Sermons

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

 

 

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])

 

Outdoor service was cancelled due to the weather. 

 

Scripture: Luke 14:34-35 & Colossians 4:5-6 | Sermon: “Optimal Church Communication: Seasoned with Salt”

Salt: It’s hard to pin down what this metaphor means.

In secular circles, salt can signify that which gives life flavor. As a food preservative, it might suggest preserving certain values. Salt can be a positive or a negative as far as our physical health is concerned.

Salt also has mixed meanings in the Bible. In the Hebrew scriptures, for instance, salt is sometimes associated with judgment. After military conquests, troops might salt the fields of the loser to prevent them producing, and you remember the fate of Lot’s wife! But salt is also a sign of positive relationships; to eat salt together meant enduring friendship (Ezra 4:14), and Leviticus
(2:13) instructed priests to sprinkle salt onto the sacrifices that worshippers offered to show forth the restoration of their covenant with God. (click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Ephesians 4:29-32 | Sermon: “Optimal Church Communication: Reach for Help”

We recently bought a little rowboat for our future home, which is on a pond. My vision is to row across the pond for workouts, but I didn’t realize that this kind of rowing is done with one’s back to the destination, not facing it. (I know, how’d I not know that?) So when I gave rowing a try this week, I floundered. I got so mixed up about which direction to move my arms and the oars, where to put my legs, and how to row straight! It just did not come naturally – at least not yet. (click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Matthew 18:15-17 | Sermon: “Optimal Church Communication: Direct is Best”

I heard of a church that learned of their pastor’s resignation in a strange and sudden fashion. One Sunday, just before services were to begin, the minister simply posted on the front door of the church building a handwritten note, saying, “I quit!” and then drove off! You can probably imagine the emotional baggage that this congregation was left with!

It will not be news to anyone here that human beings hurt one another and don’t always communicate well! From micro-aggressions to murder, inadvertently and intentionally, people inflict harm, even within the Church. Matthew 18:15 starts by acknowledging that we “sin against” each other, and it’s not “if” but “when.” (click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Matthew 6:7-13 | Sermon: “The Longing in the Lord’s Prayer”

In 1987 the Rock-n-roll band, U2, captured the longing of the age:
I have climbed the highest mountains.
I have run through the fields.
Only to be with you; only to be with you…
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

Their lead singer, Bono, once described their songs as “prayers of a kind.” There’s a lot of longing going on in the Lord’s Prayer. We are too often oblivious to it, but Jesus’ prayer begins with a passionate desire for what God wants. He starts by honoring God’s name, which automatically embraces all of who God is and what God does. Next, Jesus cries out for God’s kingdom and rule to arrive and be real. Immediately after, he prays more specifically, “Let your will be done, here and now!” (click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: James 1:17-20a | Sermon: “Optimal Church Communication: Closing the Loop”

This past Wednesday, Steve and I marked our 43rd wedding anniversary. Yes, that’s a long time! But we are kept humble by the story of another, older couple, more hard-of-hearing than we are, who were married for sixty years. At their celebration, the husband leaned over and whispered to his wife, “I love you!” His wife replied, “I’m tired of you too!”

Communication doesn’t always work! Intended messages sometimes fail. This may not be a big deal during a game of “Telephone,” but it can have tragic consequences in other situations. For instance, in Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Romeo & Juliet, Friar Laurence’s messenger from Verona couldn’t get out of town due to a plague, so Romeo didn’t get the message that his beloved, Juliet, wasn’t really dead. Then, an example from our time: as the science about COVID evolved, the CDC nuanced their public health message, but not everyone heard or believed it. Communication doesn’t always work. (click to read the full sermon [PDF])

 

No service information for this week.

 

Scripture: Proverbs 11:12-13 | Sermon: “Optimal Church Communication: When Not to Talk”

For my dissertation, I researched three congregations that had been near to closing, made significant changes, and become new and vital communities of faith.1 When I entered each of the
three, I could tell that they were now alive because there was a buzz among them. People were talking and truly enjoying each other.

I recently saw the same thing happening at our Sunday Fun Day. While the children played, the adults talked and talked and talked to each other!

One characteristic of a dynamic congregation is good communication, and over the course of the next two months, I’ll be preaching on what makes for optimal communication in the church. (click to read full sermon [PDF])