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Showing posts from November, 2018

In the Kingdom

Christ the King Sunday, November 25, 2018
Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-38
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our first reading this morning is from the first chapter of Revelation, a kind of introductory text that lets us know something about Jesus. As we hear this text, let’s keep in mind that the book of Revelation is not a terrifying prediction of the return of an angry Jesus. “Revelation is not a script for the end of the world!” It is, instead, a prophecy of the fall of earthly empire and the coming reign of God in a new heaven and a new earth. Let’s listen for God’s coming kingdom in Revelation 1:4b-8:

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Fathe…

Things to Consider

Matthew 6: 25-33
November 18, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Our scripture reading today comes from the sixth chapter of Matthew. The reading comes from the middle of what is often called “The Sermon on the Mount,” Matthew’s collection of Jesus sayings that explicates for us the heart of the good news. In that collection of sayings, we have the beatitudes.

Writer and theologian Matthew Boring says “The beatitudes are written in unconditional performative language. They do not merely describe something that already is, but bring into being the reality they declare.”[1]

In everyday terms, “performative language” is words that make something happen, like when you say “I do” at the wedding. So this entire section of Matthew is making something happen, and it is something new and different, something that has not happened before.

Jesus goes on to teach about the law of love, an ethical commandment that shifts the old ways of being. “You have heard it sai…

Witness to Generosity

Mark 12:38-44
November 11, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

We are continuing in the gospel of Mark for one more week in our stewardship season. You may remember that by this point in Mark’s gospel, Jesus has been in Jerusalem for a few days of this last week of his life. On the way in to town, he stopped and healed a blind beggar, and last week, he conversed with a scribe, and the two of them agreed that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s helpful to remember, as we hear this text, that Jesus does not condemn EVERY scribe or Pharisee- the scribe in last week’s story was a kindred spirit to him. In this episode, we see Jesus at the temple.

The temple in Jerusalem is a major character in this section of the gospel, even when it is not mentioned. In this last week of Jesus’ life, he keeps circling back to the temple. It has been the center of Jewish life –…

Witness to Love

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, Mark 12:28-34
November 4, 2018
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our first reading is from the Hebrew scriptures, the verses known as “the Shema.” These verses form the heart of Jewish theology. They call to mind that God delivered the people from slavery, and that God alone is the one they serve, the one who made them a people and gave them an identity.

The word “shema” is an imperative - It means both “hear!” and “obey!” And the reminder that God is one, to be loved with all one’s heart and soul and strength, is repeated every Saturday in worship in the synagogue and is learned by every child in an observant Jewish family.

Let’s hear and obey! – as we listen for God’s word to us in Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Now this is the commandment--the statutes and the ordinances-- that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children…