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Showing posts from 2019

Silent Hope

Luke 1:5-25
December 1, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

The gospel reading for today, this first Sunday in Advent,
is from the first chapter of Luke.
Luke’s gospel is structured in such a way that will point us, over and over,
to the narrative of holiness, the fulfillment of the promise,
and the unfolding of God’s plan for all humankind.

As you know, our Advent theme this year is “Angels Among Us.”
The first Advent Angel we meet is in the temple, with Zechariah.
Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were both of the priestly tribe,
and Zechariah was serving in the temple.
There were lots of priests, so they were divided into 24 groups,
each of which served twice a year for a week.
This was Zechariah’s week,
when he would offer sacrifices and blessings.

From each group, a list was compiled of those priests
who had never entered the sanctuary,
and those priests were drawn by lot to go into the holy of holies.
This chance usually occurred only …

Treasure Hunt

Luke 12:22-34
November 24, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

In the twelfth chapter of Luke,
Jesus has been warning his disciples of the traps and seductions of wealth;
he also makes it a point to teach them not to fear persecution, or death,
but to only fear the outcome of a Godless life.

Just before today’s text, he tells the parable of the rich fool.
A successful farmer has such a bumper crop that his barn won’t hold it.
The man’s solution to this problem is to build bigger barns, to store it all.
But, Jesus says, God said to him, ‘You fool!
This very night your life is being demanded of you.
And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’
So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves
but are not rich toward God.”

Then Jesus gives a discourse on what we ought to value,
and where we should direct our devotion.
Let’s listen for God’s gracious word to us in Luke 12:22-34

He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about yo…

The Welcome Table

Proverbs 25:6-7
November 17, 2017
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our first reading comes from the book of Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs is “a manual of instruction for wise living.
Its purpose is to teach students of every type: old and young,
experienced and na├»ve, wise and not-so-wise.”[1]
The first verses of the book describe its purpose:
“for learning about wisdom and instruction,
for understanding words of insight,
for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity;
to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young –- let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
and the discerning acquire skill,
to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

The advice about table etiquette presented in Proverbs 25:6-7
is not simply about navigating the royal court, but, more broadly,
it is about an orientation to the world
that is grounded in a theological conviction.
How one treats others …


Luke 20:34-38; Haggai 1:15b-2:9
November 3, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our gospel reading this morning finds Jesus in Jerusalem.
It is the final week of his life.
He has entered the city, riding on the back of a donkey,
to the cheers and excitement of the people who believe
that he will be the one to save them.
And he will, but not in the way they think.
In this reading, Jesus has been confronted by religious authorities
who hope to trick him or trap him into saying something wrong.
They’ve asked him one of those ridiculous hypothetical questions
about what happens to marriage in the afterlife
if a person has been married, widowed, married, widowed, etc.

It’s interesting that the Sadducees, who are asking this question
do not believe in the resurrection after death.
But Jesus isn’t going to play their game.
Let’s listen for God’s word to us in Luke 20: 34-38

Jesus said to them,
"Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;
but th…

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Luke 18:1-18
October 20, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

In his commentary on the readings for this week,
Tyler Mayfield from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary writes,
“Despite all of the destruction wrought by Babylon,
despite all of God’s judgment,
despite the threat of divine punishment,
God persists in hope.” (

The prophet Jeremiah spoke to a people in exile.
His message was often bleak, reminding them of their failures,
but he also, eventually, followed that up with a word of hope.
Even though the Israelites were fickle and faithless, God remained faithful.
Let’s listen for God’s persistent hope in Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the LORD,
when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—
a covenant that they broke, though I was thei…

One In Ten

Luke 17:11-19
October 13, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

Back in 1981, the pop and Reggae group UB40
released a hit single in England called “One in Ten.”
It starts out like this:
“I am the one in ten, a number on a list
I am the one in ten even though I don't exist
Nobody knows me even though I'm always there
A statistic, a reminder, of a world that doesn't care
My arms enfold the dole queue, malnutrition dulls my hair
My eyes are black and lifeless with an underprivileged stare
I'm the beggar on the corner will no-one spare a dime?
I'm the child that never learns to read cause no-one spared the time..”

One in ten.
That’s how many of the ten lepers came back to Jesus to say thank you.
One in ten is an easy statistic to understand.
It’s one penny out of a dime, ten people out of one hundred.
You remember moving decimals in math class?
One tenth of 100 is 10; one tenth of a thousand is 100, and so on.

If Jesus healed a thousand lepers,

Holy Calling

2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
October 6, 2019
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

The book of Second Timothy is one of what are known as the Pastoral Epistles, letters to the early church from someone writing in the name of the Apostle Paul. The letters focus on the forming of the new community from its Jewish roots, and pay particular attention to the importance of Christ as the author of our salvation, of faith, and the ethics of daily living. The book of Second Timothy takes the form of a farewell address, with reminders, warnings, a charge, and a benediction. Let’s listen for God’s gracious word to us today in Second Timothy 1:1-14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace
from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am grateful to God--whom I worship with a clear conscience,
as my ancestors did--when I remember you constantly
in m…

Listening at the Gate

September 29, 2019
Amos 6:1a, 4-7; Luke 16:19-31
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Amos was concerned that the economic system of Israel in his time was not what biblical law envisioned. The Jubilee legislation in Leviticus 25, for instance, mandated a system whereby no one could accumulate too much wealth and where every family had land to support themselves. Even if they had to sell their land because of illness or drought, they got it back in the Jubilee year. Amos’s judgment is harsh, but some 40 years after Amos prophesied, Assyria conquered Israel and took them into exile. Amos chastises those who say economic inequality is just “the way the world is,” and he criticizes strongly those who are idle rich while the poor struggle just to survive.

Let’s listen for God’s word to us in Amos 6:1a, 4-7:

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.
Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches,
and eat…


September 22, 2019
Amos 8:4-7; Luke 16:1-13
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

The prophet Amos was active in Israel during the 8th century BCE. His major themes were social justice, God's omnipotence, and divine judgment. Amos wrote at a time of relative peace and prosperity in Israel, but it was also a time when Israelites were neglecting God’s laws. They were not being faithful to the covenant. Amos spoke out against a widening gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. Let’s listen for God’s word to us in the challenging words of Amos 8:4-7

Hear this, you that trample on the needy,
and bring to ruin the poor of the land,
saying, "When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain;
and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale?
We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,
and practice deceit with false balances,
buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and selling the sweepings of the wheat."
The LOR…