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Showing posts from December, 2013

The Spirit of Christ

The Spirit of Christ Isaiah 11:1-9 December 22, 2013 First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL Christina Berry
It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent, our fourth Sunday to stand side by side gazing at the prophetic vision of Isaiah. While it is helpful to think about the context of these writings, set back in the distant past – some eight or nine hundred years before the advent of Christ, it can be distracting to get too bogged down in the history, and it isn’t always helpful to dissect a text. Sometimes, taking a scripture apart to try to get at “what it really means” is like taking a music box apart. Have you ever done that – taken apart something lovely, like a music box, in order to see how it is put together? When you have finished with it, you may know more than you did when you started, but the music will be lost.
So as we approach this reading, we know that the people of Israel have been in a place of despair, and that the prophet Isaiah’s words are given as correction and they are given as…

Beloved CommUNITY

Isaiah 2: 2-5 December 15, 2013 First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL Christina Berry
Isaiah 2:2-5 In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

When I turned in the sermon title, some weeks ago, I called it “Beloved CommUNITY.” I’d have done better to call it “Impossible Dream.” It doesn’t seem poss…

Hope of the World

Isaiah 35: 1-10 December 8, 2013 First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Three years ago, on December second, the forest of Mount Carmel caught fire. The fire began on the outskirts of the northern town of Isfiya and spread through the Carmel Forest. The fire burned rapidly, and became an inferno. Mount Carmel forest, one of the most beautiful and historic places in Israel, was utterly devastated, burned beyond description. A year the Jerusalem post reported: “The Forest Reawakens: The first flowers of the season can now be seen covering the slopes of Mount Carmel, reminding us once more of nature’s enduring capacity for renewal…These first blooms from the scorched earth have emerged from bulbs and tubers buried deep in the ground, where they have remained secure and untouched by the flames. Cyclamen, narcissi and sea squills peep out from among the trees in both burned and undamaged areas, and in some parts of the woodland grassy plants are already struggling back to life.[1]
None of …

A King Like No Other

This first Sunday of December marks the first Sunday of Advent, the four-week season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas season actually begins on December 25, and lasts for 12 days - until Epiphany on January 6. Our Advent series for worship focuses on the prophetic visions and images in the book of Isaiah. To help us in our focus, we commissioned a series of banners, created by artist Linda Von Holten. You can see more about the banners and Linda's artwork on our church website at

A King Like No Other Isaiah 9:2-7 December 1, 2013, First Sunday in Advent First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL Christina Berry
Isaiah 9:2-7 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder. For the yoke of their…