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


Scripture: Isaiah 30:19-21 | Sermon: “Walk this Way”

Whenever we find ourselves in a new place, it’s always good to have a guide.

When my husband and I got off the plane in Paris, France, thirty-nine years ago, to work for the global church, we sure were glad to have Cindy Bowman meet us and pick us up! She was a colleague in mission, who showed us ‘the ropes.’

Who is it in your situation? A friend, or family member, a counselor? Maybe your Associate Conference Minister, Alex Shea Will, or some other kind of teacher and guide?

The good news from the prophet Isaiah this morning is that we have a guide – the best possible guide! The Holy One of Israel will show up to greet us in our new circumstances. God Almighty is this Teacher Isaiah talks about, the one who will hear our cry, even in a place of adversity and affliction, in a place of excitement and uncertainty. (sermon continues [PDF])


Scripture: Jeremiah 9:23-24 | Sermon: “To Delight in Justice”

The bible tells us that God chose Abraham so that he would keep the ways of God, doing righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). God gave the Law to the Hebrew people that they would pursue justice (Deut. 16:20). It pleased God that Solomon asked for the ability to discern and understand justice (I Kings 3:11).

The Psalmist declares, as well, that we should do justice for the afflicted and destitute (Ps 82:3). Proverbs points out that the righteous care about justice for the poor but the wicked have no such concern (Prov.29:7).

The prophets lift up their voices, too. Isaiah: “Preserve justice and do righteousness” (Is. 56:1). Amos: Let justice roll down like waters” (Amos 5:24). Micah: “Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8).

Jesus joined the same chorus. He criticized the religious folks that tithed while neglecting the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23). He also said that nations will be judged by how they treat the poor, the sick, the stranger, and “the least of these” (Matt. 25:31-46). (sermon continues [PDF])


Scriptures: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & Matthew 19:13-15 | Sermon: “Every Season Has Its Fun”

One of TJ’s favorite books, and one of my favorites to read to him, is a flippable book of seasons, called Summer Days and Fall Days. (Show book) Each season starts and ends with the line “every season has its fun.” The book starts with Summer Days, and when that section is finished, you have to flip the book over to read fall days right side up.

TJ loves turning pages in his books. We might finish Summer Days with “Hey, its summer, enjoy the sun. Every season has its fun”, and before I get to close the book and flip it, he turns to the next page, which is an upside-down photo and words that are hard to make meaning of.

In preparing myself for fall, especially this year with an infant at home, 2 and ½ years into the pandemic, and things feeling busier in general, I found many negative feelings creeping in. You know, those feelings of dread about work getting busier again, or the school year and homework and extracurriculars – how can I possibly manage this? That, along with the gloomier weather, shorter days and longer periods of dark beginning, and we’ve got ourselves a recipe for something really un-tasty! (sermon continues [PDF])


Scripture: John 15:9-11 & Philippians 4:4 | Sermon: “Be the Church: Stay Joyful”

You and I have experienced many moments of joy together across these last three years. We can rejoice over them all, but I will mention just a few now from my vantage point. For instance, I recall how fun that first Giving Thanks feast was that we shared in the fellowship hall in 2019. Then, once we went to Zoom worships, I can see in my mind’s eye, Jovanni serving as the Coffee Hour host on screen. Later, it was also such a pleasure to watch our children and youth bringing in the figurines to create the manger scene on Christmas Eve! I remember Easter, too, and all of us singing the Hallelujah Chorus wearing masks. Jon Campbell being baptized online was very moving. When we rang our church bells for justice with the Roslindale community, it gave me goose bumps. And I jumped for joy to hear from Mary that you had a candidate for settled pastor!

Moments of joy: we should share them with each other and rejoice together! (sermon continues [PDF])


Scripture: Matthew 28:16-20 | Sermon: “Be the Church: Focus on Mission”

It is easy for faith groups to focus upon their own members. Certainly, we need to care for our fellow church members, but just like clubs, schools, businesses, and other human organizations, congregations can become near-sighted, ignore needs around them, and turn inward. They can lose their altruism and fall into habits of thinking and behavior that blind them to new people and especially to those that are different from them. In some ways the pandemic has compounded this tendency to inward focus.

I knew a congregation that hosted their coffee hour in the church basement, for example, far away from the worship space. No visitors ever joined them because they didn’t know how to get to the right spot, and if they did make it there, the old timers weren’t at all welcoming! Their numbers dwindled to just two or three standing in the dark corner of that cellar, around an old-style coffee pot, because church had become all about them. (sermon continues [PDF])


Scripture: Ephesians 4:11-16 | Sermon: “Be the Church: Stretch as the Body of Christ”

The Be the Church banner here on our sanctuary wall was developed by our denomination in 2014. Then, if I have the story right, during the tenure of Pastor Jason Donnelly, as Roslindale Congregational Church you decided to make it a visible part of your identity and witness to the community.

We have copied the text on our worship bulletin insert for easy access. Let’s read the words together aloud:

Be the Church:

Protect the environment. Care for the poor.

Forgive often. Reject racism.

Fight for the powerless.

Share earthly and spiritual resources.

Embrace diversity. Love God. Enjoy this life.”

Over the last number of years, then, you’ve been hearing and talking about what it means to be church. For example, I think that some of you read and discussed Real Good Church by Molly Baskette. I know that my sermons have dealt with the topic of church, both directly and indirectly. The theme is in our hymns this morning. You have also been practicing it. (sermon continues [PDF])


Scripture: Luke 12:49-56

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


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])