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Showing posts from April, 2017

People of the Way

Luke 24:13-35
April 30, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

The Easter season continues with another post-resurrection story. This story comes from Luke’s gospel, and was probably written around the year 80, for the communities of faith that had formed around the stories of Jesus, the risen Lord. They are house churches, gatherings that meet on the first day of the week, to eat a meal together, to sing and pray and read the scriptures. Some are well-off, most are not; they are Jews and Gentiles, men and women. They did not see the risen Lord face to face, but Luke’s gospel, and this beautifully written story in particular, shows them – and us-- how they can encounter Jesus. Let’s listen for the good news of the gospel in Luke 24:13-35:

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himse…

The Blessing of Doubt

John 20:19-31
April 23, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

As the Easter season continues, the stories of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances continue. These stories have been told so many times that many of them can be referred to by a single word or phrase to identify them. This story, from John’s gospel, has come to be known as the story of “Doubting Thomas.”

Apparently, Thomas got stuck with that label sometime back in the 1600s and he hasn’t really escaped it yet. It’s a shame that he got that nickname, because it is really very unfair. If we can attune our hearts to listen, we can hear a powerful message of faith and trust in this story of Thomas.

Let’s listen for God’s good news for us in John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you."

After he said this, he showe…

Seeing What Is Not There

John 20:1-18
April 16, 2017, Easter Sunday
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

In Sunday School last week, I cued up the video about Holy Week and Easter for the children to watch. One of the little boys said, “Every Easter, it’s the same story!”

Yep, he is right. Each of the four gospels gives an account of the empty tomb. In each of them, the particular theological emphasis of the gospel is demonstrated in how that first Easter morning is described. All four agree that it was the first day of the week. Matthew includes an earthquake, and guards fainting in fear. In Mark’s gospel, the women encounter an angel sitting in the open tomb. In Luke’s account, the women also encounter an angel who says, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

But in John’s gospel, the burial place is in a garden. It is early morning, and Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb alone. And only in John’s gospel does Jesus himself appear. Let’s listen for God…

When to Be Glad

Isaiah 53: 3-5, Matthew 5: 1-2, Matthew 5: 11-12
April 2, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our first scripture reading today is from the prophet Isaiah, a section of the text known as the description of the suffering servant, a prophecy of one who is to come. This coming one would be rejected – not a hero, not highly honored, not esteemed. But he would be the one who would take on not only his own suffering, but ours as well. Listen for God’s word to you in Isaiah 53: 3-5:

He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.

Our gospel reading is again from th…

The Peace of Christ

John 14:27, Matthew 5:1-2, 9-10
March 26, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

As we continue in our study of the Beatitudes for Lent in this Table of Blessing series, we come to the famous verse in which Jesus says, “blessed are the peacemakers.” Much ink has been spilled in an effort to unpack this verse, but perhaps one way to start our exploration is with some other words of Jesus, the words from John 14, a section of that gospel known as Jesus’ “farewell discourse.” Jesus is preparing himself, and his disciples, for their eventual separation. Let’s listen to his words about peace for them, and for us, in John 14:27.

[Jesus said to his disciples] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

As we continue in the beatitudes, we hear not only that famous blessing of peacemakers, but also a blessing of those who may be suffering. Listen for the blessing of J…

Pure in Heart

Psalm 24:1-5, Matthew 5: 1-2, 7-8
March 19, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

In this week’s selection from the Beatitudes, Jesus makes a shift in his sermon focus. Up to now he has focused on the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed, calling them “greatly honored.” Now he focuses his words of blessing on the merciful and the pure in heart. Once again, he quotes directly from the Psalms, and uses a term that is infrequently used in the Scriptures – the “pure in heart.” The first scriptural mention of the pure hearted is in Psalm 24. Let’s listen for the promise of God’s realm in Psalm 24: 1-5:

The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?

Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will re…