United Church of Strafford, Vermont

Sermon from April 21, 2019, Easter

They Shall All Know Me in Their Hearts
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
April 21, 2019 Easter
Psalm 118; Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 20:1-18

Did he really rise from the dead?  We want to know.

Our species is called homo sapiens, after all.  Homo means human and sapiens wise or discerning.

We are creatures who want to know, but calling ourselves wise proves us to be fools.  Jesus was wise, preaching oneness and love of neighbor and the Golden Rule, but human civilization has failed to discern the wisdom in that and the proof of our foolishness is written across the earth.

We understood so little about the universe back in 1758 when we first took the name homo sapiens.  Einstein did not give the world his theory of general relativity until 1905.  Even then, were we wise and discerning?  According to Einstein’s theory stars could collapse or matter condense to create what we call black holes whose gravity is so intense even light cannot escape, yet Einstein did not believe his own theory could possibly be right.  He wrote a paper in 1939 saying that black holes could not exist.

It was not until two weeks ago that we finally saw proof that even Einstein would have to accept, an image of a black hole compiled from data collected by a network of telescopes all over the world. Here it is:

So now have we earned the bragging rights to call ourselves homo sapiens?  Have we finally arrived at the highest evolution of wisdom and discerned all truth?  Of course not.  We still fail to see that all creation is one, we still do not guide civilization by the Golden Rule, and there is still so much we do not understand about the universe.

For instance, we do not know what happens after we die, although we do know that many people who come back to life say that they entered a realm of light where they met a being of light who told them that the purpose of life is to love and—get this—to become wise!

Wisdom is not just about the mind.  It is even more about the heart. The Prophet Jeremiah said we would find God when we searched with all our heart.  Jeremiah foresaw a day when all humanity would finally evolve to know God, when we all would look within and find the laws of the universe written in our hearts.

E.B. White wrote about such hearts, “Who is there big enough to love the whole planet? We must find such people for the next society.” (from his essay “Intimations” written just after the attack on Pearl Harbor)

Wisdom and love go hand in hand.  Truly wise people have great hearts.  They show great love.

Homo sapiens may be a good name if we take it as a goal challenging us to grow in wisdom and love.  Read More

Invitation to a Conversation of Hope for Humanity on April 28th

Dear friends,

It’s not surprising that most of us feel our civilization is in a tough place and many are struggling to find hope. This Sunday we are hosting a conversation designed to increase our hope. Please join my brother George Kinder and me for a little experiment where we’ll imagine a thousand generations into the future that there is a Golden Civilization. What does it look like? Feel like? How do people communicate, exchange goods, and govern themselves? And what else can we each do to move towards it right now?

We would love it if you would join us for this conversation about the future, and please forward this invitation to anyone you know who might contribute to or benefit from the hope we will build together.

Date: April 28, 2019

Time:  11:30 AM (you are also invited to 10:00 AM worship where George and I will be in dialogue, followed by hearty refreshments)

Location: United Church of Strafford, Vermont, On the Common

RSVP: unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com or 802-765-2710

These conversations have been inspired by George Kinder’s latest work, A Golden Civilization and the Map of Mindfulness, which launched globally on March 4, 2019—launching on “march forth” because it is part of a grassroots movement to bring visions for a future Golden Civilization to action now. To learn more, visit http://www.agoldencivilization.com.

Please come with your wildest dreams, ideas, hopes and most personal values to a conversation about the future.

I look forward to having you present.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Tom Kinder

Preview of A Golden Civilization and the Map of Mindfulness

Golden Civilization Conversation Flyer

Poetry Salon on a Resurrection Theme in Newbury, May 4th

Join Sydney Lea and other area poets for a Poetry Salon on Saturday, May 4, at 4:30 PM in the sanctuary of First Congregational Church of Newbury, Vermont, at 4915 Main Street.

A Women’s Fellowship benefit supper for Church World Service and Oxbow Senior Independence Project will follow at 6 PM.

Amateur poets are invited to share one brief poem during the maple dessert contest after the main meal.

Four published area poets will share at 4:30:

Sydney Lea is the former Poet Laureate of Vermont, a former Pulitzer Prize finalist, and lives in Newbury, Vermont. He will publish his 20th book and his 13th poetry collection in September.

Garret Keizer has written numerous acclaimed books, including Help: The Original Human Dilemma, The Enigma of Anger, and A Dresser of Sycamore Trees. A regular contributor to Harper’s magazine, he has just published his first poetry collection, The World Pushes Back. He lives in Sutton, Vermont

Mark Hart will read from his most recent book of poetry, The Joy of Blasphemy, and the previously published Boy Singing to Cattle. He is a therapist, meditation teacher, and Buddhist student advisor at Amherst College. He lives in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Thomas Cary Kinder is a pastor, poet, and hymn writer who lives and serves in Strafford, Vermont. He will be reading from his upcoming Sonnets of Celebration and Love as well as from his seven book Sonnets for the Struggle series.

Upcoming Service Notes, April 21, 2019, Easter Services

Rev. Telos Whitfield of Strafford’s Unitarian Universalist church has prepared a beautiful community Easter Sunrise Service entitled “Embracing the Light, We Begin Again…”  We will meet at 5:45 AM at Confluence, the former Gove Hill Retreat Center, at the top of Gove Hill Road in Thetford.  We will sing, hear scriptures and pray and we will savor a poem by Mel Goertz and a reflection by Rev. Whitfield.  Pastor Tom Kinder, Damaris Tyler, Peggy Burden and Cat Spalding will participate in leading the service.  The sun will rise while we are there, and it will be beautiful whatever the weather is doing.  Dress warmly and dryly!

Please join us for our traditional Easter Pancake Breakfast from 6:15 to 8:15 AM in the Parish Hall.  Let Becky Bailey know if you can help set up, cook or clean up, or email us at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com.

Our 10:00 AM service will be full of joyous words and music.  Pianist Annemieke McLane and the choir will be joined by Laila Reimanis on flute and Timothy Cummings on pipes.  We will hear a favorite poem by another cummings—ee. The sermon will take its title from Jeremiah 31:31-34, “They Shall All Know Me in Their Hearts” and will range from the intimate mysteries of the smallest life forms to the unthinkably massive mysteries of deepest space—all of which can lead us to know God’s power of resurrection in our hearts.  The children will consider the acorns of the thawing woods and what they will become.

We will also read from Psalm 118 (“God’s steadfast love endures forever!”) and the story of Christ’s resurrection in John 20:1-18.  We will sing three beautiful Easter hymns, “Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain,” “Christ Is Alive,” and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.”

The choir will sing “Cristo Vive” as the Introit, “Crown Him Lord on Easter Day!” accompanied by Annemieke and Laila as the Anthem and “Comfort, Comfort Ye My People,” accompanied by Annemieke and Timothy as the Choral Benediction.  If you have ever heard Timothy and Jeremiah McLane rock out on that hymn at one of Annemieke’s Noël concerts, you know the power that will roll away the stone from the tomb this Sunday!

We will hear some gorgeous instrumental music, as well, including Mozart’s Flute Concerto in G, 3rd Movement with Laila and Annemieke; an instrumental version of “Comfort, Comfort” with Timothy and Annemieke; “The King of Love My Shepherd Is,” St. Columba, with Timothy and Annemieke featuring an arrangement and descant by Timothy; and Annemieke playing a movement from the Italian Concerto of J. S. Bach as the Postlude.

We will have celebratory refreshments in the Parish Hall following the service.  All are more than welcome!

Here is a fun house concert with Timothy Cummings and Jeremiah McLane, just to give you a feel of the gifts Timothy will bring to the sacred music on Sunday.

 

Sermon from April 14, 2019

Let the Same Mind Be in You
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

United Church of Strafford, Vermont
April 14, 2019
Palm and Passion Sunday, Sixth Sunday in Lent
Philippians 2:5-8; Luke 19:29-42; 21:37-23:56

Shock, horror and grief came first, and then the question why?  Why did he have to die?

You can read more than one theory in the Bible.  Today the Jewish concept of temple sacrifice still dominates in most churches—that Jesus died to atone for our individual sins so we may be saved and go to heaven.

This theory is not what is taught by leading theologians in scholarly seminaries and it does not even make sense for the loving God that Jesus himself taught.

Rather than being about an inhumane, torturous, mortal sacrifice that a wrathful, bloodthirsty deity demands of his one and only son in order to forgive our mostly puny individual sins and grant us a ticket to heaven but only if we believe and otherwise we go to hell (how could we ever have thought this of the God who is Love?), the Passion story can be seen as a different kind of sacrifice—as a model of laying down our lives for the love of others, or as the extreme to which we need to go to confront the evil of injustice and transform a society gone astray, or as a metaphor for losing our old self in order to gain a truer, more evolved, more Christ-like self.

But our theories are only as enlightened as our spiritual and psychological perspective.  The Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 13: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”  Paul urged us to grow up to the most mature spiritual perspective.  He said, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” We will not fully understand what Jesus did until we have his mind and heart and can see the oneness of all Creation and hold it all in unconditional love.  This developmental growth is exactly what Jesus was trying to help us gain.

The slogan of his entire ministry was “Repent, for the realm of God is at hand.” Remember, the word repent is a poor translation of the New Testament Greek word metanoia.  Metanoia means evolving beyond the level where our heart, mind and spirit are now, opening to a new way of seeing and being.

Whatever else the Passion story is about, it must be about Jesus trying to get us to evolve our hearts and minds into the children of God that we were created to be, and to evolve human civilization into the realm of God that earth was created to be, following the Golden Rule and ethic of love.

We desperately need this change of consciousness to solve the problems that threaten human civilization.  So how can the Passion story help us?


Read More

Urgent Church Vote on the Green New Deal 

Here is an urgent message from Vermont Conference UCC Minister, Lynn Bujnak, followed by a message from Pastor Tom Kinder:

With the unanimous support of the Board of Directors and the Department of Justice and Witness Ministries (formerly Department of Missions) a Resolution will be brought to our Annual Meeting calling on the Vermont Conference, UCC to sponsor the Green New Deal Resolution to the General Synod. The text of this Resolution can be found here: http://www.vtcucc.org/mt-content/uploads/2019/04/ucc-synod-2019-green-new-deal-resolutiond08_vt.pdf.

Climate Change is a compelling moral and faith issue. The Green New Deal Resolution calls on multiple levels of our denomination to both advocate and take concrete action within and beyond our congregations for the sake of all Creation. You can read the FAQ’s for the General Synod Resolution here: http://www.vtcucc.org/mt-content/uploads/2019/04/green-new-deal-faqsfor-synod2019-emergency-resolution_d04.pdf. I am proud to think that our “brave little” Conference has an opportunity to be a leader in something that matters so much. I urge you to have some discussion in your church before Annual Meeting. I know the timing is very tight, but Holy Week is not a bad time to struggle with how we put our faith into action, particularly during a time of polarization in the public and private spheres. – Lynn

Dear Church Family,

We will have an opportunity to express our opinions about this during worship on Sunday, April 14th, and to discuss it after refreshments.  Please let me know right away if you would be interested in representing our congregation at the Vermont Conference Annual Meeting to vote on this resolution.  You can email me at unitedchurchofstrafford@gmail.com

Thank you!

Grace and peace,

Tom

 

Upcoming Service Notes, Palm/Passion Sunday, April 14, 2019

We begin this Sunday with the joyful, triumphant celebration of Palm Sunday.  The children will distribute the palms as we sing “All Glory, Laud and Honor,” and the choir will sing an Alleluia and “Ride On, Ride On in Majesty.”

Then the children will go back for religious exploration of the Golden Rule and Miss Rumphius with Danette Harris and Joey Hawkins and the service will move into the final days of Jesus’ life, from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane to the Cross.  Several readers will tell the story, interspersed with a dramatic reading and verses of “What Wondrous Love Is This,” “O Sacred Head Now Wounded” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”  The choir will sing “Hosanna! Hosanna!” by Cathy Townley, “Ride on, Ride on in Majesty!” and Billings’ “When Jesus Wept.”  Pianist Annemieke McLane will play pieces by Grieg, Scarlatti and J. S. Bach.

The sermon will be on what it means that Jesus’ ministry ended on the cross when it was focused on changing the hearts and minds of people so they could see, serve and establish the realm of God on earth.  How can we make sense of the Passion Story in the light of what Jesus set out to accomplish?  This is extremely important because the dire problems the world now faces can be solved only if we undergo the cultural transformation Jesus has been urging humanity to make for two thousand years.  If the Passion Story was crucial to his way forward, it must be crucial to ours as well.

This service is how we will begin Holy Week.  The next event will be the Maundy Thursday Last Supper Seder Dinner Theater on March 29th.  Please make your reservation right away if you would like to attend.  We have limited seating and could fill up soon.  You can read about it by clicking here.

You can see our Easter schedule by clicking here.