United Church of Strafford, Vermont

On Line Worship Service, May 24, 2020

Welcome to this service.  You will find an “Orientation to this Service and Announcements” after the first few items.

Prelude French Suite V, Allemande, J.S. Bach; Annemieke McLane, piano:

Introit “The Peace of the Earth,” traditional Guatemalan, translated by Christine Carson, arranged by John L. Bell, sung by the United Church of Strafford Choir

“The peace of the earth be with you…Deep peace falling over you, God’s peace growing in you.”

Scripture Lessons:

Luke 24:44-53
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Acts 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku

You can read the text of this Call to Worship video by clicking here.

Hymn  “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”  I listened to a dozen different YouTube recordings, all but this one performed by large choirs or gospel bands, and some were quite impressive, but then I came to this young man in what looks like a dorm room and somehow this moved me more even than the polished city choruses with their soaring descants.  If this doesn’t do it for you, feel free to search YouTube—it will be time well spent!

Orientation to this Service and Announcements

Welcome to this online worship service of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont for May 24th, 2020, the Seventh Sunday of Easter and Ascension Sunday.

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 service by email or social media.

Today we have a series of videos including:

  • the Prelude, Introit, Call to Worship and Hymn above;
  • Children’s Time for all ages;
  • the New Lord’s Prayer;
  • a Hymn to sing along;
  • the Sermon;
  • a Hymn;
  • a moving video of youth from South Africa;
  • a sung benediction from Indonesia;
  • a Postlude.

Read More

Sermon from May 24, 2020

Yes, but How?
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
May 24, 2020    Seventh Sunday of Easter, Ascension Sunday
Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11

[You can watch a video recording of this sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.]

Last week my sermon talked about Paul Hawken’s 2007 book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World.  Hawken is referring to the combined social justice and environmental movement, unified by an ethic of the Golden Rule and sacredness of life.  He ends the book saying, “I believe this movement will prevail…. It will change a sufficient number of people so as to begin the reversal of centuries of frenzied self-destruction behavior…. What will guide us is a living intelligence that creates miracles every second…” p 189-190

I ended my sermon saying, “The Holy Spirit’s living intelligence needs us to open to it and let it work miracles through us.  It is here right now, within and around us all, and it wants us to succeed in healing and transforming the world to be God’s realm of love and life and light.  We cannot know how this will happen, but we can trust that the Spirit will guide us to the structure and leaders we need if we keep working with it.”

More than one person responded to the sermon saying, “Yes, but how?”  Yes, we have to change our civilization, but how can we create a new normal, how can we stand up against the massive powers that continue to drive humanity toward self-destruction?

It is true as I said last week that we have to trust and look to the Spirit for answers, but I can say more with the help of the story of Christ’s Ascension.

This week on the actual day of the Ascension I went up into the cemetery behind the Town House looking for a setting for the final frames of the Children’s Time video.  I visited old friends there who had lived through the Great Depression, World War II and McCarthyism.  I visited Justin Morrill who served in Congress as the United States plummeted into the Civil War and was instrumental in bringing new life to an exhausted, badly damaged nation after the war.  I visited the Rev. William Sloane Coffin and told him how much we miss his vision and voice.

Those leaders of town and nation worked some miracles in their day. They may not tell us how we can work our own, but they show us that miracles are possible.  Many of them sat in this sanctuary and found here the answer to their own questions of “Yes, but how.”

The disciples were were ordinary flawed and feeble people like us, but they worked miracles after Jesus left them.  The Ascension story distills the entire message and ministry of Jesus into a few clear instructions that can help us see how to work miracles today. Read More

Call to Worship and Mel’s Haiku, May 24, 2020 On Line Service

[You can watch a video recording of this Call to Worship at the end of this text. To see the entire service, click here.]

We are still in the Easter season one last Sunday, and I still have echoing in my heart one of the music videos from Easter morning: “After all the things I’ve been through, I still have joy.”  I am glad to find that refrain persisting because this hard time we are in is feeling harder as it drags on and we see more clearly the challenges of the next phase.

I also am glad that the church year offers us the wild story of the Ascension of Christ on this Sunday of Easter, because in the end we can imagine the disciples singing, “After all the things we’ve been through, we still have joy.”

The Ascension takes place just 40 days after everything fell completely apart.  One of the most trusted disciples betrayed the loving, healing teacher who had transformed their lives.  The leading disciple denied Jesus three times.  The men had all run away.  Only a few leading women had remained courageous and faithful.

They felt guilt and shame, horror and deep grief, and then Jesus suddenly reappeared, walking through locked doors, turning their sense of reality upside down and cracking it open to reveal powers and realms they had never imagined.

And then came today, forty days after he rose from the dead.  Jesus led them out of the city to the Mount of Olives, tradition has it, and they saw him—they saw him rise into the sky before their very eyes.

So now they were alone, uncertain where things were going or what they were going to do.  It was still only five weeks since Jesus was arrested, tortured and executed.  They had no reason to think it wouldn’t happen to them, too, if they went openly into the city, and yet the story in Luke says that after Jesus ascended, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”

“After all the things I’ve been through, I still have joy!”

Who knows how much of this story is factual, but we do know that the devastation and danger that first church faced was real, and we know that their joy was true and infectious.

So if they could feel great joy, maybe we can, too, even though, like them, our world has been turned upside down and it feels unsafe to venture out of our homes, and like theirs the leadership of our nation is autocratic, hostile and unstable and our future looks grim.  What made great joy possible for them that could also make it possible for us? Read More

May 24th Children’s Story Time with Joey and Danette: Beatrice’s Goat

On Sunday, May 24 from 10:00-10:20am, children in grades 4 and under are invited to join Joey and Danette for a reading of the story Beatrice’s Goat.  We will start the Zoom session with Joys and Concerns from the children. Then, we will read the story aloud, discuss the story and finally talk about the big idea of the story. We hope to see your children!

Please spread the word far and wide!

I imagine you know this by now, but Zoom accounts are free and allow you to test out the system in advance so you can be ready to sign on when the time comes. If you need instructions, they are below.  If you are familiar with Zoom, here is the link you need for this gathering: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86034972073

Please join us at 10:00 AM on Sunday morning, May 24th,on line on Zoom:

Topic: Children’s Story Time

Time: 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) May 24th.

Directions On How To Use Zoom

Download the Application to Your Computer First (if you will be using the computer)
Open your internet browser and go to zoom.us
On the top, charcoal colored bar, click
‘Resources=>Download Zoom client’
On the Download Center page that opens, choose the top option ‘Zoom Client for Meetings’
You will get a Zoom installer file appropriate for your computer.
Run that file and it will install a small, client application that all the Zoom Meeting links will use.
Once you successfully install this, you should be ready to join any Zoom meeting, using the meeting links that you receive.

Joining a Zoom Meeting Remotely
You will be able to join this gathering by computer (audio, video) or smart phone (audio, video).  You will need a log-in link and you may need a Meeting ID.  (See below.)

Please note: ANY computer that has speakers and Internet access can join a Zoom meeting. If you do NOT have a webcam (either built in or added on to your computer) you will still be able to see other people — but they will not be able to see you.

To join this Zoom Gathering:

1.     Log into the link for the meeting you are joining. For Sunday mornings:  https://zoom.us/j/110184919

2.     “Allow” Zoom to download the Zoom Client app used in Zoom meetings.

3.     If asked, enter the 9-digit Meeting ID number for the meeting you are joining.  For the Children’s Story Time: Meeting ID:  860 3497 2073

4.     Join the meeting using video and computer audio.

On Line Worship Service, May 17, 2020

Welcome to this service.  You will find an “Orientation to this Service and Announcements” after the first few items.

