Sermons

Read recent sermons delivered by Rev. Dr. Jean Halligan Vandergrift, Interim Minister

 

Scripture: Job 30:16-23 | Sermon: “Answer Me!”

Job puts into words what many of us have felt at one time or another: that God must be against us when God is unresponsive to us. When there is no explanation for the evil that we are enduring and the old ways of praying don’t bring us peace, we too are inclined to lash out in lament: “God, why are you persecuting me? Even Jesus, on the cross, cried out: “Why have you forsaken me?!”

Job’s words here probably fit very well with the time that this story was written down between the 7th and 5th century. The tale of Job likely originally started around an ancient campfire, but by the time it reached the ears of the Hebrew people, they were suffering in exile, away from their homeland of Judah. The Babylonians had captured them and carted many of them off. So the Jews wondered what they had done to deserve this and why God had not stopped this atrocity. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Job 2:11-13 & Job 19:1-4, 23-26 | Sermon: “Staying in the Dialogue”

It’s not surprising to me that people started talking about Job’s misfortunes.

“Did you hear?” “Isn’t it terrible?” “I can’t believe it!”

In a recent visit with family members, our sister-in-law told how in one week, she and all of her sisters, each in a different locale, fell and hurt themselves – one in the yard, another down the basement stairs, and the third off a patio! We listened, wide-eyed, shaking our heads, and then we talked about this sequence of events. It became for us a cautionary tale: that we be careful!

It’s not surprising that people gather ‘round the water cooler at work to talk about who COVID has struck, or discuss at the dinner table whose marriage is in trouble, or post on social media about violence against women, children, and people of color. This kind of talking is not necessarily just gossip; those who talk may be genuinely concerned, afraid, and wanting to do right. They also wonder who or what is to blame. “How can we avoid or stop this?” “Where is God?” (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Pastor Jean was out sick today, so our deacon Sue Carroll read a sermon given a couple of months ago.

 

Scripture: Job 1:1-2,10 | Sermon: “What Did I Do to Deserve This?”

Alisa Halliday, our member in discernment, delivered the sermon this week while Pastor Jean was on vacation.

 

Scripture: Mark 8:22-26 | Sermon: “A Miracle in Process”

Apparently, some miracles come about through a process, over time, little by little, not all at once.

I’m sure that you have experienced a few of these as part of normal life. Pregnancy and birth, for instance, is a miracle that takes months. Loss and grief over the death of a loved one only transitions to acceptance after other phases. People who battle and recover from addictions know that this kind of miracle is a long and winding road.

The same is true for the movement of the world toward God’s Kingdom. It takes miracles accomplished over time. Diplomats, for example, dialogue over and over again to forge a lasting, just peace! It will also take a miracle for humankind to ever agree upon a just economic order that reflects God’s love, not to mention enacting it! (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Matthew 8:5-13 | Sermon: “Surprised by Faith”

Driving in and out of Houghs Neck, my small home community in Quincy, is more difficult these days. Sea Street, the main drag, is being re-paved. Last week they tore it all up, and we’re down to gravel. They have tried to manage the heavy traffic using bright orange cones to show us new lanes. Drivers have to really pay attention to the road and the people on it, or they’ll get into trouble!

I think that this serves as a good metaphor for life and being church. Really paying attention is important. As we travel the road of God’s mission, for example, we must see the cones, share the lanes respectfully, and adjust in order to arrive safely at our destination. (Click to read full sermon [PDF]

 

Scripture: Matthew 23:31-46| Sermon: “Out of Our Comfort Zone”

Basically, this biblical scene in Matthew is also what your RCC Directional Statement intends to help you accomplish: to bring who you are to bear on the needs of your neighbors in Roslindale. Show the slide. (This statement does not exclude meeting other needs, or those beyond Roslindale, but it focuses your efforts here in ways that you may not yet have done.) Remove the slide.

Matthew shows that the church’s purpose is to comfort and partner in God’s love and justice – to meet specific needs, material and spiritual at the same time. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:12-13, 23-25 | Sermon: “Expect Discovery”

Discovery doesn’t have to go away as we grow up! Indeed, curiosity and wonder ought to be an integral part of the Christian life. Following Jesus Christ is an exciting adventure, and we should expect discoveries as we are being Church together. The Roslindale Congregational Church, UCC, Directional Statement that you came up with at the beginning of this year is a case in point. Together, through a process of discovery, you discerned God’s call for the near future. (RCC’s Directional Statement.) (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Matthew 6:7-13 | Sermon: “Doxology for Everyday”

When you hear the word “doxology,” what if anything comes to mind? I’m guessing that you might think of the praise song we sing as we present our offerings to God on Sunday mornings: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” You might also recall the Gloria Patri: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.” It, too, is a doxology. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Psalm 84 | Sermon: “Pursuing Happiness”

Academics have tried to figure out what Thomas Jefferson meant by “the pursuit of happiness” – the third of his three named “inalienable rights” in The Declaration of Independence. Some assume that he was copying John Locke who wrote of “life, liberty, and property,” so actually meaning material prosperity. Oral tradition says that he heeded Benjamin Franklin’s advice to substitute “property” for something more substantial and inspirational. As far as my reading has taken me, Jefferson himself did not elaborate upon “the pursuit of happiness” in any of his other writings. He thereby left the phrase open to interpretation. I guess that doing so appropriately allows future
generations to read new and different ideas into this, and certainly reflects that there are a variety of ways that human beings seek happiness in real life. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Psalm 111Sermon: “Delight in God’s Doings”

At our former pastorate in North Carolina, when my husband and I announced that we would teach a Sunday morning adult bible study on the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles, we were pleased to see the Pastors Study crammed with eager participants! A former minister of that church had been a charismatic teacher who knew Hebrew and Greek well and left a legacy of the love of learning among them. As verse two of our Psalm says, these congregants delighted in studying the works of God.

That was a wonderful experience, but in church, we should tell the truth: Many adults do not delight in studying God’s works. They have no idea what the Psalmist is talking about this morning! (Click to read the full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Psalm 130 | Sermon: “In the Waiting Room”

This week, I felt drawn to a book of poetry by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He was a part of the “Beat poets” of the 1950s, and this poem, “I Am Waiting,” was likely set to jazz music. Here’s an excerpt:

I am waiting for my number to be called, and I am waiting for the living end, and I am waiting for dad to come home, his pockets full of irradiated silver dollars, and I am waiting for the atomic tests to end, and I am waiting happily for things to get much worse before they improve…and I am waiting for forests and animals to reclaim the earth as theirs and I am waiting for a way to be devised to destroy all nationalisms without killing anybody.

He’s in the waiting room. You know what that is like, right? You’ve waited at the RMV or in an airport security line; in a room before your doctor’s appointment or for a table at a restaurant. Some folks these days also wait online, for other video gamers to show up to play, for instance. People also wait for construction to end, for the garden to ripen, and school to start again. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Matthew 6:7-13 | Sermon: “The Prayer that Delivers”

Deliver? It’s an interesting word. We understand what this word means when we hear that our package from Amazon has been delivered! It’s meaning is clear to us when we hear that a mother delivered her baby. Most of us have also heard the word used for a minister delivering a sermon. But “deliver us from evil?” What are we asking God to do when we pray verse 13 of the Lord’s Prayer? (Click to read full sermon [PDF])