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Showing posts from 2015

Blessed Among Women: The Song of Mary

Luke 1:46-55
December 6, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Luke 1:46-55
Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

You have to wonder how she could sing.

If we look at Mary, and really look closely; if we listen to Mary, and really listen closely; we have to wonder how s…

The Song of Zechariah

Luke 1:67-79
November 29, 2015, Advent 1
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

If you have ever waited for something –
a day to come, a friend to arrive, a phone call with the diagnosis –
if you have ever waited a long time,
waited to the point of despair,
if you have ever waited until you are about to give up,
you know how Zechariah felt.

Zechariah was a priest in the order of Abijah.
He was a righteous man.
He had served God faithfully since he was young.
For many years, he and his wife Elizabeth had served God,
and for many years, they had prayed for a child.
For many years, they had waited.
It was a prayer that had gone unanswered until it was too late.

They were elderly.
There was no child.

Zechariah was a good priest, a man of God.
But all of his life, he had been waiting,
waiting for a son that never would come,
waiting for a Messiah that had never arrived,
waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

The waiting had ended, but it had been replaced by a se…

Found Faithful in All

Colossians 3:12-17
November 22, 2105
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Colossians 3:12-17

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Every now and then, I think I am very clever, and then I discover that the Hol…

Found Faithful in Little

Mark 12:38-44
November 8, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

It is the last week of Jesus’ life before the crucifixion. He has gone into Jerusalem, welcomed with shouts of “Hosanna!” Now, he is continuing his work, teaching and healing, observing the life of the city and the religious people around him. As we’ve heard in the last few weeks, Jesus has had several confrontations with the religious authorities. Then, just last week, we heard about a friendly and respectful dialogue with one of them, a scribe, a teacher of the law. Now, Jesus and his disciples are in the synagogue, and he is watching people come and go. When they leave the synagogue, their next conversation will be this:

“As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings?

Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’” That will come much lat…

All Saints (and All Sinners)

Mark 12: 28-34
November 1, 2015, All Saints Day
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Even though today is All Saints Day, and there are certain traditional scriptures for that observance, we are still in the gospel of Mark, following Jesus around Galilee and Judea.
Now, Mark’s gospel has brought us to Jerusalem, on the last Tuesday before the crucifixion.

Here we are, in the twelfth chapter of Mark – after what seemed like forever in the tenth chapter. The eleventh chapter brought Jesus and his followers into Jerusalem, where he was greeted by crowds laying their cloaks on the road in front of him, shouting Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

In the past few weeks’ readings, Jesus has run into some opponents, people who want to trap him, to find a way to charge him with a crime, to discredit him. Now, he meets a scribe who has a very different attitude, someone who is impressed by what he has heard, and genuinely wants to be in dialogue with thi…

What Do You Want Me To Do For You?

Mark 10: 46-52
October 25, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

We continue today with the final reading from the tenth chapter of the gospel of Mark. The central figure in the reading is a blind man. He cannot see, but he has a vision of being healed, and is willing to cry out for mercy to Jesus. The folk around want him to be quiet, but he won’t keep quiet. It is Bartimaeus’ initiative that opens the story, and Jesus respects him in this: “What do you want me to do for you?” he asks.

Bartimaeus: Reader’s Theater on Mark 10:46-52

Narrator: They came to Jericho.

People: Sound effects – crowd noises, a busy roadway, talking, horses, murmuring

Narrator: As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say,

Bart: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Narrator: Many sternly ordered him to be quiet

People: Hush!…

Left and Right

Mark 10:35-45
October 18, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Some of you may be aware that much of the time, our scripture selections follow a list of suggested readings called the Revised Common Lectionary. That is a three year cycle of readings selected by an international committee called “The Consultation on Common Texts.” This cycle of readings allows for a church that follows it to cover most of the Bible over a three year period. Sometimes, the readings pair up an Old Testament reading with a gospel reading, and other times there are readings from the epistles. Every week there is a Psalm. Many churches that follow the lectionary use all of the readings every Sunday. In our worship, when we are following the lectionary, we generally use only one or two of the readings.

We tend to follow the lectionary during the school year, because in Christian Education the children and youth can then be studying and learning from the same scripture lessons we use in wors…


Mark 10:2-16
October 4, 2015, World Communion Sunday
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

This scripture is actually two stories in three scenes: controversy, at home, and blessing the children. Jesus has left Caparnaum and crossed the Jordan into Judea. The Pharisees, teachers of the law, confront him and ask him to answer question regarding divorce. They try to put him in a corner by asking him to interpret scripture and say something that will create trouble for him. If he answers one way, he is in conflict with Jewish laws on divorce; if he answers another way, he is in conflict with Roman laws on divorce. Either way, it is just three chapters back that Jesus learned of the execution by beheading of his cousin John the Baptist. John’s crime was criticism of Herod for marrying Herodias, who had divorced Herod’s brother in order to marry Herod. In any case, the teachers challenge Jesus, and instead of debating, he turns the conversation on end. Then at home, he discus…

The Best We Can Do

James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-41
September 27, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

The letter of James is one of the most practical portions of Scripture. There are several “James” in the New Testament, including, of course, Jesus‘ brother. We have no direct indication of which James is behind the letter, or whether someone is writing under James’ name and in his style of thought! We do know that it is written in beautiful Greek, and that James was felt to be so well known in the Church that he needed no introduction. In this letter, the early Christians are invited to rely on and help each other, with the conviction that prayer will make a difference. Let us listen to his advice and encouragement, in James 5:13-20:

Are any among you suffering? They should pray.
Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.
Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord…

Who Is Welcome

Mark 9:30-37
September 20, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Leader: We are so much like the early disciples! We want God to know how hard we work. We want to be praised and recognized for our efforts and successes. And we want God to pass over our failures as though they were inconsequential. When Jesus heard his disciples arguing, he responded that they should be ready for service rather than adulation. And then he placed a small child in their midst; a child with no guile, no pretense. May God help us to reach out to others, not with thought of importance or gain, but in love and compassion; truly caring for each one we meet. When we have done this, we will have truly given our hearts and our service to our Lord. Let’s listen for God’s word to us as we read responsively Mark 9:30-37

Leader: They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,

People: “The Son of Man is to be…