Prelude Impromptu, Op. 90 No. 2 by Franz Schubert; Annemieke McLane, piano:

Introit “Be a Candle of Hope” by Becki Slagle Mayo, sung by the United Church of Strafford Choir

Be a candle of hope, be a candle of light,
a beacon of truth in a dark, hopeless night.
Share the light with a friend and watch the flame grow.
The more light we give, the more love we’ll know.
When you light another candle, you keep your light, but give it away.
Yet the flame grows even brighter as the darkness turns into day.
Be a candle of hope, be a candle of light,
a beacon of truth in a dark, hopeless night.
Share the light with a friend and watch the flame grow.
The more light we give, the more love we’ll know.
The more light we give, the more love we’ll know.

First Scripture Lesson, Acts 17:22-30:

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth…. so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him–though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.…’  While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to undergo metanoia*.

[*metanoia: a spiritual awakening and opening to expanded consciousness, inadequately translated as ‘repent’]

Call to Worship and Mel Goertz’s Haiku

You can read the text of this Call to Worship video by clicking here.

Anthem  “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, Hold On,” a song of the American Civil Rights Movement based on an African-American spiritual, performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock

Orientation to this Service and Announcements

Welcome to this online worship service of the United Church of Strafford, Vermont for May 17, 2020, the Sixth Sunday of Easter and Pentecost Preparation Sunday.

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 service by email or social media.

Today we have a series of videos including:

  • the Prelude, Introit, Call to Worship and Anthem above;
  • Children’s Time (for adults, too);
  • the New Lord’s Prayer;
  •  Sermon;
  • a moving South African Freedom Song;
  • a Benediction video;
  • an uplifting South African Freedom Song as our Choral Benediction;
  • a Postlude, Brahms’ Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118 No. 2, Annemieke McLane, piano audio only

Read More

Sermon from May 17, 2020

The Spirit of Truth Awakens
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
May 17, 2020    Sixth Sunday of Easter, Pentecost Preparation Sunday
Acts 17:22-30; John 7:37-39b, 14:15-20, 25-26

[You can watch a video recording of this sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here.]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu described the exhilaration of voting for the first time in South Africa.  People waited for hours in miles-long lines to cast their ballot.  They went in to the voting station oppressed, powerless people and came out a minute later transformed into free, empowered citizens of a new country.  Tutu burst out of the door shouting “Yippee!!!” like a schoolboy and joined the dancing in the street.

Nelson Mandela became President after whites had held him in prison for 27 years.  Countless thousands of his people had been tortured and murdered and all had been treated little better than slaves.  White South Africans were justifiably afraid of retribution.  Mandela shocked everyone, black and white, with the Spirit of oneness that flowed through him, a Spirit of Truth and Reconciliation.  The culture of a nation changed overnight because of that Holy Spirit.

Last Sunday some of us expressed concern that human civilization will not learn from this pandemic and will continue its old ways of social injustice and environmental destruction.  The evils of those ways have been made clear, but it is not clear how we are going to reverse them and build a new world that is sustainable, resilient, healthy and one.

We are up against the most powerful force of evil the world has ever seen and it is not giving up.  The dictionary defines evil as profoundly immoral, malevolent or harmful.  The willful destruction of the the earth, driving all species including our own toward extinction, is by definition evil.  Depriving the suffering poor and middle class and favoring instead the super-wealthy and mega-corporations is evil.  Purposefully weakening democracy and disenfranchising citizens of their right to vote in order to strengthen autocratic control and oppress those citizens with economic inequity and environmental destruction is evil.

Evil is nothing new.  The Hebrew prophets arose in response to evil and countered it with ideals of compassion, justice, the golden rule, love of neighbor and preferential care for the vulnerable and oppressed.

Jesus spoke out vehemently against evil and directed us to fight it starting in the heart, mind and soul, because it is from there that it arises.  That is why Gus Speth and thousands of other leading thinkers of the modern age have said that we will not make the changes necessary to save the earth unless we have a spiritual awakening, a developmental leap of consciousness. Read More

Community Resources Available to Help During the Covid Crisis

The Strafford Community Outreach Committee has provided this list of resources and instructions on how to get help when people are in need.  Please share this widely!

Community Outreach Committee-list of resources_ draft 5 (1)