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Armed with Love

Romans 12:9-20; Matthew 5:38-48
Tough Questions Series: Can a Christian Own a Gun?
June 17, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

As I selected scripture for this tough question, I went back and forth about which one should be listed first. I couldn’t decide whether to use the Romans text first or the Matthew text. Finally I decided to let Jesus have the last word. So our first reading is from the 12th chapter of the letter to the Romans. Attorney General Sessions quoted something from Romans 13 last week, but unfortunately he did not take context into account. Mr. Sessions quoted the instruction to Christians to obey the government. Just after the scripture Sessions quoted there is a set of very detailed instruction to love others and the text you’ll hear today is just before the chapter Mr. Sessions quoted. Like all scripture, this must be read in light of the teachings of Jesus, and in the larger context of the written word of God. Let’s listen for God’…
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Deuteronomy 24: 14-15; 17-22, Hebrews 12:1-2; Matthew 25: 24-40
Tough Questions, Week 2: What does the Bible say about immigrants?
June 10, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our second week of our tough questions series concerns immigration. The aim in this series is to look at these issues in light of God’s word – the written word, and the incarnate word in Jesus, the Word made flesh. The most difficult piece of preparing for this Sunday for me was that it was hard to narrow down exactly which passages to focus on. On this subject, there are many scriptures and none of them disagree. Our first reading comes from the book of Deuteronomy, and it details how God’s people will treat immigrants. It is helpful to bear in mind that these words are not just personal moral instruction; these are laws – the laws by which God’s people are to govern themselves. Let’s listen for God’s law and expectations about immigrants in Deuteronomy 24: 14-15; 17-22

You shal…

Naming Love

Isaiah 6:1-8; John 3: 1-17
Trinity Sunday, May 27, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

On this Trinity Sunday of 2018, we encounter two texts that I’m sure were chosen to give preachers some way to talk about the trinity, the Christian belief that God is three in one – three persons, one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I’ve preached quite a few sermons trying to unpack this idea of the trinity – talked about its history and meaning, about the three persons of the Godhead – God the creator, Christ our redeemer, the Holy Spirit the sustainer. But there’s really no way to explain the mystery of the Trinity.

Today, let’s take the wayback machine all the way back to the temple in Isaiah’s time. It was a place of splendor and glory, beautiful and awe-inspiring. There was an altar for sacrificing animals in worship, and there was a special room that only one priest could enter once a year, the holy of holies, where the ark of the covenant was kept, that sacre…

We Got Spirit

Pentecost May 20, 2018
Romans 8:22-27; Acts 2:1-21
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Romans 8: 22-27

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven…

“Unless Someone Guides Me”

John 15:1-8, Acts 8:26-40
April 29, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

The gospel reading today comes from the farewell speech of Jesus, in which he reminds his followers of their relationship to him and to one another, and the life-giving connection that they share. It’s worth noting as Jesus reminds us of who he is, he shows us who we are, in relationship to him. We are the branches on the vine, where the fruit grows. The production of fruit depends on us as much as it does on him. Let’s listen for God’s word to us in John 15:1-8:

1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.
2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me as I abide in you.
Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine, y…

By the Name

John 10:11-18; Acts 4:5-12
April 22, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Today’s gospel reading is from the poetic gospel of John. Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the gospel of John does not give a chronological account of the life of Jesus. His deeply theological narrative shows Jesus to be the light of the world, he tells of the signs that point to Jesus as Messiah and point us to Jesus. In the reading for today, Jesus identifies himself as the good shepherd. Like the shepherd in Psalm 23, Jesus provides care, guidance, sustenance and safety. Let’s listen for the voice of the shepherd in John 10:11-18

“I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—
and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
The hired hand runs away
because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd.
I know my own a…

Learning to Share

April 8, 2018
John 20:19-31; Acts 4:32-37
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Today’s gospel reading is traditional for the Sunday after Easter, the account of one of the post-resurrection appearances. Last week, we heard how Mary of Magdala reported that Jesus was alive, now our attention shifts away from the tomb and to the locked room where the men hid in fear. Although this is a significant gospel story, it is not our focus text today. But it does lay the groundwork for our reading from Acts, because it demonstrates for us the importance of faith in the risen Lord as the very foundation of the church that was going to come into being. Although they would not have said it this way at the time, those people hiding in fear in that locked room were Easter people.

Let’s listen for God’s word to us in John 20:19-31:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews…