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A Good Sermon

It may be helpful to know that in the children's sermon this morning, we told the story of Eutychus. Then as a way to remind people that each one of us is called to share the good news, the children went up and down the pews whispering to the adults, "Jesus loves you. Pass it on."


 Acts 20: 7-12, 17-24
April 7, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Our last Wholehearted Worship topic before Palm and Passion Sunday next week finds us considering the word proclaimed: the sermon. We’ve talked about the call to worship and the prayer of confession, and how you can begin each day with a call to worship, and end each day with the prayer of examen. We discussed the importance of prayer, and those three all-important prayers we all can make: “Help! Thanks! and Wow!” Then we learned about the importance of singing, for our spiritual, mental and physical health. Now we come to the sermon.

For most of us, a worship service is not complete without some s…
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Singing in the Dark

Refuge, by Sara Teasdale From my spirit's gray defeat, From my pulse's flagging beat, From my hopes that turned to sand Sifting through my close-clenched hand, From my own fault's slavery, If I can sing, I still am free.
For with my singing I can make A refuge for my spirit's sake, A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.

Acts 16: 25-34
March 31, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

This fourth Sunday in Lent in our series on Wholehearted Worship, we’ve come to the practice of singing. We’ve talked about the call to worship and the prayer of confession, and how you can begin each day with a call to worship, and end each day with the prayer of examen. Last week we discussed the importance of prayer, and those three all-important prayers we all can make: “Help! Thanks! and Wow!”

Today we hear a story from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, recounting one of the adventures that the Apostle Paul and Silas had on their …

Prayer Matters

Luke 11:1-13
March 24, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

This third Sunday in Lent puts us at about the halfway mark of the season. In our series on Wholehearted Worship, we’ve talked about the call to worship and the prayer of confession, and we now come to the subject of prayer. If you look at a worship bulletin, you’ll see that every Sunday we have many opportunities for prayer, both spoken and silent, personal and corporate. There are many reasons to pray, and many ways to pray, and the practice of prayer is by no means limited to worship services and saying grace before a meal. Nor is the act of prayer something that is best left to preachers! Any of us can pray at any time.

And of course, sometimes the best prayers are the times when we sit in silence, listening for God. Of the four gospel writers, no one talks about Jesus praying more than the writer of Luke. Over and over again we see Jesus praying, or trying to get away to pray, or inviting others …

If We Confess

1 John 1: 1-10
March 17, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our scripture reading for this Sunday is from the first epistle of John. I want to make sure we distinguish it from the Gospel of John. There are similarities between the two, and echoes of the Gospel of John can be heard in the three epistles of John- the opening verse of the Gospel is “In the beginning was the word…”and the opening verse of the first letter starts, “We declare to you what was from the beginning…” Both discuss the light of God as expressed in Jesus, light of the world; but they are distinct books with different writers. The authorship of the Gospel of John has been debated since the 2nd century, and the author of the three epistles called John has come to be called simply, “the elder” – or in Greek – the presbyter.

In our Lenten series on Wholehearted Worship, we began last week with the call to worship. Today we take a look at our prayer of confession, assurance of pardon, and…

Now Is The Time

Psalm 95:1-7
March 10, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

This Lenten season, our theme is “Wholehearted Worship.” For these weeks leading to Easter, we are taking a deeper look at worship. After that first Easter, Christians began to worship together on Sundays. They did so because it was the first day of the week, and they were commemorating the day that Jesus rose from the grave. So it was that every Sunday began to be considered a “little Easter.” In fact, when counting the forty days of Lent, Sundays, little Easters, don’t count.

This Lenten series will highlight the Biblical basis of our acts of worship, and remind us of the meaning of our Sunday morning rituals and symbols. In my newsletter article I mentioned that I hope that this Lenten series can help each of us make our daily life an act of worship.

So we begin at the beginning – the call to worship. A call to worship, is God’s invitation to gather as Christ’s body. It is an invitation to be …

Choose You This Day

Joshua Chapters 11-24
March 3, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

As we come to the final sermon of this series on Joshua, we are going to cover a lot of ground in a short time. The scripture you’ll hear today is a condensed version of Joshua 7-24. I’ve selected portions that I hope will summarize the story for you, and that include the significant but often overlooked parts of the story. We left off with the battle of Jericho last week, which culminated in the sparing of the Canaanite Rahab, who alone with her family was spared from slaughter when the Israelites overtook the city of Jericho. In the chapters that follow, we see the Israelites continuing to attack cities to the north, south, east and west, and conquer all the kingdoms, putting every inhabitant – men, women and children – to the sword. The only people who are spared death are the Hivites, from Gibeon, who tricked the Israelites into a treaty that spared their lives.

In the remaining chapt…

The Walls Came Tumblin’ Down

Joshua 4-6
February 24, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Last week we heard the story of how two Israelites, sent by Joshua, spied in the city of Jericho, aided by Rahab the prostitute. God had told them to be strong and courageous, and that they would soon enter into the promised land, ending their time of wandering in the wilderness.

Now in these selections from Chapters 4, 5, and 6 from Joshua, we hear how they crossed the Jordan and conquered the city of Jericho. Like last week, this reading from Joshua is full of moral ambiguity, with questions that contemporary Christians may not be able to answer. There is violence and conquest, and there will be more.

We are left to struggle with some challenging questions about what the Israelites understood about God, and their covenant, and how to interpret the Biblical account in light of our own understanding of God in Jesus Christ. So let’s listen with questioning and critical ears for the word of God to us tod…