Sermons

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

 

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 | Sermon: “God Coming Closer”

My husband and I have been live streaming some older films lately, ones that we remember as having been good. Recently we watched the 1984 Academy Award-winning film, Places in the Heart, written by Robert Benton. It explores the theme of reconciliation in the context of both interpersonal sins and the social evil of Jim Crow. Sally Field, Danny Glover, and John Malkovich carry the main storyline, but a secondary story is that of Field’s sister and her husband. The sister discovers that he has been having an affair with her best friend. Understandably, when he asks for forgiveness, she recoils from his touch, and they start living apart. The hurt and betrayal keeps her at a distance from him.

When someone hurts us this deeply, our first impulse is to distance ourselves. It’s like getting too close to a flame; we avoid it. We’re not going to let that happen again! We also start to keep count of the sins. As the proverb goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” (sermon continues [PDF])


 

Scripture: Hosea 11:1-9 | Sermon: “By the Grace of God”

It’s not easy to describe God. Especially to children! Lawrence and Karen Kushner use poetry and metaphor to do so in their book, Because Nothing Looks Like God. An excerpt: “Where is God? God is in the beginning. In the first red ripening tomato and in cookies fresh from the oven. In the first fun day of vacation and in the tiny hands of a baby.” I will bring the book to our fellowship time, and you can look at it yourselves.

Hosea also uses poetry and metaphor to describe God. In chapter 11, the prophet compares the relationship that God has with God’s people Israel to that between a parent and child. This oracle is a portrait of grace. He tells us that God is gracious. (sermon continues [PDF])


 

Scripture: Luke 11:1-13

No transcript is available for this sermon. We had a guest preacher who oversaw our service while Pastor Jean took some time off.


 

Scripture: John 3:22-30 | Sermon: “Less Is More”

The images released to the public this past week from the James Webb Space Telescope were mind-blowing! I was taken by the fact that I was looking at light that had originated 13 billion years ago, and I was particularly drawn in to Stephan’s Quintet, a cluster of five galaxies deep in space. While I was impressed by the intelligence and the technology that made these images possible, the vastness and the mystery of the universe also made me feel very small indeed!

There are a lot of experiences in life that humble us.

+ Difficulties, challenges, and trials of everyday existence: a job loss, managing the high cost of living, navigating a mental health crisis, and living during a pandemic, are but a few examples.

+ Reflecting on our own sins and just how bad humans can be: the hatred, racism, and violence around us and within.

+ But also seeing the positive potential of human beings – the wonder and beauty of all that is good, like a baby being baptized!

So a lot of good and bad things humble us, but today’s bible passage reminds us that it’s a good thing when we humble ourselves. Less is more. To put it another way, when you and I spiritually humble ourselves before God, our decreasing allows God’s work to increase. (sermon continues [PDF])


 

There is no sermon to publish for this week’s service. The candidate for RCC’s next settled pastor lead service and gave the sermon.


 

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:4-11 | Sermon: “A Non-Compete Agreement Worth Making”

Roslindale Congregational Church has worked with fifteen settled pastors over its 128-year history! I still come across people who remember as far back as Rev. Worthley, and more recently, who Branwen Cook, and of course, Pastor Jason Donnelly.

Did you know that pictures of all the former settled pastors hang on the wall in the church office? It’s a nice reminder that you have successfully navigated multiple pastoral transitions, and you will again this time by God working through you!

The Corinthian Christians didn’t have as much experience with pastoral transitions under their belt as you do. The apostle Paul founded this congregation during his mission work. When he left them, multiple lay leaders there carried on the mission, most notably a couple named Priscilla and Aquila who had come to know Paul as they worked together manufacturing tents. Another minister named Chloe is also mentioned in this letter with some kind of important pastoral role in the Corinthian congregation. (sermon continues[PDF])


 

Scripture: James 2:1-8, 14-17 | Sermon: “ONA Alive!”

Let me reread one of the longer sentences within our RCC Open and Affirming statement: “We welcome and encourage persons of every sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, ethnicity, race, age, nationality, and economic circumstance, marital status, and physical, and mental ability to join fully in the life and ministry of the Roslindale Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.” There are twelve categories of inclusion and affirmation named here.

They didn’t call it this in James’ time, but he told the readers of his letter that the church was to be open and affirming of a multiplicity of persons. You could say that the nature of the Church is to be ONA!

            James, the author, may have been the brother of Jesus, and if so, would’ve written this collection of moral essays in letterform within the first generation of the Church. He was not writing to a particular congregation in a specific locale, but to all Christians everywhere in general. (sermon continued [PDF])


 

Scripture: Psalm 42:1-8 & Romans14:5-6 | Sermon: “Observing the Day”

There are many good ways to observe special days and holidays. Birthday cakes and singing. Watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. Trips to the cemetery on Memorial Day. Whether it be as benign as National Donut Day or as crucial as Gun Violence Awareness Day, whether its Christmas, Easter, or the lesser-known Reformation Day, you and I choose how we will mark them.

This weekend, I imagine people asking themselves: “Will I do a phone call, or a card, or try to BBQ for Father’s Day? Maybe a gift, or a donation to a cause he cares about?” If your father has passed, the observation of the day obviously takes on a different quality. Also, if there is tension within your relationship with him or pain attached to it, the best thing to do this year may be to sit in silence, or do something kind, to ‘father’ yourself.

People are observing Juneteenth in various ways too. A few have told me that they plan to attend or volunteer at festivals or gather as families. Others may do community service, or advocate for justice, such as Voter Rights. I’m opting for educational webinars, one last Friday and one this Monday. (sermon continued [PDF])


 

Scripture: Psalm 8 & Romans 5:1-5

There was no sermon today. We celebrated the children and young adults of our congregation.


 

Scripture: Romans 8:14-17 | Sermon: “Forward Into God’s Embrace”

Our little two-year-old granddaughter, Emma, likes to jump around, dance, and fall down on us like a toddler gymnast. But I have also noticed that she does not like to fall backwards. When this happens, it catches her by surprise, her eyes get wide in fear as she goes down, and then come the tears.

On the other hand, she has no problem running forward into her parents’ arms when she sees them, saying: “Daddy!” “Mommy!” While she is in their embrace, Emma even allows her head and body to lean back as they swing her around! She is safe and secure from all alarms.

I thought about Emma as I read Paul’s words about “falling back into fear” and “crying ‘Abba! Father!’” (sermon continued [PDF])