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Showing posts from August, 2015


Words: Hawk Nelson

James 3: 1-12 August 30, 2015 First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL Christina Berry

This is the third week of our series on the Book of James, and for two weeks we’ve had our attention focused on right action –first, with being doers of the word, and not merely hearers, then with the powerful statement on good works of hospitality and justice, and how actions speak louder than words. Those were hard texts to hear, and to wrestle with. Many people are much more comfortable with an easier kind of faith, the kind that lets us check the boxes on a list of beliefs but doesn’t ask much of us in our day to day lives.

You will be glad to know that the text this week does NOT afflict us with any emphasis on our actions and deeds, no, not at all. It DOES afflict us with something just as challenging –the way we use our words.

Many of us have heard the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Anyone who has ever been called a name knows tha…

Working Faith

James 2:1-17 August 23, 2015 First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL Christina Berry
We continue with our series on the book of James this week remembering that this brief epistle is primarily intended as a moral lecture for its recipients. James is not terribly concerned with doctrine or right belief, but with practice – right action. He makes it a special point to instruct his readers to make their Christian faith not just talk but action.

We heard last week that idea expressed as being doers, not merely hearers. This chapter addresses an issue central to Christian morality: the treatment of the poor. Today’s reading is in three sections, all of them linked by a warning not to show partiality, not to discriminate based on wealth or poverty.

In the first section, James suggests again that discrimination is not compatible with faith. In the second section he points out that showing special honor to the rich and discriminating against the poor dishonors them. In the third section, he mak…


James 1:17-27
August 16, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

School starts tomorrow here in Sterling; every household that contains children or teachers is acutely aware of that. I predict that in some classroom on Monday, somebody will say,
“You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you speak.”

That saying was coined by Epictetus, about two thousand years ago. James picked up on it for this first chapter of this wise book. Even though we officially concluded our study of wisdom literature last week, we are actually continuing with wisdom literature this week as we begin a short series on the New Testament book of James. The book of James is one of the “general epistles” or letters, it is not actually a letter in any true sense of the word. There is no particular addressee other than “the twelve tribes in the dispersion” which is pretty much everybody at the time.

There are no personal greetings or comments about particular issues…

Turn, Turn, Turn!

Pete Seeger and Judy Collins sing "Turn, Turn, Turn"
(this is almost as good as the version we heard in worship this morning)
Ecclesiastes 2: 18 to 3:1-8
August 9, 2015
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

As we conclude our series on wisdom and our examination of some texts from the “wisdom literature” of the Bible, we look today at Ecclesiastes 2: 18 to 3:1-8. Most dictionaries define wisdom as the ability to discern what is good and right and true, coupled with the ability to judge – to discern – the best course of action, and then to follow it.

In this post-modern era, there is considerable debate about whether things like wisdom, truth, and beauty actually exist, or whether they are human constructs – things we just made up, and ideas that we can remake whenever we want.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, and if you recall, when Jesus was brought before Pilate to be judged, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” The preacher in Ecclesiastes is cont…

Glimmer of God
Ecclesiastes 1:1-18 August 2, 2015 First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL Christina Berry

As we continue in our series on wisdom, we move now to the book of Ecclesiastes. The original name for this book is “Qoholeth,” the preacher. Though the book is attributed to King Solomon, it is uncertain who authored it. In the Jewish tradition, Ecclesiastes is the scroll that is read during the fall harvest festival of Sukkot, the feast of booths. The Jewish website says that “Kohelet shakes our contentment with the reminder that mundane accomplishments are fleeting and empty. Even at the close of the harvest, we must seek real achievement and fulfillment. Sukkot itself demonstrates this theme by the commandment to live in temporary dwellings. We move outside our home, which provides a sense of permanence and comfort, and instead dwell in a flimsy hut. This recalls the transience of phy…