesus sends his followers to bear into the world his power for healing and reconciliation with God, so that the world may turn from its selfish ways to the ways of God’s realm of mercy, justice and peace. Most of all, we are called to bring Christ’s love into the world by loving God and loving our neighbor—neighbor meaning everyone in the world who is in need of love, especially the stranger or wrongdoer or enemy.

Like Mary, we have something of Christ to bring to birth that the world desperately needs. The scriptures and the news headlines tell us this as clearly as if the angel Gabriel were standing in front of us announcing it. And like Mary, we have to decide how to respond. Continue reading Sermon, December 20, 2015

Upcoming Service Notes: Christmas Sunday, Christmas Eve, and the Sunday after Christmas

CHRISTMAS SUNDAY  On Sunday, December 20th, at 10:00 AM we will have our traditional Christmas Sunday celebration, with the story of the Annunciation and Birth read by Bridget Peters, Storme Odell and Tony Brainerd.  The readings will be interspersed with the beloved Christmas carols, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen and Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. Ted and Dotti Unkles will light the four Advent candles, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, with the children’s help, reminding us that Christmas is not here yet, even though we already have begun the celebration.
Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes: Christmas Sunday, Christmas Eve, and the Sunday after Christmas

Advent and Christmas Books for Children (and Adults,Too)

Here are some favorite Advent and Christmas and Hanukkah books for children (but we know some adults who read these every year)! They are all beautiful and deeply moving.  We have provided Amazon links because of the information that Amazon provides, but we urge you to support a locally owned bookstore.

Click on the title for information:

Favor Johnson: A Christmas Story, by Willem Lange, Illustrated by Bert Dodson

A Christmas Like Helen’s by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by Mary Azarian

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco

The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn, Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, pictures by Barbara Cooney

The Night Tree by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Ted Rand

The Gift by Aliana Brodmann, Illustrated by Anthony Carnabuci

Lucy’s Christmas, by Donald Hall, Illustrated by Michael McCurdy

 

 

More Classic Advent and Christmas Music

Here are two more musical Advent/Christmas resources.   The first is the 2014 service of Lessons and Carols from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, in England.   For a real treat that will enrich the experience greatly you can read the program handed out that evening by clicking here.

The second resource is another John Eliot Gardiner performance of a masterpiece of J. S. Bach, the Christmas Oratorio.  This is a long piece–it is actually six cantatas put together to form the Oratorio.  It is well worth listening to in entirety, but you could spread it out over six days of Christmas as it was originally performed.  Below are links that give information and translations.

Click here for a good introduction to the Oratorio.  Click here for background details on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Parts One through Six.  Below are very useful translations of each Part.  (Click on the English-3l.)

Part One: English-3I

Part Two: English-3I

Part Three: English-3I

Part Four: English-3I

Part Five: English-3I

Part Six: English-3I

Sermon, December 13, 2015

Rejoice Always: Christ Is Near    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 13, 2015   Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Joy, Pageant Sunday
Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-9

Last Sunday I talked about how refuge is at the heart of our religion. Refuge is a place where we are free from the pursuit of danger or trouble and can live in peace.  Mary and Joseph were refugees the night Jesus was born. Today there are Syrian refugees and many others, including neighbors in Bradford seeking refuge from the ravages of war, addiction and poverty. The truth is, we all are refugees. We all seek peace from whatever threat or trouble pursues us. To feel we have found refuge is to feel deep joy.

Brother Lawrence was the 17th Century working class Frenchman who developed the practice of the presence of God. Here is one of his Spiritual Maxims: “The greater the perfection a soul seeks, the more dependent it is on grace, and the help of God is more necessary for it each moment for without it the soul can do nothing; the world, human nature and the devil together wage a war so fierce and so continual that without this actual help and this humble and necessary dependence, they will carry the soul away in spite of itself; this seems hard on human nature but grace makes it acceptable and a refuge.”
Continue reading Sermon, December 13, 2015