United Church of Strafford, Vermont

On Line Worship Service, August 1, 2021

Welcome to this service for this Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

The main part of the service is included below in a video of our in-person and zoom worship on Sunday morning at 10:00 AM on August 1st. 

The service on this Tenth Sunday of Pentecost focused on the importance of a vision of the Promised Land to help us move through a trackless wilderness.

We pondered these questions (prefaced by four quotes):

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” Henri Bergson

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

“One needs a vision of the promised land in order to have the strength to move.” Leo Tolstoy

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop…. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Questions: What is the Promised Land that you dream of for your church, town, nation or earth? What can we do as individuals or as a congregation to help us get there?

The service featured a gorgeous version of “Way Over Yonder” sung by Becky Bailey with Annemieke McLane playing piano. Substitute pianist Carol Rousseau plays selections at the end of the video.

You can see the Order of Worship below and find a link to the bulletin. You will also find some portions of our worship that were not included in the live zoom service, including the haiku of the day, a few announcements and the offering.

Thank you for being part of our church community! We haver returned to the sanctuary for in-person services but we will also continue live streamed and recorded service options.  If you would like to join us by Zoom on Sunday mornings click here.

Similarly, our 7:00 PM Thursday Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle will return to in-person gatherings on July 8th, but several of us will continue to participate by zoom.  For the Heartfulness Circle link, click here.

If you would like to be added to our weekly newsletter list please let us know at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com

You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us.  You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this webpage by email or social media.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome here and in our church community.

Pastor Tom Kinder         Read More

Sermon from August 1, 2021

Happy Are Those Who Live in the House of God
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
August 1, 2021  Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
from Psalm 84; from Isaiah 11:1-9; Matthew 5:3-9

You can read or download the scriptures here: 8-1-21 Service Readings

You can watch the video recording of the Call to Worship, Chi and Sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.  Here is a pdf of this text: 8-1-21 sermon pdf

Call to Worship, “Way Over Yonder”  

Life is so miraculous, how it began billions of years ago as single cells, how they evolved into human brains and opposable thumbs and octopus brains that stretch into their tentacles.

One of the most miraculous things is how the Spirit of life guides each unique creature to what they need for health and wellbeing through inner longings—the longing to eat, to sleep.  Think about the complexity of that inner guidance system! 

Most amazing of all are the higher longings that transcend the individual self.  We have an ancient dream programmed into our souls for the realm of God’s love and peace on earth.  That longing in the heart of our species is now the greatest hope for the survival of all species.  The Creator of life is trying to guide and empower us to save its creation by helping us evolve into the kind of people that Jesus called us and taught us to be. 

I first heard Carole King sing “Way Over Yonder” when I was a teenager longing for peace in the midst of a wilderness of adolescent angst. “Then trouble’s gonna lose me, worry leave me behind.”  It captured my yearning for the world to be the Promised Land and Garden of Eden, “the land where the honey runs in rivers each day,” “a garden of wisdom from some long ago dream.”  “Way Over Yonder” was a hymn to me, inspiring me to keep working toward the vision of a better world and way to be in it.

Today I hope you will allow yourself to feel your longing for an ideal church, or town, or nation, or world, I hope you will allow yourself to share your dream in the faith that it is the Spirit of God speaking through your longing to a world that needs to heed it.  Let us worship together with thanks and praise.

Time with Children on the Promise of the Promised Land 

The Promised Land was promised when Abraham longed to find a homeland and had a vision of God saying this is the land you have been searching for that I will give to your descendants.  Abraham felt in his heart that this vision was true, a sacred promise.

In a way, this happens to us all. The Spirit puts in us a sense of where we feel at home and what we feel called to do.  Every living thing has a Promised Land, a place that the Spirit of the universe has created as their natural habitat, the place where they can fulfill the life they have been given.

The first living cells had an ocean with just the right temperature, acidity and salinity and they had a dream programmed into that one cell to increase and evolve into greater life.  If you look around at earth’s plants, animals and insects you find they each have a similar Promised Land.  You have one, too.  Yours may be in the mountains or in a city, it may be as a teacher, a builder, a musician, a parent. 

We each have our dream, but how do we know like Abraham that the vision is promised, how do we know it is our true calling? 

People have asked that question for thousands of years.  Tradition says there are three ways to know.  First is to look to spiritual wisdom collected over the ages and see what it tells you about your vision; second is to talk with wise people about it, like the people of this church; and the third way to learn if your vision is right—I wonder if you can guess? 

Pray!  Especially a listening prayer like the examen I taught you last week, where you listen to your life.  The key is to quiet your mind and allow the deepest spirit within your heart to speak to you.  A familiar prayer of few words that you say over and over helps you listen more deeply because you don’t have to think as much about it, it is like a raft you ride down river to your deepest soul. 

Let’s pray that way now, with words, but also listening for the Spirit beneath and in between the words…

the sermon begins below

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Weekly Churchwide Newsletter Email, July 39, 2021

You can read our weekly email newsletter published on July 23, 2021 by clicking here.

 

Bulletin with Order of Worship for August 1, 2021

You can see the bulletin for our 10:00 AM Sunday morning service here: 8-1-21 bulletin final 2

The service is open to attend in person or by Zoom.  We would love to have you join us either way!  You can find Zoom instructions and the link by clicking here.  

You can find video recordings and sermon texts and more from past services here: https://unitedchurchofstrafford.com/category/on-line-services/

 

Sermon from July 25, 2021

Remembrance and Rest
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
July 25, 2021  Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 12:14, 17; Deuteronomy 5:12-14b, 15;
Matthew 11:28-30; Psalm 126

You can read or download the scriptures here: 7-25-21 Service Readings

You can watch the video recording of the Call to Worship, Chi and Sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.  Here is a pdf of this text: 7-25-21 sermon pdf

Call to Worship:

People have been debating the Latin root of the word religion for two thousand years.  Cicero argued that it came from the verb relegere, meaning to go over something again and again.  Others said that it came from religare, meaning to bind or hold together.  Augustine thought it came from re-eligere, meaning to choose again.

I think all three are right.  Religion is about choosing to return to certain remembrances again and again that help hold our individual lives together and hold us together as a community. 

Religion chooses to remember stories and the wisdom we derive from them, deepening and expanding our understanding over the years as we hear how they speak to our changing time. 

Think about Christmas Eve when we hear again the familiar story and sing the familiar hymns and how close we feel even to strangers after that service.  Every time we rest from our busyness for the remembrance of major events or truths, it brings us closer and holds us together.

 So here we are, choosing to hear again familiar words and music, to discover how they speak to us in this new day.  Let us worship together.

Time with Children on the Examen: 

 I remember when I was a boy there were things about church I loved and things I didn’t love.  I loved the music, the stories, the kind, friendly people, but I didn’t love how strict my father was, making me get all dressed up and sit perfectly still.  

So because I remember those things, I am glad when we have good stories and music for you to hear, and I am even gladder when we laugh and are loose and comfy and full of love.  We learn how to make our lives good by remembering what filled us with light or love or joy or peace and what drained the light, love, joy or peace out of us. 

There is an ancient spiritual practice that can help us realize what fills us with light and love and what does not.  It’s called the Examen, and I’ve done it and it really works.  It’s simple, here’s what you do.

Every evening before you go to sleep think back over the day, and ask yourself two questions.  First, what drained the life and light out of me today, what did I do or what did that to me?  And you name at least one thing. 

Then second, you ask yourself, what filled me with light or love or joy or peace today, or when was I in the flow, so happily absorbed in something that I forgot everything else? 

Then talk about your answers with someone or write them in a journal. 

These two questions can help you become aware of what you don’t want to do and what you do want to do in life. 

But it’s not always easy to choose to do what is best for us, and sometimes it can also be hard to think of any answers to the questions because the whole day went by in a blur. There is something we can do that helps with both of those things—can you guess what it might be? 

Right!  To pray is to make a conscious choice to turn to the light and do what fills us and the world around us with light.  And prayer does something else, too, it helps us be more present if we practice praying with all our attention and put our heart into it.  We learn to notice when we are doing things that drain the light out of us or doing things that make us shine.  We feel the guidance of the Spirit. 

So let’s pray now, and tonight try doing the Examen before bed…

the sermon begins below

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On Line Worship Service, July 25, 2021

Welcome to this service for this Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

The main part of the service is included below in a video of our in-person and zoom worship on Sunday morning at 10:00 AM on July 25th. 

The service focused on remembrance and rest as practices that can help us pause and make meaning of changes that we go through, like the pandemic, or climate change or an infinite number of daily events.

The Passover and the Sabbath are times set aside for remembrance and rest, and at the end of this video the congregation paused to reflect on the changes that have come and are still unfolding from the pandemic.

The three stages of the Exodus story are part of every transition, the ending of leaving Egypt, the in-between time journey through the trackless wilderness, and the new beginning in the Promised Land. The children’s time teaches a tool that monks have used for hundreds of years to navigate through life’s wildernesses: the Examen.

The music this week was exceptionally beautiful, with Jeremiah and Annemieke McLane playing original arrangements of pieces by Bach and Vivaldi, the choir singing two moving pieces and the congregation singing “Be Still, My Soul” and “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

The congregation reflected on these questions: What is important to remember about the pandemic time, and to celebrate or grieve—the good things, the hard things, the hard things that led to good things?  What ways of being do you hope will return to the pre-pandemic time “normal,” what pandemic ways do you hope we will keep going, and what do you hope will change to be completely new?

You can see the Order of Worship below and find a link to the bulletin. You will also find some portions of our worship that were not included in the live zoom service, including the haiku of the day, a few announcements and the offering.

Thank you for being part of our church community! We haver returned to the sanctuary for in-person services but we will also continue live streamed and recorded service options.  If you would like to join us by Zoom on Sunday mornings click here.

Similarly, our 7:00 PM Thursday Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle will return to in-person gatherings on July 8th, but several of us will continue to participate by zoom.  For the Heartfulness Circle link, click here.

If you would like to be added to our weekly newsletter list please let us know at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com

You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us.  You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this webpage by email or social media.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome here and in our church community.

Pastor Tom Kinder         Read More

Weekly Churchwide Newsletter Email, July 23, 2021

You can read our weekly email newsletter published on July 23, 2021 by clicking here.

 

Bulletin with Order of Worship for July 25, 2021

You can see the bulletin for our 10:00 AM Sunday morning service here: 7-25-21 bulletin final

The service is open to attend in person or by Zoom.  We would love to have you join us either way!  You can find Zoom instructions and the link by clicking here.  

You can find video recordings and sermon texts and more from past services here: https://unitedchurchofstrafford.com/category/on-line-services/

 

On Line Worship Service, July 18, 2021

Welcome to this service for this Eighth Sunday after Pentecost.

The main part of the service is included below in a video of our in-person and zoom worship on Sunday morning at 10:00 AM on July 18th. 

The service featured stirring and inspiring music including William Blake’s “Jerusalem” and “God of Grace and God of Glory” among others. The service theme was good shepherds and heroes drawing on Jeremiah 23:1-6 and Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56, and it invited people to reflect on these statements and questions:

“Would that all God’s people were prophets, and that God would put the divine spirit on them!” Numbers 11:29

“Today there are many good people when the world needs saints.” Carlo Carretto

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else. And no one makes a greater mistake than those who do nothing because they can do so little.” William Sloane Coffin

Who are the heroes and what are the acts of heroism you have witnessed, large or small, especially in your church or town? What heroic actions do we need today locally or globally?

The service included beautiful music from pianist Annemieke McLane and our choir.

You can see the Order of Worship below and find a link to the bulletin. You will also find some portions of our worship that were not included in the live zoom service, including the haiku of the day, a few announcements and the offering.

Thank you for being part of our church community! We haver returned to the sanctuary for in-person services but we will also continue live streamed and recorded service options.  If you would like to join us by Zoom on Sunday mornings click here.

Similarly, our 7:00 PM Thursday Heartfulness Contemplative Training Circle will return to in-person gatherings on July 8th, but several of us will continue to participate by zoom.  For the Heartfulness Circle link, click here.

If you would like to be added to our weekly newsletter list please let us know at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com

You can respond with thoughts about the service or with anything you would like to say by using the comment feature at the end of the post or by emailing us.  You can also bring others into this experience by sharing the link to this webpage by email or social media.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on your journey, you are welcome here and in our church community.

Pastor Tom Kinder         Read More

Sermon from July 18, 2021

Heroes and Good Shepherds: “I Will Not Cease from Mental Fight”
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
July 18, 2021  Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56

You can read or download the scriptures here: 7-18-21 Service Readings

You can watch the video recording of the Call to Worship and Sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.  Here is a pdf of this text: 7-18-21 sermon pdf

Call to Worship:

Bill Burden was a good shepherd of this church as Moderator and Trustee, and of this town as Emergency Management Director, and when Covid arrived his shepherding rose to heroic stature.  He died at the end of July last year, but what he did in the early months of the pandemic set the course for Strafford’s carefulness and care for one another that got us through so well.  Later in the service we will have the opportunity to talk about heroes and heroic actions we have seen, and there is much we could say about Bill’s steady good shepherding.  We also will be asking ourselves the question, what heroic actions do we need now?  What do we need in our families, or as a church, nation or world?

Heroes are everyday people who overcome whatever holds them back from using their gifts to serve others in some way, large or small. Jesus says, “Follow me,” and that is a call to heroic action.  William Blake attached the words of Moses to his poem “Jerusalem” that the choir will sing as the Anthem today.  Moses said, “Would that all God’s people were prophets, and that God would put the divine spirit on them!” 

What heroic action is God calling you to, what situation in your life or in the world calls to you or calls to this church?  Let us worship together, opening to the voice of the divine spirit within and around us.

Time with Children on William Blake’s “Jerusalem (And did those feet)”: 

In a few minutes the choir is going to sing a poem by William Blake.  It relates to good shepherding and heroes and really the core of what the church and Jesus are all about.  The poem begins:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

Blake is imagining that Jesus visited England.  Imagine that Jesus once sat where you are sitting, or rode his bike around the Strafford common, or hiked up Whitcomb Hill. That thought wakes us up to the truth that we live in a sacred place, and the best of people could be here among us.  It gives us hope.  The poem goes on:

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

The problem is, humans have not lived up to Jesus.  The smoke of our pollution clouds the hills, the mills and machinations of big corporations make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  In this poem Jerusalem means the ideal society, the realm of God on earth, a place of the Golden Rule and fairness for all, democratic and free.  The poet gets all fired up, he wants to establish that ideal loving society on earth, so he says,

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.

This is the song of a good shepherd, a hero rising to do what is right.  Notice that Blake says, “I will not cease from Mental Fight.”  I wonder if you can guess what that makes me think of?  Right!  Prayer!  Mahatma Gandhi said that his greatest weapon was silent prayer.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing.  This hymn calls us to work without ceasing to change the world, and to let prayer guide and inspire all our actions.  So let’s pray…

the sermon begins below

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