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Prophet in a Minor Key

The Book of Habakkuk
September 30, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

The book of Habakkuk is the third in our series on the minor prophets. The book consists mainly of a dialogue between the prophet and God. Habakkuk begins with a lament, and then a complaint. God replies, but Habakkuk is not satisfied, and he continues to debate. The issue at hand is that of unexplained human suffering.

Habakkuk asks God “why?” and “how long?”
Why do the poor and lowly experience so much injustice and oppression?
How long will the righteous suffer?
Why isn’t God doing something to stop it, to change things, to bring justice?

In the midst of the debate, in chapter 2, there is a section that focuses on those who are causing such suffering. They plunder the poor and weak, and carry their wealth away. Their towns and homes are built on bloodshed; they encourage others to drunkenness and then take advantage of them.

The third chapter is a poetic hymn, a description of …
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Hard Questions, Hopeful Answers

The Book of Micah
September 23, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our scripture readings today are selections from the book of Micah.
We’ve been looking at the minor prophets,
those shorter books in the Old Testament that are so often overlooked.
Since the lectionary includes only a few verses from the book
every three years, most of us are unfamiliar with the themes of Micah.
Here’s how one commentary describes the themes:
“The situation of ordinary citizens was of great concern to Micah.
He felt compassion for the poor and dispossessed,
and held the leaders responsible for their suffering.
We can learn something about the people’s social and economic situation
from Micah’s condemnation of their rulers, merchants, and prophets.
Similar words from Micah’s contemporary, Isaiah,
add to our picture of a society where the rich and powerful
used their influence to exploit the vulnerable
and to create even greater inequalities of wealth and influ…

One Fish, Big Fish, Childish Finish

The Book of Jonah
September 16, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our reading today is an abridged, condensed version of the book of Jonah. You can find the entire story, which is much better, in your Bible. Jonah appears amid the minor prophets, a book of only four chapters. We know little about Jonah, whose name means “dove,” apart from this story from about 500 years before Christ. Interestingly, the book is about him, not a prophecy from him. It’s generally agreed that this story is more parable than history, but it is rich with truths about God, people, and the nature of our relationship. Let’s listen for God’s word to us in this story of Jonah:

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty sto…

Unfailing Dedication

1 Kings 8:1,6,10-11, 22-30, 41-43
September 2, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Today is the third and final sermon in our series on King Solomon, whose story is told in the books of history in the Bible. The books of history in the Old Testament recount in detail the most crucial stories of God’s people during the era in which Israel was ruled by kings. Kings were selected by God at first, and anointed by the prophet. But as the house of David was established, kings were born into the role – descendants of the previous king were assumed to be the rightful heirs to the throne. No longer were kings chosen and anointed in the same way.

The results were mixed. But King David’s son Solomon was a very good king in many ways. The book of First Kings describes his rule, and the building of the temple. The eighth chapter describes in detail how Solomon dedicated the temple to the glory of God. Let’s listen to that history in excerpts from the eight chapter of …

Church Architecture

1 Chronicles 28: 1-10, 20; 1 Kings 6: 1, 7, 11-14, 37-38
August 26, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Today is our second in the series on King Solomon, son of King David. Solomon was king around 970 to 930 BCE and is revered in all three Abrahamic religions. The Jewish tradition considers him to be the greatest king of ancient Israel. In the Muslim faith, he is called “Suleiman.” In Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, Solomon’s wealth, wisdom and wives – he had hundreds! – are the stuff of legend. When Solomon ascended to the throne of Israel, the Davidic dynasty was established. The kingdom under Solomon was organized, wealthy, and powerful. Last week, we learned about Solomon’s wisdom; today we learn about his legacy, particularly the building of the first temple in Jerusalem. King David had wanted to build the temple, but God forbade him, so he charged his son Solomon with the task. Let’s listen for God’s word to us in 1 Chronicles 28: 1-10, 20:

David assem…

Wise Guy

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
August 19, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

This Sunday, we begin a three-week series on King Solomon,
a legendary king of Israel, and the son of King David.
If I asked you the first three things that come to mind
when you hear the name Solomon, my guess is that they might be
splitting the baby, King of Israel, and wisdom.
Probably three other popular associations would be
the hundreds of wives and concubines Solomon had,
the great wealth he had, and the building of the temple.

As we begin to consider the life of Solomon,
let’s recall a little bit of his family story.
Ancient Israel was first governed by judges,
wise men and women called by God to lead the people.
But Israel wanted a king.
“All the other nations have a king,” they said. “Why can’t we have a king?”
God told them that kings would draft their sons to fight in wars,
and tax them, and take their daughters away to marry,
but they insisted, and at last G…

More Than We Can Imagine

Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-14
August 5, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our first reading comes once again from the letter to the Ephesians. The letter doesn’t seem to be addressing any particular problems; it is a loving letter of concern to a Christian community to give guidance on living as the body of Christ, in love and unity. In this reading, the writer pauses in teaching to offer a prayer. Let’s listen for what the Spirit is saying to the church in Ephesians 3:14-21:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to kn…