Sermons

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

 

Scripture: John 2:1-11 | Sermon: “The Wine Tasting”

The sermon will be posted the week of January 17.

 

Scripture: Luke 3:15-22 | Sermon: “It Will Be Revealed”

The people didn’t know how God was going to act in their time, but they certainly needed help and divine salvation! There were forces beyond their control –political, economic, religious, rampant health issues – wrecking havoc with their everyday lives. Sound familiar? In other words, they were contending with systemic, pervasive sin.

Plus, they felt oppressed by the temptation to do evil. Like us, they contended with personal sin: from their willful rebellion against God’s ways to simply getting annoyed with each other. Human frailties such as greed, distrust, violence, and fear plagued them. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52 | Sermon: “2022 Reset: God’s Business”

Now that the holidays are behind us and the New Year is upon us, our minds reset to ‘taking care of business:’ the things we have to attend to and need to get done. After the Passover holiday, Mary and Joseph were probably thinking this way too. They had spent seven glorious days in Jerusalem celebrating their religious traditions among family and friends, feasting and catching up, without attention to time or deadlines. The kids had been taken care of by this ‘village.’ But then they realized: “We gotta get back to Nazareth and deal with business, appointments, and carpentry orders.” And a day into their home journey, probably fifteen miles out: “OMG! Where’s Jesus? He’s not with you? You? You? Last I saw him… Oh no! He’s Home Alone in Jerusalem.” (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Luke 2:21-38 and Luke 6:37-38 | Sermon: “It’s A Wonderful Life” 

Deacon Donna Marshall lead a chat with us about some faith lessons from the story It’s a Wonderful Life. It was a great way to conclude 2021 on a positive note! There is no PDF available for this informal service.

 

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20 | Sermon: “Home in Christ”

If you would, look with me again at this stable. No matter how many Christmas Eves you have seen the nativity scene, gaze upon it anew with me tonight.

This year, it occurs to me that upon his birth, Jesus made a home out of the innkeeper’s stable. Yes, it was probably questionable from a structural perspective; you could likely see the star through its roof; it may not have been completely dry. Undoubtedly, it wasn’t the cleanest habitation, especially for a newborn, but it was a good shelter for the farm animals, and they let the baby and his parents share their hay and their feeding trough.

Though homeless, Jesus made of this stable a home – a home that welcomed so many and such a variety of beings! Some are mentioned in the story; others we can infer. (Click to read meditation [PDF])

 

Scripture: Luke 1:46-55 | Sermon: “Home for All”

I like musicals. One of my favorites is Mame with Rosalind Russell in the lead. It’s become a kind of Christmas movie, I guess, because of one of its songs: “We Need a Little Christmas.”

Mame’s story begins with disruption. The disruption is the arrival of her young nephew, Patrick. After his father – her brother – dies, Mame becomes Patrick’s guardian. This ends her carefree, flamboyant, single life as she knew it. Even so, she comes to love Patrick dearly, and this changes her. The love between them and the members of her eclectic household makes a home – an incredibly resilient home – one that she never could have imagined in her former existence and for which she is profoundly grateful. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20 | Sermon: “I Will Bring You Home”

There’s a commercial on TV this holiday season. In it we see a middle-aged African American woman buying her gifts easily, online, with the help of Amazon. We don’t know if she is a grandma or an aunty, but she’s known as “Bear Hug Betty.” Since  her quick shopping has afforded her extra time to visit others, the commercial next shows her with a huge smile on her face, receiving two little ones into a willing, pillow hug.

The narrator instructs them: “Settle in kids; you’ll be there a while!” And just when they think the hug is over, she clings: “Ooh, where you going?” The point for me is not what this commercial is selling, but the story it tells of gathering one another up, especially during the holidays. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

This Sunday we welcomed guest preacher, Rev. Alex Shea Will, our Area Conference Minister in the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Alex chose the scripture from Luke about John the Baptizer for his sermon. The text starts by describing that the word of God came to John instead of all the important, formal rulers of the time. This word was a repeat message from an earlier prophet, Isaiah, pressing the people to turn from their sins, to wash in the Jordan River, and thereby prepare for the promised arrival of the Messiah and God’s salvation.

 

Scripture: 1 Kings 3:1-15 | Sermon: “For a Good Beginning”

In the first chapters of 1 Kings, Solomon is beginning a new stage of life. He is trying to establish himself in the world, personally and as the King of Israel. Before Solomon asked God for wisdom, he complied instead with what those around him expected and valued. For instance, to show that he was his father’s son, Solomon rode David’s mule into Jerusalem to his anointing. He also dealt ruthlessly with his half-brother, Adonijah, who wanted to be king, and his supporters. Solomon was making plans to build himself a house, as well, to construct a temple for God, and erect a wall around the city. It was culturally acceptable, too, for the new king to find a wife – to make a politically advantageous match. Solomon wanted a future with hope for himself and his people, so he first depended upon his own ideas and made major decisions based on the wisdom of the world. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Scripture: 2 Samuel 6:1-2, , 12-19 | Sermon: “Celebrating God”

All this and more represents David’s legacy for us as people of faith, but I am going to focus on the story Caroline read: David ushering the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. What was David dancing about? 

Well, he had several things to celebrate: the victory of Israel over the Philistines, his own physical prowess and popularity, and the way that this parade helped consolidate the country – bringing together the traditionalists, including those still loyal to Saul the first King, and those in favor of his new generation of leadership. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])

 

Donna Marshall served as our lay preacher this week while Pastor Jean was on vacation. Donna connected the ties in the family story from Naomi and Ruth to Boaz. Ruth married Boaz then gave birth to Obed. One of Obed’s sons was Jesse who would be the father to King David. Pastor Jean will continue the story on November 21 with King David.

 

Scripture: Ruth 1:7-18, 22 | Sermon: “I’m All In”

There’s a song in the musical Hamilton entitled “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” The chorus asks: “And when you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who tells your story?”

This month, we will lift up some famous and not-so-famous individuals within the Hebrew Scriptures. We will remember their names and tell their stories. We will focus upon members of King David’s family, people who were part of his lineage and thereby contributed to God’s greater story: God’s plans for us – a future with hope. This week, we will concentrate on Ruth, David’s great-grandmother. (Click to read full sermon [PDF